On “Coming Out”

A few days ago, (Monday apparently), it was “Coming Out Day”. It’s a different experience for everybody, I think, even though there probably are somewhat common themes that connect each person, even though they are major differences.

For me personally, I think it’s important to “come out” to yourself first and foremost. And this can be, quite frankly, hard, especially when your self – esteem is low anyway. Of course, with coming out to others, personal safety has to be, unfortunately, a consideration for much of the LGBTQ+ community. Data from both the U.S. and Australia do seem to suggest that LGBT+ youth experience a higher rate of homelessness compared to the general population (some stats I’ve looked at suggest that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT+, even though statistically, they are only about 2 – 10% of the population (5 maybe more accurate).

Talking about safety, it’s not just safety from parents and peers that LGBT people have to think about, but safety from government persecution, even execution. Currently, 79 countries still criminalise homosexuality; apparently, if you add “anti – propaganda” laws, such as in Russia, the number is 79 – 81; eight where gays or people involved in same – sex relations face the risk of execution. Frankly, this issue isn’t talked about enough in the West, (apart from the introduction to Russia’s “anti – propaganda” laws in 2013. Still, even that was brief. My point is, that still, in too many countries and provinces, being LGBT+ runs the risk of political persecution; in some cases that can be quite deadly. Even in countries like Russia where there isn’t a death penalty for gays, there have been reports of gays being tortured.

Another issue that I think is not talked about, even in discussion of LGBT+ issues is coming out later. According to American Psychological Association, most people realise they’re sexual attractions http://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation.pdf in their teens. However, there are people who do realise they’re sexual attraction later. In this month’s issue of Marie Clare, there was an article (or a small – side column), that featured a woman in her early thirties (33), who didn’t desire the same – sex until she was in her late 20’s, after she’d been married for three years (I think) and had been in a relationship with a man for four more years. How is “coming out” to those people? Is it somehow more complicated? I can sort of answer that (or offer my own perspective). I didn’t suspect I was even different in terms of my sexuality until I was 16, despite the fact that many stats say that 15 is the average age where people realise who they are. It wasn’t until I was nearly 21 when I came to a point where I identified as asexual (and there’s more that have happened after that, but I won’t go on). Now, I’m not one of those people of the LGBT+ community that other people (family, friends, etc), could realise I was “different” and therefore, most likely not straight. As a kid, I played with “girl’s” toys, Until i was about 16 or so, I was very feminine in how I dressed and until 16, just assumed I would fall in love (with a man), get married and have children. When I finally came to the conclusion that I was asexual, quite frankly, it made conversations about marriage, relationships, etc harder when they came up.

There have also been reports of women, who have previously been in relationships/ marriages with men who later find out that they’ve fallen in love with other women. Most of these women that I’m talking about, (from what I’ve heard/ read) do not identify as bisexual and didn’t identify as lesbian before their current relationship/ attractions. I’ve often wondered how coming out is for them. Has anybody had that experience? If you like, you can write about your own experiences in the comments section if you like.

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Why ‘Come Out’?

Before, I read a blog post (didn’t finish it admittedly), about a lesbian mother of young children and her struggle to ‘come out’ to strangers she comes in contact with. My question was ‘why’? To family or friends, if you feel secure enough. But strangers? Then, I realised, everyone does it. Let me explain.

People, especially women, often freely, talk about their family and relationships, spouses, etc. If you’re not in a traditional, heterosexual relationship/ marriage, what do you say when the conversation turns to you? I’ve been there, especially in my early 20’s. What do we say? I stayed silent, for most of the time. When I did speak, I mostly just went along with the conversation, kind of just went with the tide.

Frankly, the most awkward conversation is when I asked when I ‘like’ anyone (meaning man). I say, ‘no’, and for the most part, that’s where the conversation ends. That’s fine. But sometimes, I want more. I want to say, ‘welllllll, actually’….. and tell the person/ group the truth. Well, the basics anyway. This is why this blog is good for me, frankly. My posts appear on my Facebook wall (and Twitter feed), and, although I was reluctant at the start, I’m glad that it’s getting out there, and people I know (hopefully), are coming to know me as an asexual (I son’t really talk about romantic orientation). It’s been really positive, actually. There hasn’t been a backlash and no ‘unfriends’, so that’s good.

So, I guess everyone ‘comes out’ in everyday conversation, in a way; talking about martiage, kids, who likes who, etc. it’s just in reality, for those of us who don’t fit the ‘norm’, so to speak, it’s not good or bad (most of the time for me, anyway), it’s just another dimension I sometimes find myself thinking about. I’m sure it’s the same for others too (not all). Sounded like a dilemma for the mother I was reading about, too.

