“People often ask ‘why do you act like that?’ and honestly there are just different ways for people to represent themselves, which some people who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community have a hard time understanding,” said Eli Bacon (11), who identifies as bisexual.
To members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out as queer often comes with questions regarding gender identity and self-expression. For example, people often associate gay men with acting more feminine or lesbians with acting more masculine, Bacon said, and many straight people often ask why.
“Similar to someone enjoying a genre of movie or a clothing style, acting more feminine or masculine is just a way of expressing yourself just like straight people do,” Bacon said. “Something that is difficult for a lot of people to wrap their minds around is that sexuality and gender are just as much a part [of your identity] as race is: you can’t choose it.”
One thing that is important to understand that is often at the root of these questions is that gender and sexual identity are a spectrum, GSA President Bernard Von Simson (12) said. “The most important aspect of awareness is understanding the nuances of sexuality and gender identity, and not assuming something ,” he said. “When people are asking questions of that nature, they’re making assumptions about LGBTQ+ people and they’re not taking the time to understand the full picture.”
Understanding LGBTQ+ terminology can be quite confusing for straight, cisgender people, but taking the time to listen to members of the community explain the terms is very simple, GSA Vice President Evann Penn Brown (11) said. “I’m a queer woman, and sometimes I call myself gay, and a lot of straight, cis people get very confused and flustered and ask, ‘wait, I thought you liked guys?’ or [say] ‘I don’t get it,’” she said. “They’re not very open to thinking about “gay” as an umbrella term, no matter how many times I say it.”
For queer people in same sex relationships, sometimes people ask who the man or woman in the relationship is, Bacon said. Though he has never been asked this specific question before, he attributes it to the idea that a heteronormative relationship consists of one man and one woman. “People often want to extrapolate that idea of a ‘normal relationship’ to something they understand, instead of just being at peace with the fact that two men or women love each other for who they are,” he said.
Simson doesn’t think that the majority of questions asked about the LGBTQ+ community are intentionally harmful; rather, they’re coming from a place of curiosity. “These things and their scope have only come into the light in the news in recent years, so a lot of people haven’t been able to fully understand what being LGBTQ+ means,” he said. “So seeing someone in front of them who appears different can be confusing at first.”