For All of Us Who've Seen the Light

Salute the Dead and Lead the Fight

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On Being Queer
TEXT - Make cupcakes not war
sophie_448
Well. I was going to write some fic. But ... instead I wrote this? This ... was sort of vaguely intended to be something to show my mother. For those of you who don't know, my mother and I have been having some upsetting "debates" that made me realize that we basically live in entirely different worlds when it comes to gay rights. I ... will probably not be showing this to her, but I kind of like it in all its rambly, ranty glory. So ... here?

Most of the time, when I talk to people about my experiences as a queer person, I’m talking to people who understand, either because they are queer themselves, or they are allies or at least supportive. I’ve realized that this means I’ve learned to speak in a certain way, with an assumption of a certain shared understanding. But not everyone understands the world this way. And I’m not just talking about bigots and hate groups. There are lots of people out there who have no particular beef with queer people who, though lack of exposure and experience, misinformation, or just plain thoughtless selfishness (newsflash, folks: everyone’s selfish) really don’t “get” what it’s like to be queer in this culture. So, this is my attempt to take about ten giant steps back and honestly try to explain that.

First off, I am not every queer person in America. I cannot speak to any experience except my own, nor do I intend to try. And let’s start there. There is no such thing as “the gay community” as an all-encompassing group with a single set of beliefs and ideals. Saying “the gay community thinks X” or “the gay community did Y” is just as ridiculous as saying the same thing about “the straight community.” Would a straight person ever be asked to represent the opinions and interests of all heterosexuals? Of course not. That’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because sharing a sexual orientation with someone is hardly a guarantee that you share anything else. And that’s just as true of gay people.

There is no “gay agenda,” and if there is, I have never received my copy. There are absolutely LGBT groups that engage in political activism. Promoting political positions that you believe would make your community and your nation better is not evil. It’s called being an active and responsible citizen. And yes, despite what I said about “the gay community” above, many LGBT people do share a number of political opinions. Not all do, but the reason that many do is because many LGBT people encounter the same kinds of problems and inequities in this country because of their orientation or gender identity.

LGBT people are not a special interest group. We are not looking for special treatment. We are looking for equal treatment. We deserve equal treatment because we are every bit as human as straight people. The fact that people I otherwise respect can look me in the eye and tell me things like “I have nothing against gay people, but I don’t think they should have the right to marry,” or “I don’t mind gays, as long as they’re not so obvious about it,” is so hurtful and disgusting to me that it is seriously challenging my ability to continue this essay in a neutral manner. I’m aware that some people reading this may not understand why statements like that are problematic. Try the following on for size. “I have nothing against straight people. I just don’t think they should have the right to marry.” And this one. “I don’t mind straights, as long as they’re not so obvious about it.” Do you see the problem now? The first statement is straight out of the separate but equal playbook, and if civil rights have taught us anything, it’s that separate is NEVER equal. The second indicates that someone is deeply uncomfortable with LGBT people, but knows that it’s frowned upon to say so. Let me make something very clear. The fact that something makes you uncomfortable does not make it wrong. I’m uncomfortable with people who wear socks with sandals, but I’m not about to go make picket signs and lobby for them to change their ways.

Living as a queer person means constantly having to smile uncomfortably and back away slowly from conversations like this. Living as a queer person means hearing the phrase “that’s so gay” from teenagers constantly. And it means knowing that, if you speak up and say that’s not okay, they’ll nod and smirk and then laugh about how uptight you are behind your back. Living as a queer person means knowing that if you are lucky enough to find the person of your dreams and fall in love, there are many things you may not be able to do. You will almost certainly not be able to legally marry in your home state. That means that no matter how many contracts you draw up, no matter how many loopholes you close, you will NEVER have all the rights straight couples are granted just by signing one little piece of paper. It means that even if you have all the powers of attorney and medical proxy forms and even a registered domestic partnership, you may be forcibly kept from your partner on their deathbed. And, if you outlive your partner and their family disapproved of your relationship, they have a very good chance of successfully denying you any inheritance rights and, possibly, custody of any children you and your partner raised if you are not a biological parent of those children. It means seeing political ads that say you are something so disgusting and dangerous that young children in schools need to be protected from you. It means when you go to a website celebrating something you see as beautiful and loving, like marriages in California or Mexico City, there will be hundreds or thousands of hateful comments calling you an abomination and condemning you to hell. It means watching TV or going to the movies and, most of the time, seeing not one character who is anything like you. And it means if you bring that up you are almost always told to “get over it” and “just have fun” by people who have never known what it’s like to not see themselves reflected in their TV screens. Living as a queer person means that to live honestly and authentically you must constantly come out. You must announce yourself publicly or risk being branded a liar. Never mind that there is no similar requirement for straight people. It means being told that your rights are an afterthought. It means even the most progressive political candidates are lukewarm at best in their support of your rights for fear of being “too controversial.” It means constantly, constantly, every day having to put up with a thousand things you just can’t change. And it means being told, in absolute sincerity, that these inequities don’t really exist. It’s all in your mind. If you would just have a positive attitude, there wouldn’t be a problem anymore. And it is just wanting to scream until you’re hoarse because, to you, these issues aren’t complicated. They are simple. They’re so simple you don’t even know how to talk to people who don’t understand, because there’s nothing to understand. You are a person with hopes and fears and dreams and desires. You want to live your life to the fullest. You bleed and cry and hurt. You want to love. There’s enough pain in this world and little enough joy that you don’t understand why it matters so much who you love. Isn’t it enough that you love at all?



