Queeries: When are you getting married?

When are you getting married?
Q: We’re going out of our minds. Ever since New York passed the law allowing same-sex couples to get married there (no matter where they live), every straight person we know wants to know when we’re getting hitched (and a lot of our gay friends, too). It’s become oppressive. Help!

A: You, too? I’ve joked to some friends that I feel like Mary Tyler Moore in her eponymous sitcom: the world wouldn’t be quite right until she got married (even though she never did). Anyway, hurrah that we’ve won the right to marry in the Empire State, but let’s hold on just a New York minute and remind our well-intentioned friends that marriage isn’t mandatory.

But how do we say it? Oddly, it’s easier to be snarky to a blatantly rude person than to a friend with foot-in-mouth disease. Still, there are a number of ways you can answer the altar call:

• “You’ll be the first to know, after we decide who has to propose in a gay relationship – but don’t hold your breath.”

• “We’re talking to our accountant to figure out whether this makes sense for us financially. It doesn’t for everyone.”

• “It ain’t broke, so we ain’t fixing it.”

How do I tell a poz guy I don’t want to date him?
Q: I’m HIV-negative, and my last lover died of AIDS. After years of taking care of him, I’m just not prepared to go out with an HIV-positive person right now. How can I explain this without making a new guy feel bad?

A: Your question illustrates why Craigslist can be so helpful, whether you’re a top seeking a bottom or an HIV-negative guy “seeking same.” If you’re not screening guys beforehand, remember that HIV-negative men are free to just say no to poz guys – and vice versa, for that matter.

For starters, you’ll need to use your words: That means talking about HIV before having sex or getting too emotionally close. But what you say and how you say it are critical. No one should ever make another feel badly about their HIV status. Start the conversation by saying something like: “I just want you to know that my last HIV test came back negative.” In this scenario, the burden of disclosure isn’t automatically placed on those with the most to lose, given the stigma associated with being HIV-positive. A positive guy could then say, “Thanks for telling me that. You know, I’d be more comfortable not taking this to the next level. I’m just more comfortable having sex with poz guys.” Or he could decide that he doesn’t want to disclose; or, if he doesn’t know his status, he could say: “Thanks for telling me that, and I’m glad you brought up safe sex. If we decide to have sex, how about we make sure that we only have safe sex?” Then you would need to decide how to respond.

One last point: Don’t forget that there’s a sizable proportion of HIV-positive gay men who think they’re negative but who have, in fact, seroconverted since their last HIV test came back negative. Test results are a snapshot; nothing more.

Which hand do we wear our rings on?
Q: My boyfriend and I are planning our wedding, and I heard that gay couples often wear their rings on their right hands instead of their left. Is that true?

A: Well, it’s true that nothing says “married” quite like a gold band on your left ring finger. But this is another straight wedding tradition that gay couples have been known to play around with, in this case by wearing our commitment rings on our right hands to symbolize (and protest) the fact that we couldn’t get legally married. For some, it’s a bit of an inside joke, a queer variation on an overwhelmingly straight convention. For others it’s an explicit political statement.

Now that six states and the District of Columbia have adopted marriage equality, the era of using our rings to make in-jokes and political statements is coming to an end. Not surprisingly, some couples plan to move their rings from right to left when they officially tie the knot. Actor Neil Patrick Harris, who has been engaged to his partner for five years, once joked that his right hand had become calloused during the long wait. “It’d be nice to move the ring over here someday,” he said, indicating his left hand.

The bottom line is that whichever hand is right for you is the right one. Either way, your rings symbolize the lifelong commitment you’re making.

*Steven Petrow is the author of Steven Petrow’s Complete Gay & Lesbian Manners and can be found online at www.gaymanners.com. Got your own question? E-mail it to him at ask@gaymanners.com.

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