Sunday, August 12, 2012

An Uncomfortable Breakfast

In my last blog post, I recounted our recent and amazing trip to California.  The trip was filled with these incredible moments and I am and will continue to be thankful for all of them.  As with most things in life however, there was one less than wonderful moment that has really stuck with me and I felt the need to get some of those thoughts out.  So here we go.

Our last night in California was spent in this incredible bed and breakfast in Half Moon Bay, about forty minutes outside of San Francisco.  The bed and breakfast itself was absolutely adorable and the owner met us at the door and was incredibly gracious and kind.  We had a great stay there and I can't say enough about the bed and breakfast itself.  But, one of the things about a bed and breakfast is that you have more interaction with the other guests than in a regular hotel.  Sometimes, that can be a great thing, but other times it's just uncomfortable.

On Wednesday morning, we went downstairs for breakfast.  There we were met by another couple, probably in the their late forties or early fifties.  They began making small talk and asked where we were from.  The first comment that the man made to me was, "Oh, so you and your son are traveling together?"  There was so much wrong with this statement.  Carla and I just looked at each other, speechless.  We let the comment just pass by and when the woman then said, "So you two are just friends traveling together," I responded, "Yes."  In the moment, I just wanted the conversation to be over.  I felt uncomfortable.  I knew that anybody who would look at us and assume that we were mother and son, was clearly not someone who was used to seeing any same-sex couples.  I was uncomfortable with the situation and I just spit out the word, "Yes."  Luckily, another couple soon joined us.  They were much friendlier and seemed to not think twice about the fact that we were together.

Soon, the food was served and I immediately started to eat.  The woman from the uncomfortable couple looked at me and said to the whole table, "Should we all pray first?"  Again, I stayed silent.  I continued to put jelly on my bread and again ignored the question.  Soon, everyone at the table besides Carla and me had their heads down and eyes closed.  I had absolutely no problem with them praying, what I took offense to was that she simply assumed that we would all want to pray and that, even more offensive, we would all want to pray to Jesus.  Once that was over, we continued with breakfast and were able to have some great conversation with the other couple that was at breakfast.

Soon, the not so lovely couple shared that they wrote and illustrated children's books.  The woman went to get the books and brought them back to the table.  She passed them around and it became immediately obvious what these books were.  Each book had a list of morals in the back and every single moral had to do with Jesus.  We politely looked through the books and made sure to smile and say how great they looked.  We then handed the books back.  Breakfast eventually ended.  We checked out of the B&B and headed out to finish up our trip.

Now nothing horrific happened during this interaction.  We were not confronted with any direct hate.  Nobody said anything out of malice.  But, the feelings I had during breakfast didn't sit well with me and I haven't been able to get them out of my head.  As I sit with the story, I can break down what was so upsetting in a couple of ways.

First of all, I hate that I didn't tell these people that Carla and I were married.  I hate that I didn't respond to their questions by simply saying, "This is my wife."  I live in a really safe and comfortable corner of the world.  My family is unbelievably supportive and accepting and they always have been.  When I first came out, I never had to worry for a second that my family wouldn't accept me.  In fact, my wonderful sister ended up having to convince me that I was gay when I wasn't even comfortable accepting it myself.  My friends have also always been incredibly supportive and accepting.  Beyond all of that, I have been able to come out at work, which is not always easy for an elementary school teacher.  My colleagues are amazing, the administration of my school has only ever looked out for my well being and comfort. The parents of my students have been vocally supportive and the kids themselves have been amazing.  I am really lucky.  In my day to day life, I am so accepted.  I am so loved for exactly who I am.  And that makes it really easy to be out.  I hate that when I was confronted with people who I didn't think were as accepting, that I instantly crawled right back into that closet.  It was safe there.  It was easy.  And I hate that I made that choice.  These are exactly the kind of people who need to be presented with positive images of gay and lesbian couples.  These are exactly the kind of people who need to see a loving, lesbian couple and see that there is nothing wrong with who we are.  But I didn't give them that chance.  Instead, I hid who we were from them and I am so mad at myself for doing it.  It was the thing that most made me feel sad about the situation.  It was the thing I most wish I could have changed.

