For the long weekend, my DGF (that's "dear girlfriend") and I decided to visit the Gold Country area of California. Gold Country (so named because it was a Big Deal Place during the gold rush) is rural and gorgeous, with rolling hills, rivers, lakes, and oak trees sporadically dotting the landscape.
Now, I know that, like the other two westernmost states in the continental U.S., the eastern part of California is more conservative than the western part. More politically conservative, yes, but also more religious, more gun-owning, and less gay-friendly. (I don't mean to suggest that these things always go hand in hand. I consider myself religious, for example. And I know plenty of gay-friendly political conservatives. But there is a strong correlation between religiosity, political conservatism, social conservatism, and anti-gay attitudes. Sorry, Mom. There just is.)
Anyhow, in most ways, I am not a particularly exciting person. My ideal evening involves coffee and/or friends and/or books and/or red wine. And for this reason, I am always shocked when I am reminded in not-so-gentle ways that to a fair chunk of my country's populace, I am Really Strange and Different.
My DGF and I got stared at a lot. And many of these stares were glares. Some people--usually men with their families--would narrow their eyes and the corners of their mouths would turn down, and make prolonged eye contact as if to say, "Your very existence threatens my children's well-being." There were also a fair number of regular ol' stares, but I mind stares a lot less, maybe since I'm so used to them, plus I understand the impulse to spend a longer time looking at someone who doesn't look like everyone else.
I also hate it when I can't figure out whether someone is anti-gay, or just awkward. Early on in our trip, we went to a specialty store for a nerdy hobby I'm obsessed with. I called ahead and talked to the owner, who was super nice on the phone. But when I showed up in person and introduced my DGF (because the place was otherwise abandoned and it would have been weird not to) as my partner, this woman ignored my DGF's outstretched hand. Despite her friendliness on the phone, she kind of stayed away from us in person. I tried to engage her in conversation partly to figure out whether she was awkward or just anti-gay. She mentioned God twice (e.g., "My husband has a broken ankle, but God will heal him soon"), but not in an aggressive way, and I didn't want to assume that she was trying to give me a message. (In fact, I Godded her right back, to show her that straight people don't have a monopoly on religion.) In the end, I didn't quite figure her out, and didn't spend much money there. When we left, she told us to "come back soon," which she wouldn't have if she was a gay-hater, right? Right? Sigh.
Which is all to say that as glad as I am to be me, I often wish I could just navigate the world without thinking about people's reactions to me. But the reactions themselves sometimes make this difficult.
More on this trip soon. I hope you all had a great weekend, dear readers!