Roderick Cook | Celebration, not toleration
What's the T? | Today's 'accepting' rhetoric often instead polices the lives of queer people
January 29, 2014, 5:34 pm · Updated January 29, 2014, 10:26 pm·
What’s the T?
The situation is painfully familiar to many queer people: When talking with someone, our queerness comes up. This person asserts their status as a “good ally” by telling us that they support gay people — but there’s a catch:
“As long as they don’t come on to me.”
There it is! We queer folks recognize this as the obligatory reassertion of one’s straightness when interacting with a queer person.
Though this may seem innocent enough, statements like these remind us again and again that who we are is something undesirable, so much so that non-queer people feel that it is necessary to let as many people as possible know that they are not queer whenever these topics come up in a conversation.
Let’s be clear: It’s absolutely fine for someone to feel uncomfortable and awkward if people whom they are not interested in are flirting with them. Facing unwanted romantic or sexual advances is a major problem, and many of us have been in such a situation.
Unfortunately, this is very rarely what the person making this type of statement has in mind. College junior Carol Bahri explains the hypocrisy that is often present in these situations:
“Men hit on women who aren’t interested on a regular basis. Many people see this behavior as flattering and socially acceptable, though in my opinion it shouldn’t be. So it’s a bit of a double standard when guys who hit on girls get all up in arms about being hit on.”
Rather than calling out and attempting to end sexual harassment, these types of statements reinforce the all-too-familiar misconception that queer people are out to harass, take advantage of or convert straight people.
This rhetoric is rooted in the idea that queer love, affection and attraction are repulsive. We hear this all the time when people “advocate” for the queer community by saying that it’s none of anyone’s business what people do in their personal lives.
Although this statement may not seem like it directly and forcibly denies us our right to be who we are, it does. It enforces the idea that who we are is something shameful, and it advises us to quite literally keep our queerness hidden away. We can come out of the closet — but only if we go back in for a little while when other people’s comfort is at risk.
Furthermore, people who say that romantic or sexual relationships are private matters usually only apply this to queer relationships.
Non-queer people often take it for granted just how much they are represented in everyday interactions and mainstream media. We do not have that luxury. When someone ignores the importance of queer people having the choice to be open, they are perpetuating the inequality that exists between queer and non-queer people.
For me, being queer is something that goes beyond sexuality and gender — it’s something that I both consciously and unconsciously practice every day, and it’s important for me to put it out there for people to see. I want to be respected and loved for my queerness, not in spite of it.
I realize that not all queer people want to publicize their queerness, but this should be because of their own personal preferences about public and private life. We should be able to choose whether or not to be open about this part of ourselves.
I believe that we can all work toward changing these attitudes so that supporting queer people means celebrating, not tolerating, our self-expression. Saying that you support us “as long as we don’t come on to you” creates a heteronormative standard for what is an acceptable way to exist.
Besides, if you’re the type of person to say this, you don’t have to worry about me being romantically attracted to you. Trust me.
Roderick Cook is a College sophomore from Nesquehoning, Pa. studying gender, sexuality and women’s studies. Their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.