Visible Homophobia

Remember after Pride when News 12 interviewed me about gay marriage and how they reported as news at 11 that I was single? Well, it was with great pleasure that I gave twitter the exclusive breaking news about my relationship status changing.

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Photo by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake.

At the time of the news report we had started seeing each other but it was early. “Don’t worry, I’m not afraid of the competition,” she texted me after she saw the report.

We met at Rebel Cupcake when a mutual friend of ours brought her along to the party. We’ve been hiding in plain sight, running in different crowds in NYC.

Cougar is kind, attentive, clever, perceptive, sweet, hot and treats me really well. She also has really great style.

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Photo by DrivenByBoredom.com.

We’ve been having a lot of fun together and are both always up for adventure. We decided to celebrate a month of dating by going away for an overnight. I suggested Fire Island, since I love a good gay beach day, but she suggested the more adult and swanky Atlantic City. AC is only two and a half hours away from NYC and it seemed like fun.

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Cougar found this really cute hotel that is total gay bait. The Chelsea. I mean, it’s lit with purple lights, like a gay batman signal. It’s exceptionally well-decorated with a 1950s/60s era theme. Our room was gorgeous, with a fuzzy leopard print chair, a corner ocean view, and not one but two vanities (perfect for the Fag/Femme romance).

There are two pools in the hotel. The rooftop pool is very swank, with each set of reclining chairs two-by-two separated by planters for a bit of privacy. There are also private cabanas, a disco ball dangling above the pool and a poolside bar. I mention the set-up of the place as an adult area as it is relevant to the following story.

Cougar and I got into the pool and went to the deep end because there were a couple of children swimming in the shallow end and I didn’t want to get splashed. We floated around for awhile treading water and chatting and then settled next to the wall on the side of the deep end, Cougar with her back to the wall and me with my arms around her neck floating about a foot away from her (imagine a Junior High slow dance). We were talking and punctuating sentences with smooches the way you do when you are being affectionate.

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The kids had started bringing their splashing to our end of the pool, getting out and jumping back in, creating a lot of waves. Three teenagers had also gotten into the pool, a visibly heterosexual couple was also showing affection.

All of a sudden this woman comes over to me and Cougar and leans down to us and says “Excuse me would you stop gyrating and making out? My children are in this pool. This is a hotel. You should get a room and go up there.” She had a couple more snide remarks that I can’t recall. Her tone (and content) were extremely condescending.

I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say to her or whether her comments had merit. Of course any romantic mood fostered by the adult playground of Atlantic City or the adult setting of the poolside bar was completely ruined by what she had said. I said to Cougar “Were we doing something wrong? Don’t talk to her, I don’t want this to get bigger.”

Cougar went to the restroom and I continued to float in the pool, stunned. I typically react to hostility by letting people stew in their own juices and not giving them the benefit of a response. Usually people who are mean or aggressive are also insecure–they will imagine the worst possible response and their imagination is likely the worst thing they could do. When I realized she hadn’t said anything to the heterosexual teenage couple I became livid and wished I had something clever to say in the moment.

Cougar went over to her and talked to her. I couldn’t hear what Cougar was saying (but I could totally hear the woman as her response became shrill) and decided to get out of the pool and just leave the area. I was so upset.

Later, Cougar recounted what she said to the woman, which was (in a calm voice) “If you would like to talk about this like an adult I am in room 1814. We were nowhere near your children and not doing anything inappropriate. You have no right to speak to us like children. If you had a real problem you could have addressed it with hotel management.”

The woman got defensive. She asked Cougar if she had any children, to which Cougar said “That’s none of your business,” and then she tried to backpedal and say that her child came up to her and said she felt uncomfortable. Cougar repeated again, “If you want to speak to me like an adult, I’m in room 1814,” and walked away.

At the time I was really upset by the incident and didn’t express this to Cougar at the time, but the more space I get to think about this I am really proud of Cougar for standing up for herself/us with that woman. Especially knowing the woman didn’t bring her affection policing didn’t to those teenagers.

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Adults should get to be affectionate in public. Gay adults should get to be just as affectionate as straight adults. I don’t feel we were being at all lewd or inappropriate. We were far more like playful otters in that pool and not at all like the people on Jersey Shore.

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Otters showing affection.

Atlantic City is a city for gambling and drinking. The hotel we were staying at isn’t exactly kid-friendly, if it had been a child promoting environment I would never have wanted to go there for a getaway like that.

I kept running through whether the Chelsea hotel is gay-friendly or not. Perhaps other than the decor, it isn’t. I mean, if it had been overtly gay-friendly, in that way where establishments have gay rainbow stickers on their doors or overt diversity policies, would that have stopped that woman from trying to police our queer affection? Caesar’s Atlantic City advertises an explicitly gay-friendly environment. Do people run into this at Caesar’s? Would she have policed us if there had been other queer couples there as well?

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And I also wonder if she even knew we were queer or how she was perceiving us? I fly under the radar a lot, despite being 100% out of the closet, because my gender is flamboyant but on the normative spectrum for a lady. I’m also a lot more visibly tattooed in a bathing suit than I was a year ago. And maybe it was fatphobia?

