In the Pool With Cougar, Scaring the Straight People, Getting The Homophobia

 My new girlfriend Cougar found this really cute hotel in Atlantic City that is total gay bait. The Chelsea. I mean, it’s lit with purple lights, like a gay batman signal. It’s exceptionally well-decorated with a 1950s/60s era theme. Our room was gorgeous, with a fuzzy leopard print chair, a corner ocean view, and not one but two vanities (perfect for the Fag/Femme romance).

There are two pools in the hotel. The rooftop pool is very swank, with each set of reclining chairs two-by-two separated by planters for a bit of privacy. There are also private cabanas, a disco ball dangling above the pool and a poolside bar. I mention the set-up of the place as an adult area as it is relevant to the following story.

Cougar and I got into the pool and went to the deep end because there were a couple of children swimming in the shallow end and I didn’t want to get splashed. We floated around for awhile treading water and chatting and then settled next to the wall on the side of the deep end, Cougar with her back to the wall and me with my arms around her neck floating about a foot away from her (imagine a Junior High slow dance). We were talking and punctuating sentences with smooches the way you do when you are being affectionate.

The kids had started bringing their splashing to our end of the pool, getting out and jumping back in, creating a lot of waves. Three teenagers had also gotten into the pool, a visibly heterosexual couple was also showing affection.

All of a sudden this woman comes over to me and Cougar and leans down to us and says “Excuse me would you stop gyrating and making out? My children are in this pool. This is a hotel. You should get a room and go up there.” She had a couple more snide remarks that I can’t recall. Her tone (and content) were extremely condescending.

I was flabbergasted. I had no idea what to say to her or whether her comments had merit. Of course any romantic mood fostered by the adult playground of Atlantic City or the adult setting of the poolside bar was completely ruined by what she had said. I said to Cougar “Were we doing something wrong? Don’t talk to her, I don’t want this to get bigger.”

Photo by Nogga Schwartz for Rebel Cupcake

Cougar went to the restroom and I continued to float in the pool, stunned. I typically react to hostility by letting people stew in their own juices and not giving them the benefit of a response. Usually people who are mean or aggressive are also insecure–they will imagine the worst possible response and their imagination is likely the worst thing they could do. When I realized she hadn’t said anything to the heterosexual teenage couple I became livid and wished I had something clever to say in the moment.

Cougar went over to her and talked to her. I couldn’t hear what Cougar was saying (but I could totally hear the woman as her response became shrill) and decided to get out of the pool and just leave the area. I was so upset.

Later, Cougar recounted what she said to the woman, which was (in a calm voice) “If you would like to talk about this like an adult I am in room 1814. We were nowhere near your children and not doing anything inappropriate. You have no right to speak to us like children. If you had a real problem you could have addressed it with hotel management.”

The woman got defensive. She asked Cougar if she had any children, to which Cougar said “That’s none of your business,” and then she tried to backpedal and say that her child came up to her and said she felt uncomfortable. Cougar repeated again, “If you want to speak to me like an adult, I’m in room 1814,” and walked away.

At the time I was really upset by the incident and didn’t express this to Cougar at the time, but the more space I get to think about this I am really proud of Cougar for standing up for herself/us with that woman. Especially knowing the woman didn’t bring her affection policing didn’t to those teenagers.

Adults should get to be affectionate in public. Gay adults should get to be just as affectionate as straight adults. I don’t feel we were being at all lewd or inappropriate. We were far more like playful otters in that pool and not at all like the people on Jersey Shore.

Otters showing affection

Atlantic City is a city for gambling and drinking. The hotel we were staying at isn’t exactly kid-friendly, if it had been a child promoting environment I would never have wanted to go there for a getaway like that.

I kept running through whether the Chelsea hotel is gay-friendly or not. Perhaps other than the decor, it isn’t. I mean, if it had been overtly gay-friendly, in that way where establishments have gay rainbow stickers on their doors or overt diversity policies, would that have stopped that woman from trying to police our queer affection? Caesar’s Atlantic City advertises an explicitly gay-friendly environment. Do people run into this at Caesar’s? Would she have policed us if there had been other queer couples there as well?

And I also wonder if she even knew we were queer or how she was perceiving us? I fly under the radar a lot, despite being 100% out of the closet, because my gender is flamboyant but on the normative spectrum for a lady. I’m also a lot more visibly tattooed in a bathing suit than I was a year ago. And maybe it was fatphobia?

Cougar doesn’t fly under the radar. She had a double radical mastectomy* which just made her already dapper gay good looks even more androgynous and people throw her shade in the ladies room a lot. She’s also super swishy in that way that I’m sure some well-meaning stranger will tell me “Honey, do you know your boyfriend is gay?”

