Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Questions and discussion about your sexuality and how it's a part of who you are as a person.
MeditationBowl
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Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby MeditationBowl » Mon Mar 09, 2020 12:33 am

Hi all,

I need some help unpacking something that happened recently. A friend told me that he thinks I am gay or bisexual and just don't want to admit it because of my religion. He said that he can tell because he is gay and he knows when other people are, even when they say they aren't. I'm not feeling so great about this. I generally identify as a straight man, though I sometimes experience aesthetic attraction towards men, which I explained (in different words). I didn't mind so much when he asked me whether I'm attracted to men, but it bothered me when he basically ignored my answer.

So, I know at least part of my discomfort is homophobia that I still need to work through. Even if I'm consciously choosing to embrace all sexual orientations, I still have shitty attitudes to unlearn. And that is my problem to deal with, not anyone else's. I DO NOT want to be shitty to my friend.

I also feel like this is still a boundary violation though. I don't really believe there's such thing as 'gaydar' as my friend put it, so I feel like he's stereotyping me. And besides that, I really don't feel comfortable with someone telling me they know me better than I do, especially not when we don't actually know each other that well. And while I would completely understand my friend criticizing how my religion treats queer people, I'm less ok with him assuming my relationship with my faith.

The thing is... I can't tell which is which? Like, I don't know how much of my discomfort is coming from legitimate concern with this interaction and how much is my own thinking needing to change. I also realize that it shows how privileged I am that this is a rare situation for me and part of me feels like I should just drop my concerns since this probably isn't anywhere near as bad as constantly being assumed straight when you're not. But another part of me thinks it still wasn't ok. And at this point I'm overthinking.

Does it make sense for me to feel weird about this interaction with my friend? Do you have any advice for how move forward?

Thank you

Heather
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Re: Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby Heather » Mon Mar 09, 2020 8:01 am

Hey there, MeditationBowl. :)

I agree with you: I don't think that it's okay for anyone to assign others any kind of sexual identity, and I agree this was a boundary violation. That's something that's only our own domain for ourselves, and should be respected as such. Even if you do have homophobia to unpack (and who doesn't?) and even in the event that you find or feel you are (now or later) some kind of queer, this wasn't okay.

About gaydar: as much as some of us who are queer can feel like gaydar is a real thing we have -- and it really can feel like it is sometimes -- studies have made pretty clear it *can* be a thing in some ways, but is still pretty unreliable a lot of the time, even when it is. Even though something like it does probably exist, it's not a superpower, and it sure as heck isn't an exact science, to say the least. Here are a couple pieces on this if you want them for yourself or to share: https://kinseyinstitute.org/news-events ... gaydar.php and https://www.iflscience.com/environment/ ... ng-gaydar/ and http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~gelman/re ... aydar2.pdf

And by all means, someone else can't know more about your sexual orientation than you do like it seems your friend is -- very disrespectfully -- suggesting. You not only are the one who will know best, again, it's not for other people to assign to you. I'm so sorry that your friend did that and did it this way. I can understand why you're feeling the way you are.

Moving forward, I'd suggest you have a talk setting some boundaries with your friend, if you haven't already. Do you want some help with that?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

MeditationBowl
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My pronouns: he/him
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Re: Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby MeditationBowl » Tue Mar 10, 2020 11:13 am

Hi Heather,

Thank you so much for your response. And thanks for those articles on gaydar - very interesting!

Yeah, it makes sense that a conversation on boundaries is the next step here. I'm not sure how do to that though. For more context, this is not an equal friendship right now. I'm volunteering in a group that's helping to support him in some ways, and while I do think of him as a friend and he definitely thinks of us a friends - family even - I'm also there to help him. He's also dealing with a lot right now, so even without the formalities, this relationship would be in a place where I need to give a lot more than I take.

He already takes things very personally, to the point that me being tired or awkward is sometimes taken as me not liking him, so it's hard to actually push on anything. He seems to view much of the world through stereotypes and mostly ignores me when I gently challenge them. At least some of that world view is informed by trauma though, so again, I don't know how to have a firmer conversation without doing harm.

