I came out last week. After 20 years of living the stereotypical semi-closeted life, yours truly has had the weight of the gay world lifted off her shoulders. It feels pretty damned good. The responses and support have been overwhelming. Now if only my hips felt lighter after all the Halloween candy I’ve consumed. There are many misconceptions out there (pun intended) about gay people and dogs.
Something that has been stirring inside me for 20 years now is with regard to the off-color things people say about folks who identify as LGBT and their relationship with their pets. Generally speaking, these things are often said to people with dogs in general: The dog moms and dog dads who dote on their canine family members.
No matter how well-intentioned some things might sound internally, there are some comments I’d rather not have tossed my way. If you don’t have dogs — or even if you do — don’t say these things to any dog parent you know. Twenty years of hiding my behind an invisible curtain in public means I have a lot of pent up commentary, energy, and well thought out “comebacks.” Feel free to use these the next time something spiteful, rude, or insensitive gets tossed your way. Oh, and the cool part is: You don’t have to be gay to be targeted by jerks. Jerks seem to be everywhere. Here’s some good comebacks, time tested, Fidose of Reality approved:
The Obvious Ding Dong
They say: “You must dote on your dog because you don’t have any kids.”
Reality: Many of my friends have human kids and they also have dogs, and both varieties are considered a part of the family. I made a conscious choice not to have human children, but I’ve always had a strong affection for dogs. It doesn’t make me any less of a human being to not want human children, but it really sucks when people assume that millions of us love dogs so much because we lack babies.
Your Comeback: “Don’t let my dog hear say that, he’s standing right here.” or “My dog is my kid.” or quite honestly, you can say that is rude.
They say: “Wow, your dog got married? Is that because you can’t?”
Reality: Indeed, this past June my dog was hitched in a canine wedding, all in the name of fundraising.
Your Comeback: Lesbians and Gays will have the right to marry, as our time is coming, and many states have begun to recognize us already. We want the same rights as straight people. However, my dog was married because people are cruel and insensitive and dump their dogs at shelters, if at all. As a gay woman, I decided to have a dog wedding to raise money for those innocent lives.
They say: “If that was my dog, he’d be getting a smack on the behind for barking or howling like that.” (my dog tends to howl with excitement on arrival to a hotel – can you blame him? It’s fun to check in)
What you say: “When you hit a dog, you teach him to fear you, you break his trust, and you weaken his confidence. Insecure dogs are the ones who are more likely to lash out in an aggressive display.”
I can’t take credit for that. I read it in trainer Victoria Stilwell’s book, It’s Me or the Dog. I used to be afraid to confront someone hitting a dog. I realize my lack of action is an action, and I’ve become more adept at speaking out, calmly and rationally. I know this one opens really strong emotions for some, but for me anger and physicality begets the same. I realize you don’t have to be gay to encounter idiots like this, which is why I am sharing this. Rude people are everywhere and not discriminatory about who they’ll share their ignorance with.
They say: Did you get a boy dog to even things out?
Reality: If not the above, I get – well is he the man of the house? I had a gay man ask me that. So it isn’t that this is straight specific, folks. I find that when I tell people I am gay, sometimes they think they then cannot talk about men. I had one friend say, I was going to tell you that Michael C Hall is hot, but I know you are a lesbian and wouldn’t care. WTF? It’s not that I am blind, people. Similarly, I have a male dog because that’s how life ended up. I had a female dog for one week shy of 15 years and my heart was broken. So I have a male dog. We didn’t plan it that way. Life just happens.
You say: “Yeah, someone has to wear the pants in the family!”
They say: “Where does the dog go when you have sex?”
Reality: I kid you not, I have had people say that to me. I am not sure if it’s a “I just found out you are married to a woman, so I am a kinky perv and want to learn more” mentality or if it’s a “oh you crazy gays, all you do is have sex” mentality, but whatever the case, I’ve had this said to me twice in 20 years. It bears investigating, yes?
My Comeback: “He usually videotapes it” tends to shut them up. But a more dignified response would be “none of your business” or to ask them where their dog goes when they have sex. *insert eye roll here*
They say: “Gay men are into pet fashion, aren’t they? Is that why they get Poodles and smaller breeds of dogs?”
Reality: People in general are into pet fashion. I know gay men with Great Danes and lesbians with Poodles. So no, we don’t have conventions where we plan our breeds according to our gender preference.
You Say: Feel free to say whatever you like here – it’s a free for all on this one.
The Lifestyle Expert
They say: “Well at least your dog accepts your lifestyle.”
Reality: Generally the word lifestyle stops me in my tracks. I’ve been listening to one of my favorite commentators on radio for a few years, Michelangelo Signorile, and he always plays a sound bite “thud” when someone uses the word lifestyle with referencing to being LGBT. A heterosexual person does not live a straight “lifestyle,” and so, too, those of us who identify as LGBT do not live a gay “lifestyle.” I am definitely of the alternative living mindset, but it is not a conscious choice to be who I am. As Gaga beckons, I was born this way.
I Say: “It isn’t a lifestyle, it’s part of my DNA and I was born this way.”
As members of a civilized culture we’re supposed to bite our tongues, walk away, turn the other cheek — call it what you will. Well, sometimes for me words flow as freely as water out of the hose from which my dog drinks. And you can use this to your own advantage. So the next time you get tossed a curveball, no matter path your life is on, feel free to use these snappy comebacks designed to educate people who will, in turn, think twice and pay it forward, either with not saying it again or being more respectful next time around.
Oh and P.S. Sheila, my former penpal friend in Oklahoma, if you are reading this, you can stop praying for me. If after 20 years you didn’t realize the kind of person I am, my telling you the truth isn’t going to be helped by prayer. I might, however, pray for peace for your daughter battling anorexia at age 12 and your husband who rarely comes home these days.