I'm lucky enough to have a fabulous relationship with my mom. We don't always perfectly understand each other, but we know each other better than almost anyone else knows us. And I really wish I could be celebrating Mothers' Day with her today (albeit one of those arbitrary holidays that we celebrate largely because Hallmark tells us to--but that doesn't change the fact that it's a day we all think about moms).
Anyway, in honor of Mothers' Day, I thought I'd combine Butch Wonders themes with mothering and pose the following questions to readers:
- When you were a kid, did you think you'd be a mom?
- Where were you when you came out to your mom (if you're out)?
- What are two major traits you and your mom share?
- What's something your mom taught you?
- Name a mom you wish you could be with today (besides your own).
I'll go first.
- No way! I wanted--maybe, at the most--to be a dad. To me, this meant going to work all day and not being involved in childcare.
- At a PF Chang's. We were out to lunch and I said, "Mom, I have something to tell you." And then I burst into tears right in the middle of P.F. Chang's. My mom asked, "Are you okay? Are you going to die? Do you have cancer?" I shook my head. "Is someone you love or I love about to die?" I shook my head again. She said, "Well, then whatever it is, it'll be okay." Then we ate lemon chicken. I think it took her some time to accept my sexual orientation, and maybe a little longer than that to accept my butchiness. I guess "process" is a better word than "accept," because I've never felt "unaccepted" by my mom. And I've never regretted not being open as my "whole" self to her. After all, she's the one who taught me that it was not only okay but great(!) to be quirky and different from all the other kids.
- Tenacity and creativity.
- The importance of being a surVIVor, as she says--meaning persevering in the face of adversity. When life throws her lemons, my mom does not get discouraged, nor does she "make lemonade." Instead, she catches the lemons and stacks them into a pile, then uses the pile to get somewhere she'd rather be. Or she, like, makes a car out of lemons and drives away. She is pretty darned awesome.
- My mom's mom. She died many years ago. I still think about her a lot. She was an amazing, philosophical, totally self-made woman.
How about you
, dear readers? What are your answers to some of these questions?
Lots of people get to Butch Wonders through searches for things like "gifts for my butch sister" or "gifts for my lesbian daughter." People who don't align with typical gender norms can be tough for some people to shop for.For specific ideas, I've updated the Butch Store with 25 Gift Ideas for Butches, including gifts for sporty butches, student/professional butches, and dapper butches. (Butches, I hope you'll share other ideas with me!)
Additionally, here are some general gift-giving tips geared specifically for straight or gender-binary people who are having trouble finding gifts for lesbians, butches, or other masculine women (much of the advice applies more broadly, too).
I hope these tips and the butch gifts I suggest are helpful. Meanwhile, I'd welcome questions from anyone trying to buy butch/lesbian gifts, as well as any other tips people would like to share! Does this resonate with you?
- Give gifts without regard to traditional gender. We don't care if something comes from the men's section. We'd love to know that you thought of us, not our sex. There's no need to hunt through the women's department to find the one thing you think we'll like there.
- Be observant. If your lesbian daughter only wears men's sweaters and you give her one from the women's department because you didn't think it was "that feminine," you're probably going to be off the mark. There's a reason she only wears guys' sweaters; factors like cut, length, sizing, etc. are different, even if you don't notice them. (On the other hand, if she wears stuff from both departments, cool.)
- Avoid criticism of our gender presentation cloaked as a gift. If you think we could "dress a little more feminine," giving us a purse is not an effective way to share that sentiment. Gifts are awesome when they show that you get who a person is, not who you wish she was.
- Butches like self-pampering, too. Just because we don't like perfumey stuff doesn't mean we don't like body scrubs and the like. Go for more neutral scents, like mint or eucalyptus (this may mean you look in the guys' section). Many butches also like massages, facials, and other self-care things--just make sure you know whether we'd be comfortable with it (you can ask our girlfriend or friends, too).
