54

Intro:

We all have seen a couple who are so in love they have lengthy kisses in public, always display affection, call each other cute names and wherever they go or sit, they always appear to cuddle. Many people find that gross and awkward to look at.

My situation:

I really don't mind it when I see random couples who do that on the metro, in the park, when I'm shopping etc. I know I probably won't see them ever again.

Everything becomes more delicate if it is a transsexual couple (a guy and a girl, both trans) you live with, or see regularly otherwise. Every time I am around this particular couple I feel really abashed. They clearly don't mind the whole family seeing them cuddle in the common areas, using romantic talk and nicknames, blowing kisses at each other, sitting in one another's lap in the living room etc. But for me it feels like I am always intruding on their privacy.

I don't want to just avoid them completely. In fact I'd love to have normal conversations with both of them, but they just would not stop being preoccupied with each other. It always feels like they are in a bubble and nothing else concerns them. It is also nearly impossible to have a one on one conversation with either of them since they are barely ever apart. For example if I am having some small-talk in the kitchen with the guy while he is making hot chocolate, the girl will soon come into the kitchen and interrupt our conversation by saying "how is the hot chocolate coming along sweetie", a goofy face, and immediately snuggling up to the guy's side.

The couple in question have previously deflected subtle remarks on their behaviour as "being mean". They take offence quite easily. I get this attitude from them that unless you identify as one of LGBT+ then you can't have a say in what they do in public.

This has been going on for a long while, and I thought this behaviour would slowly subside over time, but it didn't. They appear to be completely oblivious to the fact people feel really awkward because of their gushy behaviour (and yes others in the house have similar remarks).

The question:

I want to discuss this issue with them, but I have no idea how start. I don't know how to phrase myself without coming across transphobic, or mean. I'd like to know if any of you know a good way of starting such a conversation & communicating my thoughts clearly and politely and respectfully.

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    @brhans It would be great if the answers come up with examples of how to choose language well and how to direct the conversation in a way that avoids conflict or judgement on anybody's part. – Mythical_Ewe Apr 2 '18 at 15:33
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    It makes total sense to try to extra hard to avoid stumbling into sensitive areas here. Trans people inevitably encounter far more than their fair share of uncomfortable staring, judgment, and lack of respect out in the world. (Notably, people are more likely to find them "gross and awkward" to look at.) In this PDA situation, there are things that're more likely upset a trans person than a cis person, and I appreciate that the OP is trying to avoid that. Suggest how to make that clearer if you like, but I think we can lay off judging the OP. – Cascabel Apr 2 '18 at 19:24
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    One answer starts with "If public displays of affection are considered rude in your culture" __ public behavior that can legitimately be objected to in one culture may be considered "just routine" in another. For the sake of accuracy of answers (by giving readers the cultural context) you might add the country tag to your question. – English Student Apr 2 '18 at 22:34
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    To be clear, their behavior isn't bothering you because they are trans, and any other couple exhibiting the same behavior would bother you just the same? You only bring that up because they are (perceived or actually) more sensitive to the commentary due to being trans? – Mr.Mindor Apr 3 '18 at 15:22
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    Semantic arguments of what "transphobic" means need to stop. If you want to argue about what it means, take it to English Language & Usage or their chat. It doesn't belong here. The common, accepted meaning of the term includes discrimination against transgender or transsexual people. Feel free to mentally substitute "transphobia" with "transmisia" if it helps. – Catija Apr 3 '18 at 22:32
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On the one hand, the fact that one or both of these people is trans is utterly irrelevant. (I'm going to take you at your word that your objection is to Public Displays of Affection whether with opposite sex couples who are both cis, same sex couples who are both cis, or opposite or same sex couples that include one or two trans people.) Different people have a different level of comfort with PDAs. Since you see them a lot, you can just express your issue with their PDAs on the spot

Hey, you two, can I just [read my paper]/[finish washing these dishes]/[whatever] without the public display of affection? Or at least tone it down a little?

