I find that people have trouble understanding why some LGBTQ+ people exist the way they do.
“The ones that don’t talk about it are fine, but some are just so obsessed with being gay/nonbinary/pan they make it their whole personality!”
I’m surprised by people who think like this, considering I’m sure they have hidden themselves from the world at some point. We all have. What is so difficult to understand about the excitement of embracing a part of yourself you’ve shunned, or even been shunned for? What’s so hard to grasp about the joy of finally feeling accepted?
These are just a few of the comments people have felt confident enough to tell me.
1. “At least you’re bi and not a lesbian”
No, this will not be made less uncomfortable when punctuated by a laugh. It can only get worse.
Please, unless you’ve established the type of relationship with a person that would indicate this type of (joking?) reaction to a confirmation of your queerness is somehow okay, don’t make a mistake this bad. Here’s why:
a. What they really mean: at least there’s a chance you’ll date a guy and not end up a total freak. It’s the “at least” that really sent me. Is the 10% of me that is possibly interested in guys the only thing keeping our very fragile friendship from completely unraveling?
b. It’s a backhanded “compliment.” Mocking other queer identities will not make me feel special. Next time you try to do that, get tips that don’t find their origin on a PUA (pick up artist) subreddit.
c. Sexuality can be fluid. For all you know, you could be talking to someone who’ll end up coming out again as lesbian, and these types of comments can contribute to the shame felt by people who may very well experience Gay Guilt every day. When someone’s exploring their sexuality, stigmatizing queerness isn’t the move of a supportive friend.
2. “[Something that I dislike] is gay”
Ah, a classic. “But Isa, I don’t mean gay like gay gay! I just mean gay like dumb and stupid and annoying.” Look, I get it. It’s my fault for being a melty little snowflake who cries over words. Your friend who’s gay lets you call them *insert f-word here*, so it can’t possibly be offensive when people who don’t know you or your intentions hear you use their sexual orientation in a derogatory manner. Right?
While it’s frowned upon (or as the more dramatic folks like to say: cancelled), using the word gay as an insult is regularly excused as “not meant in that way.” No mind is paid to the fact that queerness has only recently become somewhat accepted in modern America, and normalizing gay as a negative adjective probably doesn’t make the closeted kid with homophobic parents in your class feel great. Being kind doesn’t make you a wimp, it makes you a badass.
3. “You’re not actually gay… right?”
Considering that you look extremely discomfited by the mere possibility that I like girls, I’m going to go with the “smile awkwardly and run” option. Thank you for cultivating a caring and accepting environment.
4. “Are you a lesbian because you hate men?”
Joking aside, this was a serious question and seriously frustrating to parse and respond to. Do I have a deep mistrust of men due to the numerous instances of harassment I’ve experienced throughout my lifetime? Sure. Is this the cause of my queerness? No.
5. “I’m fine with the gays, they’re nice, but I don’t agree with people who like both. we’re not animals”
Thanks bestie. I’m definitely going to have healthy views on sexuality and relationships with this kind of support. I had no clue she was so keyed into the LGBTQ+ community that she’d know how to do bi erasure.
6. Any iteration of “the gays are going to burn for eternity”
This one is, I’d say, the weakest of the bunch. Probably because it’s so common. Also, it’s silly.
For this reason, to the homophobes in the audience who have the tendency to couch their language in euphemism (i.e. dog whistle), feel free to transition to this method of shaming us in order to satisfy your urges while also saying nothing at all. It’s better for everyone.
7. “I’m fine with gay people as long as they don’t shove it in my face”
I, dear reader, am similarly fine with cis straight people, as long as they don’t shove it in my face. Alas, I am incapable of communing with those of the heterosexual inclination. My grievances against the cishet agenda are as follows:
- Stop pointing out “cute guys” to me and expecting me to ooh and ah and talk about how dreamy he is. I get it, you like men. No one else needs to know!
- I don’t want to hear about the girl you slept with last night. It’s gross! I don’t care if you want to live a heterosexual lifestyle, but leave it behind the bedroom door!
- Your love of football and cars is disturbingly heterosexual. Could you tone it down a bit?
- Stop asking me out! Even the implication of your straightness due to your interest in me is revolting!
- Your strict adherence to gender norms is kind of embarrassing. I have to ask- have you ever had an original thought in your life?
(Please note the obvious satire. I hope this seventh point can highlight the absurdity of being aggravated by a microcosm of deviance in a world that is so thoroughly entranced by hetero/cisnormativity, that heterosexuality is seen as the default. I’m actually very entertained by my friend’s escapades whether or not they’re filthy breeders, considering my lack of interest in having any such experiences myself.)
In these advanced times, I often feel like I need to brush off these kinds of comments. After all, we can have sex legally (decided by the Supreme Court nineteen years ago in Lawrence v. Texas), we can get married (six years ago, Obergefell v. Hodges), and we may or may not be able to buy a wedding cake, depending on whether the baker thinks two girls holding hands is icky. The religious right, the moral majority, whatever you want to call it, that used our existence as a tool for fear-mongering (thanks, Anita Bryant) has lost. Sort of. They do seem to be coming back.
The Equality Act has not passed. Anti-trans legislation is rampant throughout this country. LGBTQ+ youth in families that don’t accept them are at risk of being thrown out or sent to conversion therapy. Trans people, especially trans women of color, are murdered at devastatingly disproportionate rates. Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill into law, barring class discussion on sexuality or gender in lower grades in public schools, and similar proposals are popping up in state capitols across the country. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, there are many people of color who don’t feel comfortable in queer spaces, which is something we need to work on.
This is not about dissecting petty grievances. It is about a culture with an attention span so short, we forget that it was less than fifty years ago when the Reagan Administration was doing its best to ignore the AIDS epidemic as it ravaged queer communities. We forget that our history is not so far back as we might think, and recent cultural shifts that make it unfashionable to be outwardly bigoted towards queer and trans folks don’t indicate a shift in individual mindsets, and they certainly don’t soften the facts of the past.
Life is better now than it was. For this, we have leaders like Marsha P. Johnson, Stormé DeLarverie, and Sylvia Rivera to thank.
And yet, there is still much work to be done. We’d do well not to forget it.