Only being openly gay for the past year or so, I haven’t been exposed to any hateful or derogatory comments. Thank god. But what I have experienced recently, after coming out to some of my peers, are comments that are a little insensitive.
Sure, I’ve heard from books, TV shows and actual people – my girlfriend included – the kind of responses to expect. But nothing quite prepared me for hearing it myself:
“Really? You don’t look gay” OR “Are you sure it isn’t just a phase?”
At first it makes me laugh, because they’ve got to be kidding, right? People can’t actually say these things and think that it’s okay or in anyway what someone wants to hear. And sure, I do understand that sometimes people can say things without realising how it’s going to come across. God, I’ve fallen victim to foot-in-mouth myself a few times. But sometimes you come across people who need a little push – or kick – in the right direction when it comes to being respectful.
First of all, telling someone they don’t look gay is a little narrow-minded. Yeah, I understand that there are stereotypes, as there are when it comes to anything these days, but with stereotypes comes the common sense that they can be a little far-fetched. It’s the same cliched “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” scenario: there’s no dress code for gay’s only. People dress and express themselves in different ways. And hey, even if I did look gay, would that be a problem?
The comment about it being a “phase” is what gets to me the most. Especially after I had someone say straight to my face that it was “just a phase” and that I’d “go back to normal eventually”. First of all, what is normal – is it being straight? Cause if so, then why is “straight” the default sexuality for everyone? It’s imposed on us from a young age, the idea that girls will eventually marry guys and vice versa, which isn’t a problem, it’s the fact that same-sex relationships are seen as a taboo topic around younger children. So, of course people are going to grow up presuming everyone around them is straight. But I wouldn’t necessarily call straight “normal”, it’s not your factory setting default that we can all revert back to.
Anyway, as if I wasn’t riled up enough by this point, this person then went on to ask if my Mum would be proud if I became straight again and started dating boys. It kind of made me laugh, because what on earth goes through people’s heads to make them think asking that sort of thing is okay? It’s insensitive. It’s rude. And subtly homophobic, even if the person saying it doesn’t realise.
What really hit home is that the person saying all of this knew I was in a relationship and despite that, still questioned my sexuality. A relationship that is almost two years old. Not two days, or two weeks, or two months: two freaking years. And although I’ll admit two years is no world record, it’s enough time to show that something is serious. It’s a pretty long time for a “phase” to last. Yet, despite knowing this, someone still tried to reassure me that I’d grow out of it soon. Like, please.
I’m going to keep saying it: can we stop presuming everyone is straight unless proven otherwise. Heteronormativity is not okay. I know it’s easy to do it without realising, but when people ask “do you have a boyfriend?”, it just becomes awkward. There are better, more neutral ways of asking people whether they’re in a relationship. It’s about educating yourselves and becoming aware. I hate to be another angry gay girl, but it just feels defeating. When you’ve built up the courage to come out to people and are instead faced with insensitive, thoughtless comments.
My point is: your sexual orientation is valid and important regardless of what it is. No ones feelings are lesser due to the gender or genders they are attracted to. And their decision should never be undermined or questioned. Not everyone’s “factory settings” are straight, so don’t presume they are.
Thanks for listening to my rant. Keep spreading love always. xo.