Dear Well-Meaning Straight People,
Okay, first off, I want you to know I’m not mad. I’m not judging you. Rather, this is supposed to be a helpful letter saturated with advice and the best intentions for you. Honestly, I’m helping you so hear me out.
Like every other gay person out there, I was petrified to come out. And the worst part was having to do it again and again to each family member and friend. So, you can imagine how relieved I was when that was all over and I knew they all accepted me; I was now free to live my life. Except, it didn’t stop there. It still hasn’t stopped, and it never will. You see, the thing they never tell you on all the Buzzfeed “Am I Gay or Overthinking It?” quizzes is that you never stop coming out. You have to do it every time you start another semester and get into conversation with a new classmate; every time you start a new job and your co-worker wants to set you up with her brother; every time you see a new physician who needs to grill you about your sex life; basically any time you ever meet anyone new for the rest of your life. That’s why, though always equally nerve-wracking, it can get so exhausting for LGBT+ people to keep reopening up about this part of themselves to new straight people they encounter.
Thus, your job—when done right—can make our lives a little easier. It doesn’t have to align with your religious or political viewpoints, it just needs to be accepted. Now, in my personal experiences, I’ve been pretty lucky with my 19,247,019 coming-out’s. I haven’t had to face being jumped, shoved into lockers, exiled, or shipped off to conversion camp. I’ve found that most of the people I encounter in the world honestly try to show me that they don’t mind my sexuality, and the effort is always appreciated. My goal here is to maybe just help you make that process go a little smoother in the future. If you’re one of those normal, humane people who doesn’t mind people dating who they want to date and living their lives, please follow these Do’s and Don’ts when encountering your next friendly neighborhood gay:
1. Please don’t feel the immediate need to bring up another gay person you’ve encountered in your life. That’s really cool that you met not just me, but another homosexual in the world. However, we are not an animal on the endangered species list. So, believe me, I’m not shocked you met another gay person. You’ve probably met several, whether you knew it or not. I just don’t really need to know that, “Oh! My best friend’s niece is a lesbian! We love her,” or, “Oh my god my cousin’s roommate is gay, he’s so funny!” just because I mentioned I went to the mall with my girlfriend. I know you mean well, but if I brought up every straight person I knew every time I learned that someone I’m having a conversation with is straight, I’d never make it through a conversation.
2. Remember you’re allowed to take a moment to process before immediately responding to someone who just came out to you. Seriously, gather your thoughts, decide if you’ll just leave it at “That’s cool. Anyway…,” before you exclaim a surprised and accidentally-offensive remark. Last week I was talking to a girl I started a new class with about how her and her boyfriend met. Naturally, she followed with “Do you have a boyfriend?” to which I said I had a girlfriend. The first thing she blurted out was “Oh! A girlfriend! That’s different…!” which left us both in a fit of awkward laughter. Thankfully I’ve learned how to rebound from these situations over the years, but it’s never the greatest feeling and the awkwardness all-around can easily be avoided if you take the information with a grain of salt and digest it later.
3. Please don’t tell us we don’t even “look” gay. It feels a lot like someone learning your pants size and being like, “Omg girl no way! I never would’ve guessed, I totally thought you were a 5!” But this isn’t something negative (not that high pants sizes are negative of course #thickthighssavelives) that we need reassurance of not being obvious to the world. It’s a club we don’t mind joining. As a matter of fact, it’s a club we never had a choice in. As a girl who isn’t butch (which apparently is the only way for the world to perceive you as “looking gay”) the amount of times I’ve gotten “I had no idea because you don’t even look gay!” is infinite.
4. Don’t ask us if we’re sure! Are you sure, Brad?! “Did you ever even try being with a guy? You know, so you can be sure.” “Did you ever try being with a guy, Brad, you know so you can be sure you’re not into it.” Most of you probably didn’t have to try being with the same sex to figure out that you were straight. So, if we have or haven’t tried being with the opposite sex, trust us that we know we’re gay if we’re coming out to you.
5. Do treat us exactly as you did right before we told you. Don’t make things weird. This is one small fraction of the person we are, if you liked us as a person before, don’t worry, we’re still that same person.
I could go on, but I think you all get the gist by now. Most of these tips probably sound relatively obvious, but a lack of awareness can create a more awkward conversation than needed. You shouldn’t stress over this—you’re perfectly capable of these normal reactions and responses! You do them every day with your straight colleagues! All you have to do is react the same way you would if anyone else were telling you about their relationship or type, because that’s all it is: a human being telling you about his/her relationship and type. We just want you to see that we’re normal too and treat us like so. So, let’s not make this a big deal, alright? Get out there and start creating less awkwardness, well-meaning straight people!