Why we need to escape the straitjackets of traditional gender roles
A lesson from the life experiences of gay couples.
Setting up a home together can be challenging. All the more so without the implicit support of tradition, society, or family.
But the gift of being free to custom-make a life, based on your own unique talents and interests, can prove far more supportive in the long run.
This gift, often forced on gay couples by our largely heteronormative society, can provide some lessons for the seeming beneficiaries of ages of history and tradition.
Or in the words of a close friend who will remain nameless, those who are forced to wear the straitjackets of “a Man’s Work” and “a Woman’s Place”.
There are no doubt advantages to the support heterosexual couples get from society.
Because their financial arrangements align more easily with legal and societal norms, it can be easier for them to navigate such intricacies as joint accounts and estate planning.
In my own case, I was obliged to pay an unexpected, additional R120,000 in capital gains tax when I transferred my former partner’s share of our house into my name.
Much evidence of coupledom over a decade and a half meant nothing to the South African Revenue Service, which insisted on treating the transaction as a business deal, rather than a family breakup.
Normally, when a couple separates, one partner can transfer their share of the property to the other, without the extra burden of paying capital gains tax. In the words of my conveyancing attorney: “This wouldn’t happen to a straight couple”.
The price of freedom, perhaps?
The flip-side is that individuals may be pigeon-holed into roles according to their gender, rather than according to what is meaningful to them, what they do best, and what brings them joy.
Ancient tradition dictates that men are apparently better at running the show and managing a family’s finances, while women are better at running the kitchen and managing the colour schemes in the home.
Hang out with gay couples, especially those who are parenting, and you will see fluidity and re-negotiation at work.
There will be chores for which no one raises their hand, but there is sure to be less bitterness if each partner gets to lean into their strengths and talents.
Just ask yourself: why would “The Man” be better at budgeting, particularly in a household where “The Woman” does all the shopping? How does that even work?
Each of us, whichever half we are in a couple, is one of a kind. Much better to celebrate each one’s special gifts and talents, than to expect some archaic representation of their gender.
Let them be their special blend of homemaker-caretaker-butcher-baker-candlestick maker, rather than he or she.