Chapstick Chapstick

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Unpleasant Oral

I’ve been going to the same dentist since I was a kid. Even as a grown-ass woman, I drive two states away (4+ hours) to go to the dentist in my hometown. Getting a new dentist didn’t even occur to me until this morning—you see, I’m from a very small town. Loyalty is *beyond* important to us small-town folks.  

I went to my dentist for my biannual cleaning this morning. When I got in the room, my hygienist—we’ll call her Jackie—started in with her usual questions: How’s your dad? Is your sister still with what’s-his-face? Is your mom still working at X? Did you hear about [insert latest small-town gossip]?

For the first 40 minutes of the appointment, I entertained her questions. I told her updates about my job, family, and friends from high school (the ones who used to get their teeth cleaned there).

Between flossing and scraping, I asked Jackie how her family was doing:

Me: How’s your daughter?
Jackie: She’s doing well. She married X. You know, he’s not your usual guy, but he’s nice to her. I mean, he doesn’t hunt or fish or anything! [I’m from a rural New England town where these are THE markers of manhood.] Get this! He doesn’t even know how to use a drill! What kind of man doesn’t know how to use a drill?! Have you ever met such a man??
Me: *happy that I don’t have to respond to this problematic statement since my mouth is full of gloved hands*

Jackie: But he’s good to her, so we’re happy. I hear your sister is getting married soon?
Me: *gargley yes groan*
Jackie: Do you like him? Is he Mr. Right?
Me: He’s really wonderful. I’m so happy for them.
Jackie: Soooo, have you found your Mr. Right yet?
Me: Uhh no.
Jackie: Oh, it’s okay dear. You have plenty of time. Plus, you’re probably too busy with your career right now to even date, right?
Me: Well I date, but I’m single right now.
Jackie: So you’ve dated since moving to [my current location]?
Me: Yes.
Her: Oh, so you had a boyfriend then? Oh honey, I’m so sorry it didn’t work out with him.
Me: Well, I had a partner last year…
Her: Oh?
Me: I—I— actually, I date women now.
Her: Oh. Well okay… Do you want mint or grape toothpaste today?

The remaining 15 minutes were filled exclusively with talk about my teeth, gums, and how I really should be flossing every day (yeah, yeah, yeah). If you knew Jackie, you would understand how very unusual this was.

Though Jackie didn’t actually say anything anti-gay, I’m guessing she isn’t particularly gay-friendly—especially given her overt investment in gender roles. For this reason, I regretted coming out to her when I got out to my car. But I also felt like I would have been hiding who I really am if I hadn’t corrected her NUMEROUS false assumptions about my “Mr. Right.”

After I came out to my immediate family, I promised myself that I wouldn’t hide who I am for others’ benefit. If I want to stop being ashamed of who I am, I need to act like I’m not. And eventually, if I continue acting like I’m not ashamed of who I am—especially in my conservative, Trump-supporting hometownmaybe one day I actually won’t be.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Intersectionally Offensive

I went on a date last night. We got drinks and ice cream (not together, obviously), then went for a walk. During our walk, a terrible thing happened. We were approaching a street corner, holding hands, and an older woman was standing on the corner. I noticed she was glaring at us from afar, but I didn’t think much of it. As we got closer she started to look physically uncomfortable by our presence and she quickly shuffled away from us in order to maintain her distance. She made a disgusted shriek as she scurried away like we were diseased. Her scampering and noises were so bizarre that we both turned around to see what she was doing as we walked by, and upon turning around, she spit at us. Don’t worry, the spit did not hit us—fortunately. We kept walking and I uncomfortably said, “okayyyy” to my date as we shared a mutual what-the-fuck glance. 

Once we were out of ear-shot, I asked, “Was that a mental illness thing or...?” She responded, “Was that a homophobic thing?” Then I was like, “Was that a racist thing?” (My date was Black.) We decided the explanation was all three. I think her reaction to us was the result of homophobia and racism, but her mental state (something seemed really off) allowed her to express those feelings so overtly to us. 

My date, being the fantastically strong woman she is, made a joke about how we were an “intersectional couple” since there were multiple layers of identities that could offend random street strangers. We laughed and carried on with our night. 

When I got home, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about this encounter. Here are the reasons it upset me and continues to occupy my mind:

1) The woman looked at us like we were disgusting and less than human. While I can write her off as ignorant, I was reminded that so many others—especially those from my hometown—feel this way about gay people, they just hide it better or say it behind my back (if I’m lucky). But their hatred and disgust are the same.

2) I felt like the main reason for the spitting was because we were an interracial couple. I hate that my date has to constantly endure racism.
3) It reminded me of all the reasons I’m afraid to be gay. When I walk around holding women’s hands, I always feel a little uneasy and hypervigilant—both for myself and for my date. When I used to hold men’s hands, I always felt more safe than I did when walking alone. 
4) I thought about my family and home community’s reactions to my coming out. I then thought about how the negative reactions I got would be multiplied exponentially if I brought home a Black woman. Thinking about this breaks my heart.
My heart is heavy for my date and her experiences in this hateful world. My heart is heavy for LGBT kids who have to confront this kind of discrimination during such a fragile and confusing life stage. I’m a grown-ass woman and this idiot’s hatred shook me to my core. But mostly my heart is heavy for people who carry blind hatred against other human beings—what a miserable existence that must be.