IMO: On Queer Misconceptions

Queer identities are complex, filled with intersections and language that not everyone understands. It can be frustrating when someone doesn’t understand something that might be a big part of your identity, which is where the education comes in. Here are some of the most popular things I think folks don’t really understand about the queer communities and identities.

  1. My identity might not be all of us, but they might be a big part of it.

I hear this a lot– like I am ___ but that’s not all of who I am, it’s only part of me. This may be true, but for some folks, myself included, being queer is a big part of my life. My coworker made a good comparison in that some folks make their identity as a fan of a sports team a big part of their life; for some folks, this is true for being queer. This is for many reasons, but I think the main point is that being queer often impacts a person’s life in a lot of ways.

For examples:

2. Coming out is still a big deal, and it’s different every time we do it.

Coming out is not a one time deal. There are SO many instances where I think about sharing my identity with other folks and as an out and proud queer person, I do it all the time. However, it’s still impossible to know how someone is going to react. Not to mention the fact that there are so many places where is necessary, like every time a form asks for your gender identity (often only giving you two options)

3. Labels are not tattoos

When I first came out as lesbian, I remember telling my mom that it’s not definite and that I might identify as bisexual. It was hard for me to realize that labels are not tattoos. Just because someone comes out as gay or any queer identity doesn’t mean they won’t discover another word fits them better.

4. Just because someone is in a “straight-passing” relationship doesn’t mean they’re straight

This is a common discussion among bisexual and pansexual folks who may feel their queer identity is being erased because their relationship looks like a heterosexual one. This doesn’t mean that their attraction to the same gender as their own doesn’t exist anymore.

5. Being queer is not a lifestyle or preference

Recently I saw a funny tweet that said “‘LIFESTYLE’ why do straight people have ‘lives’ but LGBT people have ‘lifestyles’?”

This is so relatable and one of those things that I typically don’t react negatively to, but inside my mind is like YIKES. I know that it’s common and I’m sure it doesn’t bother everyone, but it always makes me cringe when I hear about someone supporting my lifestyle or is accepting of my preferences. In my opinion, being queer is an identity and that word can replace both of these. Alternatively, attraction can be used instead of preference.

6. I don’t always want to talk about my identity

I talk about my queerness a lot, as you’ve probably noticed. A lot of this blog come from personal experiences and my coming out story can be googled. While I have a pretty open and public online presence, and talk about my experience often, I don’t always want to share every detail. I think this is especially true when folks are still figuring their attractions.

For example, awhile ago I went out with someone I met online and later was asked if it was date, how the person identified, and if I’d ever date someone assigned male at birth. Of course the question was not asked that way and I got kind of frustrated with my family member because I didn’t think it was any of their business. More importantly though, there was an assumption that I knew how I’d feel in the future. Since sexuality and gender identity can be fluid, and I can’t say who I’m going to meet in the future, I can’t really answer. But also, why is this important? I think this question has its place but should be asked with caution, maybe prefaced with “if you don’t mind me asking…”

7. Not everyone fits into the box of an identity

Speaking of fluidity, I think often people assume that the labels people use for their identities are in a box. For example, that that gay men are only attracted to other gay men, that all nonbinary or gender non-conforming folks use they/them pronouns, or not recognizing that all of these identities are on a spectrum. I think our society sometimes finds these labels to be very concrete definitions, which is not true, at least in my opinion. All of the words folks use are defined with how they choose, and can also be

8. My labels are not to confuse you or make me seem “complicated”

When I used to do Safe Space trainings at my school, sometimes when we passed out the glossary of LGBTQ identities, there would be a shock or expression of feeling like there are too many words to know. A great way to challenge this would be to let participants know that’s it can be considered a privilege to not need so many words, when you fit in with a majority of society. Words like demisexual, nonbinary, and bear are not to confuse people. I think these words are typically used as labels to find community with others who share the same feelings or might have similar experience. It may be complicated to some, and maybe it is hard to change your language around pronouns, and be more inclusive. However, I think if folks really care about being respectful identify as allies, they’ll put in the effort.

9. I am not trying to make you uncomfortable

Finally, I am not trying to make you uncomfortable. Displaying public displays of affection, talking about the language I want you to use, or even more popular, using the bathroom are all things many folks do all the time. I’m just being myself and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I hope this clears up some misconceptions you may have about the queer community that I feel are quite popular. Feel free to share it with folks who may be thinking them!

This was written from personal experience but the tweet came from this piece:

Here are some other pieces that go further into this topic or ones around it:

3 Differences Between Gay and Queer by Hari Ziyak.

Debunking Myth. ALGBTICAL.

You can tell just by looking : And 20 other myths about LGBT life and People by  Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini, Michael J. Amico

Transgender People: 10 Common Myths. Vox.

CW: Sexual Assault


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