Auntie SparkNotes: Everyone Thinks My Boyfriend Is Gay
Well, I am going to get straight to the point. Everyone thinks my boyfriend is gay.
I have heard a full range of reactions and comments, from people just acting shocked at hearing we are dating, to laughing hysterically thinking it's a joke, to making comments about how he is just using me as a "beard."
About 75% of the time the comments of these ignorant individuals don't faze me, but I can't lie and say it doesn't bother me at all. It's been three months and the comments have yet to stop coming, and I am getting tired of it. I think if I couldn't see what people meant at all it would be better, but truthfully I do see exactly how people would get that idea. I am 99% certain he is straight but he does fit some of the stupid stereotypes. I feel terrible because he has confided in me how hurtful it has been to have everyone question his sexuality, and admitting that I see why they would think that seems like a betrayal.
So, what do I do? I have tried to joke it off, but when I do I feel as though I risk offending him or being offensive to gay people in general. I have tried to be defensive, but it starts coming off like "the lady doth protest too much." I have tried changing the topic, but people rarely just drop it, and when they do there is this underlying feeling that by not denying it I am confirming it.
I really like this guy and definitely do not want to offend him. Part of me wants to ask him how he wants me to deal with these comments, but I know its a touchy subject and I think it would hurt him to know that people are taking questions about his sexuality so far.
Do I make a t-shirt stating "MY BOYFRIEND IS NOT GAY"? Do I lecture people on judging a book by its cover? Do I just smack people with a rainbow trout when they bring it up? Tell me, because I am at a loss.
First things first, Sparkler: when you say that you understand why people might mistakenly think that your boyfriend is gay, I'm going to assume that it's because of some silly stereotypical nonsense, i.e. that he's a gifted dancer, or loves musical theater, or has "swishy" mannerisms—and not as a result of actual, credible evidence of same-sex orientation, i.e. that he has well-established history of enjoying naked makeouts with dudes. (In the latter case… well, blah blah blah about how sexuality is fluid and there are no rules and labels are just arbitrary constructs, but let's be real, you should probably revise your confidence level in his complete and total lady-oriented-ness to leave a little more wiggle room than 1%.)
But that said, when someone expresses that he or she believes your boyfriend to be a secret homo, your best bet is to a) judge that person's potential to be educated, and b) choose a response accordingly. Like so:
"Because you're my friend and I like you, I'm going to pretend I didn't just hear you make an incredibly stupid, insensitive, stereotype-based assumption about somebody else's sexual orientation."
"Why would you say that to me? It's really not okay."
A long stare, followed by: "Did you actually just say that out loud?"
NOTE: For people with an ounce of decency, this should prompt an apology. For people without an ounce of decency, this will prompt a defensive response such as, "I'm just saying, he seems really gay!", at which point you can move on to...
"Well, hey, appearances can be deceiving. For instance, when you make unfounded and uninformed comments about another person's sexuality, you appear to be a total douche canoe."
THE ULTIMATE THROWDOWN BECAUSE YOU DON'T GIVE A @#$%
"Well, if he isn't straight, he's awfully good at pretending to be. And by 'good' I mean, GOOD WITH HIS PENIS."
Here's what's more important, though: you've gotta be straight (no pun intended) with your boyfriend.
Because while it's both understandable and sweet that you want to spare him any further pain on an already-sensitive subject, tiptoeing around it doesn't help anything; it just makes it seem like his failure to fall in line with the majority concept of heterosexuality is too shameful and embarrassing to even talk about. Not only that, you've fallen at least partly into the same trap as the people you find so obnoxious: instead of wholeheartedly dismissing the narrow gay/straight parameters as a bunch of hooey, you're fretfully, reluctantly sympathizing with all the dumbasses who believe that "straight" can only look like one thing—and that since your guy isn't a swaggering, beer-swigging jock who leaves a testosterone slime trail wherever he goes, it only makes sense that people think he's gay.
And I hate to tell you this, darling, but if I'm picking up on this, then so, in all likelihood, has your boyfriend. He knows who he is, and he knows that he doesn't ring all the bells of traditional heterosexual masculinity. And the best thing you can do, for both of you, is to make it clear that you know it too, and that you don't think there's a damn thing wrong with that.
Which brings us to this: your goal here isn't to convince everyone of your boyfriend's heterosexuality. That not only makes you look defensive and insecure, but it also makes you complicit in the ickiness of deciding that people who look a certain way, or have certain characteristics, must be of a certain sexual orientation—that a swishy hetero guy can only be straight in spite of his swishiness, instead of in perfect harmony with it. You know that's not true, and you should say so: "Dude, they just think you're gay because they're close-minded morons who think that 'heterosexual' is a synonym for 'caveman'."
Because much more important than how you respond to the gay-sayers who insist otherwise is how you support your boyfriend: not by pretending that you don't see the problem, but by making it clear that the problem isn't him.
How would you handle yourself in this situation? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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