We can be what we want to be
What happens when you have a different type of coming out story?
Even in 2012, coming out as LGBTI is still a bridge too far many. The prospect of rejection, discrimination and hatred is too much to face, and losing family and friends, too great a risk. Some LGBTI people decide to stay in the closet. For some, even ending their life seems easier than living it.
For some, it works out better than their worse-case scenario. You receive acceptance and feel a huge relief that you can be who you want to be.
If you get through 'the' coming out, you realise it is not a one-off event. There is always a new acquaintance to introduce to your partner; a call to a business where you must amend their use of a pronoun; or every single time you are out in public together, hand-in-hand.
But what if you went through all of that and then realised you were opposite sex attracted?
Here are three potential responses you get with a different coming out story.
This is the version where the people around you don't give a toss.
‘Life’s short’ they say, 'You need to do what makes you happy'. They give you their blessing willingly and without prejudice.
A position of privilege comes in two sizes. The first is the palpable relief demonstrated by the long exhalation when the people around you realise you have returned to the fold. Like ‘Okay…that’s weird, but phheewwww!’ You are so much easier to cope with now you are straight in their eyes.
Then there’s the traitor response from some members of the LGBTI community: it's a betrayal of the sisterhood. You've taken the easy road and you get to benefit from the privilege of living in the mainstream.
Both sizes of a position of privilege negate a chunk of your life and relegate your past to the trash. And they make a judgement call on who you are.
No, you’re not allowed is where you discover you have been pigeonholed. People like to know what to expect: Thursdays are shopping nights, Christmas lunch is always at the folks' house, and YOU are a lesbian.
Mixing it up does NOT fit their image of you.
We're creatures of habit. We like to know what we have to deal with. Like Charlotte from Sex in the City said, 'I'm very into labels; gay, straight, pick a side and stay there.'
There is an extension of no you’re not allowed. It is the $64 million question about the gender of choice for your next relationship.
Err!...what if you just want to live in and enjoy the present?
To understand all of this, here are a few things that might help.
Otherwise, well-rounded, tolerant liberals who rile against homophobia can be oblivious to heterosexism. It is not fear of homosexuality, it is the heterosexual world order. It is played out in opposite sex attraction assumptions. Here are two examples:
assume your children will be opposite sex attracted and talk about marrying them off when they’re preverbal to your best mate’s opposite sex baby
have the serious relationship discussions with your opposite sex attracted friends only, because your gay friends don’t really understand.
Wake up and smell the roses folks! The reason you might be straight is because you have never thought about it. Attraction is not limited to biology.
Compulsory heterosexuality suggests sexuality is a cultural construct and lives on a continuum that can be accessed by opening your mind.
LGBTI folk still have few public role models and images. You don't see yourself in adverts, movies, news, and when you do, it is rarely as regular people where sexuality is inconsequential. With few exceptions, your life isn't celebrated publicly.
In a world where you are invisible, identity is important. In fact, it is political. Identifying as LGBTI is how you take your space up in the world because it says ‘we are here’.
This Girl suspects homosexism is largely a crock-of-right-wing-Christian-lobby-hatred-and-fear-of-the-gay-agenda-shit. But there is a certain bias that exists in some LGBTI circles so for this purpose, let’s just define homosexism as LGBTI affirmative action. Basically, a great many LGBTI folk quite like only hanging out with other LGBTI folk and it's particuarly the case for the L's and G's.
There's a little acknowledged experience that might be a second cousin of homosexism: it's a distrust of bisexuals. Okay it's out there now. It's also closely related to a position of privilege. Bisexuals can't be trusted because they can always hide under the coattails of heterosexuality. Again, the preference is for the L's and G's.
This Girl can't help but quote Sex in the City.
Carrie: 'You know I'm not even sure bi-sexuality exists? I think it's just a layover on the way to gay town.'
Brace yourself partner. Not all lesbians were born this way.
Political lesbianism exists amongst women identified women and grew out of second wave feminism. It is chosen when women don't want to deal with gender power relations on a daily basis or prefer to celebrate women’s relationships in their intimate life.
It is lesbianism by choice.
It’s a queer nation baby
When you have a different type of coming out story, you might be surprised by the reactions you get: coming out as opposite sex attracted is not acceptable to everyone and the acceptance you get might be for all the wrong reasons.
But there are a few lessons from queer politics that are useful here.
It's best not to make assumptions about what goes on in people's intimate lives. Everyone's experience is unique. Live and let live.
And attraction is as much a matter of an open heart as anything else and sexuality – ‘We can be what we want to be’.
Annabel Crabb from the ABC’s Kitchen Cabinet asked ‘Do you have to hand back your card?’ to out lesbian Senator Louise Pratt whose partner had undergone sex reassignment, challenging her sexuality and identity.
As she replied simply 'It’s about the person’.