- Avoid buying the same thing for all the men or all the women in the family. When I was a kid, men would get flashlights or cologne and women would get bubble bath or chocolate. Personally, I like all of these things, but the fact that gifts were divided along gender lines--rather than tailored to the person receiving them--often made me (a gender-nonconforming little butch in the making) feel uncomfortable. It reinforces gender norms and implicitly says that all people of type x or type y are the same. Would you ever give all your black friends one kind of gift and your white friends another? No! It's incredibly insulting to imagine! Gender is very different from race, of course, but it's useful to think about it this way as a mental exercise: are you seeing the person, or are you seeing the person's sex or gender?
In an bout of productivity, I've been buying my Christmas gifts early--mainly because my DGF and I have to buy gifts for people we don't know super well (my brother's in-laws and their family). They're doing a "stocking exchange," meaning that everyone puts a small gift into everyone else's stocking.
The upshot? I'm turning into a semi-pro stocking stuffer. I figured sharing my ideas might save you some time finding cool gifts. So forget the bubble bath and candy canes and check out these ideas. My categories are food, practical, and fun. All are under $15 (and most are under $10!).
5 Edible Stocking Stuffers
Who likes food? Answer: everyone. If you're strapped for cash and short on ideas, here are five sweet and savory selections.
: Bacon chocolate bars are sooo 2011. Update your bacon-lover's stocking with this $8 bacon-maple-salt caramel
. What's not to love?
: My main question is: how could you not
buy a seasoning called Bad Byron's Butt Rub
? $7.09 for a small bottle.
| || |#4
: I'm a serious coffee drinker, and buy mine on Go Coffee Go
. They select some of the best roasters in the country, often have free shipping deals, and send your coffee within days of roasting. Two of my favorites are 1000 Faces
and especially Klatch
| || || || |#5
: Flavored bitters are a terrific gift for any semi-adventurous cocktail lover: brothers, aunts, fathers-in-law, friends--you name it. Bitters are versatile mixers that come in an astounding array of flavors, including orange
, black walnut, peach
, and chocolate
5 Practical Stocking Stuffers
Sometimes the most commonsense gifts are the ones we overlook. For the more practical recipients on your list, check out these five ideas.
: At $5.90, Foot Rubz
are one of the best personal massage tools around (not that
kind of massage tool--get your minds out of the gutter, kids). While you're at it, pick one up for yourself, too. I did, and my feet are grateful. A related idea: a scalp massager
: These Panasonic ear buds
come in purple, orange, blue, green, black, white, grey, and pink. They've been rated 4.5 stars by over 1500 users, and somewhat amazingly, are under $6
. Or try these Coby ear buds
for about the same price.
: Chico bags
are great for groceries, books, or stashing sweaty gym clothes. You can never have too many. They're machine-washable, come in eight colors, and you can get a 4-pack for $21
. If you're looking for something more distinctive these are similar
and have designs on 'em.
5 Fun and Frivolous Stocking Stuffers
These are great gifts for kids, people in their 20s, or anyone who you think would appreciate something kind of colorful/fun/frivolous.
Got a bored smartie in your family? Check out this alternative cube puzzle
(pictured right). Not only does it get ridiculously high ratings, but it's marked down 74% right now.
Hey all! So I've been in bed with mono for two weeks. I'm definitely starting to feel better, but DANG mono can last a long time. Being sick has gotten downright mono
-tonous. Har, har. I've eaten boatloads of saltines, grown tired of red Gatorade (the original kind--this G2/G3 business is cray cray), and played dozens (hundreds?) of rounds of Gems with Friends.Meanwhile, the out-of-doors has become downright fall-ish in my neck of the woods. Though I've yet to consume my two favorite autumn foods, candy corn and pumpkin pie, I'm in a November mood. Some people are posting one thing for which they're grateful every day this month (thanks for the tipoff, Bee Listy).
But I thought I'd shoot my proverbial gratefulness wad all at once (yes, I really did just write that sentence) and list 30 things here and now. Boom.
What's on your gratefulness list, dear readers? Comment below and list at least three things, large or small.
- The election results! A president who isn't scared to mention The Gays in his acceptance speech! Elizabeth Warren! Maine and Maryland! There is much to celebrate.
- Fiction! The pleasure of reading stories, of turning pages, of becoming subsumed in the printed word. Right now I'm reading Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and Bolano's The Savage Detectives, and am enjoying both very much.
