Lifestyle

Houston Healthcare Couple Uses Instagram to Create Queer Visibility

Stephanie Burbage and Caroline Godfrey go online to make representation for LGBTQ couples.

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Stephanie Burbage (l) and Caroline Godfrey (courtesy photos)

After meeting on the popular Hinge “relationship app” and dating for well over a year, Stephanie Burbage and Caroline Godfrey are now using Instagram to connect with other queer folks. The dynamic duo is making it their joint mission to offer queer visibility to those who are searching to see themselves represented online.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and the pair is enjoying overlapping free days when they sit to chat for this Zoom interview. Godfrey, who identifies as bisexual, sits closely beside Burbage, who identifies as queer, laughing as they try to figure out how to turn on their laptop camera. The chemistry between the two is palpable, even through a computer screen.

“We met on Hinge and started talking in July 2019. Our first date was in August,” Burbage recalls.  Sporting a pixie cut and glasses, she continues, “We met at Agora in Montrose. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot and I watched her walk by. I waited a couple of minutes so I could seem cool and calm, like I was just showing up casually.”

“Queer people go to queer-specific bars, drag shows, etc., and when that’s taken away, it feels a little more lonely than before. Instagram has been a nice hobby that has given us something to do and connect with other couples.”

—Stephanie Burbage

Godfrey adds, “I was extremely nervous. That was my first date with a female. I was scared Stephanie would know I came out semi-recently, and not be cool with it. I was just waiting for her to sniff out my baby queerness.”

Burbage, sporting a pixie cut and glasses, leans toward the camera and says, “I did know, but it didn’t matter to me.”

The two grew closer throughout 2020, thanks in part to the need to quarantine together. “We essentially live together, but we still have two separate residences,” Burbage explains. Since she is a nurse and Godfrey is a forensic death investigator, the pair had to figure out how to stay safe while staying together. “When the pandemic hit in March, we had just gotten back from a trip,” Godfrey remembers. “We knew if we wanted to see each other, we were going to have to quarantine together. We just switch apartments every few months for a change of scenery.”

At some point during their extended quarantine, Godfrey suggested channeling their creativity to start a shared Instagram account. “I got interested in it first,” says Godfrey. “Steph posts a lot more than I do, and really processes things through writing things out. I was initially really drawn to her because she’s such an advocate of mental health and has no hesitations in using her experience to help others.”

Godfrey remembers seeking out representation online during her early stages of coming out. “I didn’t know other queer couples, and didn’t have anything to compare [my feelings with]. I looked at social media a lot to find other female-female relationships.” Her conservative upbringing made the need for role models all the more important. “I wanted to normalize it for myself. I grew up around a lot of heteronormativity. It helped me a lot to see other people like me living such full lives.”

With their newly established social-media venture taking off, the pair found a host of other queer partners on Instagram. “It has brought me so much community during the pandemic,” says Godfrey. Burbage adds, “Queer people go to queer-specific bars, drag shows, etc., and when that’s taken away, it feels a little more lonely than before. Instagram has been a nice hobby that has given us something to do and connect with other couples.”

The pair is quick to point out the amazing effect that their online connections have had on them. “I wanted to start a community for us, but also normalize queer relationships for others and do for others what accounts like ours did for me,” Godfrey explains. “I don’t have a very accepting extended family, but my immediate family and friends know. Posting on my own page about my relationship felt very loaded, and I was worried about the feedback I would receive. I wasn’t really ready for that. Our page was a way for me to be happy and [to show our relationship as] totally authentic. We get a lot of positive feedback!”

When they are asked what they hope people will get out of their Instagram posts, Burbage stares at Godfrey momentarily before answering. “I think [people need to see] relationships that are different from heteronormative ones. We’ve had people in hetero relationships follow us and say, ‘Hey I’m straight, but I love you guys!’ That’s so cool to us. We accept everyone, and our point is we hope you accept us regardless of our sexuality and how our relationship looks to others. We are just a regular couple.”

Follow Stephanie Burbage and Caroline Godfrey on Instagram @carolineandsteph.

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Zachary McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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