Solo-Sex Marriage

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Wide open spaces.

Life on the range opens us up to possibilities as vast as the flat land before our eyes. Those prospects can take us beyond tradition and to a deeper place. Sometimes, we find ourselves outside of our safety zones and in uncharted territory. When we do, when we must become our own trailblazer.

That’s what I have learned as a gay man living in Kansas who has always been single. Yes, in my almost 30 years of life, I have never had one real relationship. I’ve had to invent the rules as life happens. I live alone, creating myself as each day unfolds. Most people find it perplexing that an educated, dynamic, and well-regarded person would be met with such circumstance. Indeed, my chronic solo condition used to cause me great pain.

Then I got to thinking about exactly where it is I choose to live…

Wichita is a great place to raise a family. The city offers a very affordable, high standard of living. There are lots of big houses on large lots to rent or buy at relatively low prices. We have quality schools to educate kids. We have strong neighborhoods to give families support. We have vast amounts of churches to enhance spiritual and community growth. Generally, a slower pace and calmer way of living makes it a relaxed spot to settle into married life.

Not everyone chooses that lifestyle, though; and that’s not just because of sexual orientation!

A growing number of folks are eschewing traditional family life altogether. More and more, people are choosing to either defer marriage until later in life or forgo the concept entirely. Those who are single and remain in The ICT are finding themselves on the “family-friendly fringe.” We who are single and gay…well, let’s just say it isn’t same-sex nuptials we’re concerned with. For us, it’s a daily struggle to find contentment living in a solo-sex marriage.

LGBT individuals generally don’t feel the same familial and societal pressures to partner and reproduce that our heterosexual friends do. This leaves us plenty of space to build our own lives and forge meaningful friendships. That doesn’t mean we’re devoid of devotion, though. To live alone for the long haul is just as much a commitment to one’s self as a marriage is a solemn promise to another person.

There’s a lot of inherent joy that comes with simultaneously being gay and single. There’s a matchless air of freedom inherent with knowing you never have to legally be bound to someone else. You can eat anywhere you want to for dinner. You can go out to any club you like. You can take up whatever hobby interests you. You can travel anywhere in the world. No one else’s feelings have to be considered as you explore the depths of who you are.

Yet a solo-sex marriage is actually quite the polyamorous affair. When your focus isn’t just on one person, you have the ability to invest in lots of people. For me, that’s meant building some very meaningful friendships, the depths of which transcend the layers of many legal marriages. I know more about my best friend Mary than most husbands do their wives. I’ve connected with my friend Trishna on a deeper emotional level than a lot of boyfriends will ever connect with their girlfriend. I’ve had more fun dancing at loft parties with my friend Lynette than I probably would have had grinding on any guy I’ve ever been interested in dating. In all of my relationships, I’ve invested part of myself in another person and gotten a piece of me reflected in their eyes.

In cities like Wichita, though, unconventional joys can only last so long before tradition takes root. Most of my really good friends have moved away because, while Wichita is a great place to raise a family, it’s not a good place to be single. That’s especially true if you are looking for a mate. Sperling’s Best Places rated us the #2 worst city for dating in 2011. In 2004, another study had us at #3; we increased, but this is not a list on which you want your rank to rise! People who are raised in Wichita are all too aware of the realities behind the numbers. They often move on to greener pastures, off the range.

Though there are many joys that come with being partner-free, no person wants to be devoid of connections altogether. Most of us want a life full of friends. Many of us want to experience love at least once. I’ve gotten to know myself quite well as I’ve lived in my solo-sex marriage on the range for the entirety of my twenties. When I’m not connected with friends and not sharing my daily life with other people, though, I feel as though the sum of me is lost. I develop by allowing parts of others to fertilize shares of myself. Left alone too long, I can feel a withering away of my best parts. I know the years by recounting the people who shared them with me. It’s good to be alone so that you can truly know yourself; but you must also live among so that you can share that self-cultivation.

I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that, while the prairie lands of Kansas hold vast potential for shaping an unassailable sense of self, lasting connections with others will have to be explored off the range. Wichita has been a great place for me to find myself, but as I embrace the person I’ve uncovered I know I’ll have to go elsewhere to fully share him. I’m not alone in this line of reasoning. This is the heart of the city’s “Brain Drain” problem that sewers away young talent. It’s also the central point of the simultaneous “gay-away” that chases off our LGBT occupants.

Having to choose between one’s self and one’s home is unfortunate. The beauty of Kansas, though, isn’t just the enormity of its land; it’s the profoundness of the people the land shapes.  The real home on the range is the home one finds within. Maybe this land was settled so that people could come here to know themselves first, then then blaze trails elsewhere with others by their side later. If so, everyone should have a Kansas sojourn.

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