- My DGF (dear girlfriend)! Her mischievous smile, her dancing, her sense of humor, her curiosity about the world--all of these things make me happy, and I love her more every day.
- A sense of relative security! Sure, I have student loans up the wazoo and earn a rather wee salary, but on a day-to-day basis, I don't wonder if I can afford groceries or heat, and that is an incredibly comforting feeling that many people do not get to have.
- Succulents! Recently my DGF and I have gotten addicted to succulents, and have been having a lot of fun growing them. You can propagate them from leaves! How cool is that? (Answer: very.)
- BW readers! I love that I get to write something a lot of people enjoy reading. I am very grateful that you read this blog.
- Friends! BB, CB, KC, MK, JG, DD, SJB, E&E, MT, LR, TH, and many others. Friends give me perspective and make me feel loved.
- Warm showers!
- Being a butch lesbian! I'm grateful that I can present the way I really am, be out, and be me--fleece vests and all.
- My dog, Scout! Scout is my buddy. Loyal, smart, playful, and absurdly well-behaved. When I go running, she goes with me. When I'm sick, she never leaves my side. Especially if I'm eating something.
- Dr. W! My therapist is amazing. She helps me understand who I am, gain courage, work on my strengths, and be a better person. She also has a fabulous BS-detector (important when working with me).
- Projects! I love having projects going. Research projects, art projects, writing projects. Projects, projects.
- Fruit! Particularly pomegranates and Fuyu persimmons (the flat kind).
- Trail running! I want to work up to doing a lot more of it, because I find it exhilarating and challenging.
- Rainy days!
- Sunny days!
- Music! Music can elevate my mood, stir up memories or make me dance. I am also grateful for the ability to make up my own songs (something which is almost certainly not on my DGF's gratitude list).
- My new shoes! They're making my plantar fasciitis feel a little better. Plus, they are orange, and I love orange.
- My parents! I am absurdly similar to them in some ways and absurdly different in others. My relationship with them has evolved a great deal and their support for me has been unwavering. I love them immensely.
- My friendship with my mom! This deserves its own list item.
- Home! I live in a place I really like--both the house and the region.
- Writing! Of all kinds. Words to paper. Words to screen. Words to napkins in ballpoint pen. Words words words.
- My brother, sister-in-law, and niece (+1 on the way)! They're an awesome family, and I can't wait to hang out with them next month.
- The smells on my drive home! There are all kinds of trees on my way home, and I love how they smell: piney and earthy and dewy.
- Humor! God, I'm grateful for humor. I find many things amusing or silly or ironic, and I love seeing the world this way.
- My DXH! I've written a whole lot about him in the past, but suffice it to say that I have an incredibly loving, supportive ex-husband, and I'm grateful that he's such an important part of my life.
- Second chances! Whether it's a relationship or a writing rejection or a dozen push-ups, second chances are the best.
- Things to look forward to! I love having things to look forward to. Vacations, down time with my DGF, books to read, plans with friends, cool work projects... There was a time in my life when I lost the ability to look forward to things, and I think that makes me especially grateful for it now.
As many as you want.
BW NOTE: This is a guest post by a reader who wanted to remain anonymous. She recently faced the dreaded decision of pissing off a friend or wearing a (ugh!) dress...
A few months ago, my cousin cast me as a bridesmaid in her wedding. Sensing my possible reluctance in the wardrobe department, she immediately informed me that I would be wearing a dress. Period. Because my cousin and I grew up together as friends, I made no verbal protest (BTW: This BW post is a must read for any straight bride with a lesbian (non-femme) bridesmaid
As details of the dress leaked, my dread grew. The bride had selected a purple gown with "challenging" qualities from top to bottom. On the bottom, the bridesmaids would sport a train (i.e. a bunch of fabric dragging behind us). On top, we would endure a strapless bodice with boning. For those unfamiliar with boning, a little history lesson: Boning (in the context of fashion) refers to the straight-jacket-like metal that serves to hold in your fat and position your breasts appropriately yet provocatively. Historically, dress designers used actual whalebone.