Cougar doesn’t fly under the radar. She had a double radical mastectomy* which just made her already dapper gay good looks even more androgynous and people throw her shade in the ladies room a lot. She’s also super swishy in that way that I’m sure some well-meaning stranger will tell me “Honey, do you know your boyfriend is gay?”

Regardless, that woman was entirely out of line. If she had a problem with people smooching, she should have taken her kids to someplace expressly for kids.

I was upset about the incident most of the evening. I kept looking around suspecting everyone of being homophobes and searching for my people. My people who were sadly absent from Atlantic City. It was depressing.

I walk the world typically thinking the best of people and try to remember people are doing the best they can with what they have at any given time. And I also understand that this kind of stuff happens all the time, it’s really difficult to live life and prevent it from happening and I would rob myself of a lot of experiences if I kept my life exclusive to a fat queer bubble. And that’s certainly not what I want.

However, I know my gay dollars are important and I do prefer to patronize places that are explicitly queer-friendly. So there’s a balance.

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It’s so interesting that everyone I’ve told this story to has had a different idea about what they would have done if they were me in that situation. I had a straight friend who said she would have just taken her top off. Someone else would have suggested she take her children and leave us to our gyrating. Another person suggested a John Waters quote, which I had thought of in the elevator going back up to our room and wished I’d had at the ready.

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Sometimes my life looks like a John Waters movie.

I’m content with how things worked out, night of being upset aside. When I was able to dissociate from the incident for later processing, I had a wonderful getaway with my wonderful girlfriend. We looked at the ocean, I won $30 on a slot machine called “Kitty Glitter” and we had really good stuffed french toast for breakfast.

COMPLETELY UNRELATED:

I wrote an article on Autostraddle.com about the value of getting a prenup. I feel that a strong prenup makes for a strong marriage ready to stand the test of time. It’s also got the best title of any legal article I’ve ever written.

If You Ain’t No Punk Holla Gays Need Prenups GAYS NEED PRENUPS

Check it out!

*Cougar is working on this amazing book project called Champion: My Photo Journey with Breast Cancer.

This Post Has 15 Comments

  1. Thanks for this. As you pointed out, AC isn’t exactly perceived as a family destination. There are mens’ clubs and nightclubs, along with the obvious drinking and gambling. In the daytime, they attempt family-friendly, but at night, it seems adult-oriented.

    I’ve stayed there to see the True Colors tour a couple of times, and it’s like, as soon as you walked through the door on the way out of the music hall, you were back in unfriendly territory. When we checked in, (to a chain hotel) the clerk said to us, “Of course, you’ll want two beds”. There could be a whole gay scene going on there, but yeah… So sorry to hear about your experience. That woman was so out of line, but sadly, I’m not surprised.

  2. A similar thing happened to me in Prospect Heights while I was watching children play in the park with my girlfriend. We were facing each other, holding hands and talking about maybe having kids one day–definitely not making out or touching crotches–when a middle aged woman scolded us, demanding that we “stop rubbing up against each other in front of the children.” It was really upsetting in a way that sneaks up on you the more you think about it.

  3. Sorry this took place. For us non-urbanite gay folk, it is a normal occurance. Not something good, of course, but we learn that these situations only affect you as much as you allow them to (unless you are in a physically unsafe situation – that’s another story – though we learn to quickly discern which situation is what… which is also somewhat sad, but ultimately necessary). Having said that, none of this is your fault, and do not stress over whether your reaction was correct. You aren’t the problem. That woman is. And you bet your ass she did not go home and stress about how SHE behaved. Keep smoochin’ :D.

  4. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that on your romantic getaway! If that pearl-clutcher doesn’t want to ever see couples in love showing a little affection then she should stay in her house.

  5. You’re in a relationship? How LOVELY!

    I’m sorry that happened to you, it must have really sucked.

    Can you tell us the quote you were going to say please?

  6. I am sorry that you had that kind of small-minded response to kissing. I am happy that you are in a great new relationship.

  7. I have a more thoughtful response on all of this CRAZY MALARKEY, but wanted to say right away that I do, in fact, have a child and despite the fact that she is grossed out (as any normal child ought to be) by her moms being all mussy-sikky, I would never pull this kind of wanker bullshit. Ever. The end.

  8. I’m so sorry that happened to y’all! 🙁 I’m glad it didn’t ruin your getaway.

    If I’m understanding correctly, it sounds like y’all were in the adult pool. And I don’t know that I believe that one of her kids went to her, upset about y’all. Wouldn’t you have noticed something – a vibe from the kid, an abrupt leaving of the pool, a teary conversation? I smell projection.

    So let’s review: she had her kids in an adult area, in violation of hotel policy; she was rude to other guests who were not behaving inappropriately; and even if she was telling the truth that one of her kids was upset, her solution was not to talk to the kid about it, but to police y’all’s behavior?

    That’s some bullshit.

    I think it’s rad that Cougar spoke up for y’all – with such style and grace, too. Your GF is somethin’ else. 🙂

    And after seeing the otter pic above, I totally want a Pixar-style animated movie about awesome queer otters in love and having adventures.

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