A Lesbian Wife Swap
By Dickson Wong
ABC's Wife Swap has always had an edge. The reality show, on which the wives in two families are switched for a couple of weeks, has exposed the differences and prejudices between races, where people live, and socio-economic backgrounds. On what may be its most controversial episode ever, Kristine Luffey, 33, and Nicki Boone, 30, are a lesbian couple raising 8-year-old Elizabeth, Nicki's daughter from a previous relationship, in Arizona. Kristine is to swap places with Kris Gillespie, a 42-year-old, anti-gay, African-American conservative Republican wife in an interracial marriage with three children in Texas. During the first week, the women must live by the rules of the house, but in the second week, they get to make all the calls. There is constant tension between the families, arguments arise, and accusations are made at the post-swap confrontation. We spoke to Kristine (who switched places with Kris) and Nicki to see how deeply the show (airing Wednesday, February 9) has affected them.
So Kristine, what were your expectations going into the show?
Kristine: My expectation was that it would be a great learning opportunity for our families, because we both love our children and want the best for them. I wanted to learn something positive from it by walking in another family's shoes, and I hoped that they would do the same thing and walk in gay parents' shoes and learn from the experience and get something positive from it.
What was your first impression of the Gillespie family?
Kristine: My first impression was that they were very nice and kind and a very loving family to each other. They just seemed like normal suburban people.
Who do you think in the Gillespie family was most bothered by your sexual orientation?
Kristine: I would say Kris Gillespie was most bothered by it, followed by Brian Gillespie, her husband. Kris was very insulted that she was placed into our family and it was obvious from day one. She said, 'I signed up for wife swap, not two women, shacking up, raising-a-child swap.'
And what was one of your greatest concerns during your first week with the Gillespie family?
Kristine: My biggest concern was that they weren't going to see me for who I was and they were going to be stuck on the fact that I'm gay and weren't going to open their minds to see anything else. It seemed like it was really hard for the kids to see outside the box without approval from their parents, and so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get through to them to make them see that there's more to me than just being a lesbian.
Nicki, emotions were running high constantly between you and Kris Gillespie throughout the show. What would you say was the one thing that was most difficult about her?
Nicki: Mostly it was her unwillingness to learn from the experience. I guess I was just hoping for somebody who was willing to hear a different perspective, but she wasn't willing to do even just that.
What was toughest for you when Kris Gillespie began laying down her rules during the second week?
Nicki: I always thought the lawn was nice. I just didn't like being told to do it. And there was a rule where she made you say three positive things about the president every night. But that didn't make it on air.||
Wow. Are you serious?
Nicki: [Laughs] Yeah. We're very both political, and the episode was supposed to come out around the time of the election, but it got pushed back. She also put up the American flag. I didn't mind that, but I was just thinking, Couldn't we have hung it with a flagpole instead of duct-taping it to my wall?
Were you at any point worried that Kris Gillespie would win your daughter Lizzie over, for example with Princess Day?
Nicki: [Laughs] No, not at all. I know how our life is here, although we don't have Princess Day or whatever and we don't have a tiara for her. We go to the movies, I take her shopping, and we do stuff together. I know the connection I have with Lizzie.
Did Kris Gillespie apologize at all after the post-swap confrontation for her hurtful accusations toward Kristine about her being a sexual predator who never should have been allowed near her children?
Kristine: No. She never apologized and she continued to say that's what I was. The thing that appalled me was that the husband didn't come to my defense from his wife who didn't know me for more than 10 minutes. And he knew I wasn't like that after living with me for 10 days. She insults me in such a cruel manner. And the kicker is that these are religious people and they live by the Bible.
Nicki: She was always pleasant to my face, but not to my back and when we shook hands she was really cold. She didn't even apologize off-camera or say anything sincere.
How would you say your family as a whole has benefited from the show?
Nicki: I mow the grass! [Laughs] The show made it seem like I didn't do anything, but I take care of everything inside the house. And Kris Gillespie just made me do everything. I'm also a lot less controlling now and I've relaxed a lot more.
Kristine: It really helped me and Nicki's relationship in that she takes part in helping out more now. And what I've learned is to be a better communicator. I also appreciate Lizzie's individuality even more, and we really want to let her explore her own individuality and become a person of her own.
Nicki: No. I don't believe in regrets as a whole, so no.
Kristine: The whole thing' I feel foolish for doing it. I knew people were ignorant and cruel, but did I really have to spend 10 days with them? It saddens me that people are that cruel. Every time I think about Kris Gillespie, I think 'Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly is deep to the bone.' That's her.
If you could say one thing to the Gillespie family that didn't air on the episode, what would it be?
Nicki: I really don't have an answer to that question. But I wish for Kris Gillespie to see that show in private and let it sink in to realize who she is. I hope she'll watch and have an opportunity to learn something from it about herself. I was initially in it to show Americans what it's like for a lesbian couple to live with a child and how normal and boring it is'just like everyone else. But the ignorance we had to tolerate and to be up close with discrimination was kind of freaky. I've never felt so much like my family was attacked.
Kristine: Just that the Bible was meant to bring people together to teach love, compassion, and understanding, and it wasn't meant to divide people and be used as a weapon. I just really wish that they could see it as that. It's supposed to unite, not divide. Kris Gillespie did not show me any love, compassion, or understanding. Also, one of my main concerns was to represent who I am. It was time to take a stand. I tried to represent the community as best as I could and I don't know if I did.
Well, we think you did.