Being gay in a straight world

I know I typically write about the psychological and emotional aspects of things in my life, but this is an issue I would like to address because  it’s been on my mind lately. I think most people think about being in a minority, or specifically about a particular minority, most often if they are part of a minority group themselves. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just human nature. We all have our own problems to think of, why think about someone else’s. And especially why should I think about a group of “someone elses.”

Most days, I don’t think about my “gayness.” I mean, it’s who I am, it’s part of my identity as a human being – as is being a female, being an American, being in my 30s, being dissociative, being the youngest child, being average height, being athletic, etc. All of these things are aspects of myself that help shape and define me. But there are certain aspects of being gay – I prefer the term gay, or queer, than to lesbian – that make me feel like an outside in the world. Let me give you some examples.

For most people, being in love and being in a relationship, and having the freedom to express ones love and affection to another person whenever and wherever they choose, is something that I’m sure they don’t think about. Some people may feel more comfortable with PDA than others, but for the most part, I’m sure that for most of you – when your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/partner puts his or her arm around your shoulder, or goes to hold your hand when you’re out walking – don’t immediately think: what will other people think.

Being gay (or lesbian or whatever you prefer calling it) and having any sort of romantic relationship with another person has two contradictory elements to it: one is the feeling of being invisible, and the other is that of being scrutinized under a microscope. Let’s talk about the first one. Being invisible.

When my partner and I travel, no one ever thinks we’re a couple. Ever. Unless  we meet another member of the gay and lesbian community, in which case they can tell right away. But most often, people think we are a) friends, b) sisters, or c) [my poor partner] mother and daughter. (We do have a significant age difference.) If I were to travel with a man, relatively close to my age (or even not close to my age), I think most people would assume that we were together.

I actually used to be straight. I take that back, I should put it differently. For most of my life, I’ve been in relationships with guys. The reason for this is… okay don’t get me started on a long tangent about sexuality (if you’re interested, feel free to ask in the comment section lol)… Suffice to say that most of the relationships I’ve had in my life have been with guys. Therefore, now that I’m in a relationship with a woman, I have something to compare it to.

Before, when I had a boyfriend, people would smile happily at us. These people – total strangers – would bask in the love that whatever guy  (fill in the blank) and I had at the time. Whether it be people working behind the counter at a hotel, or waiters at a restaurant, or clerks in a store. People would smile a smile that said, you two look happy and I am smiling because I’m happy for you. Let me tell you something. Being in a same-gendered relationship – you never get that. Ever. You never get smiled at period. Unless if you go to a gay pride parade. I’m actually not kidding.

My mom used to smile and happily hold her hands together whenever I brought my boyfriends over. It was a smile and happiness that I took for granted. She’s never once smiled that way when I’ve brought a girl home who I was in love with. Instead, we get an uncomfortable smile that says she’s trying really hard to be happy for me. At least I appreciate that she’s trying…

So that’s the feeling invisible bit. Now let’s talk about the being under a microscope bit.

Last night I was walking my dog in our neighborhood park. There was a young couple there. And when I say couple, I’m sure most of you think of a girl and a guy. You would be correct. They were laying on the grass, entwined with one other. Arms, legs, everything tangled up into one. I felt two things. A) happiness that they are young and in love and that they don’t give a shit who knows and who sees, and B) the desire to shout “get a room!”, since I really don’t want to see them sucking each others face off. But then I had a third thought. And that was, they are doing it because they can. And then a pang of anger and sadness and resentment rose up within me, because I realized that I could never – and I mean ever – do that with my partner. Not that I would want to, please don’t get me wrong. But even if I wanted to, I couldn’t.

Some of you might wonder, well why not? Of course you could. After all, our society has come so far as far as gay rights are concerned. And anyways, people nowadays don’t care.

Let me tell it to you straight. (No pun intended.) That is a load of crap. Yes, we have come a long way. Yes, attitudes toward gays and lesbians are changing. But trust me – people do care. Me getting down on the grass with my partner, entwining our legs together, and ravenously sucking each others faces off would have the same effect as if I were to strip down naked and run down the the middle of the street. Most people would either stare blankly, stare uncomfortably, or stare with utter judgment and disgust. But the main point I’m trying to make is, people would stare. And not just some people; everyone. And it would be fairly likely that someone would utter some prejudiced remark, like, “fucking dykes,” or something to that effect – which I have had people say to me, by the way, simply for holding my girlfriends hand. People are fine with the idea of people being gay or lesbian, but when people see it up close and personal, the truth is, most people are very uncomfortable with it. And that makes me sad.

So because of this, that puts people like me and my partner, who are in a gay or lesbian relationship, in an awkward position. Every day we have to think about things like, would it be okay to hold hands in this situation? Are we going to be making people uncomfortable? Are we in a private enough place where we can kiss? And even if we do throw caution to the wind, which I have been known to do (and quite often I might add), there’s always the thought going on in the back of my head: what are people thinking.

Did anyone here about that pastor who said the other day that all gay people should be rounded up and put in detention camps until we die? Here’s an article that includes his full quote:

http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/933794/nc_pastor_take_homophobia_to_the_extreme,_says_gay_people_should_be_%22detained_in_camps%22_until_they_die/

Lovely isn’t it?

You know that in most states, it’s illegal to marry you’re same-gendered partner? My partner and I can’t get married, for example. Well, we can. It’s just not recognized by the state. And even those gay and lesbian couples who live in states where it is recognized, they still don’t have any of the federal benefits that straight couples do. Social security benefits, for example, if their spouse dies. Being able to file taxes jointly. Those are just a couple examples.

