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You Don’t Know Me, I’m a Damn Enigma

Published April 25, 2016 by auddity

Please allow me this rant: You don’t know me, so stop misidentifying me.

I have recently been misidentified as a lesbian and as bisexual. The first instance was by a friend of a friend, to whom I’d come out as queer a few weeks before. Her flub was unintentional and well-meaning; we were discussing a coworker of hers and she said, “She’s a fellow lesbian,” and continued with her story. I didn’t think it was worth it to interrupt the flow of conversation to correct her, but it stung a little. I thought, “Well, at least she remembered I wasn’t straight,” but in reality, it just goes to show that lesser-known identities are often erased by the gay-straight dichotomy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to explain what my sexual orientation means to me, and describe where I fall under the queer umbrella. Now, I don’t dislike talking about this stuff – in most cases I love it! – but it can get old sometimes, especially when the person I’m talking to has literally no idea what I’m talking about.

That was the case with a coworker, my teaching partner, of whom I am not a fan to begin with. She used the word “gay” to mean stupid, and instead of letting it go, I took it as an opportunity to speak up against that kind of usage. I asked her politely, “Could you not use that word in that way?” She asked me why, so I told her I found it offensive (even though me asking her to stop using the word should’ve been sufficient). She quickly insisted that she and her family didn’t have anything against gay people, it was just a word they used. This woman worked with special needs kids for several years before coming to my school, so I tried a different approach; I explained, “You using ‘gay’ in that way is like if you said ‘retarded’ to mean stupid.” I could tell she still wasn’t really understanding what the issue was, so I told her that it was personal to me because I’m queer. She looked blankly at me so I elaborated, “I don’t identify as straight, but I don’t identify as gay either.” Her face lit up, “So you’re bisexual!” I shook my head and realized I was fighting a losing battle. I asked her to please not use that word around me, and just left it at that. Our three year-olds were about to arrive and I didn’t have the time or energy to give her a lesson in gender studies.

What bothers me the most, and it was there in both cases, is that assumption of knowing. It’s like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular straight person, I’m a cool straight person.” No. Don’t assume you know anything about me just because you’ve watched the L Word or you had a gay friend in college or whatever other asinine excuse you want to throw at me. You don’t know me, so stop pretending like you’re in on it, like we’re part of some club, like you’ve got me figured out. Until you put in the work to actually educate yourself, you can shut up about all of this. Just stop.

I can only imagine what genderqueer, genderfluid, and transgender folks go through. They no doubt experience this kind of thing on a regular basis. The same with people of color, especially those who are of mixed ethnicities and/or racially ambiguous. I deal with a small fraction of this and it drives me crazy. If you don’t know, don’t assume! Find an appropriate way to ask or do some goddamn research.

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What Makes An Ally: Because “Having Gay Friends” Just Doesn’t Cut It

Published July 16, 2013 by auddity

Let’s be real, lez be real, as a self-identified queer woman, I can say with some authority, it’s hard to find good allies. But as someone who knows and loves many members of the straight community, I know it’s even harder to be a good ally. Being an ally to a minority group means constantly checking your privilege as a non-member of that group. It’s not enough to just sympathize with people in the queer community; “having gay friends” just doesn’t cut it. In order to be a true ally you have to educate yourself. You have to do all you can to understand what it is to be other. You also have to know that you will never understand what it is like to be other, at least not in the context of being queer. You may have parts of yourself that help you empathize with the queer experience, but acknowledging your majority identity is essential to being an ally. It is a constant endeavor that requires patience, selflessness, and humility. It is an act of love. It is no small order. Although we certainly have a long way to go, it is because of our allies that we have made such strides in visibility, acceptance, and respect for queer individuals.

