On Gay Marriage…

Alfred_Edward_Housman
A.E. Housman (1859-1936)
Photo by E.O. Hoppe.
By Charles Rollet

I try not to write opinion pieces about non-Northwestern related subjects for The Chron, but I thought it might be worth it for one topic I am asked relatively often about.

The assumption I often get from people is that as someone who is even moderately conservative, I should not be in favour of homosexuals getting married. After I wrote a piece fall quarter challenging the objectivity of a certain “non-advocacy project” (which was, as I proved, not objective by any reasonable standard) some said this demonstrated I was not a supporter of gay marriage after all.

Though I actually do have various commonsense reasons for supporting gay marriage – which would probably not surprise people familiar with those arguments – one recent example from the literary world reminded me of why I think gay marriage is a good thing. Or at least why people of the same sex can be in love just like straight people.

Last month, an unpublished poem from the gay poet A.E. Housman showed up at an auction. Housman was a turn-of-the-century British poet hopelessly in love with a straight man, his Oxford roommate Moses Jackson. It is one of the saddest stories of unrequited love I can think of. Not only did Housman have to endure the prejudices associated with being a homosexual at a time when it was illegal, but he also had to deal with loving a man he knew was totally unobtainable. Housman’s poetry is thus – somewhat infamously – very depressing, although some of it is worth memorizing, despite memorization being unfashionable in ‘progressive’ schools nowadays.

Though I’m not a huge fan of the particular poem that showed up at auction (it strikes me as a little schmaltzy), I am much more affected by the following poem Housman wrote to Jackson:

 

 

 

Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.

To put the world between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
‘Good-bye’, said you, ‘forget me.’ ‘
I will, no fear, said I.

If here, where clover whitens
The dead man’s knoll, you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
Starts in the trefoiled grass,

Halt by the headstone naming
The heart no longer stirred,
And say the lad that loved you
Was one that kept his word.

 

It’s pretty great stuff, and is yet another example of why gay people love, chase dreams, and fail just like the rest of us. So why not let them get married too?

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