erasure and homophobia

I’m at a friend’s house, or maybe we’re walking in the park.  I don’t remember.  A friend of a friend of a friend commented that she didn’t pay attention to her friends’ sexuality.  How she wouldn’t even think of her friends’ sexualities “for days at a time.”  That’s nice, I thought, because I didn’t feel like confronting her at the time.  But the comment irked me.

Should a business wish to be blind to  sexuality, gender, race, or anything else, I can understand that being a legitimate pursuit.  I won’t go further into that aspect here (But please let me know in the future if you’d like that to be a future topic!)

But a friend is not the same as a business.

And then I realized why it bothered me.

Until society changes and recognizes all walks of life, please don’t pretend you cannot “see” sexuality. Not seeing race is racist; not seeing sexuality is equally offensive.  It doesn’t make me feel like you see me as “just like you.”  (not that I want to be just like you, I happen to think being queer is actually much better than being straight, I lucked out in the genetics department just like you lucked out with functional eyes)  It makes me feel like you don’t see me at all.  When you ask if I have a boyfriend, I only think, “Does she remember I like women, too?”

I’m not saying asking me, “Seeing anyone?” will virtually eliminate discrimination and hatred.  It won’t turn the world sunshine and roses.  It’s a small thing.  But a step in the right direction is better than no movement at all.  And maybe we’ll even get to the point where we don’t imply that “seeing people” is an automatic goal of every single person.  What a thought!

Erasure isn’t the same as hating someone.

I don’t think you’re a bad person.  I doubt you even notice when you use dismissive language.  If you truly never talk about sex, relationships, gender, sexuality, etc, I don’t even want you to bring up those subjects.  But if you do talk about sex and gender, I am asking you to do so in an inclusive manner.

Don’t ask, “Got a boyfriend yet?”  Or worse”When are you and Johnny getting married?” But rather, “Oh, are you seeing anyone?”  Or better yet, ask me “How’s life treating you?”  But if you are going to ask if I have a boyfriend, at least do what my six year old munchkin could manage which is, “Do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend?”  I’m bisexual even if you “don’t really think about sexuality.”

Erasure is a quiet frustration.

You become the Little Mermaid.  In your world, under the sea, you can speak freely.  In the outside world, you lose your voice.  Nobody asks you if you are a mermaid, nor do you feel comfortable bringing up the subject.  In case being a mermaid offends them.  Besides, which, you don’t want to make yourself different.  You don’t want to be the only mermaid in a ship full of humans.

I remember my 12 year old self that didn’t know any lesbians.  I thought all gay people were flamboyant and I wasn’t and nobody ever asked me if I liked girls.  They still don’t, and now I am thirty something, but some days I still feel like I’m that 12 year old girl.

That part of me never quite went away.  It’s the part that wonders if I should correct the statement of “how everyone woman just needs to find a good man” with, “…or what about a good woman?” but I don’t because I’m worried people will be offended that I “brought up my sex life.”

Or will making a fuss about it make me the Bi, Mixed Race, Polyamorous girl?  That isn’t the first thing I want people to know, or think, about me.  So maybe I shouldn’t say anything at all, right?

You might think I’m making something out of nothing.  But if you are not “hidden,” you don’t know how it feels to have yourself recognized for who you are, or who you might be.

It feels like I am Seen when you pointedly raise awareness about something about me that isn’t “normal.”

It makes me feel like maybe I am normal.  It’s not about valuing being queer over being straight, or being trans over being cisgender.  I don’t need you to ask me a lot of questions.  It’s about opening these conversations to include more than default, mainstream identities.  It’s about not making assumptions.

If we lived in a different world, I would agree that ignoring certain labels would be a good thing.   Who cares whether we’re gay or not, right?  It’s something I hope we work towards in the future.

In the meantime, when the default is assumed to be straight, monogamous, and cisgender, I think it’s worthwhile to recognize our differences.

And, in the meantime, please do support those of us who actively and openly discuss and educate about alternative lifestyles.  Because until people stop asking queer folk, “How does sex work?”, that education is needed.  (If you’re curious, it works the same as it does for everyone.)

As far as what you can do, on your own?

Here’s some ideas:

#1:  Just say, “So, what’s going on with you?”  instead of, “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” or “Are you dating anyone seriously?”

No assumptions of whether I’m into men or women, both or neither.  If I want to share with you that I’m dating a woman, I can.  Or I can decide not to share that.  Or even if I want to date at all.

#2:  Ask “Do you like guys?  I have this cute, available guy friend who I think you might like,” instead of “Can I set you up with this cute guy I know?”

Note the use of “available” and not “single,” that eliminates assumptions of monogamy. And also just asks if they’d like this cute guy, without assuming they would be into that gender.

#3:  Acknowledge people’s differences.

I’m not saying you should announce, “My gay friend, Tiffany thinks—.”   It’s doubtful your gay friend wants to be the token gay person to prove the extent of your social circle’s open mindedness.

However, if you and Tiffany are hanging out and there’s a new person in the crowd, maybe mention, “Oh, Tiffany, how did that date go with that cute girl you met at Napa Valley?” or, when you’re introducing your trans friend make a point of including their preferred gender, “This is Tiffany.  They work at Google as a developer,” and when referring to Tiffany later, if someone calls them “she,” just quietly speak up, “Oh, Tiffany actually goes by ‘they’ and ‘them’.  Not a big deal, just clarifying.”

Oh, and if Tiffany publicly thanks you for being supportive and loving towards her, even though she’s gay, respond with “Thanks!  Course I’m supportive of you, you’re a wonderful person.”  Not, “Oh, I forget you were gay.”  That’s not helpful.

NOTE: Talk to your friend about this BEFORE outing them or ask if there are certain groups of people they need to remain discreet around.  They may face consequences for revealing who they are to certain people.

#4:  If you’re unsure of your friend’s receptiveness to this/your approach, find a moment to talk to them about it.

Maybe they don’t want any attention drawn to their sexuality.  Don’t leave this conversation unsaid.  If they don’t say something, make a point to talk to them about it.  Say, “Hey, I don’t know how comfortable you are about me talking about you dating Jenny, but Joe is the kind of person that will assume you are straight if nobody says anything.  I didn’t want to contribute to erasure in any way.  I can drop it if you like, or I can just bring it up in conversation on occasion.”  Let them take it from there.

#5:  Share this outside of your bubble.

I get that many people reading this already know this stuff.  But, maybe bring this idea to  your friends or family who are less aware of other sexualities and lifestyles.

Thank you for hearing me.

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