Are gay folks trying so hard to win the tolerance of heterosexual folks?
A Facebook friend posted on his wall about how he had been watching a film in which there appeared two men kissing. This had happened on a public transport and a woman who was sitting close to him saw this scene, much to her repulsion. “Lord have mercy on you”, those were the lady’s departing words to him.
We had an interesting conversation around this. Some of the responses to the post made me think about how, we, queer folks seem to be so desperate to garner the tolerance of heterosexual folks. I say tolerance, because if we have to do something to convince heterosexual folks to take us and our sexuality seriously, then the most they can ever be is tolerant. Being tolerant means they are OK (-ish) with us being queer but that comes with terms and conditions. I’ve had someone who I am no longer in touch with, tell me she would not judge me even though the Bible didn’t condone my sexuality. I asked her if she would attend my wedding if that were ever to happen to which she said she wouldn’t be comfortable. That is what tolerance looks like. Sadly, that is what we yearn for- tolerance, conditional and fickle.
Heterosexual folks who ‘tolerate us’ do not want us to be in their face. In other words, we need not do anything that might cause them any slight discomfort. We need to try, by all means, to fit into the box of what is considered ‘normal’ by society. If you are a woman, tone your queerness down and put on some ‘girl’ clothes. Men need not talk funny, walk funny, dress funny. Stick to that and we might just co-exist; queer folks and those who tolerate us. Comprende! Public displays of affection between queer people are frowned upon by the tolerant lot (and the intolerant ones but we already know where we stand with them).
Tolerance only masks queerphobia which only rears its head when two people of the same gender are seen kissing or engage in any way suggesting romantic connectedness. The masked queerphobia rears its head when shows appear on TV that features queer characters. All of a sudden, folks are worried about the impact- on their children- of queer representation on TV as if queerness is a defect on the human species that must be kept from spreading. Though this idea can be co-opted by capitalistic businesses, queer representation is important because it helps ‘normalise’ our existence and if we get to see more LGBT+ folks in films (in a positive light), then we won’t make the mistake of thinking a ‘film’ with two men kissing has got to be porn. Who dares to watch pornography in public spaces anyway?
In a heteronormative society, people- generally- do not bat an eye when two adults engage in any public displays of affection (read: kissing, holding hands). Of course, this depends on the environment. Let queer folks do the same and all hell breaks loose. What makes this worse is how we seem to have internalized this bigotry. We find ourselves policing each other’s behaviors, the way we present ourselves to the world and what we watch, especially in the presence of heterosexual folks. We feel the need to tone our queerness and make sure heterosexual folks are comfortable around us. We can be sexual but we shouldn’t be too sexual because the heterosexual folks will not take us seriously if they see how much we talk about or love having sex. We just cannot be caught living our lives in pretty much the same way that heterosexual folks do. Yes, we are fighting for our right to exist but we also shouldn’t be ourselves. Confusing, I know!
If heterosexual folks can have multiple sex partners, talk openly about their crushes, kiss their partners in public, we ought to just let them be. That’s how it’s always been- it’s not called a heteronormative society for nothing. But, we should never try and emulate them because we are queer and queer folks are not supposed to do that because we need to win the tolerance of as many folks as possible. We should not make it obvious that we are homosexual (we need to be ‘Straight-acting’- that’s the term I see being thrown around on social media streets. Straight? Who comes up with these terms? Straight as opposed to…???”) Of course, this might be for security reasons in environments that are dangerously homophobic but it’s also an attempt to keep those whose tolerance we seek comfortable.
We need to contain ourselves!