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Take my arm, my love
May 6, 2008 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Take my arm, my love. Don't write a check from a joint bank account. Hide all the photographs in your home and office which would identify you as a couple. Take off your wedding rings. Touch each other, and talk to each other, in public, in ways that could only be interpreted as you being "friends." A thoughtful post on "self-editing," homophobia, and the day-to-day experience of many LGBT folks, at Shakesville (aka Shakespeare's Sister), by Teh Portly Dyke.
posted by fiercecupcake (177 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
How sad to have to live like that. I consider myself very lucky not to have to self-edit.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:47 AM on May 6, 2008


Ugh. I'm finding myself self editing these days while looking for apartments with my boyfriend. Do I tell prospective landlords that we're together, or are we just "friends"? How to explain why we're looking at a 1 bedroom when there's two of us?

He seems more editing than I, I am almost totally cool with writing "my boyfriend and I" in a email response to a craigslist post. Almost, I still have to think about it and how it will affect my chances of getting the apartment. But I'm usually of the opinion that if someone can't deal with it, fuck 'em.

Regardless, I've been thinking about this recently as we go to yet another apartment and have to make the choice to either explain that we're together or put up the front that we're interested in squeezing into a 1 br together just to save cash.

Thanks for the post.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:56 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


A great link. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 7:58 AM on May 6, 2008


Sad, indeed, whether or not it's self-imposed (psychological) or in response to actual hostility, which *definitely* still exists in most places. I seems like it depends heavily on where you live. I was trying (kinda) to figure out where she lives, but I didn't look that hard. She uses "snog" so I'm guessing U.K.

In the U.S., it's all over the map, but some geographic regions (West Coast, Northeast) are much more open communities for GLBTs. Also, denser urban areas seem (of course) to be more tolerant of homosexual behavior.

On the other hand, when I lived in Louisville ten years ago, just walking down the street with a friend would often earn a "fag!" epithet hurled from a passing car. (Who would take a walk beside fags?) Going back, I don't think it's changed that much. (And that's the gay "capital" of the midwest.)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:03 AM on May 6, 2008


I would never have been able to do it. If I had been born gay, I would have moved to Europe much, much sooner than I did.

And, yes, that is my solution to everything. Thanks for asking. American homophobes are only slightly behind Iranian homophobes in their zeal and ubiquitousness.
posted by chuckdarwin at 8:12 AM on May 6, 2008


That was really nice, and it taught me a new word (cisgendered, which I'll probably run into the ground now).
posted by padraigin at 8:12 AM on May 6, 2008


A good companion post to the earlier one about Mildred Loving. Thanks.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:20 AM on May 6, 2008


but every single time I take my partner's hand on the street, or toss my arm over her shoulder or around her waist, hug her goodbye or hello, I do a little, tiny "security sweep".

I do this and I live in San Francisco. I have been out since....1986 or 87. And still....

Great post. Thank you, fiercecupcake.
posted by rtha at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2008


I only just realized (within the last few days) that I don't have to keep referring to my boyfriend as my "roommate" around my co-workers, because, as I told one of them, "people don't suck here." But I would never say the same to the Bellevue, WA people who come in to my work. I'm sure it's silly, but I don't trust rich folk to like or care for me. At any rate, it's none of their business.

On a side note, we had an apartment in Beloit, WI about a year and a half ago. It had to have been obvious to anyone who we allowed in that we were together -- there was only one bed in a two bedroom. And, despite the Sean Hannity books in his apartment, our landlord never said a thing, never treated us as anything other than the excellent tenants that we were. It was something of a stalemate, I suppose.
posted by gc at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2008


My boyfriend and I are about to make the move to Birmingham, AL. I can only hope for the sort of stalemate that you had in Wisconsin, gc. Thanks for the post, fiercecupcake.
posted by robstercraw at 8:28 AM on May 6, 2008


I have been horrendously guilty of self-editing, such as taking my tongue out of his mouth for a second to introduce him as my friend. It was so ridiculous I began to use terms to make fun of such terms. "Have you met my life-chum?"

Great article. Thank you.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:37 AM on May 6, 2008


I know there a couple of folks in same sex relationships in my office, and I know they have to edit themselves when talking to others, including me. I wonder how I can let them know they don't have to do that, without being weird/awkward.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:40 AM on May 6, 2008


Great blog! Thanks for the links. As for self-editing: been there, done that. It's exhausting.
posted by Carol Anne at 8:42 AM on May 6, 2008


Thanks for the post. Even in SF, there are plenty of places where self-editing is (or at least feels) necessary to protect one's safety. A few years ago, my partner and I moved from one place in the city where we didn't feel the need to self-edit to another where we'd never dream of holding or saying "I love you" too loud in public. Over time, it really does wear on one's psyche -- it constantly drives home the point that one's relationship is both less real and something for which one should feel ashamed. I don't think I would have consciously noticed the impact of this, however, if we hadn't lived somewhere where we didn't have to self-edit first.
posted by treepour at 8:47 AM on May 6, 2008


I decided years ago not to ever hide the fact that the woman I am always seen with is my girlfriend/wife. I have had so few actual negative experiences (luckily, I know this is not typical), that I decided to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. If I act like there is no big deal here, most people will decide there's no big deal. My self editing takes a different form, I try to mention as smoothly as possible, and as early as possible, that I am married to a woman, that way people won't accidentally assume and feel embarrassed or ashamed. Oh I don't force my sexuality out there, it's more like "So, what do you do?" "Oh, I'm a Master's student in Soc, and my partner, she's in the psych department."

My partner, however, has had more negative experiences than I have and does carefully self-edit. She doesn't kiss me goodbye if we are out of the house. She's uncomfortable cuddling at the theater. She talks in gender-neutral terms to strangers. She's gotten more comfortable over the years, but I can't blame her for her discomfort.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:47 AM on May 6, 2008


Thanks, fiercecupcake.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:48 AM on May 6, 2008


The odd thing is, the more I've been exposed to PDA's from gayfolk and similar incidents (a male co-worker introducing me to his boyfriend, etc) the less odd it's seemed, so familiarity does kind of wear down any lingering homophobia, it seems. The problem is that there are still enough people out there to make such things dangerous for people which sucks.
posted by jonmc at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Aw, shucks! I'm glad others appreciated this as much as I did. I always get a little worried making FPPs, which is why I've made so few of them.

Apparently this is how you get all the LBGTQWTF MeFi'ers out of the woodwork. :]
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:51 AM on May 6, 2008


Nice post. It reminds me of a conversation I had before I moved in with a roommate (no, really, a roommate) where he said "I just want you to know, I'm gay." And I played off it by letting him know I was straight, but I remember thinking at the time "Huh, I've never had to make sure no one could hear and then quietly divulge my sexuality to anyone before."
posted by 23skidoo at 8:53 AM on May 6, 2008


Great post.
posted by Jofus at 8:54 AM on May 6, 2008


I think that the worst part for me, when I had a girlfriend, wasn't even the people who were hostile. It was easy to be defiant around them. The thing that just killed me was how hard it was to change the idea (even in myself) that it somehow wasn't polite for me to introduce someone as a girlfriend. Like this is somehow burdening someone with TMI. Because hey, it's not polite to make people feel awkward with my sexual-political issues.
posted by desuetude at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


She's American. Loads of Americans use "snogged", particularly if they've the interests of the author.

I find it interesting that people think the West Coast, in general, is very accepting of queerness. While it's true that queer people can find safe havens in some West Coast towns, homophobia still hovers as a pervasive, stinking cloud of senseless violence even in quirky, "laid-back" ol' Seattle [details 7 attacks in Seattle in '07].

To all those brave enough to be as out as they can safely be in their 'burg, you've got my respect and appreciation for helping to open minds and get people to ask themselves the harder questions of what civilisation means.

I'll leave out why I'm invested...since I'm in a "passing" relationship, it just feels like waving from someone else's coat-tails.
posted by batmonkey at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2008


just walking down the street with a friend would often earn a "fag!" epithet hurled from a passing car. (Who would take a walk beside fags?)

Hell, a few weeks ago a guy walked past me at work and I heard him mutter 'fag,' disgustedly (I'm straight and married and not effeminate in the least). Some people have gayness on the brain for some reason.
posted by jonmc at 9:03 AM on May 6, 2008


This is the shit that eats people alive, from the inside out. I'm done pretending. But I've got a lot of "invisible femme" guilt, much as I try to avoid using that privilege wherever possible. Heterosexual-appearing -- whatever that means, you never know! -- lesbians can pass with ease in most situations. Most of the time, I have to go out of my way for someone to think I am gay; many people will shrug off almost anything, be it Birks, hand-holding, or short hair, before they go to the "last resort" of thinking someone's a lesbian.

If you're what the LGBT-educator community is now calling an "ally," one of the best things you can do, past pretending to be closeted for a week, is making a conscious choice to be the one who sticks her neck out when someone makes an ignorant or phobic statement. People need to learn that we are not all what we seem, and if they're going to think these things and say them, they should be aware that neither queers NOR their allies are going to stand quietly or embarrassedly by.

Being aware of your privileged or invisible status and all the little ways it aids you through the day is a big step. Speaking out when you see shit happening is an even bigger one.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:04 AM on May 6, 2008 [10 favorites]


Thanks for the post, I can identify with it a lot, even as a single. Right now, I'm kind of in a strange place where there are times that I hide my orientation (around my parents, religious people who I know, and in certain areas), then there are times I go out my way to show my orientation. When I do the latter, I always try to wear something rainbow to scare off the horny straight men and let the lesbian/bi/curious women know that I'm available (I don't look very butch). There are times that I forget to take off my pride colors, fortunately no one has paid attention.

[For those of you straight allies who are not coupled, but who want to play along, your challenge is (perhaps) simpler: Spend one week in which you make no mention and give no hint of your sexual orientation at all. When straight people around you are parsing the hotness of the opposite gender, go silent, or play along in a way that makes it seem as if you are part of the gang, but never reveals any real personal information. If someone asks you about your love-life, be evasive and non-committal. If you went on a date, and you're talking about it later, de-genderize all the pronouns, or consciously switch them (him to her, her to him, etc.).]

Then there's "why aren't you married?", "why don't you have a boyfriend?", "that guy is totally into you, he's hot and has a nice personality, why aren't you going after him?". I like to see the looks of confusion on people's faces when I tell them even if I wanted to get married, I cannot get married in this state. The majority of straight people I know, have no idea what I'm referring to. People also get confused when I say that I want to have kids, but not have them. I'm referring to adoption, surrogacy, or having my girlfriend artificially inseminated (if she wishes to), and not pregnancy.
posted by sixcolors at 9:06 AM on May 6, 2008


(And what I meant by that last line, first paragraph? "Oh, just because she wears Birks and cargo pants and she has short hair and she hasn't had a boyfriend in years and she's always with that other girl, that doesn't mean she's a lesbian...")

Caffeine.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:06 AM on May 6, 2008


.
posted by johnj at 9:07 AM on May 6, 2008


I wouldn't last a day in her experiment. Though we don't make out, we are always holding hands in public.
posted by desjardins at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2008


ABC news segment mentioned in the first link: Birmingham Woman Calls 911 Over Two Guys Kissing in Public [video].
posted by ericb at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2008


And that's the gay "capital" of the midwest.

