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What I’ve learned as a gay person
Contrary to popular belief, being gay is more than worrying about whether or not you can marry your partner.
It’s one aspect of who you are but at the same time, it affects your entire life.
Everything you do; how you do it and what you can and can’t do in your life can be traced back to being gay. Being gay is a lifelong coming out process that affects everyone around you. Your family, your friends and your loved ones.
I get up in the morning, make a cup of tea and check my emails and my social media. I delete that hate mail calling me a dirty faggot and check the interesting ones. My partner and I might decide that we want to go into the city to go window shopping or get some sushi, she’s still really antsy about public displays of affection so I try to remember to stay at least two feet away at all times in public so I don’t make her anxious. If she’s anxious and someone says something abusive, it’ll make her feel even more horrible.
It makes me sad.
We get on the bus and I watch the opposite sex couples with prams hold hands and smile back at the people smiling at them. They’re in love and produced a child; everyone knows what they’ve been up to but no-one cares. Anti-gay politicians want same-sex adoption illegal, some want being gay criminalised. They want to sweep us under a rug because they are uncomfortable around us but they use their children as an excuse to do it. They compare us to paedophiles or are just plain crazy and think we’ll hurt their children. When we come out to our parents, we have to make sure we are in a safe place beforehand because we might get hurt.
No baby showers for us.
Last week someone screamed “Dirty dykes! Filthy faggots!” outside of a car window at my partner and I. I kissed her in a coffee shop once and the cashier gave us a filthy look. A random stranger told us he was proud of how brave we were to hug on a train after he found out we were a couple.
That was nice but no-one has to say it to opposite couples.
Being gay isn’t always so melodramatic, once you come out and move on from the fact you’ve lost friends or family and get desensitised from the homophobia that will happen right in front of your face, there are positives. You find out who your real friends are, your real family and you witness the kindness of strangers who stick up for in the face of bigotry.
You find real people. Decent people who don’t care who you are.
Being gay is very similar to being straight in the sense that it is a lifelong coming out process, only straight people can’t see that they are coming out. Actually everything is a coming out process; most people just can’t see it. Whenever you mention your opposite sex or same sex partner in conversation to someone – you’re coming out to them, they may not know if you’re bisexual or straight or gay but that’s irrelevant. Even if you’re bisexual with an opposite sex partner, people will assume you’re straight. If you’re bisexual with a same-sex partner, people will assume you’re gay.
We come out in every facet of our lives. Wearing religious symbols around our necks is a form of coming out as religious. Mentioning our children or lack of is a form of coming out as a parent or childfree. It never ends because we come out in some form to every person we meet.
And some of those people are less than tolerant if your coming out doesn’t match their coming out.
I know when I walk out the door as a lesbian and come out to people in everyday conversation, I run the risk of encountering homophobia (like here). I run the risk of not being served in a coffee shop or having rude remarks yelled out about my partner and I when we’re in public. My friends run the risk of losing friends or having family not talk to them based on their friendship with me. I may not be invited to my partner’s family gatherings because they don’t like that we’re together. I run the risk of being referred to as only my partners “friend” by people who won’t acknowledge our relationship or are uncomfortable with saying “this is (insert names) partner”. I think they think they’ll turn inside out if they say the words “gay” or “lesbian”.
You run the risk of hearing the words “I have no problem with gays but..”, well you obviously have enough of a problem to mention it. You run the risk of hearing “No offense but gays..” like “No offense but..” is meant to soften the blow of the offensive comment they’re about to make. Of course they’ll get annoyed when you point out that yes, they do have a problem with gays or they have said something inappropriate. One thing you learn being gay is that people have an undeserved sense of entitlement which they think means they can say whatever opinion they want and another person can’t call them out on it. People think they can say whatever opinion they want and no-one is allowed to display any feelings of hurt or sadness over that opinion because it may make the opinion sayer look like an arsehole. People don’t like looking like a bad person or insensitive person which is why they get defensive or annoyed when someone reactions to their opinion or someone calls them out on it.
As a gay woman eventually I’ll run into more homophobia on top of the encounters I’ve already had. You get to a point in your life where when you encounter it, it still is a shock but it doesn’t affect you, you move to a place of not anger but pity. You pity the poor deluded homophobe who never had a chance with their limited brain power. They obviously can’t think hard enough to see that the thoughts that are the basis for their bigotry are complete bullshit. You pity them because they’ve been raised to hate or because they have strange assumptions or insecurities about gays that leads them to hate or display homophobic behaviour. I don’t feel angry at them anymore. Indeed I make a sport out of shooting down a homophobes illogical thoughts about gays to reveal the stupidness behind it all. Making them question themselves can be fun especially in public when you make them feel stupid.
I’m a bit of a bitch you see.
By far my favourite types of people are insecure straight women (and by favourite I mean frustrating). The type of women you never win with as a gay woman. You know the women, the ones who’ll find out your gay and then this conversation ensures:
Insecure straight women: “Do you find me attractive?”
Me: “Not really”
ISW: “WELL WHY NOT??”
Me: “Okay yes, you are somewhat attractive”
ISW: “OMG YOU’RE HITTING ON ME”
Don’t worry baby dykes; you’ll meet your first Insecure Straight Woman soon.
As I mentioned before everything you do, how you do it and what you can and can’t do in your life can be traced back to being gay. Which tea house or coffee shop I dine at (not Gloria Jeans because they support anti-gay policies), I used to take the long route to the bus stop to avoid my homophobic neighbours down the street, the slurs every time I passed the house become boring after a while. An ultra-conservative bookshop owner refused to sell me a book I needed (or any book for that matter) when I mentioned my partner after he noticed the ring on my finger. I got told to leave so I found the book online.
So yes, everything I do hinges on me being gay and how the people I’m interacting with at the time responses to it. Of course I don’t go around to random people exclaiming that I’m gay to them but when it comes up in conversation, you always pause to see what their reaction is. The reaction determines whether or not you’ll get served in a bookstore, it determines whether someone says “that’s lovely” or hurls abuse at you. That reaction is based on their thoughts on a person’s sexuality, those thoughts determines how your family treats you, how your partners family treats you and how wider society treats you.
It has its negatives but it has its positives as well. Like finding love and having an accepting people around you.
So next time someone says “The only thing gays have to worry about is not being able to marry”, show them this article and watch their reaction.
10 points to you if they say “I didn’t think about that”.
Feel free to submit your own GLBTI coming out story by sending your submission to firstname.lastname@example.org
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