One of the things that's hard for me is how very straight my class is. Most of my classmates are in serious relationships, and I think universally ones with opposite-gendered folks. It is weird.
I have mentioned before, but it bears repeating. I went to art school. Not one of those places on earth where a relationship with the opposite gender matters. At all. I think there my class was about 50% straight or in an opposite-gendered relationship. On a particularly straight day at least.
So it is weird, so very weird to me to spend so much time hearing from women friends about husbands and boyfriends and zero girlfriends. So weird.
I grew up in this tiny little town, population quite literally 50% practicing Catholic, very close to no out gay people. The guy who ran a beauty parlor and built a lovely house with his (male) partner? It mysteriously burned down just weeks after completion and nobody could figure out how that happened. Not a very safe place to be gay, even when totally quiet about it, if not in the closet. I haven't heard of any mysterious deaths but that part of the story Brokeback Mountain rang true to me as something that could happen, not just fiction. (sidenote: I read the short story and loved it so much I refuse to see the film lest it get ruined).
For me, art school was such a welcome safe haven. I was FREEEEEE! I could be as indecisively gendered as I wanted. I could be as indecisively straight as I wanted. I figured out that I am bi in that safe space, and I got used to the idea of finding my female life mate (when I say bi, what I mean in reference to me, is that I lean about 75% female, 25% male in the attraction realm).
And then this weird thing happened. I met the love of my life, and we got married, and we look very straight from the outside.
While we were at the ER this past weekend, the spouse went back to be inspected immediately and I changed and fed the baby (one car so it was a family trip). Once she was happily cooing away about 20 minutes later, a nurse turned up and asked if I would like to go back to be with my husband. What a series of presumptions! As an equal rights person, I am not a fan of the terms husband or wife. They have baggage and it bugs me to use them to describe the relationship we have, so we don't. We intentionally choose spouse or to use first names when talking about each other. And presuming that because we have children in tow we are married? Whoa leap of judgement there.
It reminded me of a few other ER trips I've participated in over the years. Once I fell and sprained my ankle and a transgender friend drove me to the ER. She was recently transitioned so it was obvious to anybody that she wasn't born in a she body. I went by myself to be inspected, and maybe an hour later, a (male) nurse stopped by to ask if I "wanted my...friend... to come back to wait with" me. Of course I said yes. I was lonely and in lots of pain and bored with the 2 old magazines in my reach (hint to medical providers: put reading materials within reach of immobile ER patients). I think I even said that it would be really nice if she could come back.
Nobody ever invited her back or talked to her at all, even after that very chilly suggestion that she be invited back. I sat alone for a couple of hours, so did she.
I was also reminded of doing chart review at my hospital internship, looking for medication errors that might have made a person sicker (and there were only one or two avoidable ones in the 300+ charts I reviewed). I read the chart of a guy dying of AIDS and every doc note I looked at talked about his friend Bob (no that wasn't the real name). His friend. His friend brought him to the ER and his friend was there all night and at the care conference and has power of attorney and is to be consulted about all care decisions. His friend. Not his spouse, not his partner, his friend. I hate that language too. It is so inadequate to describe a loving partner relationship like I imagine those guys had. It is so awful that we choose to describe unmarried couples as "friends" and it's one reason it irks me when people my age wait for ages to get married. If one dies before the wedding, the other MIGHT get mentioned in the obituary as a "special friend" and it breaks my heart to see that because it doesn't do justice to the relationship.
When you love someone, and you intend to spend your life with them, I say get married or acknowledge the relationship with some ceremony or other. Don't wait until you can afford a big wedding. Don't wait until you feel financially stable (this might be never). Don't wait until the state says you're legal.
So what I'm getting at is that we as a world need to recognize and acknowledge that families come in different shapes. You're a family if you are two people waiting for a baby with many fur babies of whatever gender (or plant babies like we started with). You're a family if you are two ladies or two gentlemen. You're a family if you have children or if you don't or if you adopt some. You're a family starting when the two adults commit to love and relationship for life. We may need new language for this, but it's about time.
There's complexities around being bi that I don't actually care about discussing as the rest of the internet has it covered with debunking myths. Just know that it is real in my life, I am not confused or experimenting with being straight or any of that nonsense. You love the person you love, whether they match your gender or are opposite it and whether they started out that gender or not. I'm still working out how to explain this to the girls and how to parent knowing that the odds are reasonable and certainly more than zero that one of them turns out also not so straight.
Can we please just stop with the presumption that everyone is straight and married, or should be both of those?
EDITED to add: if this isn't your experience at all, go play this game. It's just so... exactly right. http://jayisgames.com/games/a-closed-world/