When the bride began sharing details of the dress, I might have failed to exhibit the requisite level of enthusiasm (one of my flaws is an inability to conceal disdain). When the bride inquired, I politely reminded her of my hatred for dresses, lace, and frilly things.
During the early stages of the engagement (a year or so before the wedding), I felt comfortable airing my concerns to the bride. During one conversation, my cousin pointed out that I had worn a dress to her sweet sixteen and to our high school homecoming dance. I had indeed. I went to a very homogeneous high school and dared not defy convention during my tender adolescence. The bride failed to grasp why, 10 years later, I couldn’t again conform for the purposes of her happiness.
Because I’m petite and naturally pretty feminine looking (though I definitely err on the masculine side of clothes, hair, and shoes), I think my cousin had trouble understanding why a dress would pose such a serious hardship. Had I presented in a more masculine way, she might have more easily seen how dresses don’t fit with my gender identity. I could have explained, but in the context of her wedding planning, it didn’t seem like the right time to delve into the intersection between my sexual orientation, gender identity, and wardrobe choices.
At one point, sensing my lack of enthusiasm for her dress selection, the bride proposed that I just rent a tux with a vest to match the bridesmaids' dresses. Now we were onto something! But before I could enthusiastically assent, she continued, more outlandishly: "While you’re at it, you could stand with the groomsmen, because that
wouldn’t look weird." Her final suggestion—that I attend the bachelor party—made her sarcasm impossible to ignore. When I persisted in expressing enthusiasm for her suggestions (minus the strippers—she knows I find female strippers unappealing), she ended the conversation with an abrupt, "You’re wearing the dress and I don’t want to hear another word about it."
Even when I stopped complaining to her face, the bride continued to worry about my ability to function as a bridesmaid, inquiring as to who would handle my makeup on the big day. When I responded "me," the bride proved unsatisfied, correctly assuming that I lacked the materials and the will to adequately cake myself. Earrings were also strongly recommended to counter my short (read: dykey) haircut. I borrowed some from a co-worker, and with a running start managed to re-pierce my ear hole in a bathroom stall (only my left one had closed over the years).
I tried to respect the "no dress talk" rule, opting instead to write whiny entries in my journal and complain about the cost and fittings to my friends. As the wedding neared, my friends advised me to keep my big mouth shut and let the bride enjoy her big day.
On the eve of the wedding, the bride furnished each bridesmaid with a gift and enclosed a note. Most notes recognized the bonds of friendship, and the affection she had in her heart for each of us. My letter simply thanked me for not leaving her side even if it meant, wearing a bridesmaid gown. I felt a huge wave of guilt. The bride had been a good friend to me in other ways, and had welcomed my girlfriend at the wedding. Couldn’t I just have dealt with the fabric monstrosity, the bloody left ear hole, and the caked-on face for her special day?
At the wedding, I dealt with my suffering in the form of liquid relief, dancing the night away, and tying my train into a tail with a rubber band (and perhaps slapping my dance partners with it). With the help of only seven vodka-themed libations, I did have a blast. I wore the dress for 10 straight hours (I was given instructions not to change out of it at the reception), and I survived (though the tight bodice did a number on my back).
Post-wedding, when I think back to the note, I shudder. I have no idea how I could have handled it better. I wanted to be her bridesmaid, and I certainly didn’t want to ruin her special day. Had Butch Wonders posted this article
a bit earlier, I might have sent the bride the link. That way, she’d have known how I felt and had a few creative solutions at her disposal (she was actually on the right track in her sarcasm). Even though my morning routine allows me to ready myself for work in three minutes or less, on my cousin's big day this low-maintenance dyke made for a high-maintenance bridesmaid.
Coming out as a(n obvious) butch dyke when I was previously known as, and basically looked like, a heterosexual woman, was like my very own social experiment about the effects of sexual orientation and gender presentation.I've written previously about happy surprises that coming out brought to my life. I've talked less about the unhappy surprises; I'll hit some of those now.
Here are some ways my interactions with others changed when I came out:
As I said, I'm only listing the negative or neutral things here, and I'm making a lot of generalizations. So please don't take the list too literally.Still, it was incredibly trippy to feel like I had stayed the same, but all these elements of the social world had suddenly changed around me.
