In a typical life, there comes a moment when you can feel both the past and future staring at you—when every decision you’ve made has finally led up to the climax, and every decision you’ll now make will lead up to your future resolution. The entire world is taking a moment to pause and witness the most paramount moment of your life. For LGBTQ+ youth, this moment is often their coming out.
That moment is never easy. There a multitude of factors that can be preventing a person from letting the world know a part of themselves that they kept hidden. Bullying from peers, rejection from family, and even a refusal towards themselves. Not to mention the many politicians who want to uphold their bigoted “traditional values.” There is a reason as to why suicide attempts are six times more likely for LGBTQ+ youth than their straight counterparts. It’s hard.
When that time comes, however, friends and family members of these teenagers may feel very confused. They may be reflecting on all of the microaggressions that they themselves have forced upon their friend/family member. For the one that’s doing the coming out, it’ll probably be pretty taxing to explain yourself and chastise each of the homophobic things that you’ve had to endure in your environment.
So, for the confused friends and family, and for the brave soul that has just come out, here are a few misconceptions and microaggressions that should be corrected.
“Being gay is a choice.”
This is the biggest, most socially hindering misconception when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. There’s a part of me that doesn’t really know how to effectively rebuke it, because saying “being gay is not a choice” just doesn’t seem strong enough for some people. I’ll just be blunt: Being gay is not a choice. There were no flyers passed out, and there was nothing to sign. It just happens—to both humans and animals. Gay people don’t just wake up and simply decide that they’re going to be gay; gay people can’t be sexually attracted to the opposite sex, just as straight people can’t be sexually attracted to the same sex. It’s literally that simple. The only choosing aspect comes with bisexuality—and even then, they didn’t ask to be attracted to both sexes. It. Just. Happens.
“He’s gay because he doesn’t have a father figure in the household.”
“She’s a lesbian because a man did something terrible to her.”
No. Wrong. As I said above, being gay is not a choice, and so outside surroundings have absolutely nothing to do with it. Sexuality is not determined by who you were raised by. There can be personality changes, such as “flamboyance” in men or “tomboyishness” in women, but that has no effect on actual sexuality. It just does not. There are many gay boys who happen to have both a mother and father; and men are not the sole purpose of everything, so stop associating them with a woman’s sexuality.
“Dykes aren’t real girls.”
A common misconception that straight men like to toss around. Yes, lesbian women are still women. Just because they aren’t sexually attracted to you, that does not mean they are any less of a girl than your girlfriend, sister, or mother. As long as they have two x chromosomes, their sex is female. It’s not a hard concept.
“She said that she was gay, but I turned her straight.”
No, you did not. This is a big one that’s somehow found its way into our culture. Sexuality is not something that you can just forcibly change; you don’t wake up and decide to be attracted to the opposite sex, just as we don’t go to sleep and make a conscious decision to be gay tomorrow. Sexuality does sometimes tend to be very fluid, however. Because of our society, we force people to have to “pick a team.” But bisexuality exists—and your comments on “turning her straight” are not only ignorant but adds to the erasure of bisexuality. Even when “that girl you turned straight” says that she’s straight, she’s only conforming back into the role that society wants her to play, because it’s simply easier to pick the “normal” route than continue to be looked upon negatively.
“I’m not homophobic, but I don’t like that shit forced down my throat.”
If you have to announce that you’re not homophobic, or racist, or sexist, then you probably are. See, the thing wrong with this statement is that you wouldn’t feel like anything is being “shoved down your throat” if you didn’t see anything wrong. Secondly, there is nothing being shoved down your throat. As LGBTQ+ people, we’re stuck in a world where everything around us is standardly heterosexual. Growing up as an LGBTQ+ individual, we’re only allowed to see straight couples on television, and we’re only taught about straight couples, and we even must go through straight sex-education. If anything is being shoved down your throat, it’s heterosexuality, not homosexuality. Representation is hard for us to come by. If something was being shoved down your throat, we definitely wouldn’t be organizing and protesting in the streets.
And that is it. To all straight readers, hopefully you learned something new. To all LGBTQ+ readers, I hope that you can use this article to help ease a bit of the exhaustion that comes with being a part of the community. Also, Happy Pride Month! Remember that the best person that you can be is yourself.