ETA: Making this entry public because ... well, because I feel like it :-)

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I love you and every word of this essay.

It hurts to feel like you aren't equal with the "normal" society. Heck, it hurts that you aren't considered normal. It hurts to be stereotyped. It hurts to not have the rights that someone else does. It hurts to hear and see the hatred, the ignorance, the indifference. It hurts to know or hear that people believe that your ~kind doesn't exist. Heck, it hurts to be called a ~kind like you're some kind of brand.

Anddd yeah. No essay from me. That's all I'll say.

<3 <3 <3 <3

YES, ALL OF THIS. ILU AND YOUR THOUGHTS.

I sometimes think that the indifference is the hardest thing to deal with. Flat out hate is one thing, but the millions of people who just can't be bothered? That gets to me.

My thoughts on this could go on for pages, as I'm sure many people's would, but I decided against it at eleven at night, haha.

EXACTLY. The people who treat it so off-handishly (not a word, but lalala) just really get under my skin.

"What's the big deal?" they say?

OH. I DON'T KNOW, HUMAN RIGHTS AND ALL THAT MAYBE? COMMON DECENCY? ACCEPTANCE IN THIS WORLD? Jeez.

off-handishly is now my new favorite word :-D

OH GOSH, EXACTLY. YEAH, NO BIG DEAL, JUST MY STATUS AS A HUMAN. WHATEVS~

Haha! You should use it frequently and see what happens. P: Not that that kind of word would fit into most conversation, but whatever~

LOL WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT ~YOUR STATUS. IT'S NOT MY STATUS THAT IS IN QUESTION.

I will ~work it in~ :-P

AND THAT, FRIENDS, IS WHAT WE CALL PRIVILEGE. *SIGH*

IT'S SUCH A ~BEAUTIFUL THING ISN'T IT? :/

LOL I HOPE YOU KNOW I TOTALLY HAVE TO MAKE AN ENTRY OF HUGE PROPORTION NOW TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS ON THIS ISSUE. IT WILL BE INCOHERENT AND ALL OVER THE PLACE.

BUT I SHALL WORK ON IT TOMORROW AFTER CLASS. I SHOULD PROBABLY BE ASLEEP, HAHA.

But you = amazing, okay. <3 I wish everyone could read this and see the light.

YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL TO ME, BB. I LOOK FORWARD TO HEARING YOUR THOUGHTS. And honestly? If this thing counts as coherent, I don't think you've got anything to worry about ;-) SLEEP GOOD! IT'S HELPFUL FOR LEARNING~

This is such a wonderful compliment. Thank you SO MUCH to even think that this might be enlightening. ♥___♥

I don't really want to get into an involved discussion here and now, MAINLY BECAUSE IT WOULD JUST BE YOU AND ME AGREEING WHOLEHEARTEDLY WITH EACH OTHER THE WHOLE TIME.

But I do want to say that I love you dearly, I agree on EVERY SINGLE POINT and I wish your mom would open up her damn eyes or take a minute to think about other HUMAN BEINGS rather that "groups".

I love you. you are my best friend. And if you ever want to marry, I will stand up next to you and hold your train (if you have one) and cry like a baby, no matter who is on the other side of the altar. I mean, you know. Unless that person is an asshole. (OR YOU KNOW, YOU'D RATHER HAVE SOMEONE ELSE BE YOUR MAID OF AWESOME. GOSH. SORRY!)

