Last weekend, my girlfriend and I went to a pub full of guys shooting pool and drinking beer. We were there to see her friend, Mike, a DJ. He’s got a weekly gig at this place and, as he doesn’t seem to get too many of them, it’s pretty important that he keep it. I thought we were being pretty well-behaved. I’m not really big on PDA in places like that because, frankly, I feel out of place anyway and I don’t want to draw attention to myself.
But as the night progressed my girlfriend and I started to get tipsy. We didn’t do anything over the top but I know for a fact that I reached for her a couple times, danced with her and probably even kissed her. This is pretty standard stuff for a heterosexual couple, but I noticed that we were being gawked and glared at. I leaned over and asked my girlfriend’s guy friend if he’d noticed. He gave a fervent nod. Uh-oh. I’m not one to change my behavior because a bunch of homophobes are on the prowl. But I’m not stupid either. We were two girls, getting tipsy in a bar far from our apartments. We had two guys with us, but the bar was full of big, brawny men and I didn’t want to make trouble. Also, the bartender had already given my girlfriend crap about her perfectly legitimate ID. In short, I didn’t really want to push my luck. We were there to have a good time and to support my girl’s friend.
After that, I paid more attention to my girlfriend’s guy friends than her. After a couple drinks I was feeling very social and I wanted to dance and have a good time. But I was still on alert and my instincts—although slightly blurred from alcohol—told me this was not the place for girl-on-girl action.
The next morning, my girlfriend and I were laying in bed together and she said, “I hope we didn’t embarrass Mike.”
“Why would he be embarrassed!?” I said in shock.
“Well, you know, that wasn’t really a good place to be gay,” she said.
My girlfriend has since spoken to her friend Mike and he was really happy we came and asked us to hang out again soon; obviously, he didn’t find our behavior embarrassing. And why would he? The dude is perfectly aware that we’re together. He was excited to meet me and seemed very nice and totally comfortable the entire night.
But this got me thinking about when—if ever—I should alter my sexual behavior for other people. I know a couple weeks ago I wrote about not changing for homophobes, bigots and the like. But what happens when the person our behavior could negatively affect is not homophobic at all but, rather, a close friend? I’d hate to know that Mike lost one of his DJing gigs because people at the pub complained about the crowd he was bringing to the party.
After much thought, I’ve decided that if my sexuality puts me or someone I care about in danger—either physically, financially or, even socially, I will tone it down. But I have to really care about the person in question and the negative result would have to be tangible and directly related to me and my behavior.
I’ve decided keeping the gay thing on the DL is not that different from how we avoid other potentially awkward social situations. Whenever I introduce a conservative person to my parents I always say, “Just don’t bring up politics.” I used to date a dude who was really out there and when I brought him around some of my more serious friends I’d always say, “Let’s not discuss your conspiracy theories, OK?” People do this all the time and I’ve decided that if a friend were ever to say, “Listen, Nikki, my friends don’t like gay people, you might want to shut up about that,” I would oblige willingly and thank them for telling me. If I were interviewing for a job at a place full of Republicans, I probably wouldn’t talk about it then either.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is although it’s important to be who you are and not let the gay-haters bring you down, it’s also important to stay safe, watch your friends’ backs and avoid unnecessary drama. Gay visibility is great, but not hurting ourselves or our friends is even better.