Being “Different”

If I’m perfectly honest, for most of my life, I’ve struggled with being different. It’s not easy. Social stigma, fear of being rejected, not able to do certain things, racking my brain to see how things are going to work out in the future it all comes part of the territory.

When I was at a camp, a now – friend of mine told me to see my difference (specifically vision impairment), as a “gift” rather than a burden. I realised I could extend that; not just thinking of my CP and vision impairment as gifts, but also my asexuality. I’m not talking about religious, holier than thou stuff. But I realise now that my differences, including my asexuality, can be used for good.

Anyone who has ever read or glimpsed at this blog know how vocal I am about LGBT+ issues, not in a way to intimidate others with differing views, but I do try to be educational to the wider community of what it’s like to be a GSM (gender, sexuality minority). To a degree, I can relate to the self – hatred that many LGBT+ people constantly face, even though I’m aware of when my empathy ends. I’ve been open recently about my own struggles with accepting who I am (or at least that part of me). It hasn’t been easy, but now, I’m starting to see that I can use those experiences to educate others and raise awareness somewhat to sexual/ gender minorities in general. For the most part, I do use links (whether they work is another matter), and media stories, but I ‘d be lying if I said I didn’t feel any empathy for LGBT+ in general. The recent ‘Gayby Baby’ documentary controversy has hit me harder than what I thought. And I’m very passionate about support and proper education that includes and supports the LGBT+ students, including asexuals.

I get that there would be asexuals who don’t share my experiences or views. I get it. So don’t think I’m not trying to talk for all asexuals. I’m not. I can’t. All I can say is how I feel and why.  If I wasn’t ‘me’, I may not be able to do that.

Identity and Politics

The “Gayby Baby” film presentation controversy has hit me harder than I’d like to admit. Not because it does affect me personally per se in terms of families, but it’s struck me at how political such issues have become. It’s bought back feelings of like I shouldn’t be who I am all over again, quite frankly.

Why is identity, particularly of minorities (racial, gender, sexuality, etc), so politicised? Not everybody is straight! GET OVER IT! I’ve written before in one of my other blogs, and also here, that I’ve struggled with self – acceptance. To be perfectly honest, those feelings haven’t gone away completely. This is why I’m so passionate about these issues being discussed in schools and for students who don’t fit the “heteronormative” category, or whose family doesn’t fit the “nuclear” norm is so important. It’s reality! All this talk about “propaganda” and the “gay agenda” is just becoming ridiculous. Students and parents should not be forced nor intimidated into watching the film, I agree with conservative commentators on that.

 

Why are the lives of LGBT+ people and their portrayal in society so overly politicised? Why is it, when an issue affecting the LGBT+ come up, it’s automatically deemed “shoving it in people’s faces”, or “the minority is taking over the rights of the majority”. Newsflash: THE MAJORITY HAVEN’T PUT UP WITH THE GARBAGE THAT THE LGBT+ HAVE (at least not for something like sexuality. I would take a shot and say that straight kids don’t have to pull their hair out wondering whether they should “come out”, all the while fearing repercussions. Straight people aren’t physically attacked or emotionally abused because of their sexuality. Straight people don’t go around having their orientation mocked in the media or told that it doesn’t exist. Straight people aren’t spiritually abused in religious institutions, pressuring them to take part in pseudo “counselling” which is condemned by mainstream medical bodies around the world. Straight people aren’t at risk of being sexually assaulted in a bid to “cure” or change their orientation. For straight people, struggles with sexuality generally don’t lead to self – harm and suicide (not that suicide, mental illness and self – harm aren’t tragic in other circumstances).

 

I believe (and the reason why I support the showing of the documentary), is not to “convert” people to be LGBT+, nor force people to take a particular side but merely gives voice to people who are living the reality of, in this case, living in same – sex headed families. Are there people that are going to disagree? Of course there will be. Will it make opponents of same – sex marriage change their minds? Probably not. All it will do is say “this is how some people live in the world”. That’s it. I’ll stress again, I’m against forcing or bullying people into watching it. Opponents should be treated with the same respect as proponents. But, in the context of schools and the wider community, the LGBT+ should be able to be heard just as much as anyone else. People in non – traditional families should not be in fear of public backlash. Like I wrote in another blog, if this can open the door to talk about not just gay and lesbian parenting, but also open the way to acknowledging other non – straight students (including asexuals), then it’ll be worth it.

 

Why is acceptance so politicised, I’ll never know.