Well… you get the idea.

At this point I feel like I’m getting preachy, but I really didn’t mean to. It’s just, it frustrates me that my partner and I can’t live and be treated just like everybody else. I hope that in a hundred years, that people will see two women or two men who are expressing love for each other and not even blink an eye. But I have to say, that day hasn’t come. We have come a long ways, yes. But we still do have quite a ways to go.

10 Comments

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10 responses to “Being gay in a straight world

  1. More and more countries have gay marriage. Now, Britain has “civil partnerships” and will have marriage shortly. As the change moves, this will cease to be a problem.

    • Clare, I agree. Attitudes are changing. Sometimes I feel that they aren’t changing quickly enough though! In a way, I suppose I’m impatient. It’s just because it’s my life, and I’m tired of being seen as “different.” And I’m also tired of not having the same rights as other people, simply because the person I choose to love is a woman. For example, I don’t have health insurance, because her company doesn’t offer health benefits to same-sex partners but they do offer benefits to opposite-sex married partners. So the fact that our society still doesn’t provide equal rights to gay and lesbian couples does have a very personal and profound effect on my life. It’s more than just ideology, it’s an every day reality for me.

      Thanks for reading :).
      Brandic

  2. themonsterunderyourbed

    I agree with you completely. It’s such a shame that people who are gay can’t express themselves like straight couples do. I’m straight myself however my cousin got married to her girlfriend in October and it was the best wedding I’ve been to. There were a lot of gay people there but at them end of the day it didn’t matter, they managed to get everyone and I mean everyone up dancing, even my slightly homphobic brother!!
    Hopefully one day everyone will be able to live as they are.
    And you know what they say, those that are homophobic are probably gay them selves >.<
    Well good luck with life!!!
    TMUYB
    x
    P.s I also dislike the term lesbian.

    • Thanks for sharing! That wedding does sound amazing!! If my partner weren’t so against the idea of “marriage” (she feels is a very hetero-sexist idea – don’t get me started on that!), I would consider getting “married” and having a ceremony, even though it wouldn’t actually come with any sort of legal rights or protections. It’s just frustrating though… For example, a lesbian couple who I am friends with, and who have a couple children, are not allowed to file income taxes jointly since our country doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages federally. Therefore, they have to file as “single”, which is utterly ridiculous, and they end up having to pay thousands more in taxes than if they were to be able to file jointly. Thousands of dollars that could be going toward their children. It’s sad and frustrating, and needs to change soon.

      Thank you so much for your comment, and I’m glad to hear about the experience of your brother and the wedding. Stories like these make me smile, and help remind me that people’s views are being changed every day, simply because people are seeing that same-sex couples aren’t freaks, aren’t aberrations, but completely normal just like everybody else :).

  3. Gelfontheshelf (the gay elf on the shelf)

    Wow this is am an amazing entry ( I love the word entry..it’s naughty). This really puts things into perspective! Thank you brandic..I would like to see this published in the newspaper and distributed to schools. I can totally relate..Sometimes when Viv and I are out together I suddenly have the urge to be affectionate..but I can never do anything without first checking who is around us. It’s like constantly feeling like you are going to get caught, grounded, or sent to the principal’s office for doing something you should not be doing. Why should I have to go through this thought process when like you point out the straight couple in the park couldn’t care less what other people think?!? Sometimes when we are out shopping and not even holding hands or looking lovingly into each other’s eyes-but more like picking out toilet paper, we will get the most god awful looks. It’s like are you kidding me? Apparently our very existence is offensive to people and they seem to be thinking how dare this gay couple who lives together be out buying toilet paper to wipe their homosexual asses..yes even in this supposedly open minded and wonderful city. I hate to think of what things would be like if we living in a less “open minded” city, when we are met with so much hate here. I don’t think you are being preachy, just honest and reflective..Thank you for sharing this!

    • Yes it’s hard living like you are always being looked at and always being judged for being different. Fortunately, I do feel like attitudes are changing, and that for the most part, young people (do I sound old or what!) don’t really care who people love. It’s the older generations that really seem to take the most offense with it, and it’s because it’s what was taught to them. I’m not saying bigotry and prejudice is okay, I’m just saying it’s a deeply ingrained thing that will take time to change.

      Thanks for your comment 🙂
      Brandic

  4. Sparrow

    I don’t consider myself bisexual, but I guess that is what people call it. I am attract to people, personalities – not gender. Everyone I admire is beautiful to me, so looks (or body parts ahah) never got in the way of things. Cheers-

    • I feel similarly to you in the sense that I don’t like labels, and I don’t think people are either one thing or another. I think sexuality is fluid, it’s just some people lie on different parts of the spectrum. I think we tend to fall into the habit of wanting to label and categorize people for some reason (that I don’t understand!).
      Thanks for your comment.

  5. Pingback: I Saw Something Beautiful: Acceptance. « nevertrustanalligator

  6. Awesome post brandic. You really opened my eyes to a lot of things…I had no idea same sex couples couldn’t even file jointly. And I never thought about the health insurance thing. I support you and any relationship that makes you feel happy and loved! I personally have a lot of gay people in my family and think they are some of the best people I’ve ever met…so much more authentic than any of my other family (who opposes homosexuality) could ever hope to be.

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