Are We Out Enough?
How a Facebook status update raised hard questions about my marriage.
During a lazy day last weekend, my partner, Traci, and I were Google surfing in bed, one laptop between us. Every once in a while, Traci would switch windows, check Facebook, and then return to our search. Who knows what we were searching for, but I won’t forget what we uncovered:
During one of those Facebook breaks, I saw that Traci had yet to confirm the fact that she and I were married. If you’re unfamiliar with Facebook, this is how they try to assure that a member can’t randomly make public assertions about another member. In this case, many months ago I happily told Facebook that I was married to Traci. Traci was supposed to assure Facebook that I was not insane in thinking this, and then both our Facebook friends would immediately see the updated info. But as of last weekend, she hadn’t done this. So I, figuring she had merely forgotten, impulsively reached over and clicked “Confirm,” at which point the now very old update hit Traci’s newsfeed and congratulations poured in almost instantly. Never mind that we married in 2008.
I have big rules about respecting other people’s personal space and I knew I’d broken one of them. It’s the Internet version of reaching over from the passenger seat and honking someone’s horn because the car in front of you is stopped at a green light. While understandable, it’s still rude. It’s not your car.
Traci was ticked off, but I soon realized that it wasn’t so much about my commandeering her Facebook account as it was about broadcasting our marriage status. The first thing she said was that it could upset her parents. Her folks have embraced me completely as Traci’s partner. They have come a long, long way in their understanding and acceptance of their lesbian daughter. While deserving a thumbs-up, they haven’t exactly joined PFLAG. I am still Traci’s “friend” when they talk to their neighbors and extended family. My response was, “You can’t keep protecting them from themselves. It’s time for their next step.”
She said, yes, maybe. But I could see that wasn’t totally it.
Traci herself was uncomfortable advertising the fact that she was married to me, her spouse—and a very out “professional gay,” as I often call myself. She has always listed her status as “married,” and posts endless pictures of the two of us here and there, sampling weird food, on vacation, or asleep and drooling. She said it wasn’t that she wasn’t “out” or that she was ashamed of me, but that my level of outness was more “in your face.” She doesn’t like to be defined by her gayness, and it could turn off the conservative folks back home who hadn’t had much exposure to the idea yet. She felt she’d accomplish more in the long run by simply being herself and changing minds by example.
I understood all of this, but got stuck—and am still stuck—on the fact that she wanted to distance herself from me, even just a little bit. I do know she is proud of me, happy that I’m writing and talking about important LGBT issues. I would be disingenuous to accuse her of being ashamed of me, yet I can’t find peace with her discomfort. I know that if we were straight, she wouldn’t have hesitated to click “confirm” those many months ago. She disagrees. It’s about being more private in general, she insists
The first big irony here is that my whole public platform is about being patient with everyone’s process and applauding our loved ones’ baby steps toward understanding. I’m both irritated and hurt by her disassociation from me considering that my whole public persona is cuddly, user-friendly, not-scary lesbian. I’m hardly a porn star or a Fox commentator. And then there’s the other irony (you were probably here before me): I preach about patience, yet I’m having a hell of a time finding that patience in myself.
After the deed, and a brief argument, we stopped talking about it. We heard each other, and we both felt icky. But she didn’t delete her update either. I wish I could be happier about it.