<333333 forever

LOL I WOULD LOVE TO MUTUALLY AGREE WITH YOU AT LENGTH. HELL, IT'S KIND OF MY FAVORITE ACTIVITY :-P I KNOW YOU NEED SLEEPS THO.

*sigh* I know, I know. I just ... don't even know where to start. Clearly this attempt ... failed. I mean, I like it, but it is not what I was trying to write, oops.

WHO ELSE WOULD BE MY MAID OF AWESOME? GOSH~ OBVIOUSLY~

<333333333333333333333333333333333333 X A BILLIONTY.

I wish I could print multiple copies of this out and just hand it to people when they say shit like " I don't get what your problem is. Why is this such a big deal?" .
You make an excellent and slightly heart-breaking point when you said Living as a queer person means that to live honestly and authentically you must constantly come out. You must announce yourself publicly or risk being branded a liar.
This whole piece rings completely and overwhelmingly true. Thanks for giving my rants a more coherent voice than I manage too.

I'm so glad it spoke to you! And even happier that you think it's coherent. It felt kind of ... insane and jumbled coming out of my head, so I'm happy it makes sense!

I can't thank you enough for writing this. It's like you took every feeling and thought in my head and put it together in a powerful and cohesive form.

This:

I’m uncomfortable with people who wear socks with sandals, but I’m not about to go make picket signs and lobby for them to change their ways.

made me laugh. The entire last paragraph? Made me cry in its honesty.

I've been feeling a lot of anger tonight because of the whole Target/Best Buy thing. Other reasons too, but it was sort of the thing that tipped me over the edge. I'm so tired of being told to shut up and live with it. I'm so tired of not talking about it. And I am so so so tired of straight people telling me its okay, because it really isn't.

I adore you. Thank you for expressing your thoughts. I am much better for having you in my life.

OH, YOU. *HUGS*

LOL IDK. It was the first random, stupid thing I could come up with.

Sorry it made you cry tho! I'm glad it ... expressed something, though. I was definitely set off by the Target/Best Buy thing as well.

I'm pretty fond of you as well! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Oh, and just because I want to put this somewhere, and I can't really in my own journal because my sister and I share so many friends. The thing is, even the people who love you most and are most supportive of you just fall through on this sort of thing, like your mom. Your mom loves you, but somehow she can't seem to see this part of you. And doesn't that just kill you?

Something I think about a lot...more than I should, is when I told my sister who is my best friend and she cried and told me she didn't want this for me. I know she meant it in the sense that it's hard to be gay, but...it still didn't feel good to hear that. She also is VERY uncomfortable with any mention of me liking girls even with her being into slash and pro gay rights. She has no problem with talk of hot guys, but me saying anything about a girl gets a big 'let's not go there.' and it's added a lot to my extreme discomfort with talking about finding ANYONE attractive. I don't want to bring this to her attention, because I don't want to hurt her feelings nor do I think she realizes on any level she has done this.

boooo people. lol

Yeah, I mean, it was a HUGE step to come out to my parents. And of course I'm incredibly happy that they didn't disown me or something crazy. But there is clearly a disconnect when they say they love me and want me to be happy but can still have the opinions they have. I know FOR SURE that they voted for the marriage amendment in VA back in '06. And like, they didn't know at the time, but I get the distinct feeling they would vote that way again, and I don't see how they can not understand that that would be PURPOSEFULLY VOTING AGAINST MY RIGHTS AND FUTURE HAPPINESS. IDK.

I'm sorry your sister is so uncomfortable with it! That's so surprising. I mean, it's not unheard of in slash fandom, but ... stil :-/ Maybe, if you don't want to bring it up with her directly, you could like ... start building her tolerance? Start gradually mentioning girls a little more, then a little more, and so on? *hands* IDK. Sorry you have to deal with this bb. I feel ya. *HUGS*

(P.S. do you want me to screen this, since I opened up the post?)

No, that's okay. I am pretty sure you and her don't have any of the same friends. :) Thanks for the thought though!

I'm really sorry about your parents feeling that way and that they are yet to understand how that kind of thing could hurt you. And that's what it really is; a complete disconnect and just not understanding at all. Do you think your parents are under the assumption that gay = choice? That tends to be a lot of the argument for people who vote against gay marriage and issues of that sort.

