My Dogs Help Me Talk To Straight People
Animals are great for awkward situations.
This year has already brought about a lot of changes for my family — my partner and I purchased a house. The house is amazing, and the whole family has loved living here but the past week has been pretty stressful. We discovered a leak in our kitchen, coming from our upstairs bathroom. Dealing with fixing this leak has meant that we have had a lot of work happening in the house, and that has meant having a variety of contractors in our home. I don’t think having work done on the house is something that anyone likes, but as a queer family, in our current political climate, it’s actually pretty scary because it means literally having to invite cisgender straight men into my home—my sacred space, the one place on earth where I know for sure that I am safe and seen.
My partner is genderqueer, and we have no idea how the various workers in and out of our house saw us. One contractor called my partner “Miss” over the phone, and then apologized for that after walking in our house. I’m covered in tattoos and despite being a femme very rarely pass as straight. Before the work started, we remembered to take down some explicit transgender art from the bathroom, and lesbian avengers magnets from our fridge — but beyond removing a few really explicitly queer things, we weren’t sure how the workers would react to our family, especially in a week like this where queer issues have consistently been all over the news after President Trump removed protections in schools for transgender students.
Because part of dealing with this leak has meant having to open ceilings and part of a wall it’s just not safe to have the cats running around the house like they normally would. They are hanging out upstairs in our bedroom and my partner’s office until we can get the walls closed up. But they are much less bothered by the whole process than I am. I’m a pretty anxious person, especially when I have to talk to straight people. Animals really help me get through the most awkward or stressful moments — like when I have no choice but to deal with straight cisgender white men who by all accounts are the demographic of humans I’m the most uncomfortable with in my house doing work. In the past week we’ve had plumbers, insurance adjustors, mold removers and contractors in and out of our home. Being able to have our dogs in the mix, or even just being able to talk about them after one of these guys hears them barking has proved to not only help me to calm down. I’ve also noticed that the dogs become a great neutral topic of conversation that these cis straight white dudes can relate to, and have eased these interactions. Instead of them having some kind of moral panic, we are able to talk about what our dogs are like, what kind of dogs they all have, a much more pleasant topic of conversation.
The various workmen have been professional, but a few did have me sitting at my computer Googling various neo-Nazi / alt-right tattoos. I’ve watched enough documentaries to be able to recognize a few questionable tattoos, and was pretty disturbed to realize that at least one of the men working on our house this week was sporting a few that are leaning that direction. For sure, I was grateful to have my dogs to break the ice and distract from other topics of conversation that could have been very uncomfortable if not unsafe for our queer family.
Animals are great for awkward situations. I know that when I find myself at a party I’m always lurking around to see if they have pets, and if they do? I’m definitely going to spend the rest of the evening hanging out with them. Animals make us feel better, and I think in some situations they may even make us better people. I’m not sure if these guys who were doing work on our house would have been explicitly homophobic if we didn’t have dogs, but I do think having dogs really made that situation more tolerable for everyone and inspired them to be on their best (least oppressive) behavior. What about you, have you found your pets help in stressful situations with straight people?