Regardless, that woman was entirely out of line. If she had a problem with people smooching, she should have taken her kids to someplace expressly for kids.

I was upset about the incident most of the evening. I kept looking around suspecting everyone of being homophobes and searching for my people. My people who were sadly absent from Atlantic City. It was depressing.

I walk the world typically thinking the best of people and try to remember people are doing the best they can with what they have at any given time. And I also understand that this kind of stuff happens all the time, it’s really difficult to live life and prevent it from happening and I would rob myself of a lot of experiences if I kept my life exclusive to a fat queer bubble. And that’s certainly not what I want.

However, I know my gay dollars are important and I do prefer to patronize places that are explicitly queer-friendly. So there’s a balance.

It’s so interesting that everyone I’ve told this story to has had a different idea about what they would have done if they were me in that situation. I had a straight friend who said she would have just taken her top off. Someone else would have suggested she take her children and leave us to our gyrating. Another person suggested a John Waters quote, which I had thought of in the elevator going back up to our room and wished I’d had at the ready.

Sometimes my life looks like a John Waters movie

I’m content with how things worked out, night of being upset aside. When I was able to dissociate from the incident for later processing, I had a wonderful getaway with my wonderful girlfriend. We looked at the ocean, I won $30 on a slot machine called “Kitty Glitter” and we had really good stuffed french toast for breakfast.


I wrote an article on about the value of getting a prenup. I feel that a strong prenup makes for a strong marriage ready to stand the test of time. It’s also got the best title of any legal article I’ve ever written.

If You Ain’t No Punk Holla Gays Need Prenups GAYS NEED PRENUPS

Check it out!

*Cougar is working on this amazing book project called Champion: My Photo Journey with Breast Cancer.

Originally published on Republished WITH PERMISSION MOTHERF*CKERS.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Bevin blogs about the relentless pursuit of her joy at

Bevin has written 7 articles for us.


  1. I think Couger did the right thing. At the end of the day, homophobia is just that: fear. A homophobe needs to know that they need to find a way to cope with their fears without ruining other people’s day.

      • yeah, what happened to the thumbs up/down buttons? One magical day they were here, and now, gone.

        • Maybe we have to earn them back. You know, like keep a goldfish alive for a little while, and then they’ll see we’re responsible enough to have like/dislike buttons again.

        • the thumbs down button got taken away because certain Autostraddle members were using it just to hide the posts that they felt confronted by/challenged by/ or disagreed with, so any post that wasn’t a common opinion got thumbs-downed to death, to the point that other people new to the thread had to click to see it.


          You go, you little playful otters, you go. Fuck that noise that the lady was bringing. It’s like walking down the street holding your partners hand and watching some hetero mom pull her kids closer to her like teh gayz are gonna snatch the hetero kids and sprinkle fairy gay dust and rainbows and unicorns and fuck up their childhood, their lives, and their future.

          what. the. fuck. ever.

          keep spending your dollars where you’re welcome. get comfortable speaking up and refusing to stay silent. and most of all, fuck that lady.

          i hope her kids turn out to be super flamboyantly gay.

  2. On the bright side, you’ll have a wonderful, witty, and brilliant response the next time it happens, right?

  3. I’ve been in this situation way too many times. It is very upsetting and ruins your whole outlook on life for a while. I’m paranoid in public when I’m with my girlfriend, and that right there is enough to upset me. It shouldn’t be this way, we shouldn’t as a community be paranoid when we are with our others. I do think Cougar did the right thing though. I would have just walked away angry.

    • I’m paranoid when I’m in public with my girlfriend too. I’m too afraid to hold her hand because of being yelled at publicly before. So when we do hold hand I look around to see if anyone is watching.. We aren’t doing anything wrong, yet I have been made to feel like I am..

  4. “We looked at the ocean, I won $30 on a slot machine called “Kitty Glitter” and we had really good stuffed french toast for breakfast.”

    you’re all set!

    • KITTY GLITTER! This is the only slot machine I have ever played and won 60 bucks on the 10 complimentary chips I put in.

  5. She should have told off the teenagers as well if it was the PDA she objected to, but I think that kissing in the pool is a no, whatever your orientation. Along with ducking, diving, bombing and what have you.

    Your girlfriend handled the situation with class though. Always like reading your autostraddle pieces Bevin.

  6. I had feelings about this, but then I took a break and ate some eggs and toast, and now my #1 feeling is the Chelsea is omigosh, so pretty.

