Continuing with Sexuality Week on the blog, our resident gay dater Northstar explains why he’s not just proud, but thankful to be gay.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx
Coming out is not an easy process. I struggled with my sexuality for years before finally coming out of the closet aged 28.
It took me a long time to come to terms with myself and to accept who I was, before building the courage to reveal my true self to the world.
Whilst I’m certain that my life so far would have been easier if I were straight, I’m now at a point where I can comfortably say that I am thankful to be gay. It may have taken me a long time to get there, but in embracing my sexuality I’ve come to love and appreciate my differences from mainstream society, and to enjoy being an active part of gay culture and heritage.
For me, a large part of the reason that I’m thankful, is that in being gay, you are forced to question yourself, and through this questioning understand yourself on a deeper level than is typically called for in mainstream (straight) society. By this I mean the following – growing up, you are taught to be straight. Estimates of the size of the gay population vary from 3% to 10%, so the presumption for children is that they are straight, and they are taught to act that way – boys should date girls, and when they’re older they’ll settle down with a wife and start a family. When you are gay, you have to challenge this orthodoxy – not solely in the way you interact with society, but before that you have to challenge it within yourself. It’s not easy to accept that you are a part of a small and discriminated against minority, when you’re told constantly from a young age that you are and should be a part of the hetero-normative majority. Nonetheless, every gay person is forced to confront this assumption, to examine themselves, understand themselves, and reject the assumptions forced upon them since birth. This is a generalisation but I would argue that through necessity gay people have a greater capacity for self analysis and self understanding, and as such I truly view our differences as a gift.
As I mentioned above the process of coming out, of self-acceptance and the challenging of societal orthodoxies and assumptions is by no means easy.
However, it is far too common for people to lose sight of the wider struggle, and the challenges that are present in greater severity for those on the fringes of our community. I’m sure most people are familiar with the term ‘LGBT’ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), which has been frequently used as an umbrella term since the 1990s to refer to the gay community. The ‘T’ was added in the 90s (‘LGB’ was first used in the 80s), and since the 2000s it is common to see ‘LGBTQ’, with the ‘Q’ typically for ‘Queer’, for those who feel that the binary implied by ‘bisexual’ doesn’t represent their more fluid sexuality. The term can further be expanded with ‘I’ for ‘Intersex’, ‘A’ for ‘Asexual’ (or sometimes for ‘Allies’), ‘2S’ for two-spirit, along with a number of other additions to represent the diversity of sexual and gender identity.
When looking at my own struggles over the years, and the discrimination that I occasionally still face, it is easy to forget the privilege that I have in simply being ‘G’.
This is in the context of living in Canada in 2014, but as an out gay man I can reasonably expect that my sexuality will not cause major problems in my day-to-day life. Should I choose, I am free to marry, free to adopt, and workplace discrimination is almost unthinkable. Homophobic language and behaviour still exists in society, but in general my sexuality does not impose any limiting factors on how I conduct my daily life. A massive debt for this is owed to the actions of Gay Rights activists in previous generations, who’s bravery in challenging discrimination and fighting for equal rights in an atmosphere of abject hostility served to build the more inclusive society that I find myself in today. (It is worth noting as well that I consider myself incredibly lucky to live in a progressive and accepting country, and that the rights and acceptance I enjoy here are by no means representative of the intolerance endured by large numbers of LGBT people in other countries, Russia and Uganda serving as particularly appalling examples currently).
As a simple ‘G’, life for me is relatively straight-forward.
Mainstream society has a generally good level of understanding and acceptance of gays and lesbians, and in that context I’m largely free to conduct myself as I choose. But what about those people who are ‘T’, or those for whom transgender isn’t a suitable descriptor – those who are intersex, nongendered, or genderqueer.
This is getting into the topic of gender rather than sexuality, however the issues are the same – people who have had to confront the orthodoxy of how they ‘should’ be, in order to be true to who they really are. In their case however, they don’t yet enjoy the level of acceptance of those identified as ‘LGB’.
While society has become progressively more accepting of differences in sexuality, those who have differences in gender identity still face severe levels of discrimination and hostility. This is true even within the LGB community, with a sizeable minority rejecting the inclusion of transgendered individuals within the community. To put this in some context, as a gay person your sexuality can be a major part of your sense of personal identity, and challenges to this through differing gender identities can produce hostility – in other words, as a man who defines himself through his attraction to other men, differing conceptions of what it means to be ‘male’ can threaten that sense of identity. This is not to excuse the attitude, but just to provide some context as to why it exists.
In my opinion issues of sexuality and gender identity are intrinsically linked, as the same struggles are shared across both areas. Self-acceptance, acceptance within society, removal of discrimination – the end goals are the same, and as a community we should fully support each other in reaching those goals. The issues that I face as a gay man – mainly based around visibility and discrimination – are an order of magnitude greater for trans individuals. And for me I know that I have the Village as a safe space, a luxury that is not necessarily available for those in the wider queer community.
As such, in discussions of sexuality it is important to me that the dialogue also encompasses differences in gender identity. As a gay man I’m privileged to enjoy the advancements in society achieved by previous generations of gay activists, however our struggle is not complete until equal rights and acceptance are available to all.
We should not become complacent, and we should not tolerate discrimination within our community; all of us who fly the rainbow flag need to stick together, and our fight will not be complete until everyone is fully accepted for who they are.
Tell Northstar what you think @Northstar30Ds