I don't know what it is that makes her so uncomfortable with it. I mean, she runs a Chuck/Casey slash group. And yeah...I just don't know. She is so supportive of gay rights; I know she is! But somehow it doesn't translate on a personal level and she is uncomfortable hearing about any details in regards to actual real life gay people.

Do you think your parents are under the assumption that gay = choice?

I know my dad does because he said so. My mom didn't weigh in on it, but probably. And, like, I don't even know where to start with that. I can't show them the inside of my head or something? And ... in all honesty, the science is fuzzy enough not to convince someone who doesn't want to be convinced. I mean, I just try to remind myself that I did JUST come out to them. They may come around more with time.

That is ... problematic. I mean, it's certainly good that she's super supportive of gay rights, but I wonder where that discomfort comes from. I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with her if you say some girl is hot. Is there any reason that she would feel insecure and not want to hear that? I ... honestly I've got nothing :-/ I do think if it really bothers you, you should try to bring it up with her. I mean, you're accomodating her discomfort here, but she doesn't even know about yours. (BUT BELIEVE ME I KNOW HOW HARD IT IS TO BRING THESE THINGS UP WITH FAMILY)


I love you. ALL of you, every single aspect.

I don't really have much more to contribute besides that, except I'm really glad you wrote this. I wish I could point people here and make them all read it. This issue is something that means a lot to me, and not even for my own sake, but for those in my life whom I love dearly and are treated as being less than human because of the gender of the person they love. It angers me to no end that people can't understand how wrong it is to deny LGBT people the same rights as everyone else. Love is never wrong.

Wow, ok so maybe I needed to rant a little bit there, lol.

You are wonderful! It's people like you who give me so much hope, Laurel. I love so much that you care passionately about this even though it doesn't personally affect you. ♥

WORD!!!!! Wonderfully eloquent and so so true. Especially the dozens of different ways being queer affects our lives every day, and i'd add to your list, the fact that coming out is a continual process that never ends. And struggling against internalising the HAtred around us never ends.

And of course the awesomeness of being queer never ends either ;D

Oh, gosh, I could have gone on with that list for DAYS. I had to make myself keep it (relatively) short. You are so right about both of those, though.

The awesomeness is, indeed, fairly awesome :-D

Thanks so much!

People who wear socks with sandals? Let's lynch them ;)

Love is love, decency and civil rights should be the same for everyone. I'm sorry that your family/people around you are making you feel that that is somehow asking for special treatment. Unfortunately, in my part of the world, kneejerk prejudice happens even more frequently. :(

Who's calling the mob phone tree?

So many hugs and hearts for you, dear! *sigh* I do know there are places where it is worse (and even worse than where you are) and that breaks my heart.

You, m'dear, rock my socks (and I don't wear 'em with sandals).
I'm going to give this to the boy to read. He'll be pissed off on your behalf, I'm sure. He came home from theater camp one day this summer and when I asked if he'd met anyone new and interesting he said "M****! She's 14 and has a blue hair streak in her and she's a lesbian and she loves Star Trek as much as I do!" Just like that. =]

Haha, awesome! Gold stars for you for raising the next generation right *g* <333

thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this all out.

aww, thank you for reading! ♥

I read this and agreed with every word - but as for me, I have these issues and a bit more.

Being gay? You don't have to necessarily tell people. Being a Person of Color? I don't have a choice in telling people about that. It's kinda one of the first things you notice when you meet me.

And, since I'm Bi as well, I have many of the same problems and issues you have stated here. But I don't have the choice of "hiding" it. My life? She is uncomfortable at times.

I'm not saying this to start something, honest. It's just that it hit me while reading what you wrote, particularly the last part of your final paragraph: if you change gay/queer to Black, this essay wouldn't change all that much. What that says about our society and our culture...is *much* too long a discussion to start at 3AM when I already have a headache.

One can only hope that ours will be the last generation that has to deal with this bullshit. One can hope.

I absolutely agree. While a lot of the challenges of being a PoC and a queer person are similar in our culture, there are certainly these differences. I think of it as "visible" vs. "invisible." and each one comes with challenges. I think the coming out issue is the biggest difference. Even though there have been times when I was glad to be able to hide my queer identity, a lot of other times, I've wished it was written on my forehead or something because it would save me some really awkward/upsetting moments. I ... don't know what I'm trying to say here, other than ... word. Well said :-)

This is beautifully written. Thank you for making it public, so those of us who are fans of your fic could read it too.

