I remember sitting after school with a female friend of mine. I was helping her with some trigonometry homework and decided to bring up another problem – one unrelated to the unit circle and pi.
“So, comparative government has been kind of crazy lately, don’t you think?” I asked, turning to look at her.
“Yeah, with the election and everything everyone’s been kind of politically charged,” she replied.
I ventured on, “Do you mind if I ask for your opinion on a couple of risque subjects?”
She put down her pencil and said, “Sure, no problem.”
Let me make myself clear – I’m not the type of guy who makes assumptions without evidence. But, to put it bluntly, I thought that maybe – maybe – this female friend of mine might have had a teeny crush on me. Me, as in, a homosexual. From inviting me to Homecoming, to casually consistent brushes and touches, to other questionable remarks, the evidence added up. I wasn’t sure, and I’m still not sure, but after months of waiting I wanted to establish the firm boundary of friendship before things got ugly.
“What do you think of abortion?” I asked.
“Hm… well, as a firm Christian, I’m personally against it. I understand that it’s a matter of choice and that women should be able to control their bodies, but because of my religious beliefs and the way my parents raised me I just don’t think it’s right,” she shrugged, as if she knew that I disagreed with her and wanted to offer a halfhearted apology.
Oh great, I thought to myself, this is about to get as awkward as me dancing to Taylor Swift.
Knowing that I couldn’t stop halfway, I kept going, “Ah, okay. What about gay marriage?”
“This one I’m kind of iffy on, because I’m a straight female, and I’m not exactly for it because of my religious beliefs,” she said, “but I would absolutely hate if I loved someone so much but was forbidden to marry them; that would be just horrible.”
“Oh… okay,” I said, wondering what I should say next, contemplating if I should just cut off a finger for this failed mission.
“Why do you ask?” she inquired.
“Uh, just wondering,” I mumbled, then, seconds later, “I’m gay, by the way.”
Here are a few questions I think we should all consider: when do you realize that you’re straight? Which Disney movie features a gay protagonist? When do you come out as straight? Why is sexuality not considered a suspect category when it comes to laws discriminating against certain demographic characteristics?
The general answer to all of these questions is heteronormativity. It’s basically the belief that it’s natural to be straight and unnatural to be gay; in contemporary society its holds the connotation of being derogatory toward homosexuality in general. Which, in my opinion, it is – even if there are more heterosexual individuals out there than homosexuals. Let me relate it back to race to explain why.
According to the US Census Bureau, Latin Americans make up the largest “ethnic group” in America. There are more Latin Americans than Asians. But that does not mean being an Asian-American or black or Native American is abnormal – it’s just not as common in the United States. That’s the way it should be when it comes to homosexuality versus heterosexuality, and yet it’s not.
After thinking about it for a long time, I’ve come to the conclusion that one big reason why blacks (or any other ethnic group) are not as prejudiced against in society as homosexuals is because gays can’t be seen. Not with the naked eye at least. You can’t just point to some random guy on the street and say, yep, he’s gay. Or look at your cashier while you’re at the grocery store on Sunday and say, this lady is a lesbian. Not in the same way you can identify your waiter as black or your math teacher as Asian. This makes it easier in a way for people to discriminate – they don’t have to acknowledge that they’re denying basic human rights to a certain demographic as long as that demographic isn’t actually physically present.
In the end, my friend and I talked about it and she took it well. She even told me that she hoped I didn’t think of her invitation to Homecoming as a romantic gesture; I wondered, though, after one of her male friends winked at her when we were talking together in the hallway the next day. I’ll probably never know what her true intentions were.
I’m super thankful to have supportive friends and to live in a culture that’s becoming progressively more accepting. But, at the end of the day, I keep wondering when teens won’t have to go through the dilemmas I face on a daily basis, whether it be acknowledging whispered gossip or awkwardly coming out in the back of a Physics classroom.
Oh, and, yes, I did kiss a girl. I didn’t like it either. Surprising, right? Maybe I’ll write about that, in a blog post to come…