Gone.Sorry.
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Re: Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Tue Mar 10, 2020 1:52 pm

Hi, MeditationBowl!

Actually, it sounds like you're in a really good position where it's important that you and others in your position can set boundaries with your friend and these other folk. I'm mentally ill, neurodivergent, and have a history of trauma that actually left me with CPTSD. I can definitely be oversensitive to perceived criticism, but it's really important to me that people don't treat me like a child they can't tell no. I should be able to respect others and respect their boundaries. Having a boundary set with me may feel like a criticism at first (but that's my reaction to work through!), but it also reminds me that I'm an adult and a capable person.

I know you're trying to support this person in many different ways, but you need to be allowed to be human and be tired and be awkward, especially with someone you consider a friend. It's great to keep in mind that he's in a difficult place, but I think it's important that you do keep gently challenging him and upholding your boundaries because that's something he needs to be able to hear and deal with.

If this can't be a bigger conversation right now, I think it's fine to just tackle it concisely in the moment it happens, if it happens again. It might help to provide a re-direction so it doesn't feel like it's going to turn into an argument or lecture. [He says something about you being gay.] "I know you think that, but I know myself best, and I'm straight. Please respect me when I tell you that. Hey, so did you hear [singer's] latest song?"

MeditationBowl
not a newbie
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:44 pm
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Re: Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby MeditationBowl » Tue Mar 10, 2020 11:21 pm

Hi horriblegoose,

You make a very good point. This really struck me:
it's really important to me that people don't treat me like a child they can't tell no.

I hadn't thought of it like that, but that is what I'm doing.

I will try to continue letting him know when he says something that makes me uncomfortable. I like the deflecting idea, but I'm still figuring out common interests to talk about normally. lol. But I think that is a good idea and I will try it if the situation arises.

Thank you!

Heather
scarleteen founder & director
Posts: 8508
Joined: Sun Jul 27, 2014 11:43 am
My Awesomeness Quotient: I know every word of The Lorax by heart.
My primary language: english
My pronouns: they/them
My sexual identity and orientation: queery-queer-queer
Location: Chicago

Re: Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby Heather » Wed Mar 11, 2020 8:58 am

In case it's helpful, I wanted to just take a moment to talk to you as someone whose work has almost always involved helping vulnerable people -- be they children, teenagers asking about sex and sexuality, people having abortions, people with developmental disabilities, etc. I'm in the position of both having to help all the time, but also having to set boundaries on a regular basis.

Boundaries don't hurt anyone or keep them from being helped. I'd argue that the opposite is actually usually true, and in a couple ways. For one, it allows you to continue helping them when you might otherwise (which would also be okay to do!) have to go away now or soon because you couldn't help them in a way that was healthy for you both. Too, most often if we are in a position of being in a bad way, it's either because people have *not* had healthy boundaries with us, or has usually been at least part of the picture. And if we are helping people who need help because of any kind of abuse or oppression, we don't help them by re-enacting or flipping the script on behaviours, relationships or systems that aren't emotionally healthy and based in equity and well-being for everyone.

Lastly, when we model healthy boundaries with someone, it empowers them to a) learn how to do the same, and b) feel more empowered and able to ask for and insist on healthy boundaries for themselves with others.

All good things, all of this. Know what I mean?
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

MeditationBowl
not a newbie
Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:44 pm
My pronouns: he/him
Location: Vancouver

Re: Unpacking my reaction to a friend assuming my sexuality.

Unread postby MeditationBowl » Wed Mar 11, 2020 3:15 pm

That makes a lot of sense. So yeah, going forward I'll definitely make sure to hold my boundaries with this friend as well as respecting his.

The more I think about this, the more I realize I have a larger issue with getting stressed and second guessing myself around setting boundaries. The particulars this time just made it worse. Something to keep working on I guess!

Thank you both for helping me to feel validated and to shift my perspective on how to move forward.


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