Cosmos were obviously my drink of choice. Espresso Martinis, hers.
It was one of those sunny winter Sundays that catch you by surprise, so our morning coffee quickly rolled into afternoon cocktails on a Melbourne waterfront.
We pulled ourselves out of our little bubble when a middle-aged woman made an introduction. She apologised for interrupting and asked if we were together.
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 appetiser before one kicker of a main course.
Quickly realising that this stranger had likely enjoyed liquid courage before approaching us, in her inebriated state she expressed her shock at how we both presented.
"The thing is, you're stunning," gesturing to my date before pointing to me, "but you are also so pretty?"
She followed with an explanation that she wasn't used to seeing "two beautiful women together" before continuing to describe her own cousin, "She's, you know…"
My date politely interjected, letting her know she could say the word 'gay,' with the woman responding, "Yes, she is – and she's a lovely person, but not very attractive … although her partner is."
She then explained she was used to seeing lesbian relationships consisting of one "beautiful, feminine" partner and a "less attractive, butch" one.
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 over-sized tee was the dress code for boyfriends.
"No," my date patiently responded, "we take care of each other." "Are you in love?" the stranger persisted.
The former Miss Universe Australia winner said she was approached by a stranger at the bar. (Supplied)
"Look, we're like five weeks into dating and just trying to enjoy the day."
"But are you in love?" the curious stranger slurred, repeating the question that we wanted to dodge.
She continued to probe with intimate questions, escalating to her whispering "pussy" and blowing little kisses our way when we tried to move on from conversation with her.
The odd encounter lasted anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes before the stranger rounded off the main course with dessert: asking to take a photo of us.
Not with us – of us. Politely declining, one of her friends finally picked up on our discomfort and lead her away.
This behaviour wasn't new for my date or myself. We've seen inappropriate projections of stereotypes onto other queer folk in our lives or experienced it firsthand.
The landscape of LGBTQIA+ rights is improving slowly but surely, but we still have a way to go.
When I came out, a man I was sleeping with couldn't contain his excitement because he thought this meant that I would fulfil his hyper-sexualised lesbian fantasies because surely this meant I fancied all women and would be up for a threesome, right? *Rolls eyes so hard they get stuck in head.*
Beyond just being fetishised through the male gaze, the typecasts suck too. 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.
The stranger peppered Maria and her date with questions. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Let's start with this: fashion isn't gendered, my date is the embodiment of this. Dressing fluidly and androgynously, she always looks incredible – whether she's wearing things that appear more femme, masc or in between.
She is beautiful, strikingly so. And she celebrates it quite naturally. So, it was intriguing to watch this stranger struggle to reconcile her pretty face with the fact she was in streetwear.
This isn't a response unique to the stranger we encountered; my date's lack of conformity to traditional gendered fashion is confusing for many.
But dressing masculinely does not box her in to being 'the boyfriend' in a same-sex relationship. And being in a same-sex relationship doesn't assign partners to either 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend'.
Expecting all relationships to fit the 'boyfriend and girlfriend' dynamic is an outdated and inaccurate gendered standard. The kind that has kept marriage cordoned off from queer people because it's reserved for 'man and wife.'
Queer relationships aren't invalid, recognised only when the couple play into gender roles like little children playing "mummy and daddy."
They don't warrant ogling like zoo animals on display. Nor are they an anomaly when they don't fit society's limiting stereotypes.
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.
The beauty of masculinity and femininity is that these dual energies are present in all of us individually, and in all relationships – irrespective of gender.
Seeing two women make out at a bar was the prompt for an uncomfortable, offensive and rude interrogation in our instance. But it was also the catalyst for a mind-changing discourse and this column.
Next time if someone wants to be so forward, I'll try and maintain grace and respond with openness to educate. Or I'll just tell them who's the top and bottom and ask them if they'd like a play by play to shock them into thinking twice before being so inquisitive.
Kidding, I won't do that – unless I'm having a Pornstar Martini instead of a Cosmo. Then all bets are off.
For those who are curious, just be polite, considered and don't fetishise, stereotype or hyper-sexualise queer folk. Because no matter how you identify, these stereotypes don't just limit us, they affect everyone.
Maria says people in queer relationships shouldn't be placed into a figurative box. (Supplied)
If there are boxes that we don't fit into, then there are boxes for those outside the LGBTQIA+ community, too. But humans weren't created to fit a box. Progress is realising that love is so much bigger than that.
So, after laughing that awkward encounter off, I looked at my date with awe and respect for the patience and understanding she showed that stranger. Especially because I know that it won't be the last time something like that happens.
I will happily engage in dignified discourse with another if it means broadening our perspectives and understanding of each-other.
However, attempts to engage with, demonstrate allyship to or better understand the LGBTQIA+ community shouldn't be devoid of basic respect.
You can just pay a compliment if you want, and round it off with a cheers – and that's something I'll drink to.