In recent years, queerness has somewhat become normalized. There are LGBTQ+ characters on almost every network television show and many notable public figures have come out as GSMs (Gender and/or Sexual Minorities). Many musicians are centering their projects around sexual fluidity, including Janelle Monáe, Frank Ocean, and Brockhampton. Whether people choose to identify as gay, bi, trans, or don’t distinctly choose to label themselves, they are acknowledging the fact that sexuality is not simply black and white, but rather that it exists on a spectrum.
While more individuals are becoming comfortable letting their rainbow flag fly high, others remain coy about their sexuality; sometimes at their own discretion and other times, for the comfort of others.
The other day, I was at a bar with my friend, to whom I will refer as Greg. Greg dates both men and women, however, prefers not to label himself, so I usually use broad umbrella terms when discussing his sexuality.
I invited Greg to be my plus-one for the evening, as I was invited to the bar to take pictures for social media and to write a follow-up review after my visit. As I was taking pictures of my food and drink items, Greg requested that I refrain from mentioning that he grabbed drinks with me that night.
“If you post these pictures on Facebook, please don’t tag me in them,” Greg said. “My mother would freak out if she knew I went to a bar.”
Greg was raised by conservative Baptist parents and his family frowns upon alcohol consumption.
“Do your parents not know you drink?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “They’re very religious.”
“Well do they know you’re queer?” I asked.
“They know, but we don’t talk about it,” he replied.
Such is the case for me. I mean, I don’t think my parents know I’m bisexual, because they’ve never inquired about my sexuality. I really don’t tell people unless they ask or unless it’s relevant to the conversation. And even if I knew for sure that my family would be accepting, I’d probably still opt not to talk about it. I feel awkward about explaining bisexuality to monosexual people.
I didn’t press Greg about his sexuality or family life any further. For one, knowing him personally, I don’t think he’s the type to care about freely waving a flag. And secondly, where he lies on the sexuality spectrum and his relationship with his parents are both none of my business.
But I did ruminate on our conversation for a few hours after we parted ways for the evening.
Think about it: how many times have you asked a GSM if their friends, family or peers are aware of their sexuality, to which they responded that these people are, in fact, aware, but they don’t talk about it? Do you think the GSM individual chooses not to talk about it, or do you think their friends and family prefer that they avoid the topic?
I understand the need for events like Pride and the need for safe spaces and LGBTQ+ resource centers. For centuries, homosexuality, androgyny, and other forms of queerness were forbidden, and even punishable by death. People who fall into these categories are worthy of having spaces where they can feel safe, validated, and respected.
Personally, I think it’s great when I see people unabashedly take pride in who they are, but I would rather the idea of sexual fluidity be normalized. I would like for heterosexuality to not be the default and for non-heterosexual people to not be alienated or ostracized.
Sexuality is only one dimension of someone’s being. I personally don’t think it’s a significant part of my life. I don’t want to be anyone’s “bi friend,” I just want to be their friend. I don’t want to be my parents’ “bi son,” nor do I want to be the “bi cousin” of the family. I don’t want my friends and family to go out of their way to make certain places “queer friendly” for me, as I prefer to be treated like everyone else.
I also think the act of coming out is slowly becoming outdated. By coming out, we are, in a way, still vying for the acceptance of others.
I’ve heard of people replacing the phrase “coming out” with “inviting people in.” Rather than place the responsibility on the GSM to open up about their sexuality, the GSM “invites” the person to whom they are coming out into a new chapter of their life. The idea of “inviting people in” places the power in the hands of the GSM, rather than in those of the individual beholding the person coming out.
There are also people who opt not to have a big “coming out moment,” but rather, discuss their sexuality upon being asked about it. In most cases, this is perfectly normal and healthy. Nobody should have to prepare a grand speech to announce their sexual orientation to their friends and family and nobody should have to come up with contingency plans in the event that their friends and family disavow them.
Some people consider their sexuality a defining characteristic of their personalities. They believe that their queerness is what caused them to develop anxiety or depression, and ultimately shaped them into who they are now. For that reason, they want to be able to talk about their sexuality freely. But in some cases, one may come out to their families, where they respond with acceptance, however, they request that they don’t talk about their sexual orientation, as it makes them uncomfortable.
To me, it’s sort of heartbreaking when I hear of someone whose family has requested that they don’t talk about their sexual orientation. Although I personally choose to be unobtrusive about my dating life, I want for myself and for others to be able to talk about their partners and significant others and to answer questions freely and honestly. I never want for myself or anyone to have to hide parts of their life for their own personal safety, or for the comfort of others.
There are many nuances of queerness, but nobody is entitled to an invitation into anyone’s personal life. If you don’t want to share certain aspects with people, then you don’t have to. You owe no one an explanation.
However, no one should ever attempt to silence you or make you feel as though you need to hide certain parts of yourself.