I‘ve got a new step to my daily routine: Every day, before I leave the house, I put two little rings on my left ring finger; one that is a beautiful and vintage style engagement ring, with a champagne hue sapphire in a rose gold band setting. The second is my rose gold wedding band, with an alternating bubble and scalloped setting of pave diamonds. Since I am still a newlywed, there is such a feeling of joy and excitement every time I get to put on my rings. I truly hope this feeling never goes away.

There’s one aspect to wearing these rings that I was not prepared for. Having never been someone that wore any kind of ring on my left hand, I was not aware of how often strangers are looking to see if you have a sparkly accessory accompanying your traditional ring finger. But these days, I am hyper-aware of it. I have encountered a number of people—new colleagues, Uber drivers or the check out cashier at a grocery store,—that see my ring finger and strike up a conversation about my spouse. Except most of them do not use the word spouse. The conversation normally looks something like this.

“Wow, beautiful ring. How long have you and your husband been together?” Or, “Pretty ring! What does your husband do for a living?” Or, my personal favorite, “Nice wedding ring. He’s a lucky guy.”

Now, I am by no means suggesting that these people are wrong for assuming that I have a husband. But this brings up such a teachable topic and serves as a learning opportunity for those that want to hear it. First off, it’s 2019. Coming directly from the mouth of a gay woman in today’s society, I cannot tell you how appreciative I am when someone uses the word “spouse” when asking about who put this wedding ring on my finger.

This is what it's like getting married 4 years after marriage equality two brides white suit long white strapless dress florals outdoor Texas gay lesbian wedding
Photo via “This is what it’s like getting married 4 years after marriage equality

I want you to really hear me on this: I am not being intolerant. I am aware that most people who ask me about my man at home do not do so with any malice in their heart. However, I want to take a second to explain what this moment is like for me (and I assume for many other LGBTQ+ people) when a stranger asks about my “husband.” My hands immediately clam up. There is a tiny knot in my stomach and I quickly consider whether or not I should just go along with it and tell them that my “husband” is a police officer. Because I don’t know this person. I don’t know their beliefs. I have no clue what I am going to be met with on the other side of the conversation if I so choose to correct them and tell them that I am married to a woman.

But every time, I realize quicker than the last that hiding who I am is not an option. That living authentically is how I promised myself that I would walk through life a long time ago. So at that moment, the decision is made. I know that I am about to have to come out to this person I know nothing about.

My head is immediately filled with this single thought: “But I already came out to the world! Why do I have to do it again? And again? And again? AND AGAIN?”

In my heart, I know why. Because most people still assume that a feminine girl in a dress would not have anyone waiting for her at home but a strong and handsome man. Is that a horrific and hateful assumption? Absolutely not. I understand entirely that I am in the minority. But in a time when gay marriage is finally legal, and more and more same-sex couples are taking the oath and vowing to spend their life together, I hope to see the assumptions fade. Imagine what it will mean to the gay, married woman who is riding in the back of your Uber. Or the gay married man who just started at a new office with all his new colleagues. If we use gender-neutral words when asking about someone’s life partner, LGBTQ+ people will be spared the feeling of having to continuously come out of the closet when meeting someone new. We already had to deal with the fear of coming out to the world once. I think that we deserve that pardon.

Recently, Laine and I were asked by a business professional, who in his line of work is often working with couples and families specifically, if we are “protected by the law.” As in, he was unaware of whether or not our marriage was recognized in the state of Texas. Unfortunately, this was not the first time that I have been asked if our marriage is legal. And I am sure it will not be the last. This is always a shocking moment for me. I am reminded on countless occasions that there are still Americans that are not educated about whether or not same-sex marriage is recognized as legal in our country. It stuns me every time. How could someone still be asking such a question? It irks me to my core because for the gay community, it is a constant reminder that at one point, we were not considered equal under the eyes of the law. But, as I try and do with most controversial topics, I lean into grace.

I make a point to consider why these people are so uneducated about gay marriage. Maybe Laine and I are the first lesbian couple they have ever met. And in that case, I am honored that we are able to teach someone something new about a topic that otherwise would have been irrelevant to them. Just as important as it is to be informed, I think it is equally as important to show mercy and teach the uninformed when given the opportunity to do so. And with same-sex marriage becoming a societal norm, I hope that we’ll continue to see more and more people using the word “spouse” instead of “husband” or “wife” when getting to know someone brand new.

My wedding ring is one of my greatest treasures. I put it on every day and I take a second to feel such gratitude for what it represents and who it represents. I am proud beyond measure to be married to my wife, and I would hate for this ring to be tainted, whether that be from the fear of having to correct someone who assumes that this piece of jewelry is from a man, or from the disheartened feeling I get when having to educate strangers about the validity of my marriage.

Our world has come so far, and that is never lost on me. But sometimes I am reminded of how far we still have to go. So I ask you to consider your wording the next time you want to ask a stranger about who is on the other side of that wedding ring. In the LGBTQ+ community, we are proud and joyful about the opportunity to wear this band that represents a unity that we fought hard to be a part of. I hope more people can honor that by tossing their assumptions aside and embracing today’s marriage culture with a genuine heart.

Kaila Strickland HeadshotKaila Strickland lives in Dallas, Texas, with her wife, Laine, and their two dogs. She works in the wine industry by day and has a passion for writing and fitness. In her free time, she enjoys working on her blog, taking group fitness classes and traveling with her spouse. She is a firm believer in all things equality and believes wholeheartedly that love always wins. You can find more writing content from her at The Comfy Closet.