I occasionally wonder who is most uneasy about marriage and monogamous gay men - some homophobes or certain homosexuals? Both are curiously fearful, though I comprehend the homophobes' discomfort better (years of practice).

Monogamy, theoretically at least, would make us more like them: cherished stereotypes of decadence and debauchery would crumble, and where might it end? Because after acknowledging monogamy, they'd have to deal with those gay men who perhaps want marriage.

That would seem to be the general direction, the goal of a white wedding being, if nothing else, a focused way of achieving many of the civil rights we keep marching for. Trivia such as a pension for your partner when you die, inheriting property, suitability for adoption, the occasional tax break. Nothing too outre: just a little recognition as equal human beings. This is apparently cause for panic in many quarters.

I'm sure you've heard about the near certain fact of same-sex marriage in Hawaii, and how reaction compelled President Clinton, the faggot's fair-weather friend, to sign an Act allowing the rest of the US of A to ignore such eccentric unions.

The dark root of homophobic anger is that gay men are, gosh, different, which is both true and untrue, like women, blacks, Jews. But never mind the obvious: different is absolutely what homophobes want gay men to be. Hence the rage caused by Hawaii's move, and by similar stands in Sweden, Holland, Hungary, Denmark and France. Hence the horror of even symbolic gay marriages (bishops have been banished for presiding over such mockeries). Hence dazed and confused Daily Mail pieces that start with "Homosexual couples are entitled to higher state benefits than their married counterparts ... they claim benefits as individuals rather than as couple and therefore receive more money than heterosexual couples" and end with "this would open a can of worms ... recognising homosexual couples ... would pave the way to government encouragement of gay relationships generally."

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Not that you, the gay man, have a say either way. Hell, it's only 1997.

Yet what the fuss both masks and makes clear is a new mood among gay men often portrayed as wholly promiscuous. Maybe it had to do with Aids, or perhaps it's partially about E, or even the surprise baby boom among lesbians and gay men, or just sheer novelty, but the mood is partnership - a moving on in some form or another of legally binding, nominally permanent (ha) partnership.

At this very moment the campaigning organisation Stonewall is conducting a survey into exactly that topic, if only to find if the gay La Ronde is a gender fixture, a concentrated urban and commercial scene phenomenon, or whether there is a silent majority out there, living banal together lives.

I was about to pontificate that homosexual reaction is infinitely more complex than the homophobe's, but on reflection, no. Some gay men clutch to cherished stereotypes too, and the sexual outlaw incorporates most of them. (It's a Boy Thing.) Like the homophobe, they regard monogamy, official partnerships and marriage not as options among the many, or even as options we should have simply as a matter of course, but as an unnatural state for gay men. As with the homophobe, there's an insistence that "promiscuity" (cheap, loaded word) is the given order. And if they appear to take it personally - like the otherwise admirable Peter Tatchell, who wrote to Time Out to congratulate a journalist for exposing the "gay marriage bandwagon" even though the journalist actually hadn't - I understand. If you're gay, the political is inescapably, tediously, personal. So much so that I, John, a monogamous gay man who'd like to get married, would feel naive arguing that my desire is merely a tiny matter of individual temperament. I couldn't simply say, this suits me. I want it because I want it. Issues cling to every wish expressed like limpets.

I'd bandy buzzwords instead: "What was once deemed conservative is now radical." I'd probably bleat that in anticipation of the inevitable charge of "apeing a heterosexual institution", an accusation ancient enough to disregard the fact that "apeing a heterosexual institution" would today involve becoming a single working mother. (Marriage, as an aside, is in decline - which is neither here or there.) The accusation is off-the-mark in another fashion. It could be more justly levelled at gays who want to join the military, should you care to get shitty about it.

And I have those moments because it's infuriating to be told one's letting the side down. Can't anyone grasp that monogamy and marriage is in no way a repudiation of the great web of relationships that gay men have painfully and inventively built for themselves? The personal is political: pillow buddies, open relationships, or relationships permitting occasional flings, or triangular relationships, or relationships where passion has run its course and other lovers are allowed while the couple remains together. These things need not change. Gay men are richly blessed - no one here is claiming superiority, just choice. The tenderness and validity of these relationships is unquestionable - particularly as they currently constitute not "a defiance of the norm" but, increasingly, the norm itself. Thus those lucky straights get to enjoy all our "traditional" options, as well as their own. I respect the options. I'd like them all, ta.

But I am again attempting to be politic when what I want to impart is crassly emotional - something about the best way for me to feel I belong to someone. It isn't actually such a big deal, and it isn't meant to threaten, though it does, so I'll keep my mouth shut until I can say the words "I do" without them being denounced as an attack, or as a manifeston