Let’s Talk About: Flying under the radar

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I’ve talked about this a dozen times before. We live in a society that puts high value on whiteness, heterosexuality, Christianity, neurotypicality, masculinity in men, and femininity in women. People who do not fall into those categories tend to be the outliers in society, regardless of how liberal or open minded that society may claim to be. There are exceptions of course. Sometimes I feel like I am one of those exceptions. I am not a straight person. I often identify myself as ‘gay’ to distinguish myself from straight people, though lots of other people would call me a Lesbian. I prefer the term Pansexual though it’s difficult to get people to use it. The other issue is that I do not ‘look’ like a gay person. People have preconceived notions about what a gay woman looks and acts like and I do not follow those stereotypes. Because of that, people often assume that I am straight and treat me differently as a result. I have to come out a lot, to a lot of different people who arguably might not matter in my life.

What do I do when I realize I’m ‘passing’ as a straight person? Usually nothing. This would seem like a prime opportunity to educate someone about their own biases. They have assumed and they have got it wrong, so why would I not say anything? The problem is usually the way in which I realize they have got it wrong. If you are on the outside — and you do not pass for being on the inside — you might not realize that there is a secret, exclusive club in which straight, white, cis, neurotypical people make fun of people who don’t fit. This means that I have to hear a lot of gay jokes. People might assume that gay jokes are a thing of the past but that is just not true. They just are not told in front of gay people. The same applies to racist jokes — where people assume that because I am white I will be perfectly fine with hearing them make fun of people who are not white — and to jokes about neuroatypical people.

I cannot police someone’s thoughts. There’s just no way I can tell you what to think. However, I can ask you to think about what you’re saying before you say it. You’ve made the assumption that you can say these things in front of me, or that you can say them at all and you are wrong. It is never okay to make these kind of jokes and I do not want to hear them. Most people who laugh are probably trying not to be confrontational, and if they genuinely think those types of jokes are funny then maybe they are not the kind of people you actually want to be spending your time with. It shouldn’t matter if you know who around you might be gay etc. You shouldn’t be making these jokes in the first place.

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