There will forever be those moments where I will mention a date or a breakup in the presence of someone I don’t know well, and that person will say, “Who is he? Tell me about him!” For a few months, these moments severely increased my heart rate. Is it worth correcting him? Will he judge me? What if I make him uncomfortable?
It didn’t take me long to realize the person I was making most uncomfortable was me. Each time I didn’t correct someone, I got this sinking feeling that I not only betrayed myself but all LGBTQ kind. Even though I was out there doing it, I for some reason still felt awkward admitting to others, especially strangers, that I was dating girls. It just wasn’t natural, yet, and I didn’t quite know how to handle it.
Over the holidays, I interviewed a wonderful man for a story I was writing. We spent three hours together, where I learned that he had devoted the past 25 years of his life to helping others. I have never been so fascinated by a stranger’s life before, and I kept thinking how excited I was to write this story. At the end of our talk, he grabbed my hands and prayed I find a loving husband that would make me happy for the rest of my life. Let the panic attack begin.
I smiled politely and thanked him for the warm wishes. I’m still not sure if it would have been useful to correct him or not. I mean what would have been the point, besides, of course, to make one?
Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth it. When it is a fleeting question in which I know my love life will not be the center of the conversation, a simple shake of the head when asked if I have a boyfriend seems plenty. Most of the time, though, it is worth it. It feels so much better when I say something like, “oh, it’s a her actually, her name is Sarah, and we are going to see a show tonight.”
Each time I do that, it becomes a hundred times easier, and I feel a hundred times lighter. Now I don’t even think twice before correcting someone. I have realized that if for any reason it makes someone uncomfortable, I don’t want to be talking to that person anyway. I try, now, to sort of slip it into conversations, just casually mention a girl I’m dating or something like that. It’s easier that way.
I have surrendered to the idea that I will essentially be ‘coming out’ to people for my entire life. It doesn’t really bother me anymore. It is something to think about though, these assumptions we make. An article I read in Bustle made the point that we are all straight until proven gay, and I hope it won’t always be like that. I hope “do you have a boyfriend” will transform into “are you dating anyone?” Think about it next time you’re chatting with someone new. A simple shift in wording could be the difference between making her feel comfortable and making her feel alienated. Openness is the first step to accepting others and ourselves.