- I became less visible to straight men, maybe because I no longer had anything they wanted. A female professor of mine once told me that when she turned 60, men stopped looking at her altogether and that she became invisible. I wondered what that would feel like... I got to find out just a few years later. (BIG generalization here; not always true; some of my best friends in the world are straight men, etc.)
- Straight women still looked at me, but in a different way. Some of them seemed to think: How much of a woman are you, and how much of a man? What does this mean for how I should treat you? Others seemed to think: How can I possibly understand someone who wants out of the game? Some of them began to flirt with me.
- Republican friends/family said things like: I am progressive on social issues, but why does being gay have to be such a big deal? They began using words like "waiting" and "inevitable" to talk about equal rights.
- Assumptions were made about me: I am pro-choice; I love cats; I care about football; I like camping; I find femmes attractive. Want to guess how many of these five things are true? People's assumptions fit me about as well as men's fitted shirts tend to.
- Straight progressive friends began using the word "partner" to refer to their opposite-sex spouse in front of me.
- Couples who were friends with both my ex-husband and I stopped calling either of us--particularly me. Oddly, this seemed to be most true for lesbian couples, some members of which began treating me like a pariah for reasons that remain unclear to me.
- I got stared at sometimes in the market or at the post office or in class or on a hike. I couldn't figure out why. And then I remembered: I look gender-atypical, and some people care about this and/or find it interesting to look at.
- A certain, mercifully rare brand of bitchy gay man hated me upon meeting me--fiercely and without apparent reason.
- I was automatically given some kind of "progressive" cred among hipstery friends who had previously considered me a bit of a traditionalist (albeit a liberal one) before.
- Even when I didn't want to think about my sexuality, which was a lot of the time, my sexuality was made an issue.
- People no longer assumed family-ish things about me, such as: I would have kids someday, I would go home for Christmas.
- Many straight friends rarely asked me if I was seeing anyone (even though relationships had always been a frequent topic of conversation).
- One or two very good friends claimed not to care about my sexual orientation, but were visibly uncomfortable when I came out to them, and then mysteriously stopped being your friends, and I will never be 100% sure if my sexuality was the reason.
- I suddenly noticed the overwhelming presence of heterosexist assumptions basically... everywhere. Movies, books, everything. Supposedly gay people were 5-10% of the population, but it didn't feel like I was represented in 5-10% of media.
- I would try to be friendly to strangers, as was my custom, in the grocery store or whatever, and they were extremely rude to me. I did not know why. Of course, this happens occasionally to everyone, but it started happening more than ever before. I didn't know if people were getting meaner, or if my patently obvious homosexuality was the cause of their rudeness.
Do any of these hit home with you?
via Creative Commons
You're single, talking to a gorgeous single dyke. She asks if you want to grab coffee; you eagerly accept, your mind already swirling with visions of U-Hauls and organic, home-baked bread. But then she drops the bomb: "Let's meet at 3. I pick my son up from daycare at 5."
You try to act nonplussed, but a hundred thoughts swirl through your head: Did she used to be married? How old is this kid? When do I have to (or get to) meet him? Am I really old enough to date people who have kids? Do I even want kids? And what implications does this have for our U-haul, camping excursions, and mornings at the farmers' market??
Like it or not, dating a woman who has a kid can be vastly different from dating a woman without one (or two, or three). Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on this chapter in your dating life.
- The kid is number one. Period. And isn't this the way it should be? It may occasionally suck to be one-upped by an eight-year-old, but face it; the kid was in her life before you were, and always will be in her life, no matter what happens with your relationship. This means you will have to deal with planning around recitals and soccer practice.
- She's likely shopping for a co-parent, not just a partner. Unless she's made it explicit that this is not the case, it's safe to say that child-rearing potential ranks high on her list of qualities for an ideal mate. The younger the kid is, the more true this is likely to be.
- If you're not ready to be a parent now, it's (probably) okay. You've got plenty of time to get used to her, to get to know the kid, and to grow into the idea (or not). Heck, you may fall in love with the kid (in a parental way, not a Woody Allen way) and decide that the whole family package is perfect for you. On the other hand...
