It’s amazing how simultaneously easy yet hard it can be to be yourself. I’m talking about speaking unreservedly about my reality as a married lesbian when it is appropriate to do so during the conduct of routine business.
I’m as out as anyone can be and been married to M, my wife, for over a year. Yet I still have to consciously force myself to say “wife” instead of “partner” when I describe her relationship to me. The reason is, I’ve never cared for the word “wife” because it is loaded with the historical baggage of womens’ subservience to men in their former role as marital chattel. And even today, when women and men are legal equals in the marital relationship, the frequency with which men neglect to refer to their wives by first name but rather just as “my wife”, speaks volumes to the lingering notion that wives are still viewed as a sort of generic accessory for some men.
But I need to get over it and take back the word. My use of that one single word can transmit so much information, open so many conversational possibilities and normalize the fact of married gay and lesbian couples, that I am disappointed in myself when I hesitate and let the opportunity slip by. Today the opportunity to use the word “wife” presented itself, and I met it head-on. It went something like this:
Me: Our car got broadsided while parked.
Insurance Agent: It was the Honda owned by M?
IA: Is M your friend?
Me: M is my wife, and we’re on the same policy.
IA: When did the collision occur?…
The insurance agent didn’t miss a beat, but just registered the information and continued on with the routine Q & A. Later, during a moment when we were waiting for a 3rd party to respond on her other line, I learned that she was located in Pennsylvania. At the end of the call, she warmly wished me a fine rest of my day and week.
So what happened here? I had the opportunity to let some stranger who lives in an anti-equality state know in a simple, factual way that married lesbian couples like me and my wife exist, and that we’ll readily say so when it is relevant. And she had the opportunity to demonstrate that I was just as deserving of her professional courtesy as the next caller.
I know there is nothing earth-shattering in this story. We all know that coming out and remaining out is important. But when it comes down to the discrete opportunities for this to happen, there can still be tiny inner bugbears to wrestle with. They’re worth wrestling, though. The satisfaction I still feel from taking this one tiny step today to help normalize marriage equality has energized me enough to write this diary.
Anyone else have stories about surmounting terminology or other being-out bugbears? Do you allies out there get the same zot of happy satisfaction when you find a way to let a stranger know that you’re an ally?