Louisville? Really?? My lesbian aunt lives there, but I never knew.
posted by desjardins at 9:11 AM on May 6, 2008


In related news: Cayman Islands Police Arrest Massachusetts Man for Gay Kiss.

Dept. of Tourism Apologizes to Gay Kiss Arrestee.
posted by ericb at 9:11 AM on May 6, 2008


is making a conscious choice to be the one who sticks her neck out when someone makes an ignorant or phobic statement.

I don't know if this qualifies (and I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, honestly) but a few months ago I was hanging out at my corner bar, the patrons of which could be described as 'mooks,' or 'urban rednecks.' Not bad guys at all, but not exactly Village Voice readers either, which for the most part is fine with me, although there's moments...I was playing 'All Right Now,' on the jukebox and shooting the breeze with the guy next to me about what a great song it was and I mentioned that I'd read that the writer of the song and the band's bass player had AIDS. "From shooting dope or from bein' queer?' the guy asked. 'He's gay, it turns out,' I said. The guy made a snickering noise. 'Eh, you work in the music and book business long enough, you get used to all that,' I said and the guy looked thoughtful for a second and then shrugged. Made him think? I dunno. It's not ranting or anything brave, but different approaches, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2008


The thing that just killed me was how hard it was to change the idea (even in myself) that it somehow wasn't polite for me to introduce someone as a girlfriend.

God, yes. I've been so out for so long that I sometimes forget that there might be people on this planet who don't know I'm a dyke, but I experienced similar feelings of...what, not wanting to be "rude" by mentioning my girlfriend, or introducing her as such. It's been years now since I felt like that, but I remember it so well - the hesitation, the fleeting sense of shame and equally fleeting inner voice saying "No, no! It's not shame!" (I could be defensive even with myself!), the desire to not rock the boat. It's a fucking exhausting way to live.
posted by rtha at 9:15 AM on May 6, 2008


familiarity does kind of wear down any lingering homophobia

Yes, which is why I am of two minds about self-editing.

On one hand, I used to do it all the time and there are times when it is still the safe thing to do. I'm also forced to do it in some social situations where my US military-enlisted partner's superiors are present (and, oddly, so must all his straight co-workers who know and are extremely cool about it.)

On the other hand, I've known too many people, myself included, who essentially feared gays until they had been repeatedly "exposed" to us in everyday settings. The strange and unknown is inherently scary, so the only way gays will gain true acceptance is by coming out and showing our coworkers, neighbors, etc. that we aren't the boo-gay-men and -women that their mind has constructed out of ignorance. That ignorance is the enemy, and it can only be eliminated when gays are brave enough to come out publicly.

Which is an incredibly hard, and occasionally dangerous, thing to do. Yet, self-editing sustains, even bolsters, the homophobic status quo.
posted by CaptApollo at 9:19 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Whenever I read stuff like this, it always makes me sad that my being cool about / indifferent towards people's sexual orientation is somehow exceptional.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:20 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


[For those of you straight allies who are not coupled, but who want to play along, your challenge is (perhaps) simpler: Spend one week in which you make no mention and give no hint of your sexual orientation at all. When straight people around you are parsing the hotness of the opposite gender, go silent, or play along in a way that makes it seem as if you are part of the gang, but never reveals any real personal information. If someone asks you about your love-life, be evasive and non-committal. If you went on a date, and you're talking about it later, de-genderize all the pronouns, or consciously switch them (him to her, her to him, etc.).]

I'm straight, but I did this for years, especially at work. I'm not sure why I started, but once you get in the habit it is hard to get out of. The thing was, that it made everyone thing I was gay. Self-editing is much more obvious that you might think, and people notice the disconnect.
posted by aspo at 9:22 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


boo-gay-men

...would be a great band name. I'm just saying.
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on May 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


As a straight person, I feel like we can't let this happen. It pisses me off that some of the people I love can't hold hands in public or have to act like they're roommates. I really just want to shame all of the assholes out there who stare at them or make them feel intimidated for doing the things that straight couples take for granted.

I feel like all of the straight people out there who support the LGBT community need to act as enforcers. Gays and lesbians are statistically guaranteed to be the minority in almost every town and city, so it is up to the rest of us to say as a community that treating people like this is not okay. I'm not saying that we should beat anyone up or make them feel intimidated right back, but we need to make sure that we let the assholes know that their behavior isn't cool, and tell the fretting ones to calm down. Above all, we need to make sure that everyone feels safe, and let out LGBT friends know that someone is keeping an eye out for them if some jerk decides to start something.

The status quo in this case is not acceptable.
posted by Alison at 9:25 AM on May 6, 2008 [6 favorites]


I've just made the transition between being in a long-term, very out relationship (joint checking, and everyone from landlords to parents to co-workers knew us as a couple) to being single, and I'm having to re-learn the subtle differences between the two cloaking techniques. Coming out when you're part of a couple, I found, is actually a little bit easier than coming out as a single; at least everyone of the same sex that you come out to doesn't wonder, if even for the briefest moment, whether you're coming on to them.

As gay people, we all decide where to draw the line between what's public in our lives and what's private. Personally, I won't lie about my orientation, or play the non-gender-specific-personal-pronoun game. There are sacrifices that come from moving the line in either direction; if you're totally in the closet, you're missing the chance to be close to people by denying them any knowledge of your inner life. If you're completely and totally out, you're literally risking your life. Being gay these days means finding a place between those positions where you're comfortable enough to live.

Which sucks.
posted by MrVisible at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


'Eh, you work in the music and book business long enough, you get used to all that'

My old mate, Jeff was a hod carrier and he used to say exactly the same thing about the construction industry. "Whenever they start up a new can lad, the whole site goes wild with lust as everyone wants to get in his pants."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:26 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


1. It shouldn't be illegal, but do we want to encourage PDA by anyone? What social standards of conduct should we encourage, defend, maintain? Is there a "get a room" standard? Who gets to set it?

2. Do hetero couples ever get told by the police to get a room? How often would we hear about that in the news?

3. A word about saftey: Some of us take it for granted that we aren't going to be harassed when we are walking down the street. Some of us take it for granted that the cops will respond to 911 calls promptly.

Always check yourself regardless of your race/creed/color/orientation: In public, be alert, attentive, and sensitive to those around you.
posted by ewkpates at 9:34 AM on May 6, 2008


My oldest and best friend (a straight, married girl) poo-pooed the whole thing, saying "we've come farther than that, the Measure will never pass, tempest-in-a-teapot, blah, blah, blah" -- and stated that she couldn't understand why I was so upset about the whole thing.

Ugh - I recently had the unpleasant experience of having a straight friend tell me that something I thought was homophobic was no big deal and I was being foolish and inconveniencing people by bringing it up. I wish I could have given her a little science experiment like this to do.

Straight folks, allies - it's possible that we are overreacting to perceived homophobia, but telling us we don't know what we're talking about and you do is not the answer!

Oh, and thanks for your support.
posted by smartyboots at 9:35 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I live in the belly of the deep south. Recently, I was composing an obituary for a man whose father had died and when we got to the "survived by" section, the son said, "One son (himself) and his partner, Bill; two daughters...three grandchildren..." For a moment, I was so proud of this man for bravely stating his relationship, publicly in the newspaper, and then I thought, "How sad that it's remarkable." Out of respect for this son, I casually continued typing the obit as if he'd said nothing unusual, but I really wanted to leap across my desk and hug him.
posted by ColdChef at 9:38 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Do hetero couples ever get told by the police to get a room?

A bookstore I used to work in had a sofa in one area where people could sit down and read. A straight couple got into some heavy duty tonsil hockey on it one night. We asked them to leave. (and we were in the right I think).
posted by jonmc at 9:40 AM on May 6, 2008


Great article, fiercecupcake. Thanks for the post.

I've always thought that use of the word "roommate" was just about the saddest camouflage attempt ever. I've never heard anyone use the word outside of a campus, except to refer to a same-sex partner.

Many years ago, I participated in a summer camp production of "Little Shop of Horrors." Granted, my gaydar at that time was more developed than that of most twelve-year-olds, but I'm pretty sure it was obvious to almost everybody that the director/choreographer was gay. One day, he brought in this fantastic Audrey II puppet and said that his "roommate" had made it. I let it go, because I knew what he really meant, but this one other kid just didn't get it and asked for clarification.

"Your roommate? You mean, like, from college?"
"Um, well, no..."

It was awkward, and very sad.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:40 AM on May 6, 2008


PeterMcDermott: "
My old mate, Jeff was a hod carrier and he used to say exactly the same thing about the construction industry. "Whenever they start up a new can lad, the whole site goes wild with lust as everyone wants to get in his pants."
"

The construction industry must be very different in the UK from the one that I've worked in the US which was 99% white, straight, sexist, racist, homophobic men.
posted by octothorpe at 9:41 AM on May 6, 2008


One of my best friends closely guarded the fact that her "boyfriend" was actually her girlfriend for a long time. She told me but kept it from just about everyone else, and she never brought her to any gatherings. After a while, she realized she was being silly and that none of her friends would take issue with her sexual preference. I doubt anyone would have even thought about it. Who wouldn't want her to be happy? But she had been doing it for so long that she now felt she had to continue the charade simply because she didn't want anyone to know she hadn't trusted them enough to be honest with them in the first place. It's all good now, but for a while, the stress was absolutely eating her alive.

WTF kind of place do we live in when we're too afraid to be truthful with our own friends about something as basic as who we love? What century IS this, anyway?
posted by katillathehun at 9:44 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I think I'm naive about homophobia. I get stared at occasionally when I'm holding hands or smooching a lover, especially when I leave my enclave here in the Bay Area. But I honestly don’t think I ever edit myself because of internalized or external homophobia. I believe I am more vigilant than straight people tend to be when expressing affection, but not much. Mostly I just do my gay-ass thing and if someone gets in my face about it (very rare) I get in their face back. I look pretty unmistakably homo (ie: butch) and anyone with a scrap of gaydar knows I’m queer whether I’m with a lover or not. I’m also really friendly and outgoing. Basically, most people know I’m gay, and they have to be really actively homophobic jerks for me to even notice they’re not feeling me and my gayness.

I don’t say any of this to dispute the basic points of the post. I know they’re true for most people and I agree our world has a long way to go in terms of embracing all loving couples on equal terms. But I just think its interesting how different this feels from my personal experience.
posted by serazin at 9:45 AM on May 6, 2008


Oh, and an opposite story: a female coworker of my wife was complaining about her spouse when she accidentally let the pronoun "she" slip, and she spent the next few minutes red-faced and sputtering, trying to backtrack what she'd said, until my wife (who is fucking awesome if you ask me), reached out and put her hand on her coworker's hand and said, "It's okay, really. I'm straight but I'm not narrow."
posted by ColdChef at 9:47 AM on May 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


my wife (who is fucking awesome

Dude, I'd kick that awesome's ass, lousy cuckold!
posted by jonmc at 9:49 AM on May 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


One funny thing on the “roommate” meme:

My real-life roommate is a bi-woman. I’m a dyke. We’ve been best of friends for about 15 years. We finish each other’s sentences, eat off the same plate at parties, she helps care for my kids, stuff like that. We are constantly mistaken for being partners. We (mostly me) fall all over ourselves to tell people that “We’re roommates. No, really! We’re not in the closet! But we’re just roommates!”

