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stereotypes

Coming Out Day: Queer and Non-Binary

I am queer and non-binary. I used to identify as bisexual, but now I use the umbrella term “queer” since I can be attracted to any gender. Since I’m “non-binary,” meaning I don’t identify as a man or a woman, it would be contradictory to identify as “bisexual” since I don’t believe that gender is a binary concept. Sometimes I use the term “non-gendered,” since I often feel like I don’t have a gender. (Gender is a social construct, completely separate from a person’s biological sex.) I also use “gay,” as a catch-all term for non-heterosexual people, even though others use it to exclusively describe men who have sex with men.

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr

Gender and sexual orientation each have their own spectrum, and I’m somewhere in the middle on both.

I don’t have a box, a stereotype to which I’m expected to conform or even suggested guidelines like those that come with identifying as a “man,” “woman,” “heterosexual,” or “homosexual.” It’s both freeing and frightening to live without such limits.

In honor of National Coming Out Day, I decided to respond to the common statements and questions my friends have heard in response to coming out:

What made you gay?
Nothing made me queer. It’s just what I am. What made you straight?

How did you know you were queer?
When I realized my female peers didn’t think about women the same way I do.

When did you decide to be non-binary?
Again, this wasn’t a decision. I’ve never felt like being a man or a woman was right for me.

Photo by Roger Griggs

How does that work?
Could you be a bit more specific?

It’s just a phase.
Thirty-eight years is a long time for a phase.

You’re just confused.
I’m often confused about a lot of things, including how to best present myself, but I have no doubts about who or what I am.

Have you always been like this?
Yup.

Are you sure?
Yes. Trust me, I wouldn’t have come out if I wasn’t sure.
The only person who could get away with asking this question was my grandmother, because, well, she was old. Bless her heart.

How do you know?
How do you know what gender you are? How do you know what people you find attractive? Some things you just know.

Photo by Jason Hahn

I don’t want you to get AIDS.
Me neither.

What are your pronouns?
In general, if you’re using pronouns to refer to me, there’s a good chance I’m not there to hear you. I don’t care what pronouns you use as long as you’re respectful. When speaking to me, I prefer “sir” over “ma’am,” and a gender-neutral title instead of “Mr.” or “Ms.”

Can’t you just pick one gender to be attracted to?
Some people are only attracted to people with light or dark-colored hair. Others are potentially attracted to a person with any color of hair. Likewise, some people are only attracted to people with a penis or a vagina. For me, a person’s genitals is not a deal-maker or breaker in deciding whether I find them attractive.

Bisexuals are greedy and promiscuous.
Sounds like you’re jealous.

So, you want to have sex with everyone.
No. There’s a big difference between being potentially attracted to a person of any gender and wanting to bang everyone.

Oh, so you had a crush on me in high school, right? (From a female friend)
Absolutely not.
BTW – If an LGBTQ person hits on you, take it as a compliment, even if you don’t reciprocate their feelings. It’s not a big deal if everyone’s respectful.

How do you have sex when there is no penis involved?
There are lots of ways to be intimate when a penis is not a key player. Do we need to take you back to Sex 101?

Photo by Leslie Easton Photography

So, does that mean you [sex act]?
Woah there, Pooh Bear. Unless I’m sleeping with you, the details of my sex life are none of your business.

Are you the man or the woman in relationships?
That’s like asking which chopstick is the fork.

Does your family know?
Yup. And if they didn’t, they haven’t been paying attention.

Is it because your dad didn’t show you affection?
What?? No.

This is probably because your mom was too overbearing.
<sigh> No.

Do you know my friend, Chris? They’re gay.
The LGBTQ community may be less than 10% of the population, but that’s still a lot of people. We don’t all know each other.
But how cool would that be?

That makes sense.
A lot of things clicked when I realized what I am.

Life is going to be a lot more difficult now.
Probably. But I’d rather be authentic than pretend to be someone I’m not.

Have you ever been fired for being gay?
Thankfully no, but in Arizona, I could be.

I love you anyway.
That’s one word too long.

Do you really have to tell everyone? Shouldn’t you keep that private?
Why would I? That would be like telling a man to tone down his masculinity, or telling a straight couple to stop holding hands. My sexual orientation and gender have little impact on most people’s lives.

So, there you go. If you’re still curious about my sexual orientation or gender, including my coming out stories, check out my episode of The Out House podcast.

SALK Day 17 – Remembering MLK’s Dream

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights act...
Image via Wikipedia

Dr. Martin Luther King had a dream that African Americans would be treated the same as Caucasian Americans.  Thanks to the Civil Rights Movements, the law treats all person the same; however, we have a long way to go to make this occur on a societal level.  Stereotypes vastly pervade our culture.  When we see a person, we automatically make judgments about them based on their appearance, whether it’s based on their skin color, height, weight, gender, clothing, posture, or who they associate with.

When it comes to overcoming stereotypes, one thing that is hard to turn off is the automatic filter.  This can be applied to a group of people or to a single person.  These are the automatic thoughts that all overweight people are lazy or that all Asians are bad drivers.  It takes an effort to see people for who they are, and not what they are.  When I don’t like a person, it takes a conscious effort not to view everything that they do or say as wrong or bad.  Also, when someone is being hyper-judgmental of me, I try to remember that their ability to be rational could be being blocked by their automatic filter.

When judgment is suspended long enough to see a person for who they are, their talents and personalities shine through.  The person who appears dim-witted has a chance to show that he is brilliant.  The large intimidating black man can be seen as a sensitive poet.  The awkward-looking paralyzed man in the wheelchair can be seen as an exceptional physicist.

Like Martin Luther King, we all have dreams.  It might be to have particular career, achieve certain athletic goals, or to raise a family.  With few exceptions, who are any of us to tell someone that their dream is wrong or to criticize them for their aspirations?  My dream is for the world to see that being different is not the same as being wrong.  Just because you don’t share my views or my passions, it does not make either of us wrong.

We each bring something different to the table, and whenever possible our unique perspectives should be honored if not celebrated.  We should all strive to see each other for who we are, and not who we assume each other to be.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Darvin and Jane DeShazer.   For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

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