Same-sex couples in the Peace Corps

http://www.advocate.com/travel/2013/05/22/peace-corps-recognizes-respects-same-sex-couples

I want to start by saying that I am not exactly against this. I am more confused by it as I am unsure of how the implementation will actually take place. I am also slightly tired from it as it re-enforces the ideal of the romantic relationship as the most important, end-all relationship in everyone’s life.

I know that in Bulgaria the Peace Corps staff encouraged LGBTQ volunteers to remain closeted when they were at their sites, and to only tell people who they knew very closely and were sure would keep it a secret. This is partially due to the safety of volunteers, and partially due to the effectiveness of volunteers. I have heard countless rude, gross things said about gay men in Bulgaria, some in jest, and some fueled by obvious hate, and so it is easy for me to understand how the effectiveness of a volunteer to complete his work could be compromised if he (or she) was outed as gay. Volunteers are often in high profile positions, working with mayors, schools, etc, and so keeping an image within the host country is important. I am not saying that every site is the same, or every country, but I can definitely see why we were instructed to be cautious in this area of our lives.

With that being, unfortunately, accepted I am wondering how they will work with this. Will they send same-sex couples to countries where it is acceptable? I am sure those exist, somewhere. Or will they play the same-sex couple off as, “good friends serving together?” It seems odd when no other volunteers get good friends to help them, and all other people placed together and especially living together happen to be married. Maybe the set up in different countries would allow for this without suspicion.

But, what really gets me, is how many times my best friend during service and I wished that we could have been assigned to the same site. There were so many ways that we could have played off of each other’s strengths and really benefited the host country while offering much needed support to each other. But, people who are not married are required to serve alone. It is supposedly better for integration. The Peace Corps does not recognize that for some people integration is actually facilitated (and not hindered) by having an integration wing-man. But the entire Peace Corps program is set up to isolate volunteers and romanticizes the experience as a lonely volunteer as authentic and necessary. This is unless, of course, the person has a valid romantic partner.

I want to know why romance is so highly valued by the government, and why does it get to be judged and validated by the government. A couple cannot be long-term dating, they must be married. Same-sex couples who can’t get married have to sign an affidavit basically, I assume, saying that their relationship is like a marriage- committed and based on love. To me it is bullshit. How does romantic-love better serve the host country than two friends who are also committed to each other, neither sexually or romantically involved, and yet perhaps have worked together for many years? Why can they not serve together but two people who are romantically involved but maybe can’t work at all together professionally can?  Why is the romantic relationship the only one considered important and given special preference?

I get that this is in some ways very important for gay rights. However, at the same time I believe it is reinforcing this myth of monogamy and romance as the two most important factors in life. Granted, I am married now so that I can enjoy the benefits of the government recognition of my relationship as lasting, authentic, and positive for the community. But I don’t believe it should be necessary, or it should be worshiped quite as strongly. 

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