The Issue Behind Having To Come Out to Every New Person You Meet

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We need to step away from the visual cues because gender and sexuality is not visual.

Words by Georgia Gadsby

Coming out is a daunting experience. Whether you’re aware that people around you are homophobic or the people around you are really accepting, the thought of it can still make your stomach churn. You’re revealing something about yourself that has been personal to just you for so long. It’s like letting go of a secret only you know and sometimes that secret can be comforting, but there comes a time when you’re ready to let people know. At least, this is what it feels like when you first come out. The anticipation is heavy in your chest. In fact, the first few times you come out it feels like this, and the next few, and sometimes a couple more until you realise you have no problem saying the words anymore. It’s then that it become frustrating.

In an ideal world, no one would automatically assume anybody else’s sexuality or gender identity. We would all use they/them pronouns to describe someone or someone’s partner until we were told otherwise. We wouldn’t look at a long haired person wearing makeup and a dress and assume they’re a straight woman or look at a muscular tall person with short hair and assume they were a heterosexual male. A bit far fetched of me, I’m well aware, but we can all dream.

In an ideal world, no one would automatically assume anybody else’s sexuality or gender identity.

As a feminine lesbian my experience is rooted in the assumption of my sexuality. People see my long platinum blonde hair, the typically femme clothes I wear, and the amount of time I clearly spend blending my eyeshadow and perfecting my winged liner and assume that I am interested in men. Why? It’s ingrained in us. We have grown up and lived in a heteronormative society that conditions us to see women as being with men and men being with women. However, in this new more PC society, people begin to take visual cues. If she’s got a buzzcut, wears a lot of flannel, and drinks beer she might be gay. If he gets his eyebrows done and knows all the words to every Lady Gaga song he might be gay. It’s still stereotyping, but at least it’s taking us somewhere, right? But we need to step away from the visual cues, because sexuality and gender is not visual.

Sadly, because people see it as being as such, I am assumed to be straight. Every. Damn. Day. It can be as harmless a comment as a retail assistant saying “That dress is lovely on you! Is it for date night with the boyfriend?” or as intrusive as the creepy guy at the bar asking if you have a boyfriend. To every question I respond “Actually, I have a girlfriend” or if I haven’t been in a relationship I’d say “Oh sorry, I’m actually gay”, to which I am always given mixed responses. Some are positive, some are negative, but most are impartial which is fine and my issue is not with the response. My issue is the fact that based on my appearance who I am attracted to is assumed, despite the two not correlating.

Coming out to every new person you meet is tiring and it makes you realise how far we have to go in terms of changing the way society thinks. There has only ever been one instance where I have been asked if I have a partner as opposed to a boyfriend. It really can be that simple, the swapping out of one noun in a sentence, yet people refuse to do it because it’s ‘too complicated’ (comparable to the issue of people not using they/them pronouns). It’s not difficult to adjust our thinking and replace a few words here and there so people can feel more comfortable. It’s about being considerate and breaking out of the traditional mould of gender and sexuality that our society is constructed around.