So the real question is, how can allies check their majority privilege? RESEARCH. Find out everything you can about your queer friends’ experiences. The more you educate yourself, the more you will come to see all the privileges you have that you might take for granted, and in turn all the rights and considerations your queer counterparts are denied. Take a gender studies class – read the theories and literature that started a revolution. Watch queer movies and TV; they are not always the best quality-wise, but they’re great if you want to learn some gay and lesbian slang, get our perspective on our own history, gain a little insight on how queer sex works, etc. (You might also notice the amount of gay and lesbian representation versus all other queer identities – hierarchies of acceptance/representation/validity!!) Watch YouTube channels of queer individuals; they are becoming such a valuable resource – a wealth of free, mostly reliable, first-hand information. Where else can you get that?? There is such a great community available on YouTube, it really is a cultural phenomenon. READ BLOGS LIKE THESE! Hopefully my own writing can serve as a resource, but if not, then I recommend everyoneisgay.com. They are awesome and super down to earth, and they will answer your questions! BLAM! Research done. (Of course I would also be happy to answer anyone’s questions, they just have a much wider reach.) Lastly, TALK TO YOUR QUEER FRIENDS! Nine times out of ten when someone asks me a question about being queer I am flattered and absolutely willing to answer as best I can.

Once you have done all that SHARE WHAT YOU’VE LEARNED, share whenever possible – especially in all-straight situations. Do you have any idea what kind of impact a straight person speaking up for queers can have on other straight people? You know what else would make a splash? If you as a straight person made yourself visible as an ally. Go to pride events, go to your local gay-straight alliance meetings, make yourself known in queer community. That way you’ll not only be known and respected as a queer ally in the straight community, but more importantly in the queer community.

Although I identify as queer, that doesn’t mean I automatically possess an infinite database of all things queer. I went through my own journey becoming a trans* ally, in which I had to consciously educate myself. A lot of what I know now I learned by talking with my friends who were trans*; I was fortunate in that I had a fairly accessible community of trans* people to whom I could go with questions, and they were comfortable enough to share their experiences with me. However, there is only so much they were willing to share, so some of my research had to be done independently. The key to doing this kind of research is sensitivity. You have to remember, it is not your queer friends’ job to educate you. You have to find that balance between what’s respectful curiosity/genuine interest and what is just too personal. My friend has a really awesome YouTube channel, which I know has been an amazing resource for not only me but a lot of other people, where he really puts his experiences out there in a wonderfully personal way. Something like that is great because you’re still getting that personal connection that a class or a book maybe can’t give you, but it’s all information that he is willing and happy to share.

My last question is, should allies be included in the LGBT community? They are sometimes included as an add-on to the acronym: LGBTQQA… but do queer people accept allies enough to consider them queer? Well this queer person does. Being an ally actively aligns oneself to the queer community, takes a stand against heteronormativity, and effectively queers what it is to be straight. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a super-queer duck.

Being “Queer”

Published May 24, 2012 by auddity

I always have so much to say until I’m faced with actually putting it into words.

I identify as queer. For those of you who don’t know what that means, well, it’s actually very complicated. “Queer” can act  as kind of a catch-all term for people who don’t feel like they fit into the categories of sexual orientation that are acceptable in today’s society, namely gay, straight, or bisexual. It’s an all-inclusive term, basically. For me personally, queer was what I chose to identify as when I started having feelings for trans men after having previously only been attracted to women and identifying as gay. (Although before that I exclusively identified as straight, so it’s all a bit of a toss-up really.)

However, along with the queer identity comes certain assumptions, both within and outside of the queer community. Politically, the queer agenda is very radical: anti-capitalism, anti-assimilation, anti-a lot of things. They want change and they’re ready to fight for it. Socially, the queer community focuses heavily on hook-up culture. And in a community where anybody could potentially hook up with anybody, it all gets very confusing and toes get stepped on and feelings get hurt. (Hint: I’m talking about this kid right here.)

As a politically moderate queer virgin, I am here to say that there are some things I don’t like about being queer. Or, about how I am expected to act after adopting a queer identity. I won’t pretend to be an expert on radicalism or hooking up, quite the opposite actually, but I have felt pressured to act radical or to assert my sexuality by hooking up with people, just because I’m queer. I don’t think straight people often feel pressured to do these things. And gay people are definitely pressured/assumed to hook up but the image of the domestic gay couple is quickly replacing the image of the promiscuous gay, especially now that Obama has made gay okay.

What I’m saying is, does being queer have to make me a radical? Does being queer mean the only way I can express my sexual freedom is by hooking up with a different person every weekend? I hope not. Because while I’m all for social change and sexual expression, I would like to go about it a little more quietly than my queer peers.

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