- If you know that you never want to be a parent, be honest. If you know that kids aren't in your future, don't string her along. She may say that she's looking for a partner, not a co-parent, but regardless of the kid's age, your future DGF's motherhood will be a big factor in your relationship.
- Accept her relationship with an ex who's a co-parent. lt can be hard to accept that our partners used to be in love with other people--and this is underscored if procreation, adoption, and/or child-rearing were involved. Your new love may need to talk to a former love frequently about the kid. Maybe they're friends; maybe not. Either way, your role is to support her, not mediate or badmouth.
- Let her call the shots. She knows her kid best--let her decide when you're going to be introduced, and whether it's as "Mommy's friend" or "Mommy's girlfriend." Offer, but don't push.
- Provide support, not advice. You don't get to tell someone else how to discipline, deal with, or talk to, their kid. Unless she asks for advice--actually, even if she asks for advice--don't tell her what to do. This applies even if you've spent a bunch of time around kids (and even if you have your own). No one wants unsolicited parenting advice.
- She doesn't expect you to be an expert, but she does expect you to try learning. If you don't know how to warm up a bottle, pack a school lunch, or braid hair, that's okay! Your open heart and willingness to learn will mean everything to her.
Of course, not everyone hesitates at the prospect of dating a woman with kids. A dear friend of mine was intrigued when she learned that the object of her budding affections (who is now her wife, also a dear friend) had a kid. Now the three of them are one of the most solid families I've ever known, and I know that none of them can imagine life without the other two. So what's the moral for single moms? There are two:
(1) Don't assume that being a mom will work against you in the dating world;
(2) Remember that you deserve to have someone who loves you in part for
being a mom, not despite
it. So, dear readers: Have you ever dated a woman with kids? What obstacles did you face? How about my readers who are (current or former) single moms? What advice do you have for BW readers?
I just read this article on the Advocate's website
about a parent who accepted her transgendered kid early on. It's heartwarming that the kid wasn't bullied (at least, not yet--fingers crossed for him in middle school). But what really caught my eye was the sentence, "He transitioned at the age of five."What?My first thought was this: no one knows what he or she wants to do or be at five.
Five-year-olds will assert that they are dogs or fire trucks, or that they want to eat only pickles for the rest of their lives. Sometimes they assert such things with startling persistence. Are we supposed to take all these things seriously?At the same time, maybe assertions about sex and gender are more fundamental somehow--more elemental. Maybe by being perceived and treated like a boy from age five, the kid in the story will avoid nasty bouts with depression and gender dysphoria
that would have plagued him if he'd transitioned at 25. He'll be able to go through puberty as a boy the first time around. Kids know who they are, this line of thinking goes. And a really big part of me agrees with this. Still, another really big part of me knows that the world is packed with sex divisions and gender norms. From a very young age, I certainly knew that I wasn't like the other girls.
I always wanted to play with the boys and wear boys' clothing. When I looked in my parents' closets, it was my father's ties that I coveted (and my mom is by no means a "girly" girl, so it's not like ties were the alternative to dresses and heels). If the mom in this article had been my mom, I probably would have transitioned.Instead, my mom would reassure me that not all girls liked to wear dresses or play with dolls. There were unfortunate restrictions (how I wished I was allowed
to shop in the boys' department!), but as best she could, she taught me that there were a lot of different ways to be a girl. I'm positive that her open-mindedness helped me to become the dapper butch I am today. For a lot of reasons, the road was not an easy one. But I am very glad to be a girl; my girl-ness just doesn't look like most other people's.I guess what I'm struggling with in reading this article is a fear that gender nonconformity will be taken for early expressions of trans identity. I think it's super important to accept kids as they are, but how do you do this--and support a kid you think may be trans--while
at the same time, leaving wide open the door that your dress-eschewing kid may be a female butch? I worry that labeling gender-nonconforming kids "trans" is another incarnation of affirming gender norms.As you can see, I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about this. What do you think, dear readers? Is five years old too young to transition?
