Every year. Every. Single. Year.
Every year, National Coming Out Day is eventually appropriated by a small group of indignant straight people taking the bold step to publicly disclose their heterosexuality. It’s a strange phenomenon – when something exists for a marginalized population, a handful of people within the dominant culture will try to make it about them. Whether it’s LGBTQ Pride Marches, Coming Out Day, or any other designation for which there is not a cisgender, heterosexual equivalent, someone crashes the party and shifts the conversation back to their gender-binary-aligned straightness.
One of the most challenging aspects of my work is convincing someone in a place of privilege that not everything is about them. Things, days, celebrations can exist that aren’t theirs. I’m reminded of people who scoff at allocating a certain number of parking spaces for individuals with handicaps or impaired mobility. Eliminating the possibility of access to everything can seem like an encroachment. I’ve always been able to park in any open spots, now I can only park in 97% of the open spots….why, gods, why? People in the dominant culture walk through a world made by them, and for them. They don’t think about it because they don’t have to.
Posting a snarky message on social media to indicate you are part of the dominant culture….my, aren’t you the plucky one. Come and talk to me when you had to worry about getting kicked out of the house for being a “breeder” straight person. Or when your parents disowned you after discovering love letters from a suitor of the opposite gender. Or when your partner was fired from their teaching job because the wedding announcement went viral. Or being arrested for holding hands with your crush. That’s the level of risk/reward considerations queer people filter through every day. Every. Single. Day.
Living authentically requires effort. We are inundated from birth with subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, messages about how they should interpret themselves in the world. If you were born straight and cisgender, there are a whole host of social preconceptions that you never had to overcome. People assume you to be a straight, cisgender person and ta-da! If someone incorrectly perceives you to be queer, non-binary, transgender, etc., you have the option to clarify your identity. If you are gay, lesbian, gender fluid, agender, etc. – everything from your personal safety to your livelihood depends on the decision of disclosing.
Instead of wondering why other groups have to express something, reflect on why you don’t have to think about it.
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