Thursday, February 2, 2012

Things that Need to Disappear from Our Vocabulary...Edition 539, Heterosexist Garbage

As I was reading Jezebel this morning, I came across a quick blurb on how "One Million Moms" doesn't like that Ellen DeGeneres is the new JC Penney spokesperson. They said,
Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families...DeGeneres is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store. The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.
In addition to making me roll my eyes so hard that I pulled a muscle, this reminded me of another of the many things that I think we should be totally removing from our vocabulary...any phrase or statement that asserts that gay people need to hide their lifestyle or alter their behavior in public. Examples include...

  • Why do they have to be so in our faces about it?
  • I don't mind gay people but can't they just act normal? (Pro tip: anytime you make a statement like "I'm not ____ but," truth is YOU ARE.)
  • He's just TOO gay, you know?
  • They're just shoving their lifestyle down our throats.
  • Gay people always flaunt their gayness. I never flaunt being straight!
I could go on and on because there are probably an unlimited number of ways you could convey this problematic, heterosexist attitude. The biggest issues I take are that these statements are patently false and operate from a place of BIG time privilege. If you think that our society doesn't "flaunt" heterosexuality, then I can't help but feel that you really do live in a dream world. Everything about our culture affirms that relationships between one man and one woman are the norm, while all else is a deviation from this "correct" pairing. No body bats an eye when a man and woman hold hands walking down the street or share a quick kiss. But if it is a same sex couple, many people are quite literally shocked. 

Think for a moment about how many movies, books, TV shows, and other media display homosexual couplings. While the number is certainly on the rise, those characters are still in an extreme minority. When they do appear, oftentimes their stories center solely on the fact that they are gay and they are boiled down to a caricature or a trope. 

The fact of the matter is that being out as anything other than heterosexual isn't about being "in your face" or "shoving it down someone's throat." It's about being free to live one's life in accordance with your truth.  Yes, there are Pride events--but those celebrations aren't about just about saying, "Fuck you" to the system (although, that's kind of a valid reason too, if you ask me.) Rather, as explained by Change from Within

Pride actually has 3 main premises :
1. People should be proud of their sexual orientation and gender identity.
2. Diversity is a gift, a gift we should celebrate.
3. Sexual orientation and gender identity are inherent and cannot be intentionally altered, so we should celebrate ourselves as we are – Whether we are Lesbian, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or somewhere in between, we were Born This Way.
Furthermore, I feel strongly that being out has an incredibly positive effect on those around you. It humanizes homosexuality. Just yesterday, I was talking with a friend about how her mom has changed in the past 5 years due to the fact that she works with a lesbian and has other personal exposures to queer people and culture. It's simply true that when a person knows someone who is gay, they are much more likely to support gay rights, and in my opinion that's huge. Asking people to stay closeted doesn't have the same positive effect in creating a culture of acceptance. (For what it's worth, I know that coming out is a deeply personal and often scary process so I don't advocate for "outing" anyone--rather I'm simply stating that those who choose to be out are having a positive effect on us all.)

All of this just leads me to the logical conclusion that people who don't want queer folks to be proudly out are really just homophobic. They are asking for a return to the time when gayness was much more shamed and the people who did express their sexuality in a non-hetero way lived in even more fear than now. The problem doesn't lie with the individuals who are out and just doing their thing--it's a reflection on the people who say this ignorant shit.

So yes, I'd like to put these phrases on the same pile with:

...and set the whole thing on fire. 

Your words shape your reality and paint a picture of who you are as a person. Select what that picture will look like carefully.

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