[Note: calling the other person sweetie when greeting them, or following them to where they started a task to ask how the task is going doesn't count as a PDA in my books, but long kisses, sitting in laps, and long discussions that involve only the two of them and ignore everyone else in the room, especially if the topic is I-love-you-more-no-I-love-you-more" kind of thing -- that is the behavior you're going to react to.]

If they say anything about you being transphobic or the like, you can reply

That's unfair and untrue. I would say the same about any couple that is so blatantly affectionate in front of other people all the time. [Optionally: I was holding off saying anything because I thought it might naturally dwindle, but it's not, so I need to mention please, less sweetie-snuggle-kissing if you can.]

If they insist that no, your objecting is transphobic, you can go further:

Have I ever misgendered anyone, deadnamed anyone, let a transphobic comment from someone else go by, treated you any differently from any other of my friends? I think I deserve better than to be called transphobic if I ever happen to disagree with you about anything. You're a man, you're a woman, and I would prefer if the pair of you did less snuggling and cuddling in front of me. I'm sorry this turned into a whole thing, it was just a small request to tone down the public displays of affection if you can.

Now, why did I start with "on the one hand"? Because depending on how long it has been since they transitioned, one or both of them may be in their very first relationship. People are always kind of "over the top" and self-absorbed and "in a bubble" when that happens. I have heard people who transitioned as adults talk about being "like a teenager" and "having a second puberty" -- I don't know how old these people are, or when they transitioned, or how much hormones they are on, but it's possible that some of this, both emotionally and physically, is more than they can control. Not saying that for sure, but something to consider. Doesn't mean don't ask them to tone it down, but try to imagine it's the very first time they've been able to be with a boyfriend or girlfriend in an accepting environment and do the things they see other people doing from time to time. So they may be doing those things too often, or in front of too many people, out of sheer exuberance of being able to open this chapter in their lives. Keep that emotion in mind when choosing your words.

Of course, being comfortable in your own home is important. So go ahead and ask. But keep in mind that they aren't exactly like every other couple, so what you're asking may be harder for them.

36

The short answer:

Address it the same way you would with any other overly sappy, sweet, PDA couple:

Hey, you two, get a room.


The long answer:

The fact that this is a trans couple doesn't, or at least shouldn't, matter. The fact that you think it does is a little telling... I'm not going to beat you up over it, but feeling the need to make that distinction in your question tells me that there's a least a little bias or additional discomfort in the situation because you're dealing with a trans couple rather than a cis couple.

People sometimes refer to this as a "micro-aggression". Before anyone flips out over the use of the term, let me explain that... A micro-aggression doesn't necessarily mean that you're some awful, hateful bigot. It just means that you were probably raised in an environment where you didn't have much exposure to, in this case trans folks, and you're not quite sure how to deal, and that can lead to these little missteps. Most people are slightly unsure of how to address people and situations that are new to them, that part is ok, just make an effort to recognize it and overcome it when the situations arise.

In this case the easiest way to avoid micro-aggressions is to ask your self a simple question. How would you handle the situation if it were a cisgender, heterosexual couple?

There's no shame in taking the time to do a little self evaluation. Most people have subconscious biases, that we don't think we have, until they surface. It's not necessarily the first thought that makes you transphobic, sexist, racist, or what have you; it's what you decide to do about that first thought.

If they were my roommates being all gushy and sweet to each other, I'd be happy for them. Not enough people get to have that kind of love in their lives, and even fewer people get to experience it for a long time. If you can find it in your self to be honestly happy for them, that's probably the best way to go. If you're just generally uncomfortable with public displays of affection, use the short answer above.


Should they respond badly to a general request to "get a room" and claim that you're transphobic for saying anything:

First and foremost, don't get defensive. A strong defensive response will likely solidify their impression that you're simply phobic. Kate Gregory's answer is pretty solid up until that point... Getting defensive, in my experience, tends to sound like:

Some of my best friends are...
You know me better than that.
Have I ever said anything about ... before?

These kinds of responses don't do much to dispell the feeling that someone is uncomfortable with you because of 'reasons'. Honestly they usually come across as what they really are; defensive statements that dig a deeper hole by further othering the person they're directed at.

