What is the best way to respond when you are on a date and people on the street make comments? My girl and I get genuinely positive responses from people who yell, “Go girls,” but of course, we get hateful “dyke” comments as well. The dilemma is clear: If you respond, you risk ruining the mood of the evening, making a scene, and/or annoying your girl. If you stay quiet, you feel like you haven’t stood up for yourself, you feel intimidated, and your sense of queer pride is shot.
I’m tough and slightly butch and I want to come across as strong. I want to let my lady know that I’m looking out for her and that I am proud to be with her in public. What should I say to the person hating, and what should I do to make my girl feel empowered, free, and proud again?
Great question! And why haven’t I received this type of question before? Are we the only two who experience this or has our community decided that this is par for the homo-course? I fear the latter is the explanation and I think it warrants some serious examining.
The social worker/activist in me wants to encourage you to engage, question and potentially educate the haters. But my less emotional self wants to caution you against engaging individuals who are likely looking for an outlet to release aggression. Maybe there are better, more effective ways of addressing this. Moreover, your primary concern (understandably) seems to be your girlfriend’s feelings. Have you asked how situations like this make her feel? How would she like you to react? Ask for a “fantasy” example and a “real world” example. I have my own fantasies about how I would react in similar situations. But I try to keep my eye on the goal: It’s a date night. Personal time is at a premium. It’s not easy to recover from the negativity that engaging ignorance may provoke. And what if it’s worse than negativity? What if responding puts your girlfriend or you in harm’s way? Ask yourself what you’re responding to. Is it your girlfriend’s sense of safety, your queer pride or your ego? I suspect your answer lies in exploring those questions.
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Dr. Darcy Smith received her Masters degree from Columbia University and her PhD from New York University. She has been a practicing social worker for over 10 years and is in private practice in both New York City and New Jersey.
*By submitting questions, the writer acknowledges that she has no rights of confidentiality and that her question or a version thereof may be printed in GO Magazine. Correspondence between Dr. Darcy Smith and a writer does not constitute a therapeutic relationship and such a relationship and the rights/privileges associated with such can only be established through a scheduled, in person session.