Sunday, September 23, 2012

I Hope This Post Doesn't Make You Uncomfortable

One of the reasons Clark doesn't publicly discuss his sexuality is that he doesn't want to make others uncomfortable. He recognizes that we live in a conservative culture and that we're the odd ones out, so he feels the onus is on us to bear the discomfort involved in going against the grain--it shouldn't be the rest of society that has to conform to us. In principle I disagree with this way of thinking, but in practice I'm much more in line with Clark than I think he realizes. Ultimately what it comes down to is that both Clark and I are people-pleasers.

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.


  1. .

    What happened to Rainbow Batman. Far be it from me to judge your Batman references, but that one strikes me as a bit more apropos.

  2. Ha, I didn't think of Rainbow Batman. I was having a hard time thinking of an image for this post and just happened across Zebra Batman. Having just looked up images of Rainbow Batman, I'm happy with my choice. Rainbow Batman was not shunned the way Zebra Batman was.

  3. Being one of the people present at such comment mentioned above, I too was going to make a comment (side comment) to one of mine, and say maybe the neighbors would be more concerned if there were men showing up rather than all us women. I physically stopped myself, not knowing if it would cause you to be uncomfortable or offended. It is unfortunate that "some" people have a difficult time talking about each other's lives. I know that I wouldn't have a problem, but I can't speak for others. (I do know of one for sure that would be just fine). I think when it is difficult for others is when they have things "all up in their faces", but I can't ever imagine you doing that Ben. It is because you are sensitive to/of others that makes you, you. The unknown of how someone is going to react I believe goes for both parties, until you know where each others boundaries and comfort levels are. Why it was to be that way, I think is a question that has been asked and contemplated for YEARS! maybe even centuries.

    I think you are doing just great and making the best of your life like everyone else is trying to do. I hope you don't have to experience "the confrontation" but as long as ignorant people are among us, I'm afraid that it may continue to be there in the back of your mind. I am glad that I took time to read your post. I usually only skim through FB, and never have/take time to get to my favorite blogs anymore, but something urged me to stop this morning and take the time and follow your link to this post. I can say that I'm glad I did and that I'm glad that this is out in the open at least for me. Maybe next time we can keep from holding back our honest comments and just enjoy the free company and friendship that is and can be REAL.

  4. Thank you, Tammy! I also almost said something about the neighbors knowing well enough not to be concerned by women showing up. :) Your comment here will help me not be so timid next time.

  5. I can't imagine what would happen in a confrontation. Since I don't care about what a person's sexuality is, I can't seem in envision what a comment from anyone would be, homophobe or not. I hope it never happens to you, but if it does, text me quickly. I'm usually pretty good with snappy comebacks.

    1. Thanks, I might take you up on that. :) Usually I come up with great snappy comebacks about four hours later.