What you should probably do instead is that self examination mentioned above, and then sit down with them and talk about it honestly, much the same way you did in your question. Explain how the public displays of affection make you feel uncomfortable, and that you were hesitant to say anything because you didn't want to be misinterpreted.

I would start with the simple:

Hey, you two, get a room.

If they respond by saying that you're only bothered because you're phobic:

No, I'm just generally uncomfortable with public displays of affection. Makes me feel like a third wheel and I'm not sure how to respond to that. Can we maybe work something out?

Ending on a question inviting them to work with you is probably a much better approach than angrily insisting that you're not transphobic. It offers some space for a more collaborative solution that everyone can be comfortable with, rather than just tossing out a demand and an angry retort when the demand isn't received well.

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    Thanks, I am precisely a person who has never been exposed to anything beyond binary heterosexual or homosexual people. So yes I do make a distinction here since it is a very new situation for me and I am painfully aware that I don't understand their situation as much as I'd like to. Reading the answers here widens my perspective a lot. – Mythical_Ewe Apr 14 '18 at 12:06
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If public displays of affection are considered rude in your culture, then simply express that fact.

Excuse me, you two are making me uncomfortable with the constant PDAs

If they react and accuse, simply state the truth.

Public displays of affection make me uncomfortable.

How they react is up to them and is quite frankly beyond your control.

I knew this one person who was extremely promiscuous and also happened to be gay, and I didn't appreciate him going on and on about his adventures.

He did at first take umbrage until I pointed out that he sounded like the office lothario bragging about his latest conquests.

Keep it about the behavior and only about the behavior and you should be fine.

-1

DON'T

If it's a problem it's their problem. If you don't mind it with people you don't knows there's no reason to mind with them also - see my list of points.

  1. If they do it in public be sure they are aware that there are people concerned and I can bet someone has already shouted "Go get a room" more than once.

  2. Even after 1. They don't stop, so it's unlikely you will stop them.

  3. Some people do it on purpose. I call it the "Spring effect". When some group or behaviour was severely "pressed" and that pressure is released you got a overreaction from these people (who can blame them?).

  4. Some people not only do it on purpose but expects the first naive reaction to start trolling. I don't say this is the case but be aware that kind of person really exists and you don't want to argue with them.

Let them be.

EDIT

From the IPS SE help section How do I ask a good question page

Keep an open mind The answer to your question may not always be the one you wanted, but that doesn’t mean it is wrong. A conclusive answer isn’t always possible. When in doubt, ask people to cite their sources, or to explain how/where they learned something. Even if we don’t agree with you, or tell you exactly what you wanted to hear, remember: we’re just trying to help.

This answer receveid a lot of UPVOTES and DOWNVOTES and to clarify I know OP wants to find an easy way to tell something without causing conflict. Also I cannot foresee the outcome of any OP action nor the couple reaction (I'm not a clairvoyant) the only thing I'm stressing here is the possibility there's not an easy way to do it and even the impossibility of conflict avoidance. Also, I invite OP to judge the risk of causing conflict. Not by simply ignoring the problem but to realize where lies the real problem. If it's the couples problem it's not OP's business to meddle. If it's OP problem, this means the couple are not aware nor willing to solve it, so OP will need to solve his problem, in this case it's not an interpersonal issue.

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    OP doesn't mind it when it's random people in public because they're not his roommates and friends, people who he wants to have conversations and hang out with. – AlexanderJ93 Apr 2 '18 at 20:40
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    The OP wasn't asking whether or not to do so, but how to do so .... – burrito77 Apr 2 '18 at 21:05
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    @burrito77 The answer, if you don't got my drift, is: There's no way to do it – jean Apr 2 '18 at 22:30
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    @jean strongly disagree - look at the #1 answer – burrito77 Apr 2 '18 at 22:33
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    This is the right response if, like some, they're doing it because it makes people uncomfortable. I know plenty of people who do things precisely because it bothers the "norms". – Jeffiekins Apr 3 '18 at 0:21

protected by Community Apr 3 '18 at 16:01

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