“Who Plays the Wife?”


Oh dear! If you’re gay, how many times have you had that question? And if you’re not – have you ever heard it asked?

Some folks seem to think that being a gay couple is some sort of ‘acting performance’. One of you has to pretend to be a woman… or one of you is expected to be very ‘feminine’… Now, I grant that there are no doubt plenty of gay couples who do think that way, but Dave and I are vehemently not one of them. It is possible to fall in love with a bloke not because he acts like a girl! You can both be as masculine as it comes – and I think Dave and I are exactly that – and still fall head over heels, as I have explained in Loving the Boy.


Within our close circle of intimate friendships there are five committed gay couples – ten guys in all. Four of those couples are just as I have described – equal partners in love, sharing that love, as it were, ‘both ways around’. The fifth couple are indeed slightly different – I speak here of Dave’s brother Pete and his partner Ivo. Ivo definitely seems to get much more out of being a ‘bottom’ to Pete’s ‘top’ than vice versa – although Ivo is quick enough to respond to Pete – or any of the rest of us – to give him relief! But Ivo is as ‘butch’ a guy as they come, and would go mad to be described as a ‘wife’ to Pete’s ‘husband’. And, actually, the press is increasingly speaking of a gay partner as ‘so-and-so’s husband’, which makes us all very cross.

Slightly worse still is when something is written like ‘Stephen’s er, husband, I suppose he is…’ – that quote sticks in my mind because it is what was written somewhere, possibly in the British homophobic rag newspaper ‘Daily Mail’, describing Stephen Gateley’s partner shortly after Stephen had died suddenly… of causes unrelated to gay sex, as that horrible newspaper was disappointed to discover.


I’m going on about this partly because of an incident yesterday when I happened to be with Leo when he asked me to stop by the house of one of his school friends because he had found some item of lost property. Rather than sit in the car, I went to the door of the house with him, and it was opened by a slightly dithery old lady who was obviously ‘granny’ – the boy concerned was not at home. Leo explained his mission, handed over the item and then mentioned that I was his dad. Whereupon, granny replied ‘Don’t be silly, dear, he can’t be, they said he’s…’ and then dried up, looking at me with one of those demented grins as if to say ‘Well, you know, dear, because I’ve heard you’re gay, aren’t you…..’. I politely clarified that I was indeed Leo’s dad, and we left. Leo sensed that I was boiling up, and told me that his friend knew perfectly well the circumstances of Leo’s parentage (lesbian Clare is his mum, whose home Dave and I share along with her partner, Pete and Ivo, and the two kids…). The friend (and his parents) are, so far as we are aware, unconcerned about Leo and just view him as a good friend.

I shall give the lady the benefit of the doubt, in that she has not understood properly what the boy and his parents may have told her! And, for the avoidance of doubt, the circumstances through which Dave and I are proud dads of a girl (him) and a boy (me) are explained in The Power of Love. Arrrgh!


Have I gone on about this long enough? Probably. Enough pictures of two guys enjoying each other’s company? Maybe not…


It doesn’t have to be love – it can be sharing a tough workout in an army position:


…or at a street workout…

more resistance

sporting dudes

That doesn’t make them gay. Nor does groups of guys just chilling out doing silly things:



…in the name of ‘ballet’, even:



OK, ballet has a higher proportion of gay men in its ranks than other ‘professions’, I know. Did I just shoot my own argument in the foot?

What I do know is that what comes ‘at the end of the day’ between my partner and I, and between our closely-knit group of gays, is very special to us, just as it is between the ‘normal’ straight husband and wife.


Should I be ashamed of that, for upsetting ‘granny’? Not in my book. And not in Leo’s book either: he has spent 13 years growing up with his special status of effectively having two dads and two mums, only recently living together in one household after 12 years of him living with either a set of two mums or a set of two dads. He’s cool with it and deals with it – and is as straight as it comes. Lesson? Dunno. But, for a 13yo, Leo has a masterly way of dealing with things that leave me boiling up inside. He did a great job of cooling me down, and then Dave took over…


‘Nite, then… and love your wife/husband/partner/dog/cat/motorbike… delete as applicable !!!!!

About tonycavanagh

Born Northampton UK; school Oxford UK and Oak Ridge Tennessee, where I met my wonderful partner Dave, also from UK. Oak Ridge is our main training base for acrobatics and circus stuff, but we also established a base in Wales (UK) to serve us when we are working in Europe. Our 'story', of finding gay love, learning the acrobatics trade and then of how we got shot at during our show (and worse was to follow - just to prove that the risks of being an acrobat are not always the most obvious ones!) are now available in my three books 'Loving the Boy', 'The Power of Love' and 'Against All Odds'. Links available on most blog posts. Actually, waiting for the imminent arrival of the first printed copies was far scarier than anything we do in performance. A fourth book - not about us but exploring the sadness of a gay Native American boy denied his true identity - is currently with an agent for evaluation. watch for 'Let The Future Find Me' in due time. And now to book five... another boy, another quest... seems its always boys...
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1 Response to “Who Plays the Wife?”

  1. Pingback: Rainbowification and Other Stories | Tony Cavanagh

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