Things You Need To Stop Saying Now (Unless You Like To Piss People Off) # 1: Getting Huffy When People Come Out

Fair warning: This post is (sort of) going to be about Jason Collins–the pro basketball player that just (publicly) came out of the closet. I warn you because you might be tired of hearing the guy’s name. This was kind of a big deal on the internet yesterday. I say this post is only “sort of” about him because I am not going to be talking about him specifically, but about thoughts triggered by reading many of the online comments reacting to his coming out.

Okay. What do you need to stop saying? You really need to stop “asking” if you should come out as straight whenever someone gets attention for coming out as LGBT. I have seen this both ways today. From the “why is this a big deal/anyone’s business” people and from the disgusted homophobes that would really, really like if it all the nasty “fags” went away.

First, let’s address the presumably sort-of well meaning (or not), but totally misguided people that say shit like, “You don’t see me announcing to the world that I’m straight!”

SIGH

No, we don’t see (most) people announcing that they are straight. You know why? Because everyone assumes that you ARE straight. By default. That’s what is called “heterosexism.” It’s a form of privilege (remember my last post). It means that we, as a society, assume that straight/hetero is the norm. Everyone is straight until proven otherwise. You don’t have to all caps ANNOUNCE IT because you lowercase announce it in a thousand ways, everyday. Here are some ways you announce/advertise your straightness:

  1. Do you wear a wedding ring? Yes, some gay people are now allowed to get married and wear rings and stuff, but this is still very much a very hetero statement.
  2. Do you have pictures of your significant other in your workspace or home where others can see (I think we should also count annoying stick figure family decals on cars)?
  3. Do you talk about your opposite sex partner to other people? By their preferred pronoun?  And/or with gendered labels like boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, my man/my woman, mami/papi etc *see The Pronoun Game for further clarity*
  4. Do you engage in public displays of affection with your opposite sex partner? Like hand holding, hugging, kissing, laying your head on their shoulder and so on?

This is just a small list, but I think it’s enough to get the point across. I hope. If not, here it is: Straight people do not need to come out because they are the measure by which everyone else is judged and compared. The status quo. Stating your orientation is not a political act or a big deal because you are the majority. You have all the power. It is courageous and powerful when LGBT people come out because we are NOT the majority and we do not have the protection that comes with being the majority. Coming out for LGBT people can mean the loss of employment, the loss of housing, harassment, ostracism or worse. It is literally putting a target on yourself. When you say, “nobody cares,” you are showing your ignorance. A LOT of people care.

People like LGBT youth that need role models and hope.

People like other closeted athletes that want to live their lives openly–and still have careers.

People that think LGBT folk are like bedazzled rainbow unicorns that only exist in West Hollywood and not in *their* neighborhoods/sports teams/families/company BBQ s.

Take away: Stop waving your privilege around like a jerk. It’s offensive. It’s hurtful. It’s really, really, really annoying. If you want the OMG HE/SHE IS GAY announcements to stop, try being an ally and working for LGBT equality. One day it might not be necessary.

Now, to the people that just wish the icky gay people would go away……Um. No. Sorry that our mere existence bothers you so much.

Sorry that you have to explain “Teh Gay” to your offspring.

Sorry that your deeply repressed desires are no longer confined to therapy sessions and awkward confession booth sessions with your priest.

Sorry that you may have to live with the knowledge that your doctor/lawyer/teacher/grocer/hair stylist/gardener/mail-person/waiter is wired differently than you.

Life is hard, man. It’s hard out there for a straight dude. Wait. No, it isn’t! No one shames you for thinking lady parts are awesome. No one throws shit at you for holding your girlfriend’s hand. No one asks you if you’ve tried “not being straight” or suggested that your heterosexuality is “just a phase.” No one tells you that you are too young to know who you are or asks if you were sexually assaulted and “turned” gay.

And speaking of sexual assault, you aren’t threatened with it as a means to change your orientation. It’s also not a threat or danger to reveal your orientation to someone that does not know. Again, you don’t have to worry about your job, housing, school or family situation.

Take away: God. I don’t even know.

Oh, how about this: Just as you got used to the fact that people look differently, speak differently and come from different places when you were a child, you can also get used to the fact that people love differently. You can also accept the fact that your Truth isn’t the only Truth. And dudes, being a hateful asshole to people–especially if you are harming them–violates the social contract we abide by.

What’s this “social contract”? Google it. Or take a philosophy class. I shouldn’t have to do everything for you.

Okay. /rant. I feel much better now!

 

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One thought on “Things You Need To Stop Saying Now (Unless You Like To Piss People Off) # 1: Getting Huffy When People Come Out

  1. When ever I teach OWL, I get the question, “Why are people homophobic anyway” and my answer is always multifaceted but the part that connects with your post is a variation on “people fear what they don’t understand.” Instead, I say that people who are homophobic haven’t had the pleasure of knowing happy and healthy LGBT people who are out of the closet. The idea that we shouldn’t celebrate someone’s coming out does exactly what you’re saying. It robs us from showing people that you can be happy, healthy and successful. You can be anybody, even this huge basketball player dude.

    The really sad thing, according to the news program I saw, Jason hadn’t even come out to his twin brother because he was so afraid of what would happen. So yeah, people care. His brother and team mates and the people he was afraid of all seem to be very supportive of him now but there was a reason he didn’t feel safe with them. Hopefully the people in his life grow and become more loving, and a new safe space is created so that more professional athletes can come out.

    It reminds me of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All because before Frank Ocean could come out, Syd the Kid had to. And she was never really in the closet to the group the way Frank was. But as a group, they had to create a safe space and sort of test the water. I’m glad they did.

    Hey look, my post is almost as long as yours. LOL.

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