Maria Thattil, crowned Miss Universe Australia in 2020, has long been a champion for gender diversity and queer inclusion. Eariler this year, she even came out as bisexual during her stint on the TV show I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! But in her recent column for 9Honey, Thattil revealed exactly why these issues continue to be a personal matter: during a rude encounter with a stranger, she was told that she was “too pretty” to be a lesbian.
Thattil was on a date that had been going fairly well, with the pair drinking cocktails along a picturesque waterfront in Melbourne. And then a drunk woman decided to insinuate herself with probing questions, fascinated by the couple as though they were scientific specimens. “She apologized for interrupting and asked if we were together,” Thattil explained. “After answering that we were on a date, she gushed about how beautiful she thought we both were. We thanked her for the compliment but it was merely an appetizer before one kicker of a main course.”
The stranger shared an anecdote about a cousin of hers who is a lesbian, as though this had something to do with the couple. The stranger explained that her cousin was unnattractive and butch, whereas her partner was attractive and femme. So naturally, she decided this must be how all lesbian relationships are.
The stranger tried to force Thattil and her date into this box. “Addressing my date, she resumed, ‘So you must be the guy here? You’re the boyfriend? You must take care of her.’ When my date got dressed that morning, she must’ve missed the memo that a snapback cap and oversized tee was the dress code for boyfriends. ‘No,’ my date patiently responded, ‘we take care of each other.’”
The stranger moved on to asking more intimate questions. She ended the encounter by requesting a photo of the couple. “Not with us – of us,” Thattil clarified. “Politely declining, one of her friends finally picked up on our discomfort and lead her away.”
Thattil explained that assumptions and awkward encounters like these are far from rare. “Your sexuality, the gender you identify with, or how you present, serve as cues for others to project limiting beliefs about you or in our case, the dynamic of our relationship.”
Of course, she wasn’t going to let one stranger’s remarks get her down. “Queer love comes in all forms, and it’s all valid irrespective of whether a drunk stranger can make sense of it by processing through a heteronormative lens,” she said.
In the end, the couple went on with their date. But the conclusion to the episode was bittersweet. “After laughing that awkward encounter off, I looked at my date with awe and respect for the patience and understanding she showed that stranger,” Thattil said. “Especially because I know that it won’t be the last time something like that happens.”