The last time this happened, the gay man who I had explained this too in much hilarious detail approached me later at the same party to suggest that if we were really only roommates, maybe we should consider getting together.
posted by serazin at 9:50 AM on May 6, 2008


Faint of Butt- so what do people call their roommates, then?

Last week my boss was showing me pictures from her cruise. This is a woman who's never femme-ier than lip gloss about 4 times in the 8 years I've known her. For her cruise she got a super sexy Marilyn Monroe-esqe dress. She and her partner looked smashing! I told her I wished she'd got a picture of the two of them on the dance floor! And she looked at me funny and said- "well, we couldn't really have done that. It would have been too awkward." I couldn't figure out what she was talking about, and once I did... it was so sad! To go on a romantic cruise and have to keep a low profile...

I'm also always referring to her long time partner as her wife, too, which she's quick to remind me isn't the case. Ugh.

She's gracious enough to never make me feel like a dork about screwing up, but still. It's so easy for me to forget what basic rights she and her partner don't have.

PeterMcDermott, I'd like to say (inappropriately) that Damn! That is incredibly hawt.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:57 AM on May 6, 2008


My old mate, Jeff was a hod carrier and he used to say exactly the same thing about the construction industry. "Whenever they start up a new can lad, the whole site goes wild with lust as everyone wants to get in his pants."

Not on the construction sites I've worked on. There were a number of gay tradesmen, and I never saw anyone give them any real problems (in fact everyone was very protective of them if some subcontractor or passerby turned out to be a bigot -- nothing like a dozen large muscular men with hammers to make someone back down in a hurry). But it was always an environment where the gay sexuality was left at the door -- no harassing the apprentices, no flirting, none of that stereotyped "swishy" sorts of stuff. Very, very self-edited, very constrained, very limited -- you could be "gay" but not "GAY!!!!!", if you follow. So an environment can be accepting and protective, but with that acceptance being conditional on very narrow self-editing.

Among our friends, there seems to be a very clear generational divide. Older LGBetc couples we know tend to use more coded words, like "friend" or "roommate," even in very public and open long-term relationships. But then we have a set of friends, our age and younger, who are very in-your-face, willing to say "my boyfriend" and hold hands in public, consequences be damned. I know a number of people who were openly out in high school, which was simply unimaginable when I was in school, never mind twenty years before. So someone that age (if they were lucky enough to live in an ok place and have an accepting family) might have taken a same-sex date to the prom and many of the other public performances that have usually been the exclusive realm of heterosexual couples; they then went to colleges with strong LGBT communities, and now live in places that are by and large pretty tolerant.

I think that that is still an unusual experience, and most people in most places have to be far more edited and careful. But this is also an area where things are changing surprisingly quickly, and the need for self-editing in many places is a lot less than it used to be, even just a few years ago.
posted by Forktine at 10:01 AM on May 6, 2008


so um, just out of curiosity, where am i on the the whole slide rule if i point, smile and cheer at a same-gender couple when they PDA? I personally think it's fantastic and want to support it, but then again this could be just as unwelcomed - then again, this is NYC...

then again...

oh dear!
posted by eatdonuts at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2008


"It's okay, really. I'm straight but I'm not narrow."

I love that expression, it fits so perfectly. I don't care (and it's none of my business) about anyone else's bedroom or romantic preferences; my concern is "are they a cool person or not?".

I'm straight, but I find it incredibly awesome that (so far) Houston seems to be more LGBT-friendly than Austin (where I lived for nine years). You'd expect it to be the reverse. Quite refreshing from growing up in small-town Oklahoma.

I did notice that our across-the-street neighbors introduced themselves as "roommates" when they moved in; they're obviously a couple. I suspect it was habit, to avoid offending the older original homeowners in the neighborhood who have been there since the late 50s. The area (Westchase) seems to be in the process of being taken over by tattooed-and-pierced 20 and 30somethings, and I love it.
posted by mrbill at 10:05 AM on May 6, 2008


eatdonuts, as long as you're obviously being supportive, and cannot be mistaken for being sarcastic about it, that's fine. If you're worried about appearing sarcastic, throw confetti while prancing around the kissing couple. There's no such thing as sarcastic confetti.
posted by MrVisible at 10:07 AM on May 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


Mr. Bill, having lived and played in Houston and Austin, I would support your conclusion. Houston has a much larger gay "community" (not the number of gay folks, the expression of the community) and a lot more gay infrastructure. We miss it sometimes from here in Austin, but I will say that part of that is that in Austin, hardly anyone ever bats an eye. There seems to be less need for community, though it's a little lonely without it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:09 AM on May 6, 2008


Sarcastic Confetti would be a great band name. Seriously.
posted by jonmc at 10:10 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


WTF kind of place do we live in when we're too afraid to be truthful with our own friends about something as basic as who we love? What century IS this, anyway?

I often wonder those same things. Then I think, "Well, I know one day we'll rise above this." But then my next thought is: "Well, which group is going to take the place of LGBT as the 'It's Okay to have a 2nd class of citizens' demographic, because it sure as fuck seems like most people need to have a group it's okay to hate in order to feel good about themselves." And then when we learn to accept that group, who's going to replace them, and so on and so on and so on....

We miss it sometimes from here in Austin, but I will say that part of that is that in Austin, hardly anyone ever bats an eye. There seems to be less need for community, though it's a little lonely without it.

It's funny, but some of my black friends and family members say the same thing about Austin and Houston with regard to the African-American community. Things in Austin are so weird w/r/t blacks that a former roommate of mine (truly a roommate, nothing going on but the rent) and I used to make jokes about "seeing one of the other 5 black people" whenever we came across a fellow brown-skinned traveler here in Central Texas. It's strange that acceptance/lack of hostility results in a less tightly-knit community.
posted by lord_wolf at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2008


ColdChef-

Your wife sounds lovely and her use of the expression seems fine since she was with someone who probably knows her to be straight, but the expression “straight but not narrow” has always bugged me. How come the straight person has to make a point of pointing out their straightness in this context? If you were really “not narrow” then would you care if, when you spoke out for gay rights for example, those around you assumed you to be gay?
posted by serazin at 10:23 AM on May 6, 2008


The construction industry must be very different in the UK from the one that I've worked in the US which was 99% white, straight, sexist, racist, homophobic men.

While I was trying to subvert jonmc's belief that it's just the media/music biz that's gay friendly, what I wrote was absolutely true, though I suspect Jeff was teasing me to some extent. This was back in the early 70's and he made no secret of his gay activities. And given that he was unquestionably the strongest, toughest and most macho man I've ever known, I'm pretty sure he would have given any homophobes short shrift -- or more likely, freaked them out by being as in your face about his sex life as he could possibly be.

According to him, sex with the can lad (the boy who makes the tea) was a form of initiation for the new employee, and a perk of the job for the skilled tradesman. And while I suspect he was probably overstating the prevalence, Joe Orton's cottaging diaries also regularly featured plenty of sex with men who worked in the construction industries.

So, these guys might have been white, sexist and racist, but I'm betting more than a few of them like the company of other men on the down low.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:24 AM on May 6, 2008


While I was trying to subvert jonmc's belief that it's just the media/music biz that's gay friendly,

I used that as an example because it's the business I worked in, but I'm sure there's plenty of other gay-friendly industries, too.
posted by jonmc at 10:29 AM on May 6, 2008


Serazin, I always took the 'Straight But Not Narrow' meme to be reinforcing the idea that straight people can accept gay people; in other words, I think they're emphasizing the idea that they're straight to show other straight people that it's okay to be okay with being gay.
posted by MrVisible at 10:41 AM on May 6, 2008


An uptight mother I know was horrified that her daughter came out as a lesbian. Imagine the mother's relief when the daughter and the daughter's lover formed a business together, so that the mother could then refer to the girlfriend as "my daughter's partner."
posted by Kibbutz at 10:48 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


it's okay to be okay with being gay.

so they say, today. oy vey.
posted by jonmc at 10:48 AM on May 6, 2008


Great post and awesome thread here.

While I in no way pretend to be able to relate to the stress of the self-editing to the extent it's described here, isn't there at least some level of self-editing always present in most people? Isn't it part of being human and being aware of and/or worried about what other humans think of us?
posted by kingbenny at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2008


If you were really "not narrow" then would you care if, when you spoke out for gay rights for example, those around you assumed you to be gay?

I've certainly seen people put a little too much emphasis on the "straight" part of "straight but not narrow" type interactions, and that's maybe a bit silly and unselfaware, sure.

But I think it is at its best more about establishing that (a) you're straight but (b) you're aware of the weird messy dynamics of sexual preference politics and (c) you've been there, done that, and explicitly aren't either straight-and-scared-of-gays or straight-and-accordingly-clueless.
posted by cortex at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2008


And then of course, there are known cases of heterophobic self-editing.
posted by Kibbutz at 10:51 AM on May 6, 2008


I think MrVisible has it. It's somewhat like saying "I'm old, but I ain't that old." I'm X, but that shouldn't make you assume I'm Y.
posted by ColdChef at 10:51 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this post. Very interesting, and quite sad.
posted by caddis at 10:53 AM on May 6, 2008


dude, i live in the GAYBORHOOD and i still feel the need to self-edit. because there are "bad people" who lurk about outside my building and on the corners around our building. i don't want to get shanked because i'm holding my girlfriend's hand.

we have the joint checking account, the one bedroom apartment, the wills, the powers of attorney, the whole shebang. but at all my jobs except the one i have now, i've self-edited because being gay is often a liability. it's not just because there are co-workers who will mutter under their breath at you, but because you could very realistically be fired for being gay (of course under the guise of something else).

i'm not comfortable with PDAs period, but i'm even more uncomfortable with my girlfriend and PDAs because there ARE people who will make an issue out of it.

(there was a post in the green a while back where someone said they didn't like torchwood because of all the gay kissing and innuendo, felt the show was forcing it on us. someone else pointed out that person A wouldn't have felt that way if it were a man and a woman. i think that's 100% true.)
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2008


someone said they didn't like torchwood because of all the gay kissing and innuendo, felt the show was forcing it on us.

someone should introduce this someone to the miracle of the remote control.
posted by jonmc at 10:55 AM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


While I in no way pretend to be able to relate to the stress of the self-editing to the extent it's described here, isn't there at least some level of self-editing always present in most people? Isn't it part of being human and being aware of and/or worried about what other humans think of us?

Good point.

Yes, in some ways many homosexuals have an advantage that many non-privileged groups do not have. We have the choice of hiding it. The same cannot be said about racial minorities or the physically disabled, for example.
posted by sixcolors at 10:57 AM on May 6, 2008


Faint of Butt, I had a roommate for a long time. For real, just roommates. It's not uncommon well after college, particularly in cities where two people can get a lot more apartment than one person.

Most of the time, I have to go out of my way for someone to think I am gay; many people will shrug off almost anything, be it Birks, hand-holding, or short hair, before they go to the "last resort" of thinking someone's a lesbian.