Beyond that, I think that I was also just so sad that there are people in this world who are truly so ignorant, that they had to try and fit Carla and me into the narrow little boxes that exist in their world.  I don't see them as being hateful, they just were so ignorant.  They assumed, over and over again, that we had to be just like them.  We had to be in the same relationships that they were in.  We had to pray in the same way they prayed.  We had to live in the same way they live.  And they do that because it is all that they know.  And that is what makes it easy for people to judge and hate.  When they don't know anyone who is gay, it is so easy to think that people who are gay must be strange and unnatural.  That ignorance scares me and when I am confronted with its existence, it saddens me.

The last thing about this situation that was disheartening was the way I judged this couple for their devout religious beliefs.  I hate that I equate religious people with narrow minded people.  I hate that I assume that someone who prays at the breakfast table must also dislike people who are gay.  It shouldn't be that way.  I should assume that someone who is religious is also someone who would treat all people kindly and equally.  Isn't that what religion is supposed to teach us? To be better people? Shouldn't I assume that someone who is religious would be MORE tolerant than someone who isn't? But I don't.  It's just the opposite.  Now I know that there are many religious people who also support same-sex marriage and equal rights for everyone and who are perfectly comfortable with people who are gay.  But they are not the ones I see on the news. They are not the ones I see outside of Pride each year holding signs quoting the bible.  And so when I meet new people who are obviously religious, they are not the ones that come to mind.  My immediate assumption is that these people don't like me.  And I hate that.  I wish it wasn't that way, but until things change in this country, I think that will continue.  Until religious leaders are able to stand up and publicly change the message, I think my assumptions will remain.

So that is it.  It wasn't an awful experience, it didn't ruin our day, it didn't even ruin our breakfast, but the thoughts that it left me with were upsetting.  As Carla and I talked about the whole situation, we realized that all of this will change when we have a child.  We will have no choice but to be out.  We must come out so that our child doesn't have to worry about explaining our family to anyone.  We will no longer have the choice to crawl back into the closet.  We will be a family.  With two moms and I am so proud of that.  So, I will start to prepare myself now.  The next time I am in an uncomfortable situation, I will know who I am and I will not be afraid to share that with anyone else.  I am prepared now and I will make different choices.


  1. This post is one of those "exactly" posts for me -- I have definitely had similar situations and made the same choice. It's scary, how easy it is to dash back in to the open closet door. And how we make decisions based on the worst case scenario instead of the best case scenario (evangelical Christians who love gays!). It's hard.

    I worry that it won't stop even when we have kids. How easy will it be for people to assume that we are sisters, or friends? I don't know. I assume it will happen at some point. I just hope I'm brave enough to speak the truth when it does.

    I think brave is something you have to practice being. You have to remind yourself consciously that the situation will come and what choice you will have to make. This post was a reminder for me.

    Thanks for writing.

  2. Yup, me, too. I have the same reactions, and a hard time fighting them, even though I know they aren't good in the long run.

  3. We struggle with some of the same stuff. My wife is pretty uncomfortable with being out to strangers (even though I think anyone can tell by looking at her). And we also talk about how once we have kids we will be out whether we like it or not (and of course worry constantly that we'll transfer some of our internalized anxiety or shame to our peanuts). But also remember to take it easy on yourself. Coming out is more than a one time thing. And, what was narrow minded about those religious people is that they tried to push their beliefs on you. I hate when people do that. (as a gay jew living in the south, it happens all the time...our social worker even wanted us to list the local churches during our home study...why would I know the local churches??)

  4. This stuff is so hard. Sometimes you just want be on vacation and take a break from educating the world.