I live in a pretty privileged world. I surround myself with sensitive and open minded people, and I attend a liberal university. My encounters with outright homophobia are rare and so when they happen they hit me like a brick wall. I consider myself pretty outspoken, but I find myself frustrated with my silence in the times when I fail to confront heteronormativity out loud.
The lesser of the two incidents that have happened to me in a week was today. I was on the phone with a woman to confirm that I will be able to attend a Library Conference Banquet to receive a scholarship I’ve been awarded. (Yay!!) She explained that the Association would buy the ticket to the banquet since I’m a student and they’re quite pricey, asked if I’d be bringing anyone, “a boyfriend or husband, we’d be happy to provide a ticket for him also.”
Boyfriend. Husband. It didn’t occur to this woman to ask after a Girlfriend, Wife or Partner.
I can’t blame her too much. We queer type people are in the minority. It wasn’t too surprising, but it was very disappointing. I found myself saying in reply, “No, it’ll just be me.” I didn’t correct her assumption. I didn’t say, “well my girlfriend can’t make it.” I let her think I was straight. It seems like such a small thing, but isn’t this what perpetuates ignorance? Isn’t it not correcting these assumptions that continues them? At that moment, I just didn’t feel like outing myself. I just didn’t feel like dealing with it. But I find myself feeling a little guilty about it.
So now for the other thing.
Last week in my class– Women Who Rock (it’s basically the best class ever) we listened to Martha and the Vandella’s “Dancing in the Street.” Then to compare we watched this featuring David Bowie and Mick Jagger. And some ignorant homophobic idiotic undergrad went on a rant about how “that video is so gay, its so disgustingly gay. It’s like why would they be that gay with all the rumors going around at that time. Like you’d think they’d want to prove that they weren’t gay. Because, I mean, gross.” When someone else in the class asked “Maybe they don’t care about the rumors.” This girl said, “Well they should. I’m not gonna lie, it makes me want to throw up.”
I looked over at the other queer type people in the class. We sort of looked at each other and had a silent exchange. I looked at the professor. She seemed to be waiting to see what we would do. And we seemed to reach some unspoken agreement not to deal with this bigoted ignorant jerk off. So we didn’t. We didn’t tell her she was a bigoted ignorant jerk off. We didn’t say, “So what if they are? There is nothing wrong with being gay and whether they were gay or not has nothing to do with the quality of their music and you are an ignorant bigot and shut up.”
We didn’t say those things. Because we just didn’t want to deal with it. We didn’t feel like outing ourselves. We were tired of the fight and on that day we chose not to fight.
And it makes me feel a little guilty. That we didn’t stand up. But I’m tired of standing up. I’m tired of wondering if I should come out to every single person I meet. Will that hurt my career? Will that help my career? Will I be betraying all of Queer-hood if I don’t say anything? Will I make a co-worker or classmate uncomfortable?