Oh, I had the same problem. Suitably comic results ensued when actually flirting with women. (Notable exception: in the "guy yelling out the window" scenario, my lack of interest turns into howls of "fucking dyke bitch" pretty fast, since I have very short hair.)

I've got other closet issues now -- out as bi, but in a permanent relationship with a boy. So I fall back to politely keeping it to myself in many circumstances. Bah. Well, at least I can contribute to wearing down the homophobia, as jonmc mentioned.
posted by desuetude at 11:00 AM on May 6, 2008


another odd observation: I was outside of my laundromat having a cigarette the other day and a few feet away another guy was smoking. his t-shirt bore what looked like a Home Depot logo but on a second look it said 'Homo Depot.' I'm not sure whether he was advertising gayness, a Lowe's employee trying to spread rumors or someone advertising a new bar.
posted by jonmc at 11:03 AM on May 6, 2008


Personally, I object to Torchwood because it's terribly written, and the characters are flat and uninteresting, and the premise is sort of awkward and thin.

But I watch it because there's gay kissing. Seeing that on TV just cheers me right up.

And to anyone who objects to the gay content, it's called Torchwood. Seriously. Could there be a gayer name in the entire space-time continuum? It's not like you weren't warned.
posted by MrVisible at 11:09 AM on May 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Faint of Butt, I had a roommate for a long time. For real, just roommates. It's not uncommon well after college, particularly in cities where two people can get a lot more apartment than one person.

I never said that that sort of living arrangement doesn't exist. I know it happens all the time. It's the word itself that I question. Did you and the other person actually refer to each other, in public, as roommates? I've heard "housemate," "apartment-mate," "guy I share an apartment with," "neighbor," all sorts of terms. There's nothing at all odd about sharing living space, but to share a room with someone of the same sex when you're not living in a dormitory just sounds kind of... well... gay.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:29 AM on May 6, 2008


MrVisible: Personally, I object to Torchwood because it's terribly written, and the characters are flat and uninteresting, and the premise is sort of awkward and thin.

Which makes it just like every other show on television.

But what I like about it, is that it takes all of the subtext that slashers pluck out of coy looks and makes it explicit.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:30 AM on May 6, 2008


...isn't there at least some level of self-editing always present in most people? Isn't it part of being human and being aware of and/or worried about what other humans think of us?

Sure, but I think that for most well-adjusted people, any generic self-editing and/or worries about what others might think of them are relatively minor compared to what we're talking about here.

I'm a reasonably well-adjusted hetero who worries about what other people think of me, so I self-edit. Maybe I refrain from telling my coworkers that I watched some cheesy reality show this weekend, or that I harbor a secret love of bad 80's pop. That's's not something that is "constant" and "exhausting" the way it's been described in the article and this thread. I don't need to continually reshape and reframe how I present a fundamental aspect of my life because I'm afraid that I won't be accepted otherwise. I am free to be, in all the really important ways, exactly who I am, without fear. Unfortunately, in our current society, that's not a true statement for everyone.

Folks who have actually lived this are welcome to tell me that I'm full of crap. It just seems like a huge freaking difference to me.
posted by somanyamys at 11:31 AM on May 6, 2008


which group is going to take the place of LGBT as the 'It's Okay to have a 2nd class of citizens' demographic

The homophobes.
posted by ericb at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


That was a great read. Thanks.

A couple points I really identified with:

I notice who is around, and where I am, and what the energy feels like -- before I touch her in public. It's a tiny amount of attention, most often, but it's there....

I am still alert in public settings and default-cautious with strangers around revelation of my sexual orientation, no matter how much self-esteem I possess. Every time I meet someone new, I silently (and mostly, unconsciously) assess how I think they will handle the information that I am a lesbian.


That's just so right-on. I experience the same thing, constantly, but have never been able to articulate it very well. I'll be passing this on to my girlfriend, who doesn't understand why I'm reluctant in some settings, but not in others, to hold her hand or give her a peck on the cheek.

I disagree with one thing she said (which she later mitigated):

I recognize this as the internalized homophobia that it is, but I can't deny that it's present in me. The fact is, that I stop, look, and listen before I demonstrate physical affection toward my beloved in nearly every public setting that is not clearly "queer safe".


It's not homophobia. That would make it self-hatred, and I just don't buy it. It's survival instinct, plain and simple. People still get beat up for being gay. There's nothing homophobic about making sure the asshats who do that sort of thing aren't standing nearby when you show some innocuous bit of affection to your sweetie. It's a smart thing to do. Sad that we have to do it, but this is where we are.

batmonkey said: I find it interesting that people think the West Coast, in general, is very accepting of queerness.

Yeah, same here. I grew up in Texas, which is where I learned to be 'out' while still being circumspect. I've lived in CA for 8 years now. I was always looking over my shoulder in Texas, always worried that my short hair would get me in trouble at some small town gas station. Even in Austin, I was careful not to engage in any sort of PDA. In Texas, it just seemed like there could be an aggressive redneck lurking in any crowd or behind any bush.

But you know, I never had a single incident in Texas.

I've had several in CA, all of them taking the shape of ignorant coworkers who gossip, and then act inappropriately (or threateningly) on that gossip. And this is in a NoCal town that's considered out-there liberal.

I guess what that's proven to me is that homophobia (and its cousin stupidity) aren't regional specialties, though I'd always grown up thinking they were. It comes from what's in a person's heart and head, not where they live.

And that makes it worse, really, because it's not something you can readily assess on the sidewalk or in the mall or in a park or in a fine dining establishment. And that's why the self-editing often seems necessary.

You simply don't know how people will react.

[Obligatory: No, it's not something that should even prompt a reaction. But it does.]
posted by mudpuppie at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2008


...his t-shirt bore what looked like a Home Depot logo but on a second look it said 'Homo Depot.'

All of my friends refer to it as 'Homo Depot.' Honey, go there on a weekend sometime.
posted by ericb at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2008


Folks who have actually lived this are welcome to tell me that I'm full of crap. It just seems like a huge freaking difference to me.

You are not full of crap.
posted by rtha at 11:41 AM on May 6, 2008


Thanks for the article, fiercecupcake. Will forward to my galpal/landlord/"friend"/coworker - we sometimes differ on how out to be. She counsels students and so while not a dodger when asked, will definitely self-edit or curtail public actions, assumingly so that students will feel comfortable with her no matter what. Since I just fix books, and they don't seem to mind, sometimes have a harder time understanding the self-editing (though still do it myself with select people, even people close to me, and yes, it sucks).
posted by ikahime at 11:44 AM on May 6, 2008


All of my friends refer to it as 'Homo Depot.' Honey, go there on a weekend sometime.

Heh. The last time I went to Home Depot was to buy a toilet plunger. Anyone excited by that is not someone I'd care to drink with.
posted by jonmc at 11:46 AM on May 6, 2008


Just now I saw a friend of my parents that has a disfigured eye. She wears dark, tinted glasses, but otherwise her vision is okay—she needs glasses, but nothing too strong. Having read this article earlier I started to think what my reaction would be if she wore normal glasses. Would I stare? Would I avert my eyes? It's very hard for me to tell. I'm used to people with disfigured body parts because I work for a government rehabilitation agency, but it can still be weird to see some particular disfigurations.

Now, I'm not making the analogy that being queer is analogous to being disfigured (for starters, my bi girlfriend would rip my pancreas out through my navel) but some people rarely encounter outward gayness in real life and for those people, homosexuality is weird. It's not hard for me to understand how some people are uncomfortable around gay people being affectionate. I think they shouldn't be, but I understand.

As a gazillion people have pointed out so far, the way to fix this problem is to educate people. Once things become normal, they tend to stay normal. For people of my generation (under-thirties), homosexuality is normal. We grew up with it around us. Most everyone I know has one or more gay close relative. The AIDS scare is a collection of dim memories and half-remembered TV drama plot points. I still have hetero friends who aren't all that comfortable around gay people being affectionate, but they generally get over it after the first couple of times it occurs.

Now, hate crimes, which terrorize people into looking over their shoulder before holding hands with their loved one, need more drastic solutions. In fact, just thinking about it gets me into an angry tissy. Hate crime laws are a good first step, anyway. I have no idea what else to do. Let's hope that people getting educated and acclimatized coupled with hate crime laws does the trick.
posted by Kattullus at 11:55 AM on May 6, 2008


Did you and the other person actually refer to each other, in public, as roommates? I've heard "housemate," "apartment-mate," "guy I share an apartment with," "neighbor," all sorts of terms.

*shrug* Yeah, we called each other/referred to each other as roommates in public. I was going to say that maybe girls are comfortable with this term, but I can think of dozens of straight guys who refer to their roommate. Which is widely understood to be "person with whom you share the rent on an apartment" not "person with whom you share a bedroom."

I've never heard anyone say "apartment-mate" or "guy I share an apartment with" unless they're doing the self-defensive anti-homo dance. I've only heard "housemate" when it's an actual whole house. Neighbor is someone who lives in a neighboring house or apartment.
posted by desuetude at 12:04 PM on May 6, 2008


Eh, go figure. Maybe it's a regional thing. I withdraw any objections to the platonic use of the word "roommate." Does this count as a breakthrough?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:16 PM on May 6, 2008


I never said that that sort of living arrangement doesn't exist. I know it happens all the time. It's the word itself that I question. Did you and the other person actually refer to each other, in public, as roommates? I've heard "housemate," "apartment-mate," "guy I share an apartment with," "neighbor," all sorts of terms. There's nothing at all odd about sharing living space, but to share a room with someone of the same sex when you're not living in a dormitory just sounds kind of... well... gay.

My experience (mostly NYC) is that this living arrangement is common and they call each other roommates. Generally post-college adults try to have their own bedroom, but still use the word roommates, and a shared bedroom situation is not unheard of.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:17 PM on May 6, 2008


It's not homophobia.

It's homophobophobia.
posted by oaf at 12:30 PM on May 6, 2008


Yes, in some ways many homosexuals have an advantage that many non-privileged groups do not have. We have the choice of hiding it. The same cannot be said about racial minorities or the physically disabled, for example.

It's an advantage for sure, yet perhaps at the same time the very option of "passing" has meant that homosexuals got to the civil rights table last.
posted by orange swan at 12:38 PM on May 6, 2008


In thinking about my life as a university teaching assistant in Texas, I find that the only place I need to self-edit about being gay / having a boyfriend is in the classroom. My advisor/boss and the vast majority of my co-workers didn't bat an eye when I began mentioning that my boyfriend and I went camping over the weekend (for example), and I feel comfortable enough to confront any co-workers who think they can give me shit about it.

But I do hide this when teaching undergraduates. I teach an evolution course, which can be a battle to begin with due to a sizable fraction of high schools in Texas not teaching evolution, or teaching it with an eye towards intelligent design / creationism. I feel like I would alienate students not approving of my sexuality, and as a result my job -- teaching them biology -- would pretty much be impossible. So I am then forced to chose between self-editing and being an effective teacher for all students who take my course.

To make matters oh-so-much worse, one lecture I teach focuses on the biology of homosexuality, that is, looking at the biological data for why it might exist, and how it exists in other forms in other animals. I do attempt to keep it strictly a biology class, with no implications for morality. I doubt my students would share their thoughts openly on this if they knew I was gay -- such as the student who stated that one can only get HIV through homosexual sex in North America (compared to only through blood contact in Africa). On one hand, this gave me the opportunity to say DEAR GOD, WHERE THE HELL DID YOU HEAR THIS??? in the most supportive and caring way possible, and then the opportunity to correct this misconception. On the other, there is no way the student would say this in class knowing that I am gay. So is self-editing more important than being an effective teacher?

