I speak from a position of privilege when I say that my parents genuinely do not care about the gender of the person I bring home. Growing up, I didn’t feel the need to label and disclose my sexuality to those close to me. Heck, I didn’t even feel the need to label and disclose my sexuality to myself. I didn’t worry. I wasn’t scared or insecure about being attracted to more than one gender… honestly, I thought that everyone was. So, before I get into this article, I want to acknowledge that not everyone has that privilege.
For some people, coming out and asking for acceptance ran the risk of exile. Some people have to sacrifice everything to be with the person they love.
This might seem really obvious – but they shouldn’t have to.
It does strike me as a little strange that someone who’s not involved in the relationship would genuinely become upset about someone else’s sexual and romantic preferences. However, I understand that in the past, back before women had rights, someone’s romantic partner was integral to the survival of the family, and a marriage that wouldn’t produce children was almost entirely pointless. The customs changed, but the judgement remained.
It’s something that’s talked about all the time, but the world operates from the perspective of a middle class, heterosexual white man. Anyone who falls outside of that exact criteria is perceived according to how closely they align to it. Traits such as someone’s gender, race, age, weight and sexuality impact how a person is treated, almost automatically.
Consciously or not, we assume that if someone is feminine-presenting, they are less intelligent and less aggressive than someone masculine-presenting. We assume that someone with dark skin is less well-behaved than a white person. If someone is attracted to someone of the same gender, it is assumed that they are in some way weird or indecent as compared to that straight white man archetype. We understand the world through that comparison.
I think we can all agree that it’s not accurate to make those assumptions, but that we’ve been brought up in a world that teaches us to make those mental associations, often without realising. These associations are all collateral damage from outdated ways of thinking.
Often when people talk about issues of race, people take the position of ‘not seeing colour’. The same sort of thing can be said in terms of gender and sexuality. This way of thinking is undoubtedly well-intentioned, but it’s not helpful. You can’t dismantle those automatic associations without being educated about why they exist. Without that education factor, you might not let those assumptions impact your actions, but they’re still there, even if you’re ignoring them.
The best way to create a world wherein our differences don’t breed hatred and inequality is to behave like they don’t. Acknowledge the past, and work towards changing the standard. For example, someone’s sexuality shouldn’t matter, so without invalidating anyone, act like you would if it didn’t.
I have never once ‘come out’ to anyone. My sexuality isn’t a secret, if it’s brought up, I’ll talk quite openly about it, but it’s just not anyone else’s business. Your sexuality is no more integral to your personality than, say, your favourite colour or hobby. At no point did I feel the need to sit my parents down, after months/years of internal battles and fear and confusion, just to tell them that my favourite colour is blue.
Sexuality is fluid, so is gender. You honestly don’t know who you might be attracted to in the future. What’s the point in labelling your attraction if you’re potentially limiting your possibilities. Blue might be my favourite colour, but I’m not going to ONLY buy blue clothes and blue food, there are so many other colours, and six months from now, I could decide that I really like purple. The concept of sexual orientation itself is a social construct constantly used to instil fear, confusion, division and oppression. You don’t have to abide by the parameters set for you by a system that doesn’t care for you.
I understand that labelling your sexuality is helpful in terms of education and community-building, but regardless, it’s always irked me. Labels come with information, yes, but they also are linked to incorrect and harmful stereotypes. You aren’t liberated as a queer person while you’re marching at pride, surrounded by people who share your label, because any liberation you are granted is given to you in a system that still upholds straight, white, rich men as the power holders.
Labelling yourself identifies you as different, and you aren’t. After all is said and done, we’re all skeletons in the ground anyway. You don’t have to waste your time explaining who you are and what you do; just do them. You are not a suspicious-looking jar of mayonnaise in the back of a fridge. You don’t need a label.
Heterosexual people don’t have to ‘come out’, so neither should anyone else. I understand that coming out as a queer teen can be somewhat of a celebration of self-acceptance, but the barrier to that self-acceptance shouldn’t still exist anyway. Coming out is seemingly a way of rejecting heteronormativity. In reality, it doesn’t. Coming out is a way of living as someone outside of ‘the norm’, precisely the way society expects you to. When you come out, you publically acknowledge that you are different from the expected mould, which of course, only reinforces heteronormativity.
Each to their own, but the trope we see over and over with the one designated gay character in the movie whose character arc builds to them coming out… that doesn’t sit right with me. Your sexuality is not the most exciting thing about you. Your race, gender, financial situation, etc., does not define you as a person. It is lazy to assume otherwise. Coming out makes other people aware of your identity. Being comfortable within yourself is a whole other ballpark, and I’d argue a far more important one.
“You are not a jar of mayo,”
Leave a Comment