Writing Rainbow: Were infidelity and gay men always meant to be?

Dariel Fillomeno | Daily Trojan

Relationships fall apart. It’s a dreadful, yet unavoidable lesson that every person learns. And while they often fail for various reasons, perhaps the most common — and the most difficult to accept — is when one person cheats.

For most people, infidelity is considered the ultimate dealbreaker. But can the same be said about queer men? According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Health Equality and Rights Organization, FS magazine and OutLife, 52 percent of respondents who identified as gay or bisexual admitted to cheating on their partners. Even more astonishing, 45 percent of admitted cheaters said their partner never found out.

Last weekend, a close friend informed me that one of my ex-boyfriends had cheated on me — with his current boyfriend — weeks before our breakup.

This news came as a shock even though we ended our relationship a year ago.  To clarify, I’m no a longer teary-eyed mess every time someone brings up his name, but I still couldn’t help but reflect on the shortcomings of our two-year romance. Was I too clingy? Did I not treat him well enough? Why did he cheat on me but not own up to his actions?

Suffice it to say, I felt very betrayed. For someone who loved me as much as he said he did, it was bad enough that he cheated; but by not confessing and having me find out through a second-hand source a year later truly was the cherry on top of our broken relationship. But even as the angst consumed me (I screamed the lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” during the car ride back from UCLA), I couldn’t help but empathize with him — because I had done the same thing in a past relationship.

Don’t get me wrong: Infidelity is undoubtedly the worst crime any person can commit against their partner, and both parties inevitably end up getting hurt. If infidelity is such a common aspect of the queer dating experience, is it really possible for men to sustain meaningful, honest relationships with each other?

Queer men have always struggled with liberating themselves from the heteronormative constructs imbedded within our cultural structures. Though they are often invisible, these ideas are detrimental to the queer experience for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they perpetuate sexual hierarchies and divisive stereotypes about men seeking relationships with men. These constructs are evident in the transformation of queer culture today: More and more LGBTQ individuals are embracing monogamous relationships and parenthood.

While monogamy, parenthood and marriage are all equally desirable, queer people have been told their entire lives that they need to conform to the status quo, that they need to be or act a certain way to be happy, that they need to lead normal lives in order to achieve acceptance. This stereotypical image has become the omnipresent echo of society.

Take Cam and Mitch from ABC’s “Modern Family” for example, one of the most recognizable same-sex couples in mainstream media. Cam (Eric Stonestreet) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) are married, they have an adopted daughter — and they have been completely monogamous for the duration of the show. While Stonestreet and Ferguson are commendable for their multi-dimensional portrayals of gay men, Cam and Mitchell are just one of many representations of the exemplary gay couple that people expect, one almost identical to any other suburban family obsessed with the idea of a white picket fence — which is bullshit at the end of the day. The Cam and Mitch image, which was created by heterosexual showrunners, is ultimately a dangerous stereotype because it reinforces the notion that queer people must conform to a certain lifestyle in order to be generally accepted as normal by society.

As queer men, we are often told that there is an ideal we must succumb to.  Sometimes we are even shamed into thinking that there’s a right way to build relationships, families and lives. However, these attitudes are harmful since they are restrictive to maintaining healthy, open relationships. This toxic mindset may be the reason why so many queer men are susceptible to cheating, and also why they end up repeatedly cheating. Practicing monogamy is only one part of the equation, but it should not be the default.

Allen Pham is a senior majoring in public relations. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Daily Trojan. His  column, “Writing Rainbow,” runs every other Friday.