If you are a woman who happens to like women, it means you hate or fear men. It means that those hairy bodies and smelly feet and stubbly faces are just too repulsive for you. It’s objectionable that men have so much power in society and women are too often subjugated by them and their patriarchal doctrines, so who needs them? Sisters can do it for themselves right?
So one morning I woke up, bought a Judith Butler book, a Tegan and Sara CD and some dungarees, threw out my razor and quit men. Hopefully you know I’m kidding.
But sometimes I think people really see it that way. Like all the outside influences in life force us into choosing our sexual orientation. When my wife told her parents she was gay, they were convinced it was down to her watching too much Buffy. If only they’d protected her from the pressure of a tenuous fantasy series about teenage vampires, maybe she would have chosen a more acceptable path.
I suppose people make these assumptions because they need an explanation. Nobody likes to think that as human beings we are all that different from one another. A lot of people are pretty uncomfortable with difference, unless they can form an understanding of why. Roman playwright Terence said, ‘I consider nothing that is human alien to me’. It’s a nice sentiment, but realistically I don’t believe people on the whole are all that willing to embrace the ideas and experiences of those different to them.
The way I see it is that the only thing we all have in common as human beings is the uniqueness of our experience. It’s kind of awesome to acknowledge the fact that no two minds are the same, not even those of identical twins. I find it somewhat comforting, knowing that I will never truly understand another person, nor they me. It helps me keep an open mind; the assurance that when someone behaves in a way I find perplexing, they could have any number of reasons why.
Maybe I can do this because I’ve got used to how it feels to be different from the societal norm. I know what it is to be an outsider. Even within my own family, I experienced a significant backlash when I came out. My wife and I have been heckled in the street and spat on. We always consider where we are and who we are with, and adjust our behaviour accordingly in order to avoid drawing any unpleasant responses from people. It’s not a nice way to live.
I think often people can’t understand that someone can be gay and also ‘normal’. If you’re attracted to the same sex, this must mean you have some inherent issues with the opposite sex. You must have suffered some dreadful trauma to not want to have straight sex. You must be damaged goods.
This is of course a flawed perspective. It neglects to acknowledge the fact that sexual orientation isn’t a choice. I didn’t wake up one day and decide to only have sex with women because I’m so disgusted by men. I experienced sexual abuse as a child, by a male perpetrator, but that hasn’t turned me against men. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of wonderful men in my life growing up, who I felt safe with and close to. That must have compensated for the one man who terrorised me.
I love people. Men and women, I adore the friends I’ve chosen to be close to. I don’t fear men, I don’t feel any more or less safe with my male friends than I do with women. In fact, the men in my life give me the most amazing bear hugs. That’s something I couldn’t live without.
Ultimately, I like to remind myself that every human being is an individual. Regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality, everyone has a unique set of gifts to give to life and their loved ones. Making assumptions just serves to alienate people and breed resentment. I shouldn’t ever be asked to explain my sexuality to anyone.
Finally, I wanted to share a short anecdote from a terrible therapy session I had.I met with this woman a couple of times before I realised she was no good for me. The loudest alarm bell rang when she asked me whether I thought I was gay because I was sexually abused as a child. I was furious. I couldn’t believe that a professional who is supposedly trained in being sensitive to others’ emotions could ask such an ignorant question.
It’s a bit like when I say I’m vegetarian and someone asks why. You never hear people asking a meat-eater why they eat meat. So when quizzed on this, or my sexuality, I just turn the stupid question back on them. That means, when someone asks why I am gay, I just reply, ‘Why are you straight?’. That shuts them up pretty quick.
Photo: Georgie Pauwels, Creative Commons.