Food for thought.
posted by Peter Petridish at 12:42 PM on May 6, 2008 [7 favorites]


"When we kiss, we like to kiss for real, and that's for us. (And yes, it is hot, thank you very much. And no, you may not watch.)"

really? reaaaaallllly? sorry but honestly i doubt anyone wants to watch.
posted by Addiction at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2008


which group is going to take the place of LGBT as the 'It's Okay to have a 2nd class of citizens' demographic

The homophobes.


Heh. I can just picture someone calling the cops on account of two homophobes sitting on a bench acting homophobic:

"Officer, there are two men taking great pains not sit too close to each other and making sure not to wrap their lips completely around the mouths of the bottles of Coke they're drinking. Plus...oh my gosh...they're flat out refusing to eat bananas! Is that against the law?"

On the other hand, I can't help but feel the sun would shine a little more brightly in a world where homophobes self-edited and only felt comfortable fully expressing their homophobia in private.
posted by lord_wolf at 12:50 PM on May 6, 2008 [7 favorites]


On the other hand, I can't help but feel the sun would shine a little more brightly in a world where homophobes self-edited and only felt comfortable fully expressing their homophobia in private.

Well, the disadvantage then would be that you couldn't see them for what they were.
posted by jonmc at 12:54 PM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


mudpuppie related:
"I grew up in Texas, which is where I learned to be 'out' while still being circumspect."
That's how I was prepared to live my life when I first spoke up, but I ended up about 90% out when living in Texas, then went down to 20% in Seattle.

Even when I was at my most "flagrant", as one manager once called me, it was only when we were safely ensconced in the relative safety of the Montrose area or Cedar Springs...or when mobs of spangly men and rowdy women would appear to pick me up at work because, my gods, it's hard to resist at a time like that, even with the skinhead nightstocker standing just a few feet away.

...and continued with:
"I never had a single incident in Texas.

I've had several in CA, all of them taking the shape of ignorant coworkers who gossip, and then act inappropriately (or threateningly) on that gossip. And this is in a NoCal town that's considered out-there liberal.
"

fiercecupcake noted:
"Houston has a much larger gay "community" (not the number of gay folks, the expression of the community) and a lot more gay infrastructure. We miss it sometimes from here in Austin, but I will say that part of that is that in Austin, hardly anyone ever bats an eye. There seems to be less need for community, though it's a little lonely without it."

Austin's scene seems to be way more integrated into the various countercultures that poke into the LGBT community rather than into the community itself. There's a chance my observations are off, but this is based on running into way more random groups of "family" here in Austin than I do when I visit Houston & Dallas. De-centralised representation is neat to me because it helps me to see that things really are different than how they were 30yrs ago.
posted by batmonkey at 12:57 PM on May 6, 2008


Addiction sputtered:
""When we kiss, we like to kiss for real, and that's for us. (And yes, it is hot, thank you very much. And no, you may not watch.)"

really? reaaaaallllly? sorry but honestly i doubt anyone wants to watch.
"

1) You'd be surprised.
2) How old are you?
posted by batmonkey at 12:59 PM on May 6, 2008


I really wish somebody had other-edited that piece. It's shitty writing to use terms that you generally could count on other people not understanding (cisgendered, Measure 8) without even a footnote.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:59 PM on May 6, 2008


So, I issued her and her husband a challenge (and I'll issue the same challenge to any straight coupled allies here who want to raise their awareness of LBGTQ issues):

Spend an entire week pretending that you're not a couple [...] Go intentionally into the closet as a couple. For a week.

They took my challenge.

They lasted exactly three days.

My friend returned to me in tears on day four and said: "I'm sorry. I had no idea what it is like for you."

That is how I lived for the first 32 years of my life, whether I was single or coupled.


Now, nobody should feel forced to live like that, but the first 32 years of one's life v three days already well into adulthood tends to make the "experiment" somewhat meaningless.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:04 PM on May 6, 2008


So is self-editing more important than being an effective teacher?

Sounds like yours is one of the unfortunate cases where being an effective teacher requires self-editing. Not a good teacher -- an effective one. I.e., one who can effectively communicate the required message to the specific group of kids in front of you.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:07 PM on May 6, 2008


apologies for snarkiness; it's dawn here, it's cold & i haven't had my coffee yet
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:13 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Addiction:
""When we kiss, we like to kiss for real, and that's for us. (And yes, it is hot, thank you very much. And no, you may not watch.)"

really? reaaaaallllly? sorry but honestly i doubt anyone wants to watch."


what, you haven't heard of the phenom of straight men loving women making out? there's a whole subsection of porn that focuses on this. plus, you know, mainstream movies.

or is it because they're portly and dykes instead of svelte femmes?

really, i want to know why no one would want to watch.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:15 PM on May 6, 2008


really? reaaaaallllly? sorry but honestly i doubt anyone wants to watch.

Yeah. Which is why Showtime is re-upping for another season of The L Word. Which is only ever watched by lesbians.
posted by rtha at 1:26 PM on May 6, 2008


really, i want to know why no one would want to watch.

I also found this curious!! I would also like to know why no one else would want to watch.
posted by desuetude at 1:31 PM on May 6, 2008


Look, no matter who you are or what you're doing, someone wants to watch.

*activates webcam so people can watch him sip beer*
posted by jonmc at 1:35 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


hey! jon's sipping beer!

fwap fwap fwap...
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:42 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't write a check from a joint bank account. Hide all the photographs in your home and office which would identify you as a couple. Take off your wedding rings. Touch each other, and talk to each other, in public, in ways that could only be interpreted as you being "friends."

At this point, I was thinking that this was going to be a way to liven up a dull marriage.
posted by Stylus Happenstance at 1:43 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I really wish somebody had other-edited that piece. It's shitty writing to use terms that you generally could count on other people not understanding (cisgendered, Measure 8) without even a footnote.

Yes, it really killed me to have to look up a word that most likely, the blog's regular audience would have recognized immediately. God forbid we learn new words without someone leading us by the hand to their meanings, and the word's meaning was pretty clear from context anyway.
posted by padraigin at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2008


Both couples in this experiment were young and attractive. I wonder what difference it would make if they'd been the normal, frumpy, middle-aged gay couples that I usually run into.

Of course I don't usually see normal, frumpy, middle-aged straight people indulging in PDAs beyond hand holding, so I guess it wouldn't be apples to apples.

And even with straight people, major make out sessions are generally more the province of high schoolers.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:48 PM on May 6, 2008


Stylus Happenstance, I had the same reaction. I thought a scene in the local grocery vegetable section was going to come next.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2008


I am not speaking for Addiction, but I took a little issue with her "no, you can't watch" joke as well. My problem is that it's perpetuating this idea that any random straight guy is always gonna be turned on by two chicks, and automatically reduce lesbians to a fetish, which is just silly and just as demeaning as straight guys who feel threatened by gay men cause they believe that all gay men wanna have all the buttsecks with every guy ever, which is really, really not the case. It just seemed a weird joke to make in an article about respect.

And I say that as a fellow who was blessed to be all but adopted by my best friends mother and her life partner into their incredibly loving household after my mom decided that the deep end would be an excellent thing to go off of.

And, speaking from that experience, as far as those people in the article who were all, "think of the kids!", I can tell you it's generally easier explaining same sex affection to kids than to their fucking parents.
(NOT PARENTIST)
posted by mikoroshi at 1:54 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, in some ways many homosexuals have an advantage that many non-privileged groups do not have. We have the choice of hiding it. The same cannot be said about racial minorities or the physically disabled, for example.

There's actually quite a few physical disabilities that are invisible, and people do play this in-out game. Also, even for those of us that have visible disabilities, there's the choice to be quiet, or to be loud & proud. As a community, we've borrowed a lot of queer terminology, and benefited (I think) from work done by queer-theory academics.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2008


Yes, it really killed me to have to look up a word that most likely, the blog's regular audience would have recognized immediately.

Um, it was a chatty, conversational piece, which included this recently-debated snippet which was clearly *not* written for a specific queer-theory-familiar audience:

"When we kiss, we like to kiss for real, and that's for us. (And yes, it is hot, thank you very much. And no, you may not watch.)"

Aside from that, I am genuinely surprised that I've never heard the term "cisgendered" before, considering my domestic & social circles, neighbourhood, educational history & general reading. Then again, if google is anything to go by, just over 10,000 hits suggests that my gut reaction was right: it's not even remotely close to being in common currency.

It's a nice term, anyway. Pity I can't use it in conversation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:58 PM on May 6, 2008


Ach! I didn't complete the second thought from mudpuppie's comment:

"I never had a single incident in Texas.

I've had several in CA, all of them taking the shape of ignorant coworkers who gossip, and then act inappropriately (or threateningly) on that gossip. And this is in a NoCal town that's considered out-there liberal.
"

As with most things, those who feel surrounded tend to lash out more and to do so more openly. It's like watching someone bailing out a rowboat with a giant hole in the bottom: you know they're frustrated and desperate, and you're really tempted to help, but it's hard not to laugh at them.

Generally, I take those situations as permission to give extra special attention to the person freaking out, like smiling at them, bringing baked goods, having casual conversations with them - anything to show them they may have misconceptions*. Some people are willing to question the beliefs which led them to the negativity point if they feel they may be missing out on potential alliances.

And, sometimes, I've found that some folks just want to be ignorant and hateful. And then, at least, I know for sure and can behave/plan accordingly.

*I forget to do this online, sometimes...and it always blows up in my face. I need to keep this in mind.
posted by batmonkey at 2:07 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Addiction: Quite. Some people should just get a room already, regardless of their choice of partner.

Next in pharm's exiting life: Finding some kids and telling them to get off my lawn.
posted by pharm at 2:10 PM on May 6, 2008


...isn't there at least some level of self-editing always present in most people?

Yeah - I for one might not mention that I deeply love Torchwood.

I think Forktine is on to something about the generational gap, though. Much of my generation (i.e. college kids these days), at least in a liberal atmosphere (i.e. college), tend to be increasingly aware of gender and sexuality issues. A lot of straight kids identify as allies. My parents' generation, even among the more liberal, are all for gay rights but don't tend to see it as the major cultural movement that a lot of my generation do. And that gives me some hope.
posted by you're a kitty! at 2:35 PM on May 6, 2008


I just hate the fact that here in 20(and fucking)08 any of this is even an issue.
Im a straight guy myself and have much love for the gay community and all my friends therein, but I would like to think that even if I did have a problem with any of it I would at least have the sense to realize that it was none of my damn business in the first place.

Also, Teh Portly Dyke sounds like an awesome name for a BBQ joint. Someone start workin on that please.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:00 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lovely post. I once proposed the exact same experiment to some friends of mine, who were (entirely innocently) wondering why gay bars needed to exist, and didn't that just add to the ghettoisation of the community and so on... They're a highly liberal, open bunch of guys - but it had never occurred to them just how much of a strain it would be to never know when they went into a pub if they'd get unpleasant looks, harsh words, or worse for holding hands with their girlfriend, or how difficult it would be to edit their behaviour to remove any reference to their sexuality.

