It's true that I can be somewhat loud-proud-and-in-your-face, but usually I do it in a very passive, non-confrontational way. I'm quite vocal about sexuality and politics on Facebook, for example, because in that context people aren't required by social norms to respond to what I say. They can pretend they never read it if they so choose, and it seems that most people who disagree with me choose to do exactly that. I would never say most of the things I say on Facebook unless I were sure that the people I'm talking to are sympathetic. This is true not only of political statements about same-sex marriage or anti-discrimination laws; it's also true of casual references to the fact that I'm in a same-sex relationship. The other day I was talking with some friends who may or may not know that I'm gay. They're all my Facebook friends, but I don't know how closely they pay attention to my posts there. At several points in the conversation there were opportunities for me to mention Clark--things like "Oh, your husband is a very private person? So is my partner!"--but I hesitated and ultimately said nothing because I didn't know how my friends would react. There's a good chance these friends already know I'm gay or even if they don't they'd probably handle the news just fine, but I couldn't get past the fear that my saying something would result in an awkward silence.
Another way I like to quietly proclaim my sexual identity is through what I wear. I have a Human Rights Campaign t-shirt and another one that I got from volunteering at Pride this year. I like wearing both of these shirts because they say something about who I am, but without shouting it in people's faces. People who aren't familiar with HRC might think I'm just pro-civil rights in general (which I am), and you kind of have to read the fine print on the Pride shirt to realize what it's from. By contrast, I also own a neon green t-shirt that says in bold letters across the chest, "UTAH GAY FATHERS ASSOCIATION." I've worn this shirt maybe three or four times since getting it in June. One time when I was wearing it, Clark asked me to change into a different shirt before we went to a movie together. That upset me because it made me feel like he was ashamed of who I am, but the truth is that I rarely wear the shirt not because of Clark, but because of me and my own fears. Every time I consider putting it on, I think about where I'm going that day and who I'll see, and I usually decide against wearing it. I'm always worried that if I wear it to a PTA meeting, some parent will get upset and demand that I renounce my position as treasurer, or that if I wear it to the grocery store I'll get nasty looks. To some extent, I am ashamed of who I am. It's hard not to be when so many people around you think you should be.
|See what happened when Batman tried to wear a flamboyant shirt?|
Last night I went to a play with my ex-boyfriend, Clone Wolf. He put his arm around me while we watched the play. I enjoyed this because he and I are friends and we care for each other, and it feels nice to be able to show that affection in public. This is not something I can do with Clark. As much as I enjoyed it, though, I couldn't help feeling self-conscious at the same time. There was one older man in particular who I felt was staring at us the whole time. It may just have been that we were sitting on one side of the stage and he was sitting across from us on the other side, so he was watching the actors and we happened to be behind them, but it felt to me that he was judging us. I kept imagining a confrontation similar to the one on this week's episode of The New Normal, which made me feel simultaneously indignant and terrified. That confrontation didn't happen last night and honestly I've never been in one, but I know they happen. The two competing impulses I have are to avoid such a confrontation on the one hand, and on the other to do my part to create a world where that type of confrontation doesn't happen. I'm afraid if I want the latter, I need to be willing to deal with the former.
I get that I need to be the change I want to see in the world. I just wish I could do that without making anyone uncomfortable--myself included.