I’m at work, a social gathering, or hanging with a new friend and the topic of dating comes up. I mention a woman or other queer person I’m into or have been in a relationship with and more often than not, the response is one of surprise and inappropriate levels of curiosity. Get it together, world—just because I may “look” straight (which shouldn’t even be a thing) doesn’t mean I am.
Acting surprised is rude. Questioning someone’s sexuality, however well-meaning, is just plain rude and inappropriate. Perhaps they really are surprised when I reveal that I’m panamorous and queer, but it doesn’t matter. Their statement of shock has now led the conversation we were having off-topic because of your outburst and suddenly I’m standing there trying to make them feel better about my sexuality.
It’s not my job to make ignorant people feel better. When someone shows shock or surprise about my orientation, I find myself trying to console them. I didn’t notice at first, but after a while, it started getting annoying because I’m the one that’s coming out! If anything, I should be the one that needs comfort. Still, I find that because I present as heterosexual, people are extra interested (read: nosy) and also extra shocked and sometimes in need of consolation. I shouldn’t need to console anyone in any way shape or form.
I shouldn’t have to share my sexuality in the first place. If it’s genuinely coming from a place of wanting to be educated/expand your worldview, people can ask me anything they want to know. I’m an open book, but it’s not my responsibility to educate anyone about my private life. And the idea that I have done a coworker or acquaintance wrong by not explaining my sexuality to them is completely absurd.
It makes me feel ashamed. Another thing that happens to my body when someone acts surprised about my orientation is that a feeling of shame washes over me. The funny thing is that I’m not ashamed of my orientation, but the shock on people’s faces brings me to a false place. I start feeling like I’m a witch on trial and I not only need to explain myself but feel bad for not being forthright with them in the first place.
I automatically get defensive. Whenever this happens, I’m basically immediately put on the defensive and the person I’m talking to either winds up asking me a ton of questions about my sexuality or they make what they think is a cute joke about it. Either way, I’m uncomfortable with explaining myself and likely going over my entire dating history with them.
I wish people would learn what’s appropriate and what isn’t. For those who’ve found themselves acting in the ways I’ve described above around queer people, here are a few guidelines of appropriate responses when someone comes out as anything other than straight. “Cool, that’s awesome!” works. So does, “Nice, me too. High five!” That’s the end of the list. Please do not make any fetishizing comments or get too judgy. I’m not interested and I will lay a verbal smackdown. Acting shocked or scandalized is also not OK. Make it stop.
Asking a million questions veers into creep territory. I realize people may be inclined to say more or want to ask more questions. As mentioned above, that’s totally fine… so long as the questions being asked aren’t invasive or completely gross. If it seems like a pretty standard inquiry, you can proceed, but watch your tone of voice. Queers are perceptive folks and we can sense your judgment, surprise, and condescension from a mile away.
Yes, I “look” straight—deal with it. Most of the time, I present heterosexually. If this bothers someone, too bad, they can deal with it. I know this comes across as a little harsh because a lot of people think it’s their right to know the ins and outs of everyone else’s life, including their sexual orientation. The thing is, it’s no one’s business and unless they’re told outright, it can stay that way. Not all queer people look the same and many are not easily identifiable. As a cis-gendered heterosexual, straight folks are just going to have to deal with this.
I just want people to be more open-minded. No one fits into one mold, just like no one looks or behaves the same way. When people start being more open-minded about what sexuality and gender identity are supposed to look like, people will be more likely to open up to about theirs and the world will be a much better place.
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