Monday, February 23, 2015

Let's Stop Making Straight People Walk on Eggshells

Thank you, sweet baby Jesus!

Dear Queer People: Let's Stop Making Straight People Walk on Eggshells

Brooke Sopelsa
Producer, HuffPost Live
Posted: 02/23/2015 4:35 pm EST

From a heterosexual, male rapper singing about LGBT equality to the disturbing trend of straight people asking about our coming out stories, the queer community really has a lot to be outraged about.

If you couldn't already tell, I'm being sarcastic. But on a serious note, this lesbian has been pushed to her breaking point by factions of our community launching attacks on well-meaning straight people. We are making many of our allies and potential future allies feel as though they have to walk on eggshells because they don't know the latest LGBTQIA lingo (full disclosure: neither do I), aren't properly addressing their "privilege" when doing something positive for the queer community or -- here comes the most egregious insult -- are asking gay people "When did you know?"

It has gotten to the point that when a straight friend or colleague wants to ask me a perfectly legitimate question about my own story or the community in general, they usually preface it by saying something like "I hope this doesn't offend you, but..." or "I hope it's okay to ask this, but..." Is this what we want, to make people nervous about engaging in dialogue? I hate to think about all the teachable moments that never happened because someone was afraid to ask me -- or any of us -- a question.

I myself have been subjected to much worse offenses than being asked when I knew I was gay -- I have had a family member tell me they're "too embarrassed" to tell their friends I'm a lesbian; I've been physically attacked along with an ex-girlfriend on a New York City street by three people calling us anti-gay slurs; and, I've been kicked out of a cab in Manhattan during Pride Week because kissing another woman in the backseat was deemed to be "suspicious activity" by the driver.

And as a community, we certainly have much bigger fish to fry than attacking curious straight allies. In the first seven weeks of 2015 alone, for example, at least six transgender women were killed. Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, and a quarter of trans youth report having made a suicide attempt. And in 13 states in the U.S., same-sex couples still cannot legally marry the person they love. If you want to include the international community, being gay is punishable by death in five countries.

I'm not saying we should forget about everything but the most awful anti-gay offenses. I am, however, saying we should pick our battles wisely. Let's save our all-out queer assaults for the bigots, bullies and violent offenders that are really oppressing our community. As for the others, let's aim for more teachable moments and less takedowns. Hopefully with this approach we can encourage more dialogue and turn even more of our straight counterparts into straight allies.

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