Beyond Visibility: Celesbian break-ups aren’t so hard to handle anymore


There is an argument that says unhappy straight couples should stay together “for the good of the kids.” There is also an argument that says unhappy gay couples should stay together “for the good of the community.” But a couple of months ago when Tammy Lynn Michaels blogged about the time Melissa Etheridge accidentally sent a box of dildos to their kids, and a couple of weeks ago when Melissa Etheridge made the public claim that Tammy Lynn accidentally burned one of their children with a cigarette, I started to think maybe neither of those “stay together” arguments makes much sense anymore.


The whole “You’re ruining gay marriage with your gay divorce!” thing reached its fever pitch in 2009 when Rosie O’Donnell announced that her marriage to Kelli Carpenter was on the rocks. One major blow was the fact that Rosie had positioned herself as the highest-profile same-sex marriage activists in the country back in 2004 when she married Kelli just weeks after Mayor Gavin Newsom made it legal in San Francisco. At the time, she told reporters: “We were both inspired to come here after [President Bush] made the vile and hateful comments he made [when he voiced his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment] … One thought ran through my mind on the plane out here – with liberty and justice for all.” Rosie purposefully fashioned herself into a political symbol of the same-sex marriage movement only to file for divorce a few years later. Another blow was the fact that Rosie and Kelli’s split came on the heels of California voters passing Prop. 8, a moment in time when LGBT people really didn’t need another wallop to their morale.

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I can’t tell you how many times I heard my lesbian friends say about Rosie and Kelli: “They should have stayed together! We don’t need to give straight people a reason to think gay people shouldn’t be allowed to get married — especially not right now!” (Not that the super-high opposite-sex divorce rate has caused straight people to think of revoking their own marriage civil liberty, of course.)

In addition to the plea for lesbian couples to stay together for the good of the community, another interesting thing happened during Kelli and Rosie’s break-up: Gay ladies circled their wagons around the couple.

You know how you’re allowed to talk s–t about your own family and your girlfriend is allowed to talk s–t about her own family, but it’s totally out of bounds to talk s–t about each other‘s family? That was the prevailing attitude of lezzy ladies in 2009. You cannot visit the comments sections of any Rosie/Kelli break-up blog post on any website on the internet without witnessing an angry gaggle of gays shooting down straight commenters with a little of this: “Mind your own business!” And a little of that: “You don’t get to have an opinion about this because you don’t understand what it means to be gay!” I went back and counted over 30 emails in which my queer friends were saying that exact thing about mainstream media coverage of the split: “If the symbolism of their marriage didn’t mean anything to you personally, you can’t understand the symbolism of their divorce!”

Luckily for Rosie and the Gays, after mainstream media outlets covered the initial break-up announcement, the gossipy guesswork about the whos and whats and hows of their split fell to disreputable websites and soon fizzled out in favor of reality TV break-ups like good ol’ Jon and Kate (Plus 8).


Photo by: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

Fast forward to 2012 when those same lesbian friends who were so protective of Rosie and Kelli sent around and email titled “DickBoxGate” urging everyone to pick a side between #TeamTammy and #TeamEtheridge. Only this time, the high-profile lesbian divorce was a BYOB free-for-all with links to salacious speculation coming from every corner of the internet. And not just your TMZs and your RadarOnlines, like with Rosie and Kelli. No, these posts were coming from E! Online and Entertainment Weekly and and The Huffington Post. And rather than the “stay together” and “protect our own” mentalities that pervaded the Rosie/Kelli split, the #TeamTammy vs. #TeamEtheridge fisticuffs has been open game from every angle. (Just witness the comments in Dara Nai‘s interview with Tammy Lynn if you don’t believe me.)

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