  7. I’m so sorry this woman made one ounce of your vacation unhappy. I do think your gf handled it excellently. I’m not sure I would have had the presence of mind or perhaps even the control on my temper to do what she did. I was never harassed like that, but I know the dirty looks. If the general consensus is that it is appropriate for straight couples to hold hands, kiss just a little, have their arms around each other, and other such pg behaviors, then that should go for everyone. I felt enraged at the fact that I felt like it was almost lewd for me to walk with my girlfriend’s arm around me.

  8. I think a LOT of this is fatphobia. I’ve noticed a lot of my friends who are significantly bigger than me get side-eye when out with their partner, whereas someone like myself gets bothered rarely. It’s something I notice and think about a lot.

  9. Taking a lot of shade in the ladies room – oh man do I know that too damn well.

    Seriously people why don’t we just have unisex bathrooms at this point, why.

    • Yes to unisex bathroom options! This should be a thing.

      Also, the unisex bathrooms were the best part of the last season of Battlestar Galactica.

  10. I’ve been taken aside by both a mcdonalds employee and a priest to tell me to stop kissing my girlfriend in public for the sake of the children. Now at this stage i’d like to point out i’m not too big on PDA’s anyway so it wasn’t exactly tongue down the throat stuff but apparently the sight of affection between two girls is enough to mentally scar kids for life. People worry it’s going to confuse their kids etc, i’ll tell you what’s confusing, spending part of your childhood vaguely wondering if the fact that you like girls means you want to be a boy because girls can’t date girls.

    • I have to agree, to a certain extent. Pretty sure my feelings changed after turning 30, too. But now… I don’t care to see anyone making out. Hand-holding and little cute kisses, fine, cool. Anything overtly sexual is too much.

      [totally became a prude sometime in the last 4 months, wtf]

    • Thanks for saying that! I agree because I have dated men before and I wouldnt hang off them either. I wouldnt have wanted them in my face or stuck to me like clothes so I dont do that now with my girlfriend of four years. I do agree as well that cougar totally handled that well. As far as the women goes, If I was uncomfortable with something someone else is doing Id think about it first. Is it really bad to see for kids? Bet you five bucks her kids had no issue and probably didnt notice till she started on about it.

  11. People claim they don’t like PDA but what they really mean is couples trying to suck each others’ tonsils out and nobody does that a) sober b) in daylight. People who have a problem with little kisses and hand holding should try bourbon, it’s a muscle relaxant.

    • I’d like to refute that statement. I have quite a few friends who suck face ALLTHETIMEOMG and it’s quite annoying. Like they don’t get enough of it at night/on dates. So it’s not so much people are being prudish as there really are couples who go from acceptable PDA (kisses, cuddles etc) to unacceptable (omg I just saw sideboob).

      • So tell them off. But the bottom line is, people who have a problem with any and all displays of affection need to relax and drink cocktails.

  12. I think Cougar handled it well. I don’t know what I would have done, I tend to be conflict avoidant and will let things go to keep the peace. But if the wrong buttons are pushed, I’ll definitely confront the person.

  13. I hate PDA, whether gay, straight, old, young whatever. Hugging and holding is very benign. But seeing couples kissing each other (not a quick peck, but either making out or repeatedly kissing) is awkward for everyone around the couple. More so if there’s kids. I would never ask someone to stop PDA, but I can’t stand when couples do it. The lady should’ve asked the straight couple to stop too. Or you could’ve to make everything fair.

    • That would have been even better. You could have gone and asked the straight couple while making it completely obvious (pointing at the women across the pool) that your asking for her. lol. Let her feel some of the discomfort that she created.


    also oh man yeah, that is a tough situation and I am in awe of your girlfriend’s cool ability to handle her shit. I would place my bet on a sticky combination of homo- and fatphobia with an emphasis on the fatphobia. People can be such dicks about fat people rocking their swimwear in the first place, then to add to that the idea that fat people might possibly have sexytime partners and that those partners might possibly be QUEER?!?! oh it is just too much, TOO MUCH – for the children, of course.

  15. I never know how to handle these situations. Once, I leant across the table in a restaurant to kiss my girlfriend whilst out celebrating our anniversary and got asked by a smoochy straight couple at the next table whether we were ‘trying to make some kind of statement’. Some people genuinely don’t understand that you standing in the pool kissing your girlfriend is exactly the same (but probably hotter) as them stood in the pool kissing their hetero partner. Lesson of the day: some people are morons.

  16. Maybe fatphobia. This reminds me of that gawdawful piece in Marie Claire.

    Cougar handled the situation very well. Last time it happened to me (my girlfriend simply had her arms around me in the subway) I instantly shut down. I just don’t know why people are like that.

