On heterosexual privilege and my Aunt Mary…

My Aunt Maryis a lovely woman. Caring and kind, she pretty much raised her brother’s kids after their mom developed MS when we were in grade school. She makes the world’s best caramel corn, and even though I have the recipe, it’s never the same. I know she loves me very much. She is also a born-again evangelical Xian, convinced I am going to Hell for being A Lesbian. This concerns her greatly.

I have been extremely fortunate. My family loves C, and her family loves me. Even Aunt Mary likes her as a person. It’s just our relationship she disapproves of. And really, we have faced very little in the way of prejudice. The only outright gay-bashing we’ve endured happened on our second date, when walking around town, a couple of guys yelled at us from their car. I don’t even remember what they said, probably called us “fucking dykes” or the like before driving off. We pretty much laughed it off, being surprised that they’d managed to figure out in the dark that C was a girl. We’ve intentionally lived in blue states, and in urban areas of those states, where even if you don’t approve, you’re expected to keep that fact to yourself, or at least not be outright hostile.

Because we generally feel safe, C and I have never really shied away from showing affection in public. We hold hands, hug, kiss, and basically act like people who love each other. I’m not a big flag-waving activist, but I see it as a daily political statement. I didn’t realize how affected I actually was by gay prejudice or the fear of homophobia (homophobiaphobia?) until I started going out with E. If we’re holding hands or sharing a kiss, I’m not worried that someone will decide we’re offending their sense of morality and yell at us, or worse. I don’t find myself tempering my actions based on where we might be or the demographics of who is nearby. Even people with no malicious intent look at you differently depending on the sex of your companion. For example, when E and I are out, people assume we are a couple. C and I are generally assumed to be friends or even sisters, which, while occasionally handy depending on the situation, is still annoying. And with E there are no questioning looks as people try to figure out “are they or aren’t they,” which always makes me feel like I have to respond, and my response (get closer or separate) is a silent decision to be brave and come out to a total stranger or be safe and accept the shame of denying myself and my love. It’s really of nice to just be a person for once, not a statement, and while I fully intend on enjoying the peace of that, I hope to never take that peace for granted.

There are a lot of people, and I’ll admit that I have been counted in those numbers at times, who think bi folks (women in particular) choose to settle down with opposite-sex partners so often because it is just easier to be (seen as) straight than gay. Really, the numbers don’t bear that out, since there are orders of magnitude more potential opposite-sex partners out there. There’s at least 19 straight men out there to every queer woman. What are the chances a bi girl will end up with a wife instead of a husband? But that being said, it is much easier to be straight. Your relationship is immediately validated, you can marry in any country in the world (including this one), you can have biological children, and none of your relatives will worry about your eternal soul simply because of the sex/gender of your chosen partner.

It leads me to wonder what Aunt Mary would think if she learned I had a boyfriend. She might be dismayed that I was adding insult to injury by not only flouting God’s Word™ with another woman, but ALSO fornicating with a man I was in no way married to, and never will be. Does it count as adultery if God doesn’t recognize your marriage (even though it was blessed by two different religious officials)? But I think more likely she would be relieved, and hope that it was a sign I was turning to the light. If I read the Xians right, being gay is far worse than breaking your vows. And although I have broken no vows and have the full support of my wife, there seems no room for ethical non-monogamy in the Xian dogma. Cheating, however, seems to be pretty much expected, and as long as you ask God for forgiveness, and promise never to do it again, it’s all good. And if you do it again, well just ask God to forgive you again. I can see her starting to send Christmas gifts to me and E and ignoring C even more than she does already, and telling me how nice it is that I found a good man, and will he be coming to my cousin’s wedding.

The meddling relation: that’s one heterosexual “privilege” I have no interest in gaining.

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