"Sometimes I wish I was a lesbian," she said. I held back a sigh.
Sometimes she says it sitting across from me in a coffee shop. Sometimes she sends it via text message. Sometimes it's uttered over a teary post-breakup phone call, and it's a different friend, but my response is fairly consistent: a teasing "well, do you want me to introduce you?" And then conversation eases away, her launching into another story about Ted or Joe or Bill and his flaws, the supposedly inherent errors of straight men and the taunting disconnect between men and women's needs.
For a long time my gut reaction was to be on the defensive: What does she mean she "wishes" she were a lesbian? First of all, it's not a choice, and second of all, it's not easy being part of the LGBTQ community. We're in a struggle for equality for respect and safety. Just because we share clothes and paint each other's toenails doesn't mean our relationship is perfect.
But it wasn't only me and my wife she was stereotyping; it was the men in her life too.
Lately, I've thrown a curve ball. "Why?" I ask.
"Oh, well, you know, it's just... it's easier with women. We understand each other. You... you and Danielle... you, you know, you appreciate each other...."
It's a fall back to the old stereotypes, the old rules of the world, and a fading society's definitions of people, judging us not on our insides but on our genitals, the assumption of how we're supposed to act, feel and respond to one another based on sex and gender.
It's outdated, antiquated and safe. It gives us excuses not only for the behaviors of others but for our own. Women and men aren't destined to misunderstand each other's signals; nothing in our biology creates an inherent disconnect between lovers. It's easy to blame the unfulfilled needs and desires on a part of our being that we simply cannot change, easier than admitting that fault may lie within ourselves or our potential beau or even our long-term partner or spouse. It's easier to believe that people -- including ourselves -- are just the way they are and not talk about the hard things.
I am happily married to a wonderful woman. We have a good, healthy relationship with a lot of joy. I look at her every day and know that in spite of our struggles, I am so very lucky.
Yes, we have struggles too.
Danielle hates -- and I mean hates -- doing the dishes. She'll promise she's going to do them by the time I'm home from the grocery store, then all of a sudden it's 8 p.m. and I'm over a sink of dirty pans up to my elbows in soap suds.
In return, I have never once scooped the litter box of our 8-month-old kitten.
We face struggles that are unique to the LGBTQ community and sometimes isolate us from our heterosexual friends and family. We face struggles that go outside ourselves -- equal rights and marriage equality and federal recognition -- but we also face the struggles that all couples, gay or straight, face. Sometimes we aren't on the same page. Sometimes we bicker, and sometimes we fight. These moments aren't because we're women, and they're not because we're lesbians. When a heterosexual couple feels disconnected or disagrees, it's not because men and women simply can't understand it's each other; it's because sometimes people don't.
Sometimes people in love, or people in like, or people discovering each other, or people drifting apart, are unsatisfied or uncertain or unhappy, and that's not because of their gender or orientation but because they're people.