A few weeks ago, my girlfriend’s father told her the family is taking a vacation to Maryland this summer. Her immediate response was, “I’m not going.” Desperate to get his very un-family-oriented daughter to participate, he quickly added, “Your girlfriend can come.”
She mentioned this to me on the phone later and, naturally, I was very enthusiastic. The two of us talked about how nice it would be to lie on the beach together, especially at night. We discussed swimming in the ocean and sleeping in every day for a week. By the end of our phone conversation, the two of us had talked so much about the trip, it felt like the trip had already happened.
But things changed when my girlfriend excitedly told her mother that I’d likely be going, too.“How will you introduce Nikki to the rest of the family?” she asked, clearly concerned.
“Uh, as my girlfriend,” my girlfriend replied.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, I mean, your little cousin will be there and we don’t want to, you know, make everyone uncomfortable,” my girlfriend’s mom said.
When my girlfriend angrily rehashed this story to me later I didn’t get it. What did my going have to do with her little cousin and why would that make her family nervous? My girlfriend explained that her mother has an irrational fear that lesbians are going to hit on everyone. She doesn’t want the rest of the family to know we are lesbians because she thinks they will worry about this female cousin’s safety. I mean, what if we try to jump her bones one night after everyone has gone to sleep?!? What if we sneak into her room and turn her gay?!? After all, she is 14 and the thought of having sex with a child that young is absolutely irresistible to two lesbians who cannot control their sexual desires. Not!
Not only is this view ridiculous, it’s hurtful. To make matters worse, it’s coming from someone who I see constantly and whose opinion of me matters a great deal.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s way harder for my girlfriend to deal with this, but it sucks for me and for us as a couple too. Part of being in a serious relationship is getting to know your significant other’s family. I will probably never meet my girlfriend’s extended family because they are so uncomfortable with homosexuality. As for her mother, how can I be myself around her when I know she isn’t comfortable with me?
For those of you who are going to tell me to ignore it or avoid it, well, it’s not that easy. My girlfriend is still in college and she lives with her parents. She comes over to my place a lot, but, once in a while, I return the favor. I like going over there because her apartment is outside the city and is very relaxing. I enjoy hanging out with her friends and, you know, seeing trees for once.
Inside the privacy of my girlfriend’s apartment, her mother is totally fine. But she has told my girlfriend not to hold my hand in public because the neighbors might see. To her, the fact that her daughter is a lesbian means she was a crappy parent.
My girlfriend and I hold hands whenever and wherever we want and we don’t try to hide our sexuality. I think it’s important not to indulge her mother’s homophobic ideas. I don’t want to be introduced as anything other than “my girlfriend” if I meet her extended family. Obviously, I won’t be sticking my tongue down her throat at the dinner table, but I refuse to pretend that we’re just friends. Maybe this means I’ll never be as close with her family as I would like, but at least I’m not sacrificing a huge part of who I am for a view that I completely disagree with.
I guess for now, I have to be satisfied with friendly yet distant. Maybe someday that will change.