The butch bridesmaid
post I wrote past week has been getting an ungodly amount of traffic, mostly from Google searches. It seems that bunches of straight people are unclear on certain matters of etiquette when it comes to The Gays. This results in much consternation and awkwardness on their part, most of which could be easily avoided. (Note to straight people: if you're nice and well-meaning and not a homophobe, we probably won't think you're being a jerk. Trust us--we've encountered jerks, and they're not you.)Here's my best advice to straight people in various situations that seem to make everyone feel awkward. Thanks to my excellent BW Facebook fans for lots of these ideas.Situation A
: You know someone's gay and you're curious whether they're dating anyone. You know them well (maybe they're your kid, maybe your gay brother, lesbian sister, whatever). What not to do
: Say, "Do you have any new friends
?" I hate it when people refer euphemistically to my partner/DGF as my "friend," especially when it's preceded by an awkward hesitation. Something else not to do: avoid it like the plague. Act as if conversation about their romantic life is totally off-limits, even though you'd talk about it if they were dating someone of the opposite sex. What to do instead
: Ask the question exactly as you would if they were straight, except switching the pronouns where applicable. "So, are you dating anyone these days?" is totally acceptable. Situation B
: You don't understand why your lesbian friend/daughter/sister/whatever is wearing men's clothes. What not to do
: Say any of the following: (1) "But you'd look so cute
in something pink/frilly/fitted/from the women's department!" (2) "But you have such a great figure!" (3) "But those clothes are so masculine
!" What to do instead
: Respect our choices. We are well aware
that we're wearing gender nonconforming clothing. We're not doing it to hide our figure or because we think we're unattractive or because we want attention or because we don't know how to shop for women's clothing. We doing it because we are much, much more comfortable this way. Many of us actually hate standing out, but we wear gender nonconforming clothing anyway because it feels like "us." Wearing girls' stuff often makes us feel like we're in drag. It's awful. If you want to gift us with clothing, please choose something that goes with our style. If you're confused about our style, inquire further (or do not gift us with clothing). Situation C
: You don't understand how a same-sex relationship works (physically, emotionally, whatever). What not to do
: Ask, "But who's the guy?" or "How do you have sex?" What to do instead
: If you're genuinely curious, there's a plethora of info on the Internet about emotional and physical aspects of LGBT relationships. Don't put us on the spot with such heteronormative silliness. JFGI. Once you've actually made an effort to learn, your questions will be thoughtful and that will be obvious and most of us will be happy to chat about them. Situation D
: You call someone "sir," then you realize the person is female. What not to do
: Freak out. Or be awkwardly silent, as if it never happened. What to do instead
: Don't freak out. It's happened to us before, and it will happen again, and when you're butch it comes with the territory. It's fine to say, "I'm sorry," then move on. Chances are, we feel more awkward than you do. (But comping us a drink or a cup of coffee never hurts.) Situation E
: A lesbian couple announces that they're having a baby. What not to do
: Ask, "Where did you get the sperm?" or other details of how the pregnancy came about. That's on par with asking a straight couple, "Was it an accident?" Unless they offer it or
freakin' good friends, keep your curiosity to yourself. What to do instead
: Say, "congratulations!" Express joy. Attend the shower. Ask if they have a name picked out. The usual stuff. Situation F
: Two women are out to dinner. At least one of them looks like a lesbian. They're not holding hands or anything, though. What not to do
: Assume that they are on a date. What to do instead
: Make no assumptions. If they indicate they're together or hold hands or something, great--then
treat them just like you'd treat a straight couple. But I hate it when I hang out with a female friend and people think we're together just because I look butch. Situation G
: A gay person of your sex compliments what you're wearing. What not to do
: Assume they're hitting on you. Become uncomfortable. Make sure to work in a reference to your own sexual orientation immediately, just to clear up any confusion. What to do instead
: Say thanks. Situation H
: You know someone's gay because a mutual friend or co-worker told you. But then the person himself or herself tells you they're gay. What not to do
: Feign surprise so the person doesn't think they're the subject of gossip. Or worse, say something like, "You don't look gay." What to do instead
: Nod politely or say (calmly) something like, "Cool." Ask about the person's significant other like you'd do if they were straight. Bonus tips
Hope this helps. Straight readers: any other awkward situations you encounter with gay people and don't know how to deal with? Queer readers: any other situations that tend to come up in your lives?