I think this is my favorite line: I’m uncomfortable with people who wear socks with sandals, but I’m not about to go make picket signs and lobby for them to change their ways.

Because I think it illustrates exactly why it's so ridiculous when people say "I don't approve of gay people" or something equally ignorant.

Thanks so much, dear! I'm glad it spoke to you :-)

This is a good post and you should feel good. (hugs)

For me, one of the most annoying (which isn't the right word, but it's the closest I can think of) aspects of coming out to someone is that, "are you sure?" reaction. Like they think I misread my manual. "Oh, whoops, it says "straight" in the fine print. My bad."

I hope your parents open their eyes soon. It's always hard to look at the people who should love and support you unconditionally, and know that they really don't. And mostly, they don't even realize that they don't.

This is so amazing and well-written it just makes me want to stand up and give you a round of applause at my computer :) I'm not going to say I know how you feel because as a straight girl, as understanding as I try to be, I've never had to experience all that stuff first hand. What did really resonate with me was this sentence, "I’ve learned to speak in a certain way, with an assumption of a certain shared understanding". My parents (in particular my mum) raised me to be super-liberal and accepting of everyone's differences and I was taught that whatever I wanted to do or be would be fine with them as long as I was happy. When I encounter homophobia or prejudice from other people, especially from those the same age as me, it still shocks me sometimes because I just don't get it. I expect everyone else to think the same way I do and I’ve got into a few heated arguments because I can’t understand why they’re so bothered by what other people do. This just about summed up perfectly how I feel about it all: “There’s enough pain in this world and little enough joy that you don’t understand why it matters so much who you love. Isn’t it enough that you love at all?”

Sorry that turned out a bit tl;dr! Thanks for sharing and I hope you work things out with your mum <3

Word.

And yes, love in any form should be quite enough!

Living as a queer person means that to live honestly and authentically you must constantly come out. You must announce yourself publicly or risk being branded a liar. Never mind that there is no similar requirement for straight people.

Is this really true, though? I have little experience in a "community" of other queer individuals (aside from on the internet), and I always figured it wasn't a necessity to just ... constantly announce myself. My sister didn't need to stand up at Thanksgiving dinner and tell the whole family, "I like men," so why should I do the same with my preferences? By stating our "need" to constantly announce ourselves, then isn't that basically the same thing as self-segregation?

I keep fairly quiet because I haven't dated a woman since I've been back home (to be fair I've only dated a handful of men, and most of those were setups by well-intending family). I have every intention of being frank about it if I should meet someone, but I just don't see the point of shouting it from the rooftops every single day. Maybe I will when I'm in love; I don't know.

I speak up about equal rights and shush my sister and cousins when they say things are "so gay," and I've told them about my intent to go to the Pride parade (we got rained out), and I don't know -- this is my version of "living honestly," because to me it makes more sense to be subtle and perhaps a little bit manipulative.

I mean, this is how I came out in my personal life, with my friends, and it was nothing earth-shattering, simply Oh, Jen Has a Girlfriend; or Oh, Jen Thinks That Chick is Hot. And this was without knowing how they'd react.

Well, like I said, this essay represents nothing more and nothing less than my own experience and perspective. So, everything should be taken in that light. This is how I feel about queer experience. It's not necessarily how anyone else does or should feel about theirs.

With that disclaimer out of the way, what I meant by that is certainly not ... walking up to every new person I meet and going "Hi, I'm Stacy and I'm bisexual!" What I did mean was that, for me, I often feel like straight is the default setting in our culture. Someone is straight until proved otherwise. So, in situations where either this assumption comes up about me specifically, or people are talking about some topic and I feel that my perspective as a bi person is going unrepresented, then yes, I do feel the need to speak up. I feel the need to speak not out of a desire for self-segregation, but because in so many situations if I don't, I feel that my very existence will be erased or ignored. I speak up because if I speak up enough, and others do as well, it might be noticed that we are here. We have a voice. We're not "those gay people out there somewhere," we are friends, neighbors, family. If I keep speaking, one day I hope that people in general won't find it so scary and "other." I speak so that maybe the next generation of queer kids won't have to write that sentence.

:-)

Beautifully written. Have to admit, it made me tear up a bit.

Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes.

And also yes.

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