  17. AC is a very hetero-normative place from what I’ve experienced. 99% of the gays there are boys. I think I saw a lesbian once. maybe.

  18. I’m gonna take this semi-creepy, entirely drunk moment to ignore the body of this article and say you are super pretty hi.

  19. People are just ignorant. I agree, though, I think Cougar handled it nicely (cougar? bad ass name btw. you two are ADORABLE!! love your style<3) I used to live in the bible belt (central florida) and people would come up to me with all kinds of inappropriate comments and questions. I've found the best thing to do is smile and be polite, even ask them a question about why they feel the way they do to challenge their misconceptions, or try to find a common ground and show them i'm really not a perverse, satan-worshiping harbinger of the apocalypse (well, ahem, maybe the perverse part is true). i know that sounds like being a pushover or grinning and bearing it, but kindness really is the best way to disarm a bigot, especially if their prejudice is based on brainwashing-induced ignorance and not genuine sadistic repulsiveness.

  20. “try to remember people are doing the best they can with what they have at any given time.” ALWAYS – and everyone has slip-ups. But, seriously, there comes a point. . .aah, life! Glad you enjoyed your vaca.

  21. How does society ever change? Lesbian couples have the same rights to being affectionate in public as hetero couples. Mothers, and I am one myself – sometimes feel they have a right to be the moral police – all of us can be victims of their distorted morality. “not in front of my children” Sadly, this mother was instructing her children in how to be a bigot. The shame is on her – not you. What would have been great if someone else at the pool stood up for your rights. In the end it will take the silent majority of open minded straight people as well as gays to speak up in public to shut down the narrow minded. I am sorry that this incident happened to you and your girlfriend – I think you handled it as well as you could have given the circumstances.

  22. I’d really like to think that if it were me in this situation I’d respond with a rational argument about how my gf and I weren’t being inappropriate and if they had such a problem with PDAs then why weren’t they targetting the heteros too. But I’m fairly sure that I would be like you and just shut down. Maybe turn bright red. And probs run away.

  23. Pingback: News Items and Mr. Transman Pageant 2011, Sunday, August 28th in Brooklyn | Queer Fat Femme

  24. I am SO SICK of “the children”.

    When my girlfriend and I were on vacation, like Bevin and Cougar, acting like otters more than like “get a room”, we were screamed at by mothers about “The children” while their icky ugly nasty gross husbands gaped at us (and one even asked my girl if we “liked threesomes”…she almost kicked him in his precious package; I would have if I’d not been in the bathroom). Ironically, their precious little monsters had been splashing us and screeching “euuuuu!” before mommie did anything.

    Meanwhile, her teenage daughter was flouncing around, trading alcohol for a tongue kiss from a bartender who must have been at least fifteen years older than her. The lesson being, heterosexuality is okay, it’s good to teach teenage girls to whore themselves out to men, but gayness amongst women is DISGUSTING to “nice normal straight” women, while their husbands will automatically assume that your lesbianism not only equals bisexuality, but also means you are available to any hairy chested creature with a purple gearshift in his pants.

    Later on, while we were waiting to get our car from valet parking, the mother was engaging in an “enlightening” (note sarcasm) conversation with a gay male couple about another woman’s “muffin top”. My girlfriend and I are on the thin side, but the fact that this lesbophobe said this made me think about how misogyny, lesbophobia, and fatphobia are all intertwined. In my opinion, it goes something like this (and the fact that she was being woman-hating with the fags and even introduced her kids to the fag couple after treating us like crap) reinforces this position: Thanks to Will and Grace, and maybe her hairdresser, and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, many of her kind think that gay men are fun and handsome and rich and smart, while straight men are the locus of her self-esteem. Other women are worthless in her eyes–just competition or namecalling fodder. If a woman DARES to not only not feel that way, but shows that she actually values another woman as a lover, that turns all her self-hating misogyny on its head. If a fat woman (or two fat women) not only does this, but shows that she is loving, loved, sexy, sexual, and queer…well, that’s like the world ending for Mrs. Self Hatred. All she can do is pull out the tired “the children” crap as an excuse for her own biases.

  25. Wow I totally agree and commend you for being able to put it all out there with such flow. I am all over the place when I write most anything. Maybe its some underlying idea that women have that they can be friends with the chatty gay fella because her husband doesnt want to screw that one. Its that childhood Ideal that you talk people down in the hopes that your words will spread and become truth? When really this woman is the one with the very deep seated insecurities!

Comments are closed.