An Unfortunate Phrase
“I don’t agree with being gay but…”
If you are queer in this world, or even if you’re straight, you’ve probably heard this unfortunate phrase, or some permutation of it.
“I don’t agree with being gay but…”
Usually by the time they get to the “but” part I’m so angry that I don’t really hear what they say afterwards, because to me it doesn’t really matter. They’ve already blotted me, my partner, my brother, my friends, out of existence.
Being bisexual, lesbian, gay or one of the other many non-straight identities is not something that one can agree on or not. My sexuality exists. It exists despite a bigot’s disagreement.
Some say those words are too harsh, and sometimes, when I’m in the mood to educate, I use different words, softer ones, nicer ones. I don’t say “bigot” I don’t scream or cry–usually–I put on my rational, dispassionate arguer cap and calmly explain why such a phrase is 1) factually wrong, and 2) harmful and hurtful.
I use my body, my being, to teach. To educate. A piece of me here, a piece of me there. Unless you’ve done that, it’s hard to describe the experience of objectifying oneself for the consumption of others. For their benefit, for their knowledge.
They rarely appreciate it.
They treat my life, these pieces of me that I offer up, as one more point to deconstruct. One more way to engage in a debate of hypotheticals or to play devil’s advocate. Dear god how I have come to hate that phrase.
Sometimes I offer up lives that aren’t really mine to offer. Stories of pain, made anonymous with the omission of a name–is it a lover I’m speaking of? A family member? A friend? I hope they can’t guess.
I wonder, does it really do any good? Do these people learn? Are they treating others differently? Less like a specimen, a pig at the county fair to be evaluated and criticised? Or am I part of a checklist in their mind, the various parts of me represented as little boxes to be ticked off – “Hmmm, does this pain, this story, satisfy me? Is it a good enough answer to my questions?”
Sometimes I want to shout that these are not just arguments to me, this is my life, and the life of people I love. That “but”, that “I don’t agree” actually has consequences. It shapes policy and action; it creates shame and sorrow, death and destruction.
“Love the sinner hate the sin.”
It’s a fallacy, propped up by religious people who can’t bear to admit that their faith requires them to hate, to other, to see people as fundamentally unequal, lacking.
“It’s a sin like any other.”
Calling my love, my sexuality a sin is not like calling stealing a sin. Stealing isn’t part of who someone is. My sexuality is; it’s part of how I look at men or women. How I see their beauty (or ugliness too, if I’m being honest). It’s part of who I am when I am writhing in pleasure with a partner. And it is part of who I am when I write, (especially) when I walk, and when I vote or take other civic action.
Who I love, who I fuck, who I date, who I partner with. Those things are not unimportant aspects of who I am as a person, to who queer people are. It’s part of what makes up the meaning of my existence, our existence.
When someone says “it’s a sin like any other” they think they are being kind (I hope), but it’s not kind. Because what I hear is
“It’s a sin to love, it’s a sin to feel desire, it’s a sin to have a partner in life”.
What “it’s a sin” really means is don’t feel. Don’t love. Shut yourself up. Be celibate. Desire-less.
At the end of the day I keep educating. Breaking off pieces of my body and offering them up – teachable moments. Sometimes though, I wonder, what would it be like to live in a world where I didn’t have too?
But right now? I refuse. There will be no pithy story, no heart-wrenching personal details.
Because, you know what? Those stories are everywhere, and my life, my body, is not just pain or angst or education. Mostly it’s happy, maybe even joyful at times, and certainly it is mostly contented.
When I hear one of these endless versions of hate now, cloaked in “nice” language, it doesn’t hurt in exactly the same way. I’ve built up resistance. Fortified myself. In a way that is what it is to be marginalized, marked, to constantly be in need of a thicker skin – or ear plugs – to shut it all out.
Image Source: Federico Coppola