Let’s talk about the blue slip-on chucks. If you’ve ever met me in person, chances are you’ve seen me wearing them. They’re comfortable, they’re a cheap alternative to weightlifting shoes, and they work in most social occasions. So I wear them a lot. I was even wearing them the day David and I were introduced as members in our church. I love my chucks. The problem is, so does David. And he owns an identical pair. Which he wears. A lot. He was even wearing them the day we were introduced as members in our church. I was mortified.
The similarities between David’s and my style don’t end there. We both wear hats a lot. We wear jeans a lot. We sometimes (OK, often) wear the kind of form-fitting shirts that a sassy 8-year-old girl once declared “too small!” And we own at least two identical pairs of gym shorts. So we often end up dressed alike. And what do we get? "You two look so cute!"
Give me a second here to rotate my eyeballs back from the far side of my head.
It makes me cringe. I can handle tough conversations about theology, serious questions about sexual orientation, and I can even take an insult or two. But I can't stand being called a cute couple. I’ve been asking myself why it bothers me so much. Why do I even care? I realized it's because this matchy-matchy cuteness fulfills a stereotype about gay men.
For those not in the know, there’s this phenomenon people talk about called the “gay twin boyfriends.” It’s when two guys who look a lot like each other decide to date. They dress alike, get similar haircuts, grow matching beards, and look, oh, so cute! It feeds into a generalization that all gay men care about is banalities like fashion and looking adorable—as if we're Ken dolls done up to delight straight women. But even more consequential is the age-old criticism that gay people are extreme narcissists, so in love with ourselves that we want to be with someone exactly like us. Gay twin boyfriends.
In the Christian world, where so much is made of gender complementarity, the latter stereotype becomes even graver. I don’t buy into the notion that certain roles in marriage ought to be established based on gender. I think that stems from a simplistic and wrong reading of Scripture, and as someone who holds a highly authoritative view of the Bible, I believe the Church must reject it. But I am aware of the fact that there will be people who'll question the sanctity of my and David’s marriage because of our sameness. The last thing I want is to give them fodder.
As a Christian couple that happens to be gay, David and I are sensitive to appearances. There's a lot of assumptions people make when they first meet us, and our personalities make us want to challenge every assumption and prove it wrong.
Many decisions we have made throughout our relationship take people by surprise. When we first started meeting people in Portland, most were surprised to learn we don't live together. People are surprised when they hear I've slept on the couch on the rare occasion I've crashed at David's. And when the conversation goes there, people are very surprised to learn that we haven't had sex and that we won't until we're married.
We have made these decisions out of personal conviction, in accordance with what we want for ourselves. But there are other smaller, and certainly sillier, choices we sometimes make only because we don't want to give the wrong impression. Take the picture above, for example. We took it the weekend we got engaged. We were in a hot tub in the middle of the forest, with a beautiful view. Until now, we hadn’t shown it to anyone because we worried that it looks like we might be naked. We're not.
I can’t criticize others for placing too high a value on appearances without acknowledging the log in my own eye. Let me be clear—you should never live to please others; you must strive only to listen to God. But to what extent do gay Christian couples have a responsibility to dispel stereotypes? Many would say we have none, and they could make a strong case. But with so much misunderstanding and rumor-mongering in certain corners of the church, I believe that we should seek to provide a variety of examples of what being gay looks like. Not at the cost of our uniqueness, but because of it. The “gay lifestyle” is not monolithic.
Were David or I to stop wearing the kind of shirts we like, or the shoes that make us feel comfortable, just to intentionally look different, it would be fake, and that would be bad. One of us would be losing his personality. So we’ve resigned ourselves to sometimes matching. We both liked the same style of wedding band, for example, so we’ll end up wearing the same rings. That’s OK.
Gay couples can impact their churches by simply being themselves. They shouldn't embrace the customs and mores of mainstream gay culture if that’s not who they are. Conversely, they shouldn't suppress behavior that others may construe as a stereotype just to conform to expectations. Chances are you’ve already spent a long time trying to be someone you’re not, just to please the church. Rather, live out your faith, and live by the ethics God has moved you to accept. That's my goal for David and me. And if our shoes match when we have to stand in front of our church, so be it.
Follow us on Twitter: @daveandtino