I came out to my parents as gay after three weeks in my first ever romantic relationship with my beautiful girlfriend, who I am still dating after a year and 3 months! I had already come out to most of my friends, but I had not yet told my parents I wasn’t straight because I didn’t know how they would react, hence the long waiting period. Their first responses were, “But Julia, you’ve always been so boy crazy. I don’t want you to break her heart”, and, “Ok…But, you don’t really want to spend the rest of your life with a woman”. These were both better responses than I was expecting, but at the same time, they still hit pretty deep.
Ever since I came out as queer to friends and family, the most common questions I have gotten have been, “When did you find out you were gay?”, “But, you were always so into boys…”, or some variation of the question. I think I can speak for a majority of queer people when I say that these types of questions can be offensive to hear, and are always really complicated to answer for a number of different reasons.
In the first case: I am not just gay, I actually identify as pansexual. This means I develop romantic, emotional, and/or physical attraction to people regardless of how they identify with their gender and/or sexuality. So agender, gender-queer, bisexual, asexual, transgender, gender-fluid, etc. may all be types of people I have the potential of falling in love with. Basically I just love all the types of people! It is hard to explain to people who have never interacted with a pansexual person that yes: I have previously been attracted to people who identify as male, but I also am attracted to other types of people.
Sexuality is such a fluid thing in my own experience, as I assume it may be for many people. But because of the heteronormative society that we live in, people who are not part of the queer community may find it harder to understand the concept of different forms of attraction. As for the question of people asking when we “found out” or “turned” gay, that can typically be explained a little easier. Here is what I’ve found to be the best/most effective answer:
People do not “turn” gay. We discover our sexuality just as straight kids, except that for us there came a point where we allowed ourselves to accept it. Personally, I didn’t accept that I wasn’t straight until my freshman year of college. Some people accept it earlier, some later. Some people have always accepted they were not straight, and to those people, I give you all props.
A lot of times, people are not trying to be insulting, of course. Sometimes they just genuinely do not understand because they themselves are straight, and have only been around other people who are also straight, and they want to be more informed. I always try to answer questions or statements like this with understanding, not anger. It will educate and create one more person able to help break down negative stigmas.
Often-times, though, queer people receive comments or questions that are just plain rude or offensive. Some examples of these questions/statements are: “Are you sure it’s not a phase?”, “Who’s the guy/girl in the relationship?”, “How do you, you know…Do it?” It’s harder to respond to these sorts of situations without being angry. My advice to queer people receiving these sorts of comments or questions is to not escalate the situation further. Just tell the person they are making you uncomfortable, they are being insensitive of your feelings, and walk away. I find it best to not verbally answer these types of questions, especially with the third example I gave. Here’s why:
A) It is never anyone’s business what you do in bed, regardless of your sexuality. People sometimes think just because you are not straight, they can ask personal questions like this. They cannot, it is not appropriate. B) They may be asking this for pure fetishization of your sex life. This tends to be a common question that cisgendered males ask lesbian couples, although they are not the only ones who do — cisgendered means that the person was labeled a male at birth and still chooses to be labeled and present as such. It is best to not feed into anybody’s sexualization of the way that you live. C) If the person is really that interested, they could google it for themselves later as opposed to asking such a personal question. D) If they happen to have a friend who is queer, they can ask them later.
Although I myself am not transgendered, I would like to include them in this, as there are also inappropriate questions that transgendered people get asked. Questions like: what genitalia they possess, what bathrooms they use, or how they perform sexual acts. Giving backhanded compliments is also offensive, meaning compliments like: I would never have guessed you used to be a guy/girl, or you actually look really great for a trans-guy/girl. These are just reminders that some people do not or refuse to accept them.
The relevance of mentioning all these comments and questions is because there are a lot of people out there who think that LGBTQ+ Pride is not necessary anymore. I have heard, “They can marry now, what else do you want?”or “We get it, you’re gay”, and many other variations of these statements.
The thing is, the legality of marriage for gay people does not automatically mean queer people are now totally and completely accepted by society, just like the fact that President Barack Obama was elected for two presidential terms does not mean that racism no longer exists in America. There are still so many queer people out there who are not allowed to be their true selves in their homes because they would be kicked out by their parents.
I have multiple queer friends who either cannot transition, or cannot be openly gay in their house, or they WILL be forced out of their homes. There are still people who are beaten, abused, raped, and/or assaulted just because of their sexual and/or gender orientation. The majority of homeless youth are members of the LGBTQ+ community. One in two transgender people are sexually abused or assaulted, and 53% of all hate crimes against all LGBTQ+ people, are against people of color. There are far too many exact stats, so if you’d like to read more about it, go here.
Pride is a way for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate us, to celebrate our existence, to celebrate our love for each other and our significant other(s). It’s a way to honor those of our community whose lives were lost because they were not afraid to be themselves, to honor and thank those who have fought for our rights so that we are allowed to show our true selves, and to thank the people in our lives who support us even though we are ourselves. It’s a time for us to come together as a community, to validate each other, and to validate our lives.
People can be so judgmental, and as a queer person it can sometimes seem like you would be better off if you just ignored that part of yourself — if you were just straight like a “normal” person should be. But there is absolutely no such thing as normal. During the month of pride, I hope that every queer person out there took the chance to remind themselves these things:
- You are valid.
- Your feelings for other people are valid.
- Gender is a social construct; gender and sexuality are spectrums, and you are valid no matter where you fall on either of those spectrums.
- It is OK to still be discovering new things about your sexual identity.
- You alone know who you are; never let other people’s stereotypes define what that means for you.
- Do what you can to not let the way people look at you and your significant other make you feel guilty; they are the ones with a problem, not you.
- The outside world is judgmental enough as it is, so do what you can to help validate ALL the members of our queer community.
- And most importantly: Don’t forget to LOVE YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT. Because we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re PROUD!