Facebook Turned Red and Heterosexism Came Out to Play

When Facebook turned red for marriage equality, I had a lot of friends change their profiles in solidarity to LGBT rights. Many of them shocked conservative friends and family members with their stance, which isn’t surprising since, even as an out and vocal bisexual woman, I still shock people with my support of marriage equality.

It was a little annoying to hear about some of the rude questions my friends faced as a result of their stand. I don’t really know what it is that makes people feel like they have the right to nose into your personal life or judge you simply because they disagree with you, but I thought I might take a moment and remind others of a few general tips of politeness with regard to the sudden awareness of those who support marriage equality.

First of all, the fact that someone reveals their personal stance on marriage equality is not an invitation to ask them, “Are you gay?” If they haven’t made a point to inform you of their sexual orientation, it’s none of your business. You are not entitled to additional personal information about someone else based on the publicity of their political views.

I’m not saying we should all assume everyone is straight until told otherwise. There is a polite and respectful way to ask about someone’s orientation. If you’re meeting a new acquaintance, it’s actually nicer to ask if they have a partner as opposed to a boyfriend/girlfriend. You’re opening the door for them to talk about themselves without making a heterosexist assumption or (as I’ll talk about below) stereotyping them as gay.

However, politely giving someone the space to reveal something about themselves as you get to know them is not the same thing as accosting someone you already know to question them about their sexual orientation because they revealed a political position of which you were previously ignorant. The former is a courtesy; the latter is just the opposite.

Secondly, if they feel comfortable answering such an obviously rude question, it doesn’t give you the right to shove your more conservative beliefs in their face. Again, if you’re not close enough to them to know their sexual orientation, you’re probably not close enough to them to tell them how to live their lives. If someone feels comfortable asking for your opinion on an aspect of their life, THEY WILL ASK YOU. If they don’t ask you, keep your mouth shut. Simple as that—and that goes for parents too!

Thirdly, don’t assume someone’s orientation based on how they look or who they’re with. If your “gaydar” is based on stereotypes, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. There is no such thing as a “gay look” or a “dyke look.” Femininity or masculinity are not clear-cut indicators of someone’s orientation. Saying someone looks or doesn’t look gay shows you up as a bigot who can’t think outside of clichés.

Furthermore, just because someone is dating or married to a member of the opposite sex doesn’t mean they are straight. Many people feel trapped in a false identity out of fear or have been sucked into unfulfilling relationships under the lie that marriage can “fix” their same-sex attractions. And if you’re the type of person who would break any of the above courtesy rules, you can’t expect a closeted person to feel like trusting you. In fact, you’re probably contributing to them feeling like they need to stay closeted.

Also, don’t forget about the middle. Sexual orientation is not black and white. Most people fall somewhere along a continuum, and a good number of them fall close to the middle, meaning they are attracted to multiple gender expressions. That also means that there are a good number of people in heterosexual, monogamous relationships who do not consider themselves strictly straight. I’m one of them. Just because I don’t happen to be in a relationship with a woman right now doesn’t mean my attraction to women ceases to exist. In the end, judging someone’s sexual orientation based on their relationship status is just another form of heterosexism.

Lastly (for now), supporting marriage equality DOES NOT mean that you are gay. Straight allies exist, and they can be as vocal for marriage equality as any LGBT person. It’s not a hard concept. White people have been allies in the fight for racial equality. Men have been allies in the fight for women’s rights. Christians have been allies in the fight for religious freedom. Pretty much for any struggle, you’ll find members of the power group lending their support to the oppressed. Stop assuming that only gay people support gay rights.

Advertisements

Tales from the Lesloom: The Birth of the Lesbian Futon

I recently became the guardian of a sacred piece of furniture–the lesbian futon. This is a futon that is about as old as I am, and in it’s lifetime, it has only been in the keeping of lesbian or bisexual women. As part of the responsibility as its new guardian, I am entrusted with its safekeeping and of ensuring that it gets passed on to a lesbian or bisexual woman when I can no longer care for it.

