After an impressive number of years of happily living the single life, I started 2020 in a surprising way: by beginning a relationship (it’s Facebook official and everything). Since my last “official” relationship was way back in eighth grade, it’s safe to assume that my skills in this arena are somewhat rusty; I’m honestly still astounded that anyone is interested in spending so much time with me, but that’s a topic for another time. Luckily, as I once again learn to navigate these amorous waters, I’ve found a patient and understanding man to take that journey with me.
However, despite my novice status in the relationship department, long ago I decided there was one thing I would never do in any relationship, especially if it was with a man.
I absolutely refuse to refer to him as my pal, buddy, or “special friend” to placate others. As long as we are together, he is my boyfriend and deserves respect to be acknowledged as such. We’ve earned the right to be recognized as a pair just as much as any straight couple, and asking us to do anything otherwise greatly diminishes the legitimacy of the bond we’re building together.
Often when I’ve shared this sentiment — previously from a purely hypothetical perspective — people have pushed back against my views for the sake of their definitions of decency and age-appropriate censorship. One of the most frequent rebuttals is, “But what about the children?! Why would you expose them to a same-sex relationship and force them to recognize it for what it is?”
Here is why: there is absolutely nothing wrong with me having a relationship with a man. Asking me to hide the fact that I have a boyfriend implies that there is something wrong with it. I refuse to perpetuate the idea that queer individuals need to hide their relationship from anyone, especially younger individuals. If you, as an adult, don’t make a big deal out of it, then your child will not make a big deal about it. If they do, perhaps you should reevaluate the values you are passing along to your child.
It’s as simple as saying, “This is his boyfriend.” If there are follow-up questions, be honest. Tell them I care about this person just as you care about your partner. Tell them that relationships form through mutual attraction and are not restricted to a one size fits all mentality. Or simply say, “You know how I care about this person? That’s how they feel about each other.” If you normalize queer relationships early on, there will be nothing complicated or strange about them to your children.
If you’re unwilling to do that, in my opinion, you’re doing a disservice to your child. LGBTI relationships have existed for millennia and aren’t going away any time soon. So, you can either teach your children to be kind, accepting and open-minded or leave them confused and open to impressions from other sources. It seems like an easy call from my perspective, but experience has taught me that those fighting for “decency” would disagree.
There have been several instances in my life where my bisexuality or general LGBTI identity has been skated over for the sake of politeness. However, this again implies that there is something wrong with being anything but cisgender and heterosexual. There is nothing offensive about me being attracted to a man, just as there is nothing wrong with me being attracted to a woman. I’m not going to let you censor my identity or relationship because of your narrow-minded view of the world because I have worked incredibly hard to establish both.
If my LGBTI identity and relationship makes you uncomfortable, that’s a problem for you to address. It’s not my job to pretend to be something I’m not so you can carry on being blind to the realities of the world. It’s up to you to choose whether or not to bury your head in the sand and ignore the world around you, but I’m not going to encourage or support that behavior by censoring myself.
I have spent most of my life in the closet and even more of it living as a single man. If you think I’m going to hide any aspect of this exciting new journey with my boyfriend to placate your archaic views of how the world should work, you’re going to be gravely disappointed. I have too much respect for my boyfriend, myself, and our relationship to hide it from the world, so save yourself the time and don’t ask me to address him as anything else.