Melissa Carter: Decoding the gay break-up email

This is not how straight people end their relationships. The email was meant to sound mature and poignant. It had an air of diplomacy and maturity that seemed like a press release.

My straight friend was confused. “This email sounds like they are both totally cool with the breakup. Do lesbians really break up like this?” My response was, “Hell, no. But they want you to think that they did.”

Like all break ups, I am sure words were slung in anger, accusations flew, tears fell and maybe even a dish broke. But to read the email, it simply had the tone of Steve Carell telling the rest of “The Office” staff that Jim had decided to move on to better opportunities.

Of course, the tell-tale sign that the email was not written in a complete meditative moment while the couple sat in their dining room sipping green tea was that it was sent out at 6 a.m. … on a Tuesday.

I explained to my friend that most likely, they had been up fighting all night about their future and then, someone in a burst of dramatic flair rattled off the email. Not wanting to look like the jilted one, she signed both their names in an effort to make it seem mutual. (It is never mutual, people.)

In the straight world, this is called filing for divorce. Apparently, for some gay couples, the joint email is now in vogue.

Without the right to get married, gay people miss out on having a formal way to end our relationships. We are forced to split up homes and bank accounts and kids without the resources of the legal system. We just wing it, and then when we have a deal, some among us send our friends an email to alert them not to put both our names on the invitation to the next party.

In the lesbian fantasy world that this couple was living in last Tuesday morning, they thought they were going to share custody of their pets. This is a common act of insanity among gay women in breakup mode.

Almost always, this is one person’s attempt to hold on. “So if you are leaving me, are you leaving them too?” (She then points dramatically to the two Boxers lying in the corner.)

The other person (sensing the dreaded process of breaking up is reaching the deal-making stage) attempts to be reassuring. “Yes, of course I still love Baxter and Scout. I will always help you pay for three days per week of doggy-day-care.” 

I am not making light of a relationship ending. It can be devastating on so many levels to lose someone you love and lose the security that only a relationship can bring. What I am doing is pointing out that in our constantly evolving efforts to make our relationships legitimate, sometimes, the P.R. spin seems a bit over-dramatic.

Every now and then, we should give ourselves permission to just be like the rest of the word. And when breakups happen, give them the legitimacy of announcing their end the way everyone else does — crying into Zinfandel while sitting on your friend’s couch in Norcross.

Save the emails for when you announce that happily the two of you are getting back together, a week from now.


Melissa Carter is also a writer for Huffington Post. She broke ground as the first out lesbian radio personality on a major station in Atlanta and was one of the few out morning show personalities in the country. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCarter