If you’re anything like me, you’d like to think that in 2021 as a society, we would be past speculating on people’s sexuality. Especially out loud. Unfortunately, in my experience, that isn’t the case.
June is pride month, and as a heterosexual person, I didn’t think I would have anything to offer other than a solid allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community. However, one issue surrounding LGBTQIA+ identity has been present in my life in recent years. Namely the issue of others speculating on the sexuality of their friends and family.
I have been certain that I am straight almost my entire life, I am aware that it is a privilege that I have been afforded. I have never had to hide my sexuality for fear of being outed or discriminated against. the point of this article is not to make this all about me, but stick with it, there is an important point at the end.
I began dating my boyfriend 4 years ago and by chance, his brother was dating a girl that I had been close friends with during school. We had fallen out of touch towards the end of secondary school, as is the nature of friendships during our formative years. When we reconnected through our respective partners we began to exchange stories of interactions we had had with old schoolmates and mutual friends. Most of them were banal and the same old awkward small talk interactions in the street that most people have with old school friends, but one in particular stuck out to me, specifically for the way it made me feel.
My friend told me that a mutual friend, whom I had been friends with for ten years at the time, had told her among others we had been friends with that I was a lesbian. When I heard this, I felt instantly angry and at first, I wasn’t sure why. Why should someone thinking I were gay make me mad? It’s not a bad thing to be, just not applicable to myself. After some reflection on the drive home, I had worked it out.
Don’t be offended by people’s stupid rumours
I was partly angry because I have always been someone who thrives on physical touch with those that I love. Some would describe this as my love language. I feel good when I hug people and when they hug me, I like holding hands, and as a teenager, I did hold hands with my female friends, but we all did. My other half could go months without verbally telling me that they love me, and I would be ok as long as they still held my hand of their own accord when we watch TV, or they put their arms around me when we fall asleep.
That means more to me than words that can so easily mean nothing. Even more infuriating about this was that this particular friend would ask me to trace my fingers on her back and brush her hair and generally initiate all the friendly bonding activities that it felt she was throwing back in my face.
However, what got me furious was the audacity to go around, behind someone’s back and confidently, matter-of-factly tell everyone you both knew that they are gay. Not only is it no one business except the individual in question, but it is such an incredible violation of someone’s privacy and boundaries, not to mention that it can be incredibly dangerous.
This person, who I considered a best friend was outing me with no evidence except I was private about my love life and enjoy physical touch with those close to me. While it wasn’t true, and I have no idea who still thinks that I am gay, I would feel even more violated if it been true.
The people this friend told were most probably open and accepting people who couldn’t have cared less who I was or wasn’t dating, news like that can spread and ultimately can end up reaching people who may not be accepting, and we all know the horrible situations that can arise from that.
Accepting everyone, always!
I guess what I am trying to say to you is, while we like to think that we live in an open and accepting society just because it isn’t a punishable offence to be gay anymore, that is not the reality that a lot of people face. With all the information we have access to the right at our fingertips, it should not be an alien concept that outing people is something you should never do. It can be incredibly dangerous and put people’s safety and wellbeing at risk.
Above all else, it is no one’s business what anyone’s sexuality is. If someone tells you they are gay, accept it. If someone tells you they identify as any sexuality, accept it. If someone doesn’t talk about their sexuality, accept it. Focus on yourself and just be there for your friends when they choose to talk to you.