Real Life Homosexuality
When it comes to discussing homosexuality in our contemporary society, we have a tendency to utilise radical binaries - either someone is flamboyantly thriving in their own identity, or people are being slaughtered on the streets. Whilst both of these binaries exist, it belittles the experiences of quieter existences. What about the people in between? The lesbians who sit in perpetual discomfort around their friends. The people who silently conform to the pressure of adopting a pronoun that doesn’t quite fit. The gay men who pretend they aren’t touched by the chokehold of toxic masculinity.
Why don’t we talk about the uncomfortable in-between? The little envelope of awkward existence which so many people inhabit. The spectrum is filled with hesitation - the biting of tongues before rambling about significant others, the skipping of hearts before holding hands of lovers, the sinking feeling when you catch a glimpse of yourself and you know deep in your heart that the reflection isn’t you.
I can’t speak for all experiences - hell I can hardly speak for my own - but I think it’s fair to say that the current discourse of gender and sexuality is hardly inclusive or intersectional. I’ve lived in a country where it is still illegal to be romantically involved with someone of the same sex, and don’t even try to deviate from the gender assigned to you at birth. There are ‘mental hospitals’ (basically just electroshock prisons that dope you up with medication) for anyone who deviates from the social norm. There is an entire division of law enforcement designated to ensure that the homosexual agenda doesn’t seep throughout the population, as if it’s a containable criminal or disease. In 2018, this kind of society exists, and most people don’t even realise it. It’s not as though I was living in a locked down dictatorship - it’s a popular country that’s a hotspot for tourists. Oh, and shocker, there are definitely gay people there; I would know, I was one of them.
I remember distinctly being told on multiple occasions to stop being a drama queen and worrying about my sexuality because nobody would actually do anything to prosecute me, but I don’t think they even remotely understood my fear. By law, I could have been deported, thrown in prison, literally anything - just because I’m lesbian. Even typing that out, my stomach did a somersault. I’m not allowed to say that I like girls. Girls who like girls are unnatural; it’s a narrative I’ve heard many times in countries all around the world. I’ve heard it on the news and in newspapers. I’ve heard it in online videos and commentary. I’ve heard it in an uncomfortable, hour-long car ride in the US with this real-estate lady who seemed to think she knew what was best for me just by looking at me; she told me I just needed to ‘get laid by a guy’. The notion that my sexuality is wrong is hurled at me on a daily basis, and I know it can’t just be me.
Whether it’s legal or not, being anything but straight is terrifying. Radical thoughts of hate exist everywhere, and it’s hard to not let the cold of others creep into your soul. In one of the countries I’m from, the punishment for homosexuality is being stoned to death; my poor extended family wouldn’t know what to do with me if they knew I have a girlfriend. Do you know how much it hurts to know that your existence somehow warrants death, and that entire countries agree with that notion? It probably doesn’t hurt as much as being stoned to death, but I’m sure it’s pretty damn close.
It’s exhausting trying to constantly defend your right to live as you are, especially if you’re not totally confident or comfortable with who you are. Gender and sexuality are such fluid concepts, it’s ludicrous that society expects everyone to conform in such a straightforward way. Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t people who are incredibly confident and comfortable with who they are, because many of those people definitely exist, and we hear from them quite a lot. Everyone is incredibly different, and thus it’s crucial to also talk about existing in the awkward in-between. We need to acknowledge and reaffirm the people who are terrified to be who they are and either conform to societal values because they feel they should, or those who quietly exist, still not ready to scream their identity from the rooftops.
There is no right or wrong way to be who you are. I’ve never actually ‘come out’ in my life…except to my mom, but I don’t even know if that counts because all I did was text her a picture of a name tag that said “Hello I’m…Gay!” because she was annoying me with too many questions. I find comfort in ‘gay culture’, but am also hesitant because I’m not totally confident I belong yet. I don’t know what I’m waiting for; it’s not as though this is Hogwarts where you get a cool letter dropped in by an owl saying “hey welcome to the community”, I’m finding that it’s actually more of an arduous process. For me, that looks like finding queer role models, following gay meme accounts on Instagram, and sipping on cocktails while observing crowds in queer bars. I’m also really invested in intersectional studies because sometimes, the more you understand something, the less scary it becomes. I don’t know when I “became” gay, I didn’t wake up one morning to a notification letting me know I now qualified as a lesbian - that too was a process. For the longest time, I felt so invalidated because my process wasn’t as ‘problematic’ as it should’ve been. I never really lamented over who I was or wasn’t attracted to, and I was actually quite indifferent. It wasn’t until I actively decided to date girls and faced the negative backlash from others that I was suddenly swamped with terror. I think it’s important to note that, no matter what the circumstance or story, everyone’s identity, struggles, and emotions are valid. No two stories are identical, but nonetheless, we can find strength in our collective individuality.
At times, it’s exhausting to carry the weight of an inclusive movement on your shoulders. I’m still learning that you don’t have to constantly and radically politicise your identity in order for it to be valid. We still need to fight for our rights, because people in the 21st century are still being prosecuted for their identities, but it’s okay to pause and catch your breath. Hetero-cis people need to take on the responsibility of educating themselves and taking the time to learn how to be more accepting and supportive of the people around them. We need to work together to legally liberate those who deviate from the norm, but we also need to uplift, acknowledge, and support people who live in the awkward in-between of inner turmoil.