At an extended family BBQ I recently attended, I experienced something new - and it wasn’t ‘having a considered discussion about race with the cousin that has a Union Jack tattoo’. Instead, I was cornered by some of my aunts and asked if I was planning on getting married and having children. This was a new experience for me because I'm a lesbian, and up until this point these kinds of nosy questions were kept under the strict domain of heterosexuality.
Previous to this, many people seemed not yet at ease with the concept of same-sex relationships, or perhaps didn’t want to bring up marriage in case it caused upset. That meant that an inadvertent silver lining of societal oppression was that some of us would never get asked any of these probing and highly personal questions. We could instead gleefully watch our nosy Aunt Kaylene (not a real aunt’s name) carry her West Coast Cooler and cigarette over to the nearest heterosexual cousin to grill her for an hour about her personal business. There are many serious and tragic things that come with not fitting into the box that society says you should; so you appreciate the small silver linings where you can find them.
Frequently when talking about sexuality in terms of living as someone who lies outside the societal ‘norm’, the conversation is framed around the negative parts of this life. This makes sense because of a few things you might have heard of called discrimination, abuse, bigotry, homophobia, and other delightful experiences that a lucky few get to experience.
The negative aspects of being queer are the ones that can do the physical and emotional damage, are the ones that are remembered most, and ones that contain the issues that we want to try to fix for the future. So the fact that discussion is centred on these negative aspects makes complete sense. Happily, as society becomes more willing to hear and participate in these discussions and becomes more accepting, the positive aspects will become more common.
Now that more people know that queer people exist and have realised that we are just human beings who live human relationships, they have become far more comfortable in pushing through the invisible borders we all put up to try and dissuade others from getting into our business without our permission.
But it actually seems worse for same-sex couples. Not only have I noticed that queer people and couples have begun to receive these lines of inquiry from friends and strangers alike, but they also often seem to be even more personal than the already decidedly inappropriate questions our heterosexual brothers and sisters have been receiving.
Sorry Aunt I haven’t seen for three years, I don’t want to talk about sperm with you.
While a heterosexual couple might be (still inappropriately) asked, “So, are you going to have a baby?”, I might be asked at a BBQ “So, are you going to have a baby? Do you think you’ll adopt? If not, which one of you will carry it? Do you think you’ll use anonymous sperm or go with someone you know? What about your handsome friend Gary who you went to the formal with, I bet he would give you his sperm.” Sorry Aunt I haven’t seen for three years, I don’t want to talk about sperm with you.
It is a very strange feeling to have people you aren’t close with (or sometimes don’t even know at all) asking you not only if you want a child, but then going on to discuss how you would conceive that child. It’s as if the floodgates have opened. People who were previously hesitant to ask any questions about the personal lives of queer people have now discovered that they feel fine about asking questions: and they have so much to ask.
Of course, this is a very small price to pay for a society that is becoming safer and happier for people of all sexualities. And it is obviously a much better feeling than going to a party and having nobody acknowledge your personal life because it repulses them. It is people being enthusiastic and demonstrably accepting, and it is a great sign that things are changing for the better. It’s just a bit sad that now we have to have the long and awkward conversations with the Aunt Kaylenes of the world.