- Don't refer to our boyfriend or girlfriend as our friend. Don't say (of other gay people), "I think she lives with a friend." Unless, of course, she really does live with someone who is just a friend, and not a romantic partner.
- If you think someone might be in the wrong bathroom, don't confidently inform them that they're in the wrong bathroom. Instead, you have two options: (1) Say nothing. (Of course, if you think it's a guy and it's a safety issue, don't go with this option.) (2) Say something like, "Hi there," or, "Isn't this restaurant great?" or, "Do you know where the paper towels are?" to get the person to respond. If it's a guy, he'll realize you're not a guy and that he's in the wrong bathroom. If it's a woman/genderqueer person/other person who is using the correct restroom, they'll respond politely and you can go about your business.
- Some of us always knew we were gay. Others of us didn't. No need to do a triple-take when I talk about my ex-husband.
- Don't talk about equal rights as if they're an inevitability and we just have to "wait" or "be patient." In most states, we can legally be fired for being gay. We can't claim our partners on our taxes. We face huge obstacles to things like adopting kids, making a will, or visiting our partners in the hospital. It's absurd and unjust. In many places, we can get harassed--or worse--for being us. If your rights were stripped away, I bet it wouldn't be much comfort to know that things would get better in a generation or two. Don't just excuse our rage; join us in it.
- It's okay to invite us to a party, dinner out, whatever, even if we'll be the only gay couple there. As long as everyone's nice and doesn't have antiquated notions about sex and gender, it'll all be copacetic.
- You don't need to tell me that your uncle/friend/cousin/niece/neighbor is gay. It's 2012, so the fact that you know other gay people isn't a big shocker. Nor does it make me feel more comfortable. You can convince me you're an ally just by being your awesome, well-intentioned self and following the advice above. :)
Do we want state involvement in this? How much?
First, suppose that there was no such thing as state-sanctioned marriage. No tax benefits for being married, no deductions, no implications for social security credits. Instead, marriage would simply be something that people do privately to announce their commitment to their friends or their church or their family or their God. There would be no legal implications for this, only psychological and emotional ones.
Taking the government out of our private lives would have implications for family structure, too. There wouldn't be tax deductions for having kids, for example. Why should the government give people a financial incentive to have a particular family structure?)
Instead of making sure that your employer gives you leave if you have a child (biological, adopted, whatever), the government could make sure that everyone got a certain amount of leave time to do whatever they wanted. If you want to have a kid, great. If you want to write a novel or volunteer at the local animal shelter with that time instead, great.
It's not that people with families would be "punished;" it's simply that family-related activities wouldn't be privileged
over other activities. Similarly, the Family Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) could still exist, but it wouldn't just be to take care of a family member. Instead, you could use it if you needed to take care of anyone
who was sick, even a friend.
I can imagine downsides to this approach, not to mention logistical difficulties associated with a lack of default rules about various matters (e.g., who can visit you in the hospital). Health insurance could be problematic, too (though, uh, if we gave everyone health care, this wouldn't be an issue...). But there's no reason we couldn't find solutions to these problems.
Since, statistically speaking, most people benefit from the laws and policies and practices that endorse particular family structures (and particular activities related to the creation and maintenance of these structures), I doubt that the government is likely to disentangle itself from these anytime soon. But when we talk about whether gay marriage is worth fighting for, I can't help but wonder if these fights are beyond the point. As long as marriage remains a government creature, I will remain fully dedicated to marriage equality. But maybe the real problem is that the government rewards and incentivizes particular ways of living over other ways, calling the structures it endorses "American values," and implicitly branding all others deviant. If this is so, it is a problem that goes well beyond gay and straight.
I'll be interested to know what you think about all of this, dear readers. Should marriage be a government creature at all? At the very least, I think it's worth pondering.
Lately, I've been pondering the whole idea of marriage as a state creation, and the government's involvement in family structure. First, let me be clear: I'm just trying this argument on for size; I'm not entirely convinced it's right. But as a thought experiment, follow me down this road for a minute. Imagine that the government was no longer in the business of sanctioning any family structure at all.