You wake up tomorrow morning and make your way to the shower, as usual. You stand there as the hot water cascades over you melting away sleep and you begin to compose yourself for the day ahead. You start thinking about how you are going to interact with various people throughout the day and you start planning what words you will use with each person, carefully dodging specific words that may talk about your life outside of work. As you towel off, you start thinking about how you are going to dress. What shirt, pants and accessories you are going to wear, careful on the image they present to anyone who make take in your appearance. As you start to move through your day, you are overly cautious about your handshakes and meeting people’s eyes making sure you do not linger too long. After all, you don’t want them assuming something or passing a judgement on you. You may have a doctor’s appointment and even there you actively prepare what you are going to tell them, making sure you don’t say certain words about your personal life, so as not to be judged. At work you consciously alter your vocal patterns or how you stand so people don’t make an assumption or react negatively to you. Every thought, every action, and every reaction scrutinized to make sure you fit in. Unfortunately, this is something that many LGBTQ people face daily.
Sure, there have been positive changes over the years. We have made strides in LGBTQ equality, but sadly the trickle down effect to small towns or small communities aren’t felt. Many of us are gripped with fears in many days to day things that most people take for granted. We have pockets of sanctuary where we can be ourselves, without recourse. One of the biggest fears many of us have is holding hands with our partner in public. That simple act of affection has been enough, in recent news, to get couples beaten almost to death. In May of this year, a couple in Denver was stabbed for holding hands. They were taunted with homophobic slurs and attacked within blocks of their house, simply for holding one another’s hand. The man who attacked him was arrested but the police were investigating the charges. January 1st of this year, four men attacked and beat a gay male couple for holding hands. The four men have not been arrested or charged.
Transgender people constantly deal with the fear of using public restrooms. The backlash of a simple choice can have far reaching implications. The general public feels that they will be some type of sexual predator. There has been no reported case of any cisgender person being attacked by a transgender person. Also, there have been no reports of cisgender men pretending or dressing as the opposite gender to prey on anyone. Unfortunately, many cisgender people have the belief that transgender people are pretending to be what they are to prey on someone. January 10, 2019 two cisgender women were arrested and charged with sexual assault of a transgender woman in a bar in Raleigh, NC. The transgender woman had entered the restroom to check her hair and makeup when the two women began taunting her. They asked her questions like “do you have a penis?” One of the women lifted her shirt and asked her if she wanted to see her boobs. All three had exited the bathroom but one of the cisgender women continued touching and groping her stomach and buttocks. A bartender noticed the situation and asked her to stop, but the woman continued to harass the transgender woman.
Many don’t also realize that coming out doesn’t end with LGBTQ people. It is a constant thing that has to be addressed and that causes intense social anxiety. You worry about how someone will react to you and what will the long-term effects be. You may come out at work but as staff changes you have to think about coming out again. More work places are being more inclusive but if it is not communicated effectively, it can create stress. Companies cannot force an employee to have a mindset and while they may not openly oppose you for being LGBTQ, they may make small outward remarks that can create a negative environment. But there is the opposite side of that coin. Working so closely with people many start to feel a comfort level that gives them some ability to think they can ask you intimate questions that they would not necessarily ask their own counterparts.
One of the questions I have been asked more times than I can count, when I was in a relationship, is who plays the role of the woman? First, it seems that it is beyond the concept of heteronormative people to understand that as a gay male I don’t have to fall into the trappings of what they would consider a “normal relationship.” LGB couples do not have to be a “male” or “female” gender role, we can be and are fluid in how we express our love. Or the ever popular, “doesn’t anal sex hurt?” And it never fails that it is usually a woman who asks me that question. My response if usually asking them if their first time hurt? It is odd how people often think we are some alien creature that does not experience the same feelings and emotions they do.
It is as if because we are LGBTQ, we do not fit some mold that is predetermined by Caucasian heteronormative society. And because of that we are here to be on display like a rare animal at a zoo exhibit. Allowed to be inspected, poked, and prodded for the amusement and benefit of those observing us. Questions like “how do two women have sex?” or “Will you be my gay best friend, I need someone to help me shop?” First, Ireally don’t think asking someone about their sexual proclivities is appropriate, unless you are very close to that person. Secondly, if you aren’t paying me to be your fashion consultant, I doubt that I will want to stand around countless shops helping pick out an outfit that you are hoping I will tell you is FABULOUS on you. More likely, I will give you an honest opinion about it and you will not like it.
I am not trying to say that LGBTQ people suffer more than any other minority. Hell, LGBTQ people of all colors also have to deal with the imperialist attitude of the heteronormative Caucasian culture. Yes, it can be easier for many of us to slide by because the dominant culture tends to make sweeping generalizations based on their perceptions but make no mistake once they detect that there is a difference from who they are it is like blood in the water. Black men have said they notice when they walk down a parking lot that Caucasian women will clutch their purse in fear. I have watched Caucasian women pull their children close when they see me and notice the rainbow flag I may be wearing or inclination in my vocal patterns as if Iam some predator waiting to swoop in on their children. I have been called a fucking cocksucker and even had heteronormative men tell me to my face they are okay with me being gay as long as I don’t hit on them.
So, we may present an air of confidence to the world and that we are untouched by the stigmas that surround the larger percentage, but the truth is there are many small interactions with people that still cause immense about of fear or tension on a daily basis. Many people, even among our own community, take that for granted. We often beat ourselves up for feeling these feelings. We shouldn’t have to feel them, but it doesn’t change who we are. There is a quote from RuPaul’s book GuRu that says, “Folks are going to talk shit about you anyway, so you might as well go ahead and do your own thing.” I think it fits here as well. We can’t bog ourselves down but the judgement, we must move forward and be our best selves because we cannot change everyone’s mind. Be authentic to yourself and many people will see that and force their own change of mindset.