Right now, it sits in my living room in a place of honor. I feel that this futon has many stories to tell, and I’ve decided I should record the adventures it whispers to me. Since my friends are as dorky as I am (I love you all!) and have been waiting eagerly for the thrilling tales of this honorable heirloom, or “lesloom” as it was christened, I’ve decided to add a subcategory to my blog that will allow them and anyone else interested in the life an inanimate object might have to follow along. This is the tale of the futon’s birth, as whispered to me in a dream 😉

Once upon a time, there was an old man who worked at a furniture factory. He had a single child—a daughter, and she was his pride and joy. He and his wife raised their little girl with as much love as a child could desire.

She grew up into a beautiful woman and went off to college, the first in her family. The old factory worker was so proud. He would brag about her every chance he got, even telling of his pride to the furniture for which he assembled parts if there was no one else to listen. He liked to think that expressing his deep love for her to the wooden parts that came through left a lifelong impression of love on them as they went out into the world.

A year passed, and it was time for the treasured daughter to come home for the summer.

And how her family prepared! Her mother bought all her favorite foods. Her father bought her flowers and took off a few days from work to be with her. Nothing was spared for her homecoming.

But when the daughter came, she wasn’t alone.

After her hand-me-down car had come to a stop outside the modest house of this happy family, a young woman got out of the passenger seat.

The parents didn’t have time to speculate before their daughter jumped out as well, running towards them. “Mom! Dad!”

They embraced in tearful ecstasy.

“I’ve missed you so much!” she cried.

“You’ve no idea how much we’ve missed you!” her father replied, feeling as if his heart might explode in sheer happiness.

After a long while of hugging, during which the new girl stood off to the side, forgotten but watching, the daughter finally pulled away.

“I’ve got someone to introduce you to,” she said, motioning her companion forward. “This is Nicole, my girlfriend.”

Had she left it at that, her parents probably would have missed her true meaning and welcomed Nicole as a dear friend.

But the daughter was so sure in her parents’ love for her, it never occurred to her to hold anything back. With absolute confidence that her joy would be shared, she took Nicole’s hand and said, “I love her—so much.”

Nicole, a bit wiser than her dear love, smiled hesitantly and offered her hand to the old man and woman.

The smile on the father’s face faltered and fell as his wife recoiled into his chest. He wanted to ask his beloved daughter to repeat what she’d said. Surely he’d misheard!

But he knew he had not.

Suddenly a deep bitterness took over his heart. “No,” he growled.

“I don’t understand.” His daughter’s glowing eyes now filled with pain and disbelief.

“No!” This time it was a roll of thunder. “You are not that. This will not happen to my daughter.”

“But, daddy—“

“No!” He waved his fists in anger, his love forgotten in his rage. “NO! This is an abomination! You are not welcome in this house in such a perverted state!”

The daughter looked to her mother, searching for a sign of compassion. But her mother wept with her eyes averted. She would not look at her daughter.

Nicole stepped gently forward and began pulling her love away as the girl’s father continued to rage. They got back in the car and drove away.

“We’ve lost her,” the mother whimpered. “We’ve lost our baby girl.”

“She’ll be back,” the old factory worker said as his anger cooled. “She’ll come to her senses, and she’ll come back.”

But she didn’t.

Late that night, the old man and his wife were awakened by a call. When they answered, they discovered that their daughter had been brought to the emergency room, but that she had died on the way.

The old man was overcome with grief. Such loss he could not bear—and such guilt! He felt certain that he had been responsible. He could not bring himself to go to the hospital to claim the body of his child. The shame was too great even for him to attend the funeral.

Whispers circulated that he hated her and disowned her even in death. He became known as a heart-hearted man.

He did not contradict. He was too buried in remorse to think of defending himself.

But at work, as he assembled the furniture parts, he sobbed and told the truth—of his love, of his hate, of his loss and the acceptance that came too late.

And as he wept, the wood indeed listened.

One piece of furniture in particular was touched—a futon. Now any other week, this futon would have been like all the others. But the grief of the old man shook the futon to its very nails, and it vowed to do everything it could to help women and girls like this poor man’s daughter.

Thus it became the lesbian futon.