My girlfriend is now my fiancée. The original plan was to propose to her at a horror con by having one of her favorite actors hand her a puzzle box with the ring inside. At the last minute, I decided to propose to her in the privacy of her home, so we could share an intimate moment together. She loves the ring, she loved the proposal, and I love her and I loved her “yes”.
There is, however, one thing that I don’t love: by being engaged, I am automatically out to everyone who knows about the engagement.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily have a problem with being out as gay. I came out to my family and friends almost as soon as I figured out that I wasn’t straight. I didn’t get the best reception from my family, but I also didn’t get the worst reaction. There were no reparative therapy camps, no kicking me out of the house, no forbidding me from spending time around girls. The reaction I got was simply, “We love you, we just don’t love that you’re gay.” Over time, my immediate family came around. There’s no more calling me a dyke and I even got a heartfelt congratulations when I told them I was engaged. Progress had definitely been made. Yet, despite the fact that I was a flamer in high school, talking about my engagement with people outside of my inner circle makes me nervous. My fiancée has to be careful who she tells as well. While we live in a state that offers workplace protections to the GLBTQ community, how exactly are we supposed to prove that she was fired for being gay if she does get fired for being gay? Do we even want to go through the trouble of finding a civil rights lawyer and going through the months (or even years) long drawn out court battle that would ensue? I mean, hell, it’d just be easier to find a new job and tell them during the interview process, “I’m gay, so if you have a problem with it, let me know now instead of firing me later.” At the very least, one deals with the discomfort of homophobic coworkers. Maybe her boss is OK with her being engaged to a woman, but the person one desk over might not be. I know that my extended family members who aren’t active on Facebook don’t know about our engagement because my parents don’t want to tell them (and I don’t really want to, either). If I was engaged to a man, then my grandmother would know and would be excited about coming to her granddaughter’s wedding. Since that isn’t the case, she simply doesn’t know.
I had spent years preparing myself for the reactions of my family when I brought home the right girl. It still stings that some of them aren’t accepting, but I can deal with it. What I hadn’t prepared myself for were those awkward conversations with acquaintances that you hadn’t seen in a while, or people from church, or old classmates, or brokers who show apartments. Those awkward conversations when you mention the word “fiancée” and they think you mean “fiancé”. Those awkward conversations when you mention you’re engaged, and the first question is, “What’s his name?” I hadn’t anticipated the discomfort of outing yourself to everyone and their mother every time you tried to share what’s supposed to be happy news. So I found myself left with a choice: either be out – really, really out – or not tell people that I’m engaged and over the moon about it.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer here. We live in a world where, at best, outing yourself leaves you feeling uncomfortable or with your feelings hurt because of a bad reaction. We also live in a world where, at worst, outing yourself gets you hurt or even killed. I’ve learned to censor my good news and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my special day simply isn’t going to be as special as a straight bride’s special day in some people’s eyes. However, what matters here isn’t what other people think. My special day is going to be special to my fiancée and me, and that’s what counts. For every awkward reaction I get to the news of my engagement, there’s a loving and joyful reaction from someone who knows my fiancée or me personally. Most importantly, every time I look into my fiancée’s eyes and she tells me she loves me, I know that we made the right decision and that our happiness is the most important thing here. We’re both safe, we’re both madly in love with one another, and we’re both looking forward to the day when we’ll be each other’s wives. We also know that, in addition to the family and friends who are supportive of us, we can turn to communities online that will welcome us with open arms and congratulate us on our upcoming nuptials. We know that there are celebrities and politicians who are championing the cause of gay rights, who fight for us even though they have never met us. We know that the US is closer than it ever has been to legalizing gay marriage, and that even if gay marriage isn’t federally recognized anytime soon, we can still have a ceremony and call it a wedding. 50 years ago, that wasn’t possible. So, while outing myself to Joe Blow may sometimes make me uncomfortable or other times simply isn’t an option, I’m still thrilled to be engaged and thrilled to live in a place where being engaged to the right person is a possibility for me. I’ll be thinking positively throughout my engagement and I’ll be content in the knowledge that yes, I’m engaged to a woman – and a pretty fucking awesome woman at that.