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Why you need to stop telling me I ‘don’t seem gay’

Written by gaytourism

No, having to tell everyone I’m not going out with my girl friends isn’t the reason it’s bad | Photo: @tomcapon93, Instagram

Meeting new people is a minefield. I get it.

The awkwardness of trying to find something to say when that inevitable, horrible silence descends is enough to make the ground beneath me crack open and swallow me up into the welcome arms of death. When jokes fall flat, I will the moon to fall from the sky and squish my useless brain. The effort required to care what a Client Data Coordinator is could solve the energy crisis.

It’s hard. I know. But, as with everything in this mean, hetero-normative world, it’s worse for LGBTI people. Every new person we meet, we have to come out to them. Over and over again.

Recently, this has led me to notice that nearly every new straight person I’ve met has responded to the news that I am, in fact, a homosexual the same way:

‘But you don’t seem gay?’

Before looking at me with proud eyes. As if they’ve just told me my ass looks good.

People, this is not a compliment.

A stranger said this when I met up with a group of all-cis male friends at a pub. Being six pints in, my response was pretty measured – I told him it wasn’t a compliment. He then replied: ‘Why?’

The question floored me. I thought it was obvious. But then I remembered if you threw that statement to me ten years ago I would’ve been beaming with pride. Maybe the answer isn’t so obvious if you aren’t living it every day.

I get where this idea is coming from. Contrary to the alt-right’s constant babbling, there is very little LGBTI representation in the media. The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that less than 1% of all characters in Hollywood films in 2017 were LGBTI. From the amount of times I’m still asked – in the year of our Lord 2018 – to be someone’s ‘gay best friend’, some of you certainly aren’t friends with many of us either. So for a lot of people, their ideas of who a gay person is are drawn from the loud and proud ones, those trailblazing flamboyant actors in school, or old, old stereotypes.

So to be confronted with someone who doesn’t fit within those parameters throws people off. They are saying ‘well done, you aren’t what I think gay people are.’ This is an insult.

Saying it as if it’s a compliment is an insult to the people who do ‘seem’ gay. The implication is that they are, like what the middle aged men in pubs who make every woman feel deeply uncomfortable says, throwing their sexuality in your face. Because these people’s identity stray too close to what society’s expectations of what is feminine, they are wrong. Campness is the status quo we should be positioning ourselves against. According to this statement, This is Bad.

Then just because I can’t dress myself and I look like the outcome of a bear and a shoulder high brick wall entering the teleporter from The Fly, I don’t live up to this expectation. I’m ‘straight-acting’. I’m ‘normal’ (in everything but who I fancy). This is Good.

But I am my sexuality as much as you are yours. People wave it off as private business, but it informs your daily life. It changes the way I talk to people, the way people perceive me, my safety at any given time. LGBTI people have their own culture, too, which influences everyone’s identity differently. I might have a passing knowledge of Ru Paul’s Drag Race but I will push a child out of the way if a DJ plays Toxic at a wedding. There is, actually, a lot about me that does ‘seem’ gay.

What is this saying about you?

It’s almost as if gay people are a diverse group who come in all shapes and sizes; who have unique likes and dislikes, and who don’t fit an imagined schema of what you think we are.

Trying to pass this comment off as a compliment is a form of homophobia. Even if you didn’t mean it, even if you were trying to be nice.

I get it though. When I was sixteen going to my first Pride, a group of more-out lesbian and gay people turned to me and said ‘You look really… straight.’ And I said thank you.

But if I could go through time I’d grab that kid by the shoulders and shout: ‘This is not a compliment! Positioning your identity as opposite to your sexuality comes from internalised homophobia! From people that think femininity in gay men is bad! Don’t take ‘not seeming gay’ as a compliment because it’s not one! It’s insulting to a group you belong to and enforces the kind of gender norms you hate! Just be who you want to be! Stop assuming there’s a proper way for gay people to act!

‘Also, maybe consider getting a haircut.’

More from Gay Star News:

If our paths cross regularly, smile back – I’m trying to say hello, not to f*ck you

I was put in Facebook Jail for three days for making a hyperbolic statement

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