My wife and I are in the midst of house buying and selling hell. For any one who has bought or sold a house you know what I mean. We have buyers…we have a house we would like to purchase and well the seller’s being difficult. We are supposed to close in ten days and don’t have anything finalized, and in fact we may have to walk away. Needless to say I’m on my way to developing alcohol dependency and thinking that though I’ve never needed Xanax, now may be a good time to find some.
But let’s back up. Because this post is not about buying and selling hell. Sort of.
About a year ago we put our house on the market. We had several showings and no bites. Three months in I looked at our house with a critical eye. We packed up half our belongings to make it look more empty, we had it painted, and overall I thought it looked good. Then I realized our living room was plastered with pictures of our beautiful family. Professional pictures, framed in lovely frames, tastefully done in my opinion; but I realized that our gay family was on display. I wondered if that was why we hadn’t received any offers. I called my realtor. She is lovely, she assured me in all her years she had not seen that. But she’s kind and compassionate, and I think she would not have told me even if she knew every family coming to look at our house was calling us dykes on their way out.
I stewed on this for a couple days before I approached my wife. I told her my concerns, that our house wasn’t selling because there were pictures of a lesbian family in the living room. She didn’t disagree. She told me she had been having those exact same thoughts.
I remember having this sinking feeling in my stomach. I am by nature cynical and my wife is not. So if she was having those same thoughts that meant there was definitely some truth to them. We were trying to have this conversation around our two toddlers, which was poor planning on our part. Due to frequent meltdowns and normal toddler intrusiveness we tabled the discussion until after bedtime.
Two hours later we were sitting on our couch, in our living room, surrounded by our favorite pictures. Our sons in their newborn shots, the two of us on the beach for our maternity shoot, and their most recent birthday shots at the park nearby. As mentioned in a previous blog post about lesbians and pregnancy, we worked very hard to have my sons. I loved being surrounded by beautiful photos of my favorite people. We faced a decision. Do we take down these pictures to try and make the house more anonymous for potential homophobic buyers? Or not.
We talked about it a lot. There were few different factors that went into our decision.
First off, we didn’t know how long it would take to sell the house. What if it took another year? I’d go an entire year without seeing my pictures? Second, my sons were and are toddlers. There are about a hundred times a day they try my patience. Which means there are about a hundred times a day I need to look up at their smiling faces in their individual 8″x10″ photos in my wall collage and be reminded that they are my happy boys. Because the wild beast in front of me is a far cry from that smiling face. Third, my wife and I collectively reached a point in our lives when we were comfortable enough with ourselves that we were able to say fuck it. Selling our house was absolutely important to us. But if it came at the cost of hiding who we are, when we have both sacrificed so much to be the family that we are, then it was not worth it.
We decided after a long dialogue to keep the pictures where they were. It’s unfortunate that we had to talk about our family photos as a potential turn-off to our house. Normally it’s discussions about the landscaping, the scratch on the floor, or the old appliances. But my wife and I had to discuss the fact that beautiful, professional photos of our family could detract from our home’s value to a potential buyer. It was painful, poignant, and once again brought to the forefront that our life is not the same as other heterosexual people’s lives. Our decisions are harder and our fear of discrimination always lurks beneath the surface.
Rationally we also knew it might have nothing to do with our photos and family composition. Our house has one bathroom. Maybe potential buyers so far wanted two. But being a part of a minority that faces discrimination brings with it a level of paranoia that it is always about our sexual orientation.
Buying and selling houses has so many components. Every tiny step along the way we had to face as a lesbian couple. Our attorney asked if we were legally married. He didn’t know gay marriage “was a thing”. I told him that gay marriage was actually a major legal case at the level of the Supreme Court. Then I thought maybe I need a new lawyer. Every contractor and inspector I spoke with asked what my husband’s name was and when they would meet him. It was small, innocuous things, but they build over time. An ever present reminder that we are different, more vulnerable. And it started with our family pictures.
We are moving in ten days. I packed the pictures today, wondering if the seller is holding off because he knows he is selling his home to lesbians. I packed the pictures lovingly in bubble wrap, hoping that in ten days they will christen a new lesbian home.