Home Posts Being Mistook For A Straight Guy Was Exciting, But Here's What Made Me Change My Mind.
Being Mistook For A Straight Guy Was Exciting, But Here's What Made Me Change My Mind.
LGBTQ

Being Mistook For A Straight Guy Was Exciting, But Here's What Made Me Change My Mind.


It began innocently enough in an Olive Garden in Ohio.

“Would you and your wife like to start with something to drink?” inquired the waitress.

“I'll have a club soda, and she'll have a diet coke,” I said.

I was sitting across the table from my good friend Megan, and the server assumed we were married because we were both wearing wedding bands and were roughly the same age. Megan is like a younger Jessica Lange, and anyone would be thrilled to be married to her. But then again, my husband, Saul, is pretty awesome, too.

After visiting California in February for what was supposed to be a two-month visit, Saul and I quickly fell in love with the community of gay men we discovered there after living in a wonderful but mostly straight small town in New Jersey.

It took a team effort to move two cats, a dog, and the two of us 2,600 miles to a new home, so after Saul packed up the house and flew the animals west, I volunteered to drive a van full of our most treasured possessions across the country with one of my best friends.

My sibling-like bond with Megan was formed over many years of long, grueling days in television production before both of us got married and changed jobs. We'd seen much less of each other in the last decade, but we knew we'd easily fall back into our familiar friendship groove once we hit the road, but now, our relationship was taking an unexpected turn.

When the waitress returned and placed our unlimited breadsticks on the table, I resisted the urge to compliment her fabulous multicolored fake nails.

“I didn’t want her to think I was some creepy husband flirting in front of his wife,” I explained a moment later to Megan.

“I think she'd be more perplexed as to why I was married to a gay man,” she said dryly.

I began calling Megan "honey" in front of others and quickly grabbed the check at the end of each meal, determined to be the breadwinner in this fantasy hetero marriage.

When a ruggedly handsome cowboy sauntered up to me at the pump at a gas station just outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma, I almost blew our cover.

“Are you looking for diesel?” he inquired, his voice sexy and whiskey-laced.

“It depends; is your name Diesel?” I was about to say.

 
But it wasn't all fun and games. At a Taco Bell in Texas, we were in line behind two rough-looking, solidly built women who looked like they didn't bother getting out of their pjs any longer, with wild bedhead and dark makeup over their angry eyes.

“I can't understand a word anyone says in those damn masks!” one of them grumbled, glaring at Megan and me, who were the only ones wearing the offending items.

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I'd grown accustomed to the dangers that come with being different, but I was definitely out of my element, so I shifted closer to my doppelganger.

I was on high alert when Megan approached the counter and inquired about Taco Bell's gluten-free options. I was expecting the women to start taunting us, but to my surprise, they left us alone. I'm not sure that would have happened if Saul had been by my side wearing one of his "I Love My Cats" T-shirts.

My transformation was complete by the time we arrived in New Mexico and sat in a tiny diner happily making small talk with other male-female couples, and I felt like Eddie Murphy in that classic “Saturday Night Live” skit in which he goes undercover to find out how white people really act when no Black people are around.

Was it wrong for me to enjoy being thought of as "normal" after a lifetime of internalizing messages that gay wasn't as good as straight and being made to feel like my queerness was, at best, a little weird, and often something far, far worse?

When I tell a cashier that my grocery discount card is under my husband's name, I still look for a slight reaction, and I often recall the day after my sister died, when an old friend called to express her condolences for my heartbreaking loss before cheerfully adding, "Oh, and I want you to know I'm OK with you being gay!"

I've celebrated decades of Pride Months as "here and queer," and I've marched in countless marches; I've stood up to homophobia at work, with my family, and in everyday interactions since I came out at the age of 18.

It can be exhausting to be proud.

But now I realize that I have the luxury of being able to "pass" as straight, which isn't the case for everyone, and those people are frequently in danger everywhere they go. Being at risk begins early. LBGTQ youth are frequently targeted and bullied in grade and high school, when they are most vulnerable. In fact, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are nearly five times more likely to have attempted suicide.

I recognize that I have the luxury of being able to 'pass' as straight, which is not the case for everyone, and those people are frequently in danger wherever they go.

Furthermore, there are still many forces at work attempting to limit or roll back the rights of queer people, particularly those who identify as trans. State legislatures are continuing to advance bills targeting transgender and nonbinary people, including criminalizing health care for transgender youth, prohibiting access to appropriate restrooms, and limiting their ability to fully participate.

These sobering statistics make me realize how critical it is that we keep fighting.

These sobering statistics make me realize how critical it is that we keep fighting..Sometimes that battle entails protesting, voting, and speaking out about our identities.

These sobering statistics make me realize how critical it is that we keep fighting..Sometimes that battle entails protesting, voting, and speaking out about our identities..Fighting sometimes entails coming out to the grocery cashier, the macho mechanic, or the stranger sitting next to us on the plane, because refusing to "pass" as straight and telling people who we are can be a radical act.

These sobering statistics make me realize how critical it is that we keep fighting..Sometimes that battle entails protesting, voting, and speaking out about our identities..Fighting sometimes entails coming out to the grocery cashier, the macho mechanic, or the stranger sitting next to us on the plane, because refusing to "pass" as straight and telling people who we are can be a radical act..It has the potential to alter someone's perception of who is queer and what it means to be queer, with far-reaching implications.

These sobering statistics make me realize how critical it is that we keep fighting..Sometimes that battle entails protesting, voting, and speaking out about our identities..Fighting sometimes entails coming out to the grocery cashier, the macho mechanic, or the stranger sitting next to us on the plane, because refusing to "pass" as straight and telling people who we are can be a radical act..It has the potential to alter someone's perception of who is queer and what it means to be queer, with far-reaching implications..And, because not everyone lives in a place or has a life where they will be safe if they do come out, it feels even more important for people like me to do it if, when, and as often as we can.

These sobering statistics make me realize how critical it is that we keep fighting..Sometimes that battle entails protesting, voting, and speaking out about our identities..Fighting sometimes entails coming out to the grocery cashier, the macho mechanic, or the stranger sitting next to us on the plane, because refusing to "pass" as straight and telling people who we are can be a radical act..It has the potential to alter someone's perception of who is queer and what it means to be queer, with far-reaching implications..And, because not everyone lives in a place or has a life where they will be safe if they do come out, it feels even more important for people like me to do it if, when, and as often as we can..

Many people have fought for generations for my right to say, “This is my husband, Saul,” and the fight continues. As Megan and I settle back into our own married lives with our respective spouses, one of the most powerful things I can still do is remain visible. So, as much as I enjoyed my time in hetero land, it’s time to get back to work.

Keith Hoffman is currently working on his memoir, "The Summer My Sister Grew Sideburns." He has written for television shows such as "The Secret World of Alex Mack," "Sister Sister," and the popular Nickelodeon cartoon "Doug." He was a producer for the GLAAD Award-winning series "30 Days," and he currently serves as executive producer for Animal Planet/Discovery, where he produced 10 seasons of "Finding Bigfoot."

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