not shutting up

(in response to a "Why don't we just enact a national 'don't ask, don't tell' policy?" sort of thread)

What I want ... is for people just to shut up about it.

So... you want people to stop talking about their sexual orientation in public? Funny you should ask! I've been doing that for most of my life, so here's how you do it, translated for your benefit.


Don't tell anyone you're straight.

If put into a position where your orientation might become implied, or obvious, change the subject. If directly asked, say it's a personal matter and it's none of their business-- plead the Fifth, in other words. If someone says something to you that implies they think or assume you're straight, look uncomfortable and make some sort of vague sideways denial. Avoid. Deny. Lie, if necessary, and sometimes it will be, because some people just won't let you escape until they get the answer they want, and you cannot tell them you're straight at all costs. Your job, your family, your physical safety and that of your loved ones, your standing at church-- it's all on the line.

Police your mannerisms, clothing, and language-- try to femme it up a little when people are watching, things like crossing your legs at the knee and paying extra attention to your grooming, so people don't assume you're straight. Make sure your eyes don't linger too long on attractive women. Make extra-special effort to be as cool and aloof with women as possible, lest anyone think you're paying too much attention to them.

In conversation, omit any gendered pronouns concerning actual or hypothetical relationships and marriages-- this is called "the pronoun game," and it takes a great deal of skill to do well. Don't let it bother you when people give you funny looks because your phrasing is stilted and you keep trying to change the subject. In fact, don't ever let the conversation turn to things like sex, gender, relationships, marriage, children and parenting, religion, politics, or anything else where sexual orientation might possibly become relevant. Talk about the weather, or TV shows (but make sure you don't mention if actors are attractive, or comment on relationship dramas, or show an interest in shows about straight people like Friends or Grey's Anatomy...) or music (but make sure they don't think your interest in country, or rap, or whatever is too heterosexual) or sports (except not too enthusiastically, because then they might think you're a straight man; mention something about watching it for the tight pants). Do some community theatre-- throw them off the trail.

Make sure your browser history is cleared on shared computers, and that no one looks over your shoulder, in case they notice you've been surfing Playboy, or Focus on the Family (that heterosexual activist organization), or anything else that might give anyone the slightest hint that you're interested in women. Be very careful of your computer and email passwords. Hide your journals. Make sure you put your Maxims and Sports Illustrateds and Popular Mechanics in the bottom of the magazine basket underneath the National Geographics and Reader's Digest-- ooh, and some InStyles just to make it look good. Make sure the books and DVDs on your shelves are carefully neutral. Make sure your interior design isn't too masculine-- they'll think you're straight.

When you're around your family, everything above goes double, especially conversation topics. Make sure your comments on family goings-on like weddings and childbirths are carefully neutral; change the subject if you can. If someone asks if you have anyone you're dating, or if you'd like to have children someday, or why you're still single since you're such a nice, handsome man (because remember, you're not allowed to tell your family you're straight, lest they disown or estrange you if they don't like it!) start dodging. Tell your relatives you're too involved in your career to get into a relationship, and you haven't met a man you're interested in yet (which is true! allowing for the part where you never will). Talk about your close male friends-- with any luck, they'll light on them as Possibilities. They can think whatever they want; it's not your fault if they assume there's nothing there.

Don't mention your wife to anyone. In fact, obfuscate the fact that you're heterosexually married as much as possible. Take off your wedding ring. Avoid all mention of in-laws. Take down any pictures of her you have at your desk or work area. If she calls you, be careful that no affection shows in your voice beyond that which you would show to a friend or relative. Don't ever let anyone catch you telling her you love her.

If asked what you did over the weekend, avoid talking about watching movies and eating dinner with your wife. If you're out with [Wife] and you are obligated to introduce her to someone, make no mention of her relationship to you or refer to her vaguely as your "friend." Don't hold hands with your wife where people might see you; don't touch each other; don't walk too close. People can see you, and then they'll know you're straight, and what's more, that you have a female lover. It's rude to put it right out there and let everyone know that you enjoy penis-in-vagina intercourse. No one cares what you do in bed! Stop flaunting it!


[Heterosexual Married Man], *this* is what "shutting up about it" is. There is a social assumption of heterosexuality, and every time you break it in the smallest way, it's seen as a brazen political act in a way it's not when you're straight. God knows I wish it wasn't a Huge Freaking Deal every time I mention my girlfriend, or my preference for Scully over Mulder, or the fact that there will be no groom at my eventual wedding, but I'm not the one who's making stuff like this a matter of "talking about sexual preference in public" like I'm somehow telling people whether I prefer soft-focus and Barry Manilow to floggers and Nine Inch Nails.


There is very little that annoys me more than people approaching living an out gay life from the standpoint of "Why you gotta flaunt it? No one cares about your sex life!" Honey, I'm hardly the one making it all about my sex life. If I was flaunting that, it would be obvious a lot sooner.

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thus saith Liadan at 1:28 AM


Blogger Brianna saith at 10/26/2007 2:36 PM...  

Fantastic post.

Blogger JJ saith at 10/27/2007 3:29 PM...  

This post is the cat's ass.

By which I mean I liked it.

Anonymous Anonymous saith at 10/28/2007 6:06 AM...  

*jumps on the "that post was frigging awesome!" bandwagon*


- Bridget

Blogger marauder saith at 10/29/2007 5:21 PM...  

As a HMM -- though, thankfully, not the one referred to in this post -- I agree. This post rocks.

Thanks for sharing it. As much as I can identify with your situation because of the parallels with mine, there are many aspects of your experience that I don't "get" without the occasional reminder of the proverbial shoe upside the head

Blogger just me - titration saith at 10/31/2007 2:27 PM...  

I totally agree. Why this just came up in my feed reader I have no idea! Anyway. I think this really is the best reflection on the topic I've read. Particularly helpful are all the details which makes it easy to imagine.

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