If you’re a lesbian or bisexual woman, you’re probably familiar with the interrogation session that follows after a certain kind of person (homophobes, I think they’re called) finds out that you’re not straight.
“How old were you when you knew?” some random classmate may have asked you after discovering you were a lesbian, suddenly treating you like an extraterrestrial on display. Perhaps a friend of a friend heard you had a girlfriend and was dying to find out if your parents knew about her. I bet at one point a heterosexual dude with space invading urgency or bi-curious girl with wiggly eyebrows has asked you if you’ve ever “done it” with a girl. No matter who these interrogators are, they’re never satisfied after just one question. These curious heteros tend to rattle off their queerness queries as if they’ve never met a real! life! homosexual! person! before.
One particular example of this phenomenon stands out in my memory. I was sixteen years old and I had a shitty job in a pizza joint. On Valentine’s Day, one of my coworkers asked me what I had planned for when my shift ended, so I told her I was going to see my girlfriend. Big mistake. She immediately called our manager over and told him that I had a girlfriend, and all the other employees overheard.
My middle-aged manager, who felt emasculated around me ever since I proved via the back-to-back thing (upon HIS request) that I was an inch taller than he was, fired off the first question. “Wait, did you just say girlfriend?! Do you mean a friend who is a girl? Or do you mean…” I shit you not, he paused for dramatic effect, “…girlfriend girlfriend?”
“Girlfriend girlfriend.” I answered, using his term.
“Oh. Oh, wow. I never expected that of you.” He replied. An $8.50 minimum wage did not pay me enough for this shit.
The questions got progressively more bizarre after that. “Would you artificially inseminate or adopt?” was one. Let me remind you, I was sixteen when this happened and had never contemplated that question. Before I could explain to my audience that it was old-fashioned to assume I’d even want kids in the first place, another coworker asked if my girlfriend and I used dildos. “Personally, if I had to be with a girl, I would use a strapon. Two vaginas is one too many!” She announced, ignoring the fact that my eyes were rolling so quickly that they could have fallen out of my skull at any minute.
I want to stress that I was not friends with these people. I did my job, got that cash money, and left. Before what will forever be remembered as “The InterroGAYtion,” the most I had interacted with my coworkers was making an obligatory contribution to the jibber-jabber when things were slow. Point is: my coworkers and I were not close enough to be discussing the fate of my womb or what entered my vagina. The way I saw it, we were barely close enough to discuss our favorite colors.
It was horrendously inappropriate, but I did get a fun nugget of information about that manager with a masculinity complex. First, he made sure that my girlfriend wasn’t one of “those butches” he “hates so much.” Then, he revealed that — wait for it — the mother of his children left him for a butch lesbian.
I guess karma is especially harsh on lesbophobic creeps.
I can’t speak for the entire LGBTQ+ community, but I am sick of answering a million and one questions about my sexual orientation when I just want to exist and be treated like a normal person. Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing coming out stories and commiserating with other gay people, but I am not here to be anyone’s guide to the world of “alternative lifestyles.” I don’t need strangers and acquaintances to know the complexities of my sexuality.
And, I refuse to believe I’m somehow selfish or not doing my job as an activist when I don’t jump at the chance to detail my sexual awakening to an aggressive and intrusive stranger. Heterosexual people don’t need to know personal details about gay people in order to treat them with kindness. They don’t need to understand me to respect me.
As Audre Lorde once said, “When people of colour are expected to educate white people as to their humanity, when women are expected to educate men, lesbians and gay men are expected to educate the heterosexual world, the oppressors maintain their position and evade their responsibility for their own actions.”
And hey, if straight people want to know about gay stuff, they have a bevy of information awaiting them on Google. I mean, that’s where most gay kids got their sex education, so straight people can do the same. Equality.