With Gay Marriage Could Come the Trophy Spouse

An attractive, young "trophy wife" on the arm of a much older male celebrity is as commonplace as rehab these days. But with more gay celebrities coming out of the closet and gay marriage becoming legal in California, are we about to enter the era of the "gay trophy spouse"?

"Gay celebrities are probably just as likely to follow that trend -- or not -- as their straight counterparts," said David Hauslaib, editorial director of the Web site Queerty.com. "I don't find it unique to the gay community that people who are famous and wealthy want to date very attractive people. That is not a shocking thing."

But May-December relationships among gay couples may stand out more, simply because there are many more closeted gay celebrities than open ones, Hauslaib said.

"The idea of a straight older guy dating a straight younger woman is so normalized, we don't think twice," he said. "In real life, they are so commonplace. In movies, Al Pacino is not going to star in a movie opposite an older woman."

"Because there are so few out gay celebrities, it's much easier to say that all of the gay celebrities are doing it," Hauslaib continued. "There are so few examples of gay celebrity couples that we do get to talk about in the mainstream press."

One of the more prominent examples is Ellen DeGeneres and her companion of four years, Portia de Rossi. "Theoretically, it's a trophy relationship," Hauslaib said. "Ellen just turned 50 and Portia is 35. It sort of fits the mold."

But where it diverges from the stereotype, Hauslaib said, is in the seriousness of the relationship. Two months after they began dating, de Rossi, an actress and star of "Ally McBeal" and "Nip/Tuck," gave DeGeneres a Tiffany wedding band and bought one for herself.

After the California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on gay marriage, DeGeneres immediately announced on her talk show that she and de Rossi would get married. Media reports say the nuptials are planned for October at the California Riviera Resort and Spa in Palm Springs, Calif.

"Ellen has made it such a public affair," Hauslaib said. "It would be silly to think it's a flippant relationship. They have been together for years, weathered storms together. They're both celebrities in their own right. Perhaps one has benefited from the other, but it's not as if either has piggybacked on the other. Often the accusation of a trophy is where the younger attractive partner is sleeping with a more famous celerity to get ahead. This does not seem to be the case."

The definition of what qualifies as a "trophy" has changed since a Fortune magazine article first introduced the phrase "trophy wife" in 1989. Then, the article described a trophy wife as a "decade or two younger than her husband, sometimes several inches taller, beautiful and very often accomplished."

Today, experts say, the phrase is less pejorative, with more and more emphasis being placed on the success of the woman.

"The idea of the trophy wife has progressed so that men want a woman who has some social equality, and it's not a dominant-submissive relationship," Anne Kingston, author of "The Meaning of Wife" told ABCNews.com. "Increasingly, it's not simply the decoration that a truly accomplished man wants, but an equal."

John Polly, the editor of Logo.com, the Web site for MTV's lesbian and gay network, believes, even with the new connotation of "trophy wife," the phrase doesn't quite fit when it comes to gay couples.

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