When I suggested the experiment to them, they just paused for a bit, then when "Oh. Right. Yeah. That would by crap."
posted by flashboy at 3:13 PM on May 6, 2008


Also, it would be awesome if the next series of Torchwood introduced a sinister rival organisation that was even gayer, called The Bonerflame Institute.

It would also be awesome if the programme would stop being shite.
posted by flashboy at 3:17 PM on May 6, 2008


wondering why gay bars needed to exist

gay bars exist so that a gay person can go out and get laid without risking (at best) embarasment for both parties over sexual confusion or (at worst) violence from a bigot.
posted by jonmc at 3:37 PM on May 6, 2008


(there was a post in the green a while back where someone said they didn't like torchwood because of all the gay kissing and innuendo, felt the show was forcing it on us. someone else pointed out that person A wouldn't have felt that way if it were a man and a woman. i think that's 100% true.)
posted by misanthropicsarah


That would be me as person A. And you know what? I do feel exactly the same way about the bulk of the male/female sex in Torchwood.

Personally, I can't stand the 'everybody in torchwood is gay or bi, and someone must demonstrate it at least once an episode, regardless of plot'. It's a bit like someone decided to make an adult Doctor Who, but got a child to add swearing and gratuitous sex in all the wrong places and write the plots. I have nothing against sex onscreen or a good "cocksuckah!" in the right place (see Deadwood!) but Russell T Davies has a lot to answer for.

I stand by that comment. The gay, bi, and yes straight sexual relationships are stupid, ill thought out, lacking any believable chemistry and generally completely at odds with the character development. Janto and Jack? Yes, probably fair enough. Gwen and owen, or gwen and jack or gwen and tosh or tosh and female alien etc etc etc are ALL stupid.

Most people are not bi. That *everyone* in tochwood is bi, and must show it constantly seems to just be demonstrating How Edgy And Adult And Important Torchwood is. They manage to have normal gay couples of all sorts of shows, and it works perfectly fine.

Gay people are normal. Gay sex is normal. Gay PDA are normal. Society at large has a fair way to catch onto this admittedly. I say this, having had several gay flat mates and have had G&L couple friends when I was back in London town, including being a big part of the goth scene. You don't have to be a homophobe to think Torchwood's sex plots are forced and plot-breaking, and distracting from the bloody sci-fi.
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:42 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


gay bars exist so that a gay person can go out and get laid without risking (at best) embarasment for both parties over sexual confusion or (at worst) violence from a bigot.

Yeah, obviously, that's one reason, but gay people who are in monogamous relationships don't stop going out to gay bars to socialise. They're not just safe places to hook up with someone, they're safe places to exist. To reduce them to just being a meat-market is to not see the whole picture.

/doesn't go out to gay bars much because they're basically just meat-markets, helpfully undermining my whole point
posted by flashboy at 4:03 PM on May 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


They're not just safe places to hook up with someone, they're safe places to exist.

Of course, if a gay basher is bound and determined to be an asshole, he can use a gay bar to make sure he's hitting his intended target, so to speak. (of course, I've always been of the opinion that determined homophobes, ones who make it their whole reason to exist, as opposed to casual homophobes are people with issues about themselves). I'm also of the opinion that every straight guy should visit a gay bar a few times just to get a clear idea of where he stands in the attractiveness hierarchy based on how many times he gets hit on, since gay guys are still, well, guys and will hit on what they find attractive rather blatantly.
posted by jonmc at 4:08 PM on May 6, 2008


there are some really heart-rending examples of self-editing by gay members of the US military (of which there are more than a few). it wasn't until the year after i left the service that a good friend and former teammate of mine came out (very hesitantly) to me. the guy is a combat veteran of both afghanistan and iraq, as decorated as a mexican general, and has to live a total double life.

it was certainly a perspective-altering realization for me...
posted by bilgepump at 6:02 PM on May 6, 2008


It bothers me when gay people refer to someone they're involved with as a "partner". Why not just say "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", or "husband" or "wife"? Is this a form of self editing? It seems halfway between hiding your relationship and treating it as a normal romantic involvement - like gay people can have relationships, they just have to refer to them by separate but equal words.

What does "partner" mean, anyway? For straight people, it seems that a partner is just a sexual partner - ie, someone you hooked up randomly, but it seems that gay people use it to refer to people they have an actual commitment to, because "boyfriend" doesn't seem appropriate and the state won't let them marry. So, whenever I hear someone gay talk about their partner, it carries this subtle subtext to me that gay relationships are somehow different or inferior to straight relationships.

Am I just being crazy here and overthinking language?
posted by heathkit at 6:44 PM on May 6, 2008


Sometimes, it's probably self-editing (though "partner" is at this point so strongly euphemistic of "gay couple" that that's maybe a hopeless dodge), but "partner" is also a handy short hand for "person I would be married to if I was allowed and inclined to marry them".
posted by cortex at 6:47 PM on May 6, 2008


A lot of us lezzes chafe at the word "wife". It's got all the connotations of evil patriarchy about it. Girlfriend often feels inappropriate for someone you've chosen to spend your life with. Partner is artless, but works better in mixed company than "lover".

PS. Here in the progressive Bay Area at least, I know a number of straight folks, some legally married, who refer to their husbands or wives as their "partner".
posted by serazin at 6:57 PM on May 6, 2008


This is just heartbreaking. I never really thought about this before. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have to be constantly vigilant about displaying basic affection toward someone you love for fear of being hurt. It fills me with rage that we even live in a world where this is possible. It makes me wonder how many people have felt they need to "self-edit" around me. It makes me want to walk around with a big sandwich board proclaiming that "I DON'T CARE WHO YOU FUCK".

Also, I never realized LGBT folks thought of people like me as "allies". I guess we are, though. I'm proud to be an "ally". I wish there was more I could do to help outside of making it clear to people I'm around that "fag" cracks and the like are in no way okay.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:59 PM on May 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


My take on "partner" was that it was actually a Federal construct (like the old Census' "significant other") and just neutral enough for hetero consumption to boot.
"Husband" and/or "wife" have the potential of being celebratory or demeaning, according to context.
PS:
Please don't speak for "straight people"--- speak for yourself.
posted by Dizzy at 6:59 PM on May 6, 2008


I know a number of straight folks, some legally married, who refer to their husbands or wives as their "partner".

Yeesh. What a sterile, dull word to describe the person you love. As somebody who loves words and women, I'm just kind of bummed by that. I'll refer to my wife as my better half or my boo, but never as my partner. Makes us sound like we share a squad car and fight crime together. (we're working on that. get back to us)
posted by jonmc at 7:01 PM on May 6, 2008


Partner probably still has a faint whiff of "business" to it for some people (it did for me for a long time - I came out in the 80s). It's only quite recently (the past decade?) that people wouldn't automatically assume "business partner" when what you meant was "girlfriend/boyfriend I'm permanently with."
posted by rtha at 7:02 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I still think of partner as business partner unless within a specific context of same-sex couples. rtha and I are probably about the same vintage, though. Maybe the kids today are more aware of "partner" as a natural term of relationship-status.
posted by desuetude at 7:21 PM on May 6, 2008


also can we stop using the term 'gay PDA's' in this thread? It's conjuring up images of very flamboyant Palm Pilots.
posted by jonmc at 7:24 PM on May 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Prior to 'partner' -- 'Longtime Companion.'
posted by ericb at 7:29 PM on May 6, 2008


jonmc -- I have the opposite problem. I wonder why people reference everyday kissing when discussing their calendar.

ericb: "Companion" always had the whiff of "spinster" about it to me. I may be projecting.
posted by desuetude at 7:51 PM on May 6, 2008


I think of "partner" as being shorthand for "life partner" and it sounds much better to me than using boy/girlfriend to describe a longterm relationship of any stripe. It gives it a certain gravitas.

I know a few married people who use the term, and I've used it myself on occasion.
posted by padraigin at 8:58 PM on May 6, 2008


Hmm, that "experiment for straight couples" is pretty much how I live my life anyway. No photos (or personal tchotchkes of any sort) in my cubicle, never bought a wedding ring because stuff on my hands annoys me, Hubby lives in a different city so there's rarely any need for "we" in my conversation, never got any joint bank accounts to begin with, don't hold hands or go for any other PDAs because we're both of a rather cool and reserved temperament ... It's a little hard for me to work up much sympathy for these specific "hardships", although certainly I feel for anybody who fears for their safety simply for being gay.

Maybe it's good that some straight folk like Hubby and me act a bit like closeted gays - we don't fit the traditional roles dictated for "normal" people, and shaking up smug assumptions is always a good thing. I'd like to think we're helping the cause! Can we be allies too, please?

And the obligatory observation that it totally sucks that gay people have to deal with any of this. In fact it's downright annoying that we even have to spend any time on something that should be a head-smackingly obvious non-issue, when there are so many real problems in the world (global warming, etc). Gah. Sometimes humans are just vile.

I never really thought about it because it's just the way I live, but I guess this sort of life would look odd to traditional narrow-minded types. And probably explains why I'm often assumed to be a lesbian. Well, in addition to my unfeminine appearance and demeanor. And deep voice. Hah! All the better to mess with those narrow minds!

Oh, and who's going to be our new 2nd class citizens after gays are accepted? I predict us atheists will be next in the crosshairs. And today's homophobes will be behind the trigger.

posted by Quietgal at 9:04 PM on May 6, 2008


Partner probably still has a faint whiff of "business" to it for some people (it did for me for a long time - I came out in the 80s). It's only quite recently (the past decade?) that people wouldn't automatically assume "business partner" when what you meant was "girlfriend/boyfriend I'm permanently with."

See, I always felt bad for yall because of that.
"Partner" is too passionless, "Lover" seems too commitmentless.
"Boyfriend" or "Girlfriend" sounds better, but alot of hetero girls call pals their "girlfriends"
posted by Senor Cardgage at 9:08 PM on May 6, 2008


also can we stop using the term 'gay PDA's' in this thread? It's conjuring up images of very flamboyant Palm Pilots.

I'm seeing hot pink...sequins...maybe a little fringe?
posted by rtha at 9:56 PM on May 6, 2008


Can we be allies too, please?

Yes!
posted by rtha at 10:00 PM on May 6, 2008


Nothing wrong with a whiff of "business" in your romantic life.
posted by padraigin at 10:06 PM on May 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


How about the Rainbow Alliance stop this hand-wringing over the obvious inadequacy of existing definitions, and instead get onto the task of either reclaiming or coining a term for one's "partner"?

I'll go first, and suggest "dirtynumbfuckloveboy" for consideration.

Or "dirtynumbfucklovegirl", as the case may be.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:18 PM on May 6, 2008


Actually, partner works really well when you say it with a John Wayne-style drawl.

It also serves to put a whole new slant on the Western genre.


