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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Identity » "I just have to know... are you gay?"

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Author Topic: "I just have to know... are you gay?"
Djuna
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Member # 29269

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So, I was at a party on Thursday night, and as I was leaving I was hugging my friends goodbye. I hugged one of my (male) friends by the door, and as I tried to leave, someone I'd met for the first time earlier in the night yelled over his shoulder, "HANG ON! I just have to know, are you gay?"

My patience was rather thin for this person who felt that they just had to be able to give a definition to my orientation before I left the room, so in a room predominantly full of cis, hetero people, I said simply "I'm pansexual," knowing full well ze'd have no idea what I meant.

"What does that mean?" ze said. I felt like ze made it as clear as possible in the way ze said the word that that ze thought I was being ridiculous and unreasonable in choosing a word for my sexuality ze hadn't heard of. My friend winked at me. "It means he has sex with cutlery, um, crockery, um, kitchenware," he said.

This person starts looking very frustrated - I'm not sure whether or not I would say that ze even looked angry at me. "Please, look it up," I said. "There are iPhones all around you."

And I walked out of the door and had a good rant with my friends about how rude ze'd been, trying to take ownership of my sexuality, requiring me to disclose it before I left, and trying to make me feel othered for using my preferred terms.

So.
What I wanted to ask is, how have y'all felt about people policing your sexuality or gender identity in this way, and how have you tried to deal with wanting to identify in a way that some folks don't understand easily?

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ďIn a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I donít know what I am. I donít know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.Ē

Posts: 1269 | From: London, UK | Registered: Jun 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Jacob at Scarleteen
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I think I temper some of my experiences with thinking about what the other person is able to understand at that particular point.

If someone says "...are you gay?"

Which is pretty common for new people and me actually...

I think I'd be saying "I don't really think of sexuality that way" would probably be reply at the moment, if they want to sit around discussing it that's fine, if not I don't have to deal with it either. For me it's a pretty unanswerable question though as it can mean a million things.

If someone said "do you want to have sex with a person with a penis right now" that's much easier to answer, as most of the time if that's asked in public the answer is going to be "no!".

I think a lot of the time if someone is asking "are you gay" just to humiliate or to get a reaction they can tease you with they don't deserve and answer at all. Answering questions with other questions is good though.

I really get this policing thing by the way... I know a lot of people who think that old-fashioned homophobia is the only thing they need to worry about. I think it's the "I just have to know" bit which I recognise the most.

For example I know someone who had hung out with someone new and then afterwards talking to me was saying "James seems nice, there's one thing though, he is pretty camp which makes me think he might be gay... If he's gay I don't mind but I just want to know if he's gay or straight... I don't mind either way, I just don't feel comfortable unless I know"

And that really sucked... if you're legitimised as a friend because somebody has confidently put you in the correct box and now know how to treat you differently... the world is not automatically ok.

[ 06-25-2011, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: Jacob at Scarleteen ]

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Djuna
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quote:
And that really sucked... if you're legitimised as a friend because somebody has confidently put you in the correct box and now know how to treat you differently... the world is not automatically ok.
THAT. Yes. People saying they need me to fit into one of their boxes so that they can be comfortable is basically people saying they don't accept or are afraid of people like me. I want to own the fact that I don't fit well inside those boxes. [Smile]

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ďIn a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I donít know what I am. I donít know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.Ē

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Kath
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I don't fit into boxes at the moment either, but for a long time I always identified as heterosexual. I dread when someone will inevitably ask what my orientation is, cuz I don't actually know. As a 20 year old, I'm 'supposed' to have worked it out, so I expect trying to explain that coherently and succinctly will be difficult.

With other people their sexualities don't bother me one way or another what they are. Sometimes though I ask what they identify themselves as, but not to fit them into a rigid box as such. Its more so that I can be sensitive to who they're attracted to and make jokes without being offensive. Mostly I ask this if it's unclear (such as if they're not in a monogamous relationship) and I'm looking to become closer to them.
In a way my motive for asking is so I can be comfortable with them (in avoiding an awkward moment if/when I put my foot in it), but my interest is more in how THEY identify themselves rather than fitting them into rigid already made boxes.

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Djuna
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Totally, and I think the difference is that in asking how they identify, worded that way, they get to pick whatever kind of "box" they want. If I'm asked "are you gay," it's clear that the person is expecting that I'm either gay or straight - they've placed me on the outside of the model they've used.

I think when someone asks something like "how do you identify," it's at least clear that they probably understand how varied identification is, and I would feel a lot more comfortable saying "I don't know" to that question than to "are you gay." There's really no age limit on questioning your identifications, either - that's a lifelong process.

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ďIn a strange room, before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are filled with sleep you never were. I donít know what I am. I donít know if I am or not... how often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.Ē

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Burdened with glorious booty
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Hey, at least people ASK you. I've had several people act VERY surprised when I casually mention liking boys, because they'd decided to assume that I'm a lesbian due to not being really girly. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm a tomboy - hell, I love it - but it gets really annoying when people go "wait, whoa, you're STRAIGHT?!"

(I'm actually demisexual, but explaining that takes too much time, so saying I'm straight is close enough for me to be comfortable)

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Ta-da!

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