I have had more than one person say to me, about the fact that I talk about my daughter being LGBT publicly, that they don’t see why people need to “come out” or why it needs to be discussed publicly as sexuality is a private thing. They say that they never feel the need to tell anyone “Hey, I’m heterosexual.” Well, of course they don’t, because that is assumed. Unless told otherwise, you assume everyone you meet is straight, don’t you? It’s the default.
Another friend told me that they never discuss the fact that one of her nieces is gay any more than they discuss the fact that the other is straight. And I get what she’s saying.
In a perfect world, your child should be able to show up with a date of either gender and no one would bat an eye. Ok, so Susie brought a boy to dinner and Sally brought a girl. Pass the gravy please.
That would happen in a perfect world of acceptance. In perfect world, no one has to come out and mention their sexuality and no one has to discuss it. Sadly, this isn’t a perfect world.
The reality is that if I, as a perceived cisgendered straight woman, never mentioned my orientation to others then they meet my partner, a cisgendered straight man, there is no problem. It fits into everyone’s world view, no one bats an eye and we all go merrily on our way.
However, if I, as a perceived cisgendered straight women, never mentioned my orientation to others then they meet my partner, another woman, all kinds of drama and chaos might ensue. I could lose my job, lose friends, lose family, be kicked out of my church, be kicked out of my home, be beaten, raped (“corrective rape” that is a thing some people actually believe in) or even murdered. So it seems reasonable to feel people out a little.
It seems reasonable to say on Face book, in email, over the phone or even in person with a friend or family member brought for backup (just in case) “Hey, I’m gay.” And see how folks react before showing up at the family reunion with a significant other than might provoke, yelling, crying, ejection from said reunion, ejection from said family, even violence.
Now this is where you tell me that those are extreme reactions and you’re right. Sadly, coming out often elicits extreme reactions.
While it makes me very happy to hear that there are families where it’s a non issue, that’s not always the case. That’s not even usually the case. At best, many family members struggle in the beginning for acceptance even when they are trying. At worst you have to worry about the extreme reactions that happen to LGBT people every day. You can google the statistics on homelessness, suicide, assault and murder if you want. They are staggering.
So if you don’t feel the need to discuss it because you are open and accepting and love everyone, that is great and I am happy that you and others like you exist. However, I need you to understand why I HAVE to talk about it.
I don’t have the luxury to ignore the very real discrimination and hatred that still exists in this world just because there are folks who don’t feel that way. I do believe that the number of folks who are accepting and loving is growing, that the number of families that accept all their members just as they are, is growing. That makes me happy and it gives me hope. I know when you say you don’t know why anyone needs to discuss it, or to come out, I know what you mean is that it shouldn’t matter if someone is gay or straight. And you’re right, it shouldn’t. But it does.
Until LGBT people can’t be legally discriminated against, I have to talk about it. Until LGBT people have the same rights as others, I have to talk about it. Until my daughter can walk down the street holding her girlfriends hand as freely as my son can, without fear of being called names or even assaulted in public for it, I have to talk about it. Until LGBT people are no longer assaulted and murdered at higher rates than the general public, until they are no longer targets of hate crime, I have to talk about it. I can’t NOT talk about it.