(And DecemberBoy, that was a wonderful post. I may have just fallen a tiny little bit in love with you, there.)
posted by MrVisible at 11:00 PM on May 6, 2008


Addiction: One morning after clubbing, my girlfriend and I took the first train home. We both lived out in the boonies, maybe a 2 hour train ride to my flat. She'd just turned 18 and I'd taken her out for a big night, so we picked a seat and she snuggled into me, being that I'd kept her up for like 20 hours the night before and we had a bit of a walk at the other end to look forward to. I'd also worn some really uncomfortable boots, and once we got rolling I took them off. The train we took had maybe three people over the whole length of it, not including my girlfriend and I, so making oneself at home was well and truly not an issue.

A few stops in a man in his mid forties got on, and walked the length of the carraige to sit across from us. He then offered to massage my feet. I turned him down. He asked us where we'd been, what we'd been doing, and despite the fact I'd largely answer his questions with monosyllabic grunts he kept pushing. He then twigged that I was with my girlfriend, and started with the "Go on, giver 'er a kiss if you love her" schtick. He was giving it his all to see the cute little lesbians have a pash, and even told us he wanted to watch, "cause it's just lovely". We elected to get off the train rather than put up with that shit, but that left us on an unmanned platform at 6 in the morning on a sunday with a 45 minute wait for the next train. That could have ended very badly for both of us.

I'd done that early morning train ride an easy dozen times, and the first time it became hazardous was when someone wanted to watch.
posted by Jilder at 11:30 PM on May 6, 2008


Man, started a new job today and was reminded of one of the nice things about New York. One of my office-mates turned out to be a very butch woman- shaved head, very built, forearm tattoos- who, regardless of her actual sexual orientation, may have had problems being hired in a more "traditional" office environment. I had happily noted this earlier- who doesn't like it when it turns out they've made the correct choice about employment?- and it's very sad to have to admit how freedom from judgment or harassment for even the appearance of homosexuality is not guaranteed in my country or city. Sometimes I feel like those who associate mostly with socially liberal people are at risk for developing an overly rosy view of social problems like this, or even downplaying the seriousness of the risks involved- because I don't know ANYONE who would disapprove of this! That, of course, being the problem- because your social group is both relatively homogeneous amongst members while being extremely heterogenous compared to the general population, it's very easy even for an "ally" to forget the bigotry that still restricts the lives of others.
posted by 235w103 at 11:36 PM on May 6, 2008


235w103: well, NY is full of open-to-experience people, after all.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:59 PM on May 6, 2008


About the Austin v. Houston thing...

I grew up in Houston and moved to Austin for college, and I've been here about six years now. I too have noticed that in Austin there seems to be less of a gay "community" even though there are plenty of gay people, just because it doesn't seem to be as big a deal to be gay here. The gay people I know in Austin are pretty integrated into the other subcultures, rather than spending time in a gay subculture. My gay friends here don't even like to go to the gay clubs, and instead end up finding people at "regular" clubs or through friends. The gay clubs are pretty deserted except for a few hours on Friday and Saturday.

Houston has a huge gay community, though, and the gay clubs have more people than the Austin clubs do on off hours; even a lot of straight people go to the gay clubs. It's strange because, although Houston is fairly friendly to gay people, I would say that Austin seems friendlier.

It's interesting how that might lead to more of a community in Houston. When it's less of a big deal, there is somewhat less need to have a special place to go meet other gay people. One might think that it's still difficult to try and figure out who's gay, then, but apparently gaydar is adequate. When it isn't, it's also not as problematic to just ask since the straight people are not as homophobic. It is rare that I encounter anyone homophobic in Austin, and the straight guys I know find such questions flattering. That's not to say that there probably aren't plenty of homophobic people here as well, but I encounter plenty of homophobic people in Houston.

On the whole, I think that the gay "community" is weaker in Austin is mostly a good thing, since it seems to be in part because there's less need for it. It makes me happy that my gay friends don't seem to have a problem finding boyfriends outside of designated "gay" areas.

Anyway, I really liked this post. Thanks.
posted by Nattie at 12:12 AM on May 7, 2008


Yes, in some ways many homosexuals have an advantage that many non-privileged groups do not have. We have the choice of hiding it. The same cannot be said about racial minorities or the physically disabled, for example.

It's an advantage for sure, yet perhaps at the same time the very option of "passing" has meant that homosexuals got to the civil rights table last.


Well, you can also look, not just at discussions like this about how badly it can fuck you up, but at segregated societies (South Africa, Jim Crow south) and the pain and anxiety of white-looking black people (and isn't that a phrase that reveals the inanity of notions of race). It doesn't sound like that much of a benefit to me, not least because passing can get you shit from "your side", and trying to pass can be a worse crime than just being the maligned other.

The thing that irks me most is simply to the degree that this shit is still acceptable. There's a local author/yelow mag write who's got a book which is basically focused on his obsession that our current Prime Minister is a closeted lesbian, that her husband is a closeted gay beard for her, that her advisors are all closeted lesbians, that sort of shit. If you read any of his crap it's like the ravings of Jew-haters before it became less fashionable in the West post-Holocaust. And yet he's got font-window displays in high-street bookstores. Yet if you replaced his fixation with lesbians with Jews, he sure as shit wouldn't - in this day and age it is no longer considered acceptable in mainstream society to publish a book alleging that the PM is a "secret Jew", that she has stocked the civil service with her "secret Jew" advisers, that they go away to have "blasphemous Passover rituals" and so on. A major book store simply wouldn't stock shit like that these days.

Likewise, a few years back, when legislation was bpending around civil unions and adoption by same sex couples I was subjected to sitting in a restaurant with a woman sharing her views - loudly - about the unmitigated awfulness of lesbians adopting children, how repulsive and revolting and wrong-headed it all was, at the top of her voice. When I finally lost patience and firmly but politely explained to her how stupid and obnoxious her views and behaviour was she had a hissy fit at me. Had I said nothing, it's likely no-one else would have. Most racists, on the other hand, understand that even if they hate people with a different skin colour, it is no longer considered acceptable behaviour to sit in the middle of a restaurant and loudly complain about "coconuts" or "horis".

Queer folk are the acceptable target for a whole bunch of extremely nasty people, and it's simply accepted far too much. Even the pink triangles of the Holocaust didn't make it socially unacceptable. I fear what it might require.
posted by rodgerd at 1:52 AM on May 7, 2008


Nattie said, On the whole, I think that the gay "community" is weaker in Austin is mostly a good thing, since it seems to be in part because there's less need for it. It makes me happy that my gay friends don't seem to have a problem finding boyfriends outside of designated "gay" areas.

And I mostly agree, but what I was getting at was the feeling that my partner and I are the only lesbians in the world, which can happen after you're out of college and not in a city with a gay community. It's not a huge issue for us, but when all of your friends are straight, and you never really see other gay people around, it does take a bit of an emotional toll, believe it or not. It's a little relieving to go into a gay bar and just be normal, not to be the token lesbians. I miss that, because in Austin, all the lesbians above college age apparently stay home at night.

Reminds me a bit of what someone was saying earlier about the black community in Austin.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:56 AM on May 7, 2008


fiercecupcake: this winter, check out the spectators at Texas Longhorns women's basketball games, since you're looking for lesbians who aren't at home every night.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:21 AM on May 7, 2008


PS. Here in the progressive Bay Area at least, I know a number of straight folks, some legally married, who refer to their husbands or wives as their "partner".

I think I referred to my husband as my partner more than once during the long stretch of serious committed relationship before we got engaged. I seem to recall thinking "boyfriend" sounded too grade school or something. (I had weird ideas then.)

This whole conversation has got me thinking about another friend of mine, who, when hanging out with her hetero friends, is crazy paranoid about accidentally doing anything (touching an arm, head on shoulder, speaking too loudly about "gay" things, etc.) that might make other people think we (the heteros) are gay by association, because that would be THE END OF THE WORLD. Like by hanging out with her, we might be irrevocably tainted if complete strangers realize that she's gay.

It's so ridiculous, and I hate it -- I don't care if other people think I'm gay. But telling her that doesn't seem to ease her mind. I hate this world sometimes. (End rant.)

Come to think of it, maybe she just doesn't want anyone to think she's with me. I'm killing her prospects, but she doesn't have the heart to tell me. That must be it. The world can't suck that much. Oh, wait. Yes, it can.
posted by somanyamys at 6:36 AM on May 7, 2008


DecemberBoy brought up:
"I wish there was more I could do to help outside of making it clear to people I'm around that "fag" cracks and the like are in no way okay."

Here's a question for the internet masses (which may make it to AskMe if there isn't sufficient traffic back to this post):

Are queers these days bristling in regard to "fag cracks" and "gay as an insult"?

I know I still do (as does my partner), but based on a flameout on a msg board a few years ago wherein we were ostracised for our objections, many now believe that The Gay Board of Directors has deemed it all right to say these things as long as one is not thinking of bashing anyone when they say it.

What's your position, since there's not really a Gay Board of Directors (even though there should be)?
posted by batmonkey at 8:56 AM on May 7, 2008


To enter the semantic fray: I use fiancé and partner interchangeably. I think I use "partner" in print more often, though a search of my posts may prove me wrong. I do this because it's a more neutral term; people of all orientations can relate their own experience to "partner" but only a subset have fiances. I probably confuse some people because I'm somewhat lesbian-appearing, but I'm not concerned about what anyone whispers behind my back and I don't consciously make it clear I'm in a hetero relationship.
posted by desjardins at 8:59 AM on May 7, 2008


About queers these days bristling in regard to "fag cracks" and "gay as an insult": I do.

But I know that not everybody does. And not everybody agrees on how important it is.

I'm on a mailing list that has a member that recently got up in arms about the governor of NC using the word "pansy" while endorsing Hillary Clinton. There was this big discussion on the list of whether or not that was a gay slur. So yeah, people do bristle about it.


A different perspective on the whole self-editing thing... The guy who I recently started dating went out to a movie with me recently. And I honestly can't tell if he's worried about being out in public or if he's simply not interested when he didn't want to hold my hand during the movie.

And I know that I check out my surroundings before I do something like hold hands or kiss in public. Although I'm not sure it makes a difference. In my experience, I'm more likely to have a bad experience happen in a "gay neighborhood" than elsewhere. The last time I was called a fag was in the Castro in SF, and before that in Chelsea in NY, and before that at a gay resort town about a block from the gay resort where my friends and I were staying. About 6 months after I moved into my apartment in Chelsea, a man got hospitalized on the corner where I live (a busy corner on 7th Avenue) after being beaten because some people saw him kissing his friends goodbye and decided that they needed to beat him up for kissing another guy.

I have chosen to live in places like New York and San Francisco because I feel a lot more comfortable being out here than elsewhere. But when things like this happen either directly to me or so close that I'm hearing about them from my neighbors (I can't blame the news for fearmongering, because that's not how it came to my attention), I can't even say that I believe the "gay neighborhoods" in big cities feel safe.

So yeah, I self-edit.
posted by grae at 10:16 AM on May 7, 2008


Are queers these days bristling in regard to "fag cracks" and "gay as an insult"?

For me, it's really contextual. I'm a lesbian; on Friday nights I sometimes hang out with some guys (all gay, all in their late 20s to mid 30s) to watch Battlestar Galactica (yeah, yeah) - it's all guys except for me. We have cocktails and once the show starts, banter flows (during the commercial breaks), and fag, faggot, and dyke are terms that fly freely, usually about characters on the show, or someone one of the guys knows. None of this bothers me, or appears to bother any of them.

