Sunday, 14 April 2013

Who’s the man?

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Bec came out to family and friends many years ago, thinking that would be it, thanks very much. Little did she realise that she would have to repeat the experience with strangers almost daily, probably for the rest of her life.

Hello there humans or very clever dolphins! As you may know from reading the tabloids, I am a lady in a long-term romantic and sexual relationship with another LADY. Can you believe it? In this economy? 

You are probably thinking that this might be an article about same-sex marriage, because it seems as though most articles on the internet are about that. Instead, I’ve decided to discuss some of the minutiae of everyday life in a same-sex couple that you might not have considered while you were barbecuing or shopping (I get all my impressions of heterosexual activities from My Family stickers).

 In Australia, there are still a few obvious negative things that come with having a partner of the same sex. The nasty stares you may get when holding hands in public, horrid catcalls from cars, comparisons to paedophiles, discrimination from your government, both of you having PMS at the same time, etc. There are plenty of articles dealing with these issues (except maybe that last one), so I will focus your attention on matters that are less serious, but possibly more pervasive, as they often originate from people who are otherwise completely accepting of queer people. 

If you flip open your ‘sexy firefighters’ or ‘unlikely animal friends’ calendar you will see that it says the year is 2013. Even so, one of the most common questions people still seem to have about same-sex couples is ‘which one of you is the man?’ Weirdly, this is even asked in relation to couples of two men, in which the answer seems quite obvious, due to both of them having a penis. 

Society has done a wonderful job of telling us that a romantic relationship is between one man and one woman, and any variation of this is likely to blow the tops off tiny little human heads. Even if said human head belongs to a person who is 100 percent on board with the concept of gay couplings, they still have a desperate need to classify and separate the couple into ‘opposite gender’ boxes. That is NOT the kind of box I want to get into, if you know what I’m saying and I think you do, dirty dawg/distinguished reader. 

This question is also fixed on the idea that there are personality qualities unique to heterosexual men and women. Advertising has helpfully taught me that these qualities are ‘men love beer’ and ‘women exist to annoy the shit out of their boyfriends while they are trying to have beer or watch television, and why are they even together, he seems to hate her?’ Surely same-sex couplings give you the perfect excuse to leave all those stereotypes behind, not double-down on them (speaking of Double Downs, which one of the Madden twins is the man?). For the record, I watch football so I’m the man. But my girlfriend loves video games, so I guess she’s the man? Also She’s The Man is a great Amanda Bynes movie, I hope she gets her life together.

When I eventually came out to my friends and family (mostly via text message and email because I am a big gay coward), I was relieved. I could now swan about in my Doc Martens comforted by the fact that I was finally ‘openly gay’, and didn’t have to feel anxious about making that announcement any longer. Oh what a young and beautiful idiot I was. 

I soon discovered that being in a same-sex relationship means that you are required to come out to people constantly. Most people automatically assume you are heterosexual if they don’t spot any of the indicative physical characteristics they imagine come along with being a lesbian. I assume these people have a Terminator-like vision, ‘beep beep short hair beep beep tattoos beep beep I’ll Be Back It’s Not A Tumour’ etc.  It is true that most of the people you meet are probably going to be heterosexual. If you assume that the person you are talking to about relationships is dating someone of the opposite sex, most of the time you are going to be right. 

Unfortunately, that means that when my doctor presumes that I have sex with men, and I have to correct him while he’s talking to me about pap smears, I am forced to come out to him. If I am at the hairdresser and she asks what my boyfriend does, and I tell her I actually have a girlfriend, I’m technically coming out to her as well. It seems people will assume I have an opposite-sex partner unless I’m standing in front of them holding hands with my girlfriend, stroking a cat that is wearing a onesie saying ‘I heart my two mummies’.  

About 95 percent of the times we’ve checked into a hotel together, the receptionist has assumed the king bed we’ve requested is a mistake and we actually wanted two beds. I have no problem if they clarify the booking, because it could be an error. However, the handling of this varies wildly. In one example, the receptionist assumed the booking was a mistake. When we said that the king bed was fine, she asked if we were sisters. My girlfriend I have the same first name. In this scenario, her brain thought it was more likely that sisters with the same first name wanted to share a king-size bed rather than the possibility that we were a lesbian couple. She was embarrassed when we corrected her, and also she had a Texan accent and dimples, so we didn’t complain. 

That’s actually the main response I have, even when people who don’t have dimples do it. I don’t feel anger towards someone who assumes I am in a relationship with a man. They do that because they’ve probably assumed that forever and have never been wrong. I just feel exhausted. 

Once someone has made the assumption, correcting them can be, at the very least, awkward. Sometimes things get uncomfortable after you do it. You never know what reaction you are going to get, and it’s tiring having to worry about it. Don’t get me wrong; I would prefer not to come out to strangers constantly because I don’t actually care what they think. But to have a conversation with someone about my relationship and not correct their assumption feels like lying by omission, or being ashamed of the truth. And maybe if I feel awkward for a few seconds they won’t make that same assumption next time. 

Also, maybe one day I’ll get a free haircut. 

Rebecca Shaw

Rebecca is primary caregiver and confidant to Tippi, the best cat in the world. She also likes writing bad jokes on twitter @brocklesnitch