Discrimination vs. Bullying

This is the last time (hopefully) I’m going post about the Adam Goodes booing controversy. A part of the debate has been about whether it was discrimination and how it was handled by the AFL and the media. On whether the booing was based on racism is only something that Goodes himself would know. Whatever Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, Rita Panahi or even Mia Freedman or Jonathan Green, it wouldn’t affect anything. I’m going to share a personal story that is not based on race, but I think relevant. When I was in high school; Year 10 and 12, I had three different people ask whethe r I was gay. I’ll never forget what I felt after each time. I felt like I was ‘kicked in the guts’. Actually, sometimes I wonder whether that would’ve been less painful. It may sound dramatic, but that’s how I felt. Was it homophobia? To be honest, I’m not 100% sure. But it hurt. Really hurt. One of the controversies has been over the then 13 – year – old girl who shouted a racial insult at Goodes and how she was treated. Again, I can see the dilemma. One of the people that made the comment about my sexuality was younger than me, probably only one of two years older than what the girl was who called out the racial slur at Goodes. I was faced with the dilemma. Yes, this girl was younger than me. That didn’t change the fact that it made me feel like total crap all over again.

Not or everyone may have felt the same way. I’ve heard on TV interview with fashion designer Alex Perry and a YouTube clip with Joan Jett; both who have had speculations and rumours about their sexuality, both seemingly unfazed. That doesn’t take away the fact that it affected me quite a bit.

What i explained here sounds minuscule compared to many other people, I get that. Also, I’m not pretending that I’m speaking on Goodes’ behalf. I can’t. I just wanted to bring my perspective and my experiences to the debate.

When Empathy Is Limited

There has been a Twitter backlash against US Cosmo after holding a ‘Hello Gorgeous/ ‘RIP beauty comparison as one of their features. Problem? The models on the ‘Hello Gorgeous’ side were all Caucasian while models who were African American were featured in the ‘RIP’ side of the feature, sparking accusations of racism, an accusations staff at the women’s magazine vehemently deny.

This got me thinking about how diversity is preached about in the media, but, frankly rarely presented.  In Australis, for example. Most media personalities are: white, able – bodied, cisgender and, frankly, straight. Of course there is nothing wrong with that. I’m not calling for anyone to be sacked because of who they are. What I’m pointing at is that most people, particularly in the media, try to advocate for minorities without having any real idea of what it’s like to be in the situation themselves. I think sometimes that can lead to a misrepresentation of people and, to kind of quote Andrew Bolt, a lot of ‘seeming rather than doing’.

 

I’ll bad perfectly honest, the reason why I’m so vocal about discrimination and prejudices toward the LGBT+ community is because I can partly ( I emphasise partly) because of my own struggles in the past about my own sexuality, the self – hatred and, for a time, a fear of a homophobic backlash from people I cared about (that was more before I identified as asexual). For a brief while in my mid high school years, it did lead to some nastiness from certain peers in my year. That lead to some years on my part of confusion, fear of losing friends (family not so much) and self – hatred. Now I know that what I’ve listed is quite tame than what a lot of  LGBT+ people go through. These are just my experiences that I believe have lead me to believe in certain things the way I do.

Can everybody empathise with a marginalised group? Yes. But I think we all have to be aware of when our genuine understanding of another person’s experiences are limited, or, frankly don’t exist at all. That’s why I find it so refreshing when I hear stories of asexual people actually being able to tell their own stories rather than have someone else telling the story, and frankly, sometimes, I believe, misrepresenting asexual people one way or another.

What are you passionate about? What life events have made you driven to that passion? ( you don’t have to go into detail if you don’t want to)

Being Able To Pass As Straight

There’s this idea in I’ve noticed on certain blogs about being able to ‘pass’ as being straight. That is, when looking at someone, you don’t automatically come across as not cisgender or straight. Even though I’ve never been in a relationship, for years (and for some people, probably even now), most people have classed me as straight. Some bloggers who’ve talked about this have pointed out some privileges that come with that, but I want to focus for a moment on why it can become problematic.

The biggest problem for me is my reluctance to set the record straight (no pun intended), when the topic comes up. When I first realised I was asexual, for example, I was having dinner with two friends and Tge topic of dating and marriage came up. Whilst I did participate in the discussion and went along with it, I felt a bit out of place. And there’s been other times when the conversation has come up and I just went along with it again. In fact, the only times I have mentioned asexuality, the conversation was started by me, often out of the blue.

How do you bring up asexuality if your among a group of friends in those conversations? Is there anyone who does bring if up there and the or do you just go along with it like I usually do?