But if it's someone I don't know, and they're using fag or dyke in a derogatory manner or in a way that's insulting or hostile, yeah, I get offended. If you're my friend, you can call me bitchy without me getting (too) bent out of shape about it (if I'm being bitchy, that is), but if you're some random guy on the street who calls me bitch or dyke because I won't smile at you or respond with a smile to your catcalls, well, yeah, that will piss me off.

Likewise, if some high-profile politico gets up and calls someone a pansy (especially if they're over 30, American, and have a passing familiarity with popular culture of the last 50 years or so), well, fuck you, asshole. It is a gay slur. For chrissakes, the second definition in Merriam-Webster is 2 a usually disparaging : a weak or effeminate man or boy b usually disparaging : a male homosexual
posted by rtha at 10:44 AM on May 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll go first, and suggest "dirtynumbfuckloveboy" for consideration.

Or "dirtynumbfucklovegirl", as the case may be.


...the hell????

Are queers these days bristling in regard to "fag cracks" and "gay as an insult"?

Absofuckinglutely.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:53 AM on May 7, 2008


Are queers these days bristling in regard to "fag cracks" and "gay as an insult"?

Yep. And floored when intelligent and not-hateful people actually do not understand that calling something "gay" meaning "lame" is a gay slur.

(I reserve the right to use such language in like-mindedly sarcastic queer-only groups, tho.)
posted by desuetude at 12:08 PM on May 7, 2008


Likewise, if some high-profile politico gets up and calls someone a pansy (especially if they're over 30, American, and have a passing familiarity with popular culture of the last 50 years or so),

This is just me being me, but what I should have written was:

Likewise, if some high-profile politico (especially if they're over 30, American, and have a passing familiarity with popular culture of the last 50 years or so) gets up and calls someone a pansy (especially if they're over 30, American, and have a passing familiarity with popular culture of the last 50 years or so)

And, honestly, anybody who uses an insult that they don't understand (or claim not to) is either really really stupid or is insulting you by assuming you are. (This is for those out there who claim that calling someone a pansy is somehow different from calling someone a faggot. It isn't.)
posted by rtha at 12:38 PM on May 7, 2008


...the hell????

I apologise if that caused any offence or if there was any perceived slur in that.

I was thinking how banal terms like husband, wife, partner, other half etc were & trying to come up with something a bit more colourful.

"fucklove" was the start, but still too prosaic. fuckloveboy/ fucklovegirl followed - for added cuteness - but it still needed more to make it less purely descriptive, so i tacked on dirtynumb because it was the first thing that sprang to mind, and it has a nice ring to it. honestly, nothing personal intended.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:14 PM on May 7, 2008


it was the first thing that sprang to mind, and it has a nice ring to it

Of course it does, dnab has the hottest username on Metafilter. Break it down:

dirty -- implies sexual adventurousness
numb -- implies intoxication, possibly as a consequence of a need to self medicate

Together, you get:

dirtynumb -- implies a submissiveness, but very much on one's own terms. It has a knowing quality that seperates the coiner from a doormat-type submissiveness.

Add in:

angel -- implies purity and beauty
boy -- the gender here subverts one's expectations of the qualities generally associated with the angelic

Together again:

angelboy -- implies a subversive, oppositional quality to one's sexuality

And so the whole thing:

dirtynumbangelboy -- the name just oozes sexuality from every pore. And I say this as a total hetboy.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:54 AM on May 8, 2008 [4 favorites]


For anyone who balks at the word "partner," the term "domestic partner" is in wide usage by business and government for unmarried, but committed couples.

Considering the subject of Teh Portly Dyke's blog post, hets coining "naughty" names in this thread for gay relationships are displaying rather juvenile behavior.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:08 AM on May 8, 2008


Considering the subject of Teh Portly Dyke's blog post, hets coining "naughty" names in this thread for gay relationships are displaying rather juvenile behavior.

Agree. Sorry folks, but you're squicking me out a little.
posted by desuetude at 6:43 AM on May 8, 2008


was that aimed at me? i was thinking more of less boring names for *all* relationships.

besides which, i'm genderqueer, so i reject your dualistic pigeonholing of relationships in any case.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:11 AM on May 8, 2008


since i snarked before about using jargon without a footnote or explanation, here's a reasonable enough description from wikipedia:

How genderqueer people view gender as a whole and its relationship to themselves varies. Some genderqueer people view gender as a continuum between man and woman, with the two traditional genders at the two poles and their own genderqueer place as somewhere within the continuum. Others believe there are as many genders as there are people. Still others believe that binary gender is a social construct, and choose not to adhere to that construct. Some genderqueers do fit into the stereotypical gender roles expected of their sex, but still identify outside of that and reject a two-pole gendered system. Some genderqueers experience their gender as fluid, varying from day to day or year to year. Some genderqueer people reject any gender system as a valid method of classifying individuals.

posted by UbuRoivas at 7:29 AM on May 8, 2008


And while I'm a hetboy, I'm not coining anything. Simply commenting on the relative hotness of dnab's username. And as he clearly isn't offended by it, the rest of you can go unfuck yourselves.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:42 AM on May 8, 2008


I tried unfucking myself once.

I had to go to the hospital.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:20 AM on May 8, 2008


Isn't unfucking just afterglow/recovery time?
posted by desuetude at 11:24 AM on May 8, 2008


Is "sweetie" too corny? That's how Hubby and I referred to each other before we got married. As in "I'd like to introduce my sweetie ..." It was partly tongue in cheek, partly serious, and it got the point across. I'd think it would be a pretty good one-size-fits-all term, so feel free to use it with my compliments and best wishes!

DNAB's username was even hotter when it was DN Bagel Boy. That was before I got new glasses. I do love a good bagel. Plus he always seems to have pie or shortbread around, and it just doesn't get much hotter than that.
posted by Quietgal at 6:34 PM on May 8, 2008


Nah, desuetude.. that apresfucking. Unfucking is like fucking, but in reverse. I'd go into more detail but the memories are fairly traumatic.

Quietgal, alas, the pie and the shortbread have not very much to do with me.. my roommate is the baker.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:11 AM on May 9, 2008


I have a friend who says "unfuck you" instead of "fuck you" because, really, fucking's kinda nice.

I seem to recall that there's a Bill Hicks bit on that very subject.
posted by Kattullus at 8:28 AM on May 9, 2008


I just have to jump into this one late. Just for posterity.

I like the word "allies" but someone above implied that allegiance should stop short of violence. I disagree. I would hope that the vast majority of us would leap into any situation where another human being is being targeted for any reason and use their body to help and protect. This usually requires some level of violence. I say this as a larger male and understand that smaller statured people would have a different mental calculus. I just wish people would swarm. It makes me think of that French video posted on the blue a few weeks ago. There was a gang of kids wandering around committing random acts of violence. Those not being targeted tried to make themselves look small. This happens whenever aggression is shown in public. I think the opposite response is necessary in a civil society. Swarm the aggressors and sit on them.

I guess in a bashing situation some people have a the fear that they might be mistaken for being gay. Good, there are some situations where having your sexual identity misidentified can be a good thing. I'm a chunky, hairy, bearded lad with a propensity for wearing plaid. Even I get hit on in gay bars. It's only a small percentage of the population that likes my body type, but shit that was always the way with women too. But being able to fit in at least a little makes the world seem like a nicer, more comfortable place. By fitting in, I mean, everyone in the bar knows I am hetero, but it sure feels nice to at least have someone hit on you to help your self esteem.
Years ago, I even had to hide my *gasp* "straightness". My girlfriend lived in Oak Lawn (the Dallas gayborhood, I like that term). I have a beautiful dog; delicate with long flowing white hair and Cleopatra eye make-up markings. When I would stay over, the pup would need an early morning walk. While walking she would attract the attention of every dog on the street and I would chat with their owners. I was always asked whether I was new to the neighborhood. The first couple of times I mentioned that I was staying with my girlfriend and the conversations abruptly ended. If I used the word "partner" I received a much warmer welcome. Was I lying? Nope, just hiding.

I've digressed a bit, but if I see someone getting attacked, I would hope I would be mistaken for "one of their kind". I'd hope that everyone on the street would be mistaken too, cause nothing breeds fear in the hearts of the wicked like being outnumbered.
"So you think I'm gay too? Good. How do our fists taste."

Another great experience in Oak Lawn, we were walking down the street holding hands and someone in a passing car yelled out "Breeders! Get a room." I just about shat myself laughing, but soon realized that we weren't holding hands anymore. I really hope that person was just trying to teach usa lesson or was just trying to add a little levity to the world. But you never know what their intent was.


The word partner bothers me, too.
My sister has a wife. But then she is a rebellious young lady who could careless what patriarchal baggage other people might attach to the word.
My favorite jewelry store is run by two partners who are partners. I kinda like the word used when it can mean two things.
In reality, I don't care what word you use, but if you are a person I spend any significant amount of time with, tell me about your significant other. Don't hide her or him from me. The beautiful thing about gender specific relationship terms is that you can immediately reveal to me the gender of your "partner" so I don't have to use the plural pronoun to when referring to a single person.

I have straight friends who kept relationships secret for years. Years!
How fucking stupid is that?

But then, I live in Austin. Gay people everywhere, but not much of a community.
The complaints I have read here are echoed around the city.

I should delete and not post it. It's long and rambling and in many ways I am a thick-browed brute, but I love the discussion and the post. I wish I had caught it when it was on the front page.
posted by Seamus at 3:22 PM on May 14, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a chunky, hairy, bearded lad with a propensity for wearing plaid. Even I get hit on in gay bars. It's only a small percentage of the population that likes my body type...

Honey, there's quite a significant "bear" population in the gay community.

"I am bear, hear me roar!"
posted by ericb at 3:27 PM on May 14, 2008


Camille Paglia:
"In their defiant hirsutism, gay bears are more virile than the generic bubble-butt junior stud, since body hair is stimulated by testosterone. But the bears' fatness resembles not the warlike Viking mass of a Hell's angel but the capacious bosom of the earth mother. The gay Bear is simultaneously animalistic and nurturing, a romp in the wild followed by nap time on a comfy cushion."
posted by ericb at 3:29 PM on May 14, 2008


I should delete and not post it. It's long and rambling and in many ways I am a thick-browed brute, but I love the discussion and the post.

Thanks for your thoughful and touching post. We need more like you!
posted by ericb at 3:34 PM on May 14, 2008


*thoughtful*
posted by ericb at 3:48 PM on May 14, 2008


"So you think I'm gay too? Good. How do our fists taste."


Like shit.


Sorry. I'll show myself out.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 7:14 AM on May 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


ericb - Oh, don't I know it. Nothing in Austin like there is in Atlanta. It's nice of them to boost my ego, anyway. In Atlanta, years ago, there was a Thai restaurant next to a club the bears frequented. I always seemed to fit in there. It's rare for someone like me to look around and see a bunch of people who look like him. It was fun.

I like that Paglia quote. Maybe she's not as bad as Molly made her out to be.
Or maybe she is.

Does anyone else get a kick out of the fact that "hirsute" and "hair-suit" sound so much alike?
posted by Seamus at 8:02 AM on May 15, 2008


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