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Friday, January 06, 2012

Dumb stuff straight people say to LGBT people

The other day, someone posted a really clever Youtube video on FaceBook entitled, "Dumb shit White girls say to Black girls".

It's clever and it's startling because, well, while I actually haven't said or done some of those things, I have to admit that some of the things I've said and done, in the early years of healing my own racism, I've come pretty damn close to saying and/or thinking some of those things.

In that way, the video is very instructive and important. It also helps that the young Black woman dresses and talks like a Valley Girl. I think I may just have to include it the next time I do an Anti-Racism training program.

I hasten to add that I am not healed of my own racism. Racism is in the ether. We breathe in its toxins every minute of every day. I have to confess it every day or my soul will be in peril.

In the same way, so are sexism and heterosexism and homophobia. Just because I am a Queer woman does not prevent me from suffering from internalized sexism and heterosexism and homophobia.

So, one of my daily prayers is "Let me not be an instrument of the oppression of others. Let me not be an instrument of my own oppression".

Which I prayed again just this morning. Which is when I had this idea that I could do a list of my own. "Dumb things straight people say to LGBT people." I wish I could do a video of this list and be as effective as this young woman is, but you'll just have to use your imagination.

Here are some things that have actually been said to me. Most of them by genuinely well-intentioned, straight people, but some by LGBT people.  You could probably add some of your own.

I've also added some of the responses I've made - or wished I had made - or regret I've made. You could probably add some of your own.

So, without any further delay, drum roll, please: 
"This is your partner? What business are you in?" (The 'love business' - it's a family enterprise.)

"Are you two sisters?" (Yes, my mother and her mother are both mothers.)

"Is that your mother?" (No, but we are both mothers. Oh, and thank you.)

"Oh, you're wearing purple! Again! Of course, that would be your favorite color!" (Yup, just like Tinky Winky! You might have noticed that the bishop wears it, too!)

"But, you don't have a pinky ring, a cat, or wear Birkenstock sandals."(Don't like a lot of jewelry. Allergic to cats. Much prefer Dansko clogs. It's what all the really 'cool dykes' are wearing.)

"Is that lipstick? Are you wearing lipstick? And, eye makeup?" (Yup. I got special permission from LGBT Central.)

"Well, you dress very stylishly." (Thank you. I never go shopping without one of my gay male friends.)

"Do you own a motorcycle?" (Nope, and I don't have a pack of Lucky's rolled in the sleeve of my T-shirt, either. But, I do have a tattoo.)

"So, you're divorced. Does that make you bisexual?" (Actually, it makes me divorced.)

"Was your husband 'too small'? Or, was he 'too big'?" (Ummmm....Oh, look! Our hostess just brought out some more of her homemade salsa. Would you like some?)

"Why do you hate men?"(Why do you ask?)
"Is anyone else in your family gay or lesbian?" (Alas, I was kidnapped from my crib in Lesbianlandaville by a wild heterosexual couple who couldn't have any kids of their own.

"Are any of your children gay or lesbian?" (No, alas, even though we do want what's best for our children. They were just born that way, I guess.)
"When did you know you were lesbian?" (When did you know you were heterosexual?)

"Why do you want to get married, anyway?" (Why did you want to get married?)

"What's wrong with Civil Unions? Can't you people ever be happy?" (There's this little thing called the Constitution of the United States....maybe you've heard about it?)

"You people....." (Hubboy, here we go....)

"Your lifestyle...." (I don't have a lifestyle. I have a life.)

"But, the bible says...." (The Bible says lots of stuff. So, you may not want to eat that scallop wrapped in bacon. And, you may want to stop playing football.)

"That's so gay...." (That's so dumb!)

"'s just so...icky to think about." (Then, stop thinking about it. And, grow up!)

"You could 'change' if you really wanted to." (If I were able to 'change', would you really want me to marry your son?)

"I knew a gay man once who .... (fill in the blank)...died of AIDS / committed suicide / drank himself to death." (I know lots of heterosexual men and women who have died tragic deaths. We all make bad choices. That doesn't make us bad people.)
"If it's so difficult to be gay, why do they call it being 'gay'?"(It's just our little 'inside joke'. If you're not gay, you just wouldn't understand.)

"How did you come to have so many children?" (Did your parents ever tell you about the birds and the bees? How about the sperm and the egg?)

"Does the state know you have so many children?" (The IRS certainly does.)

"Well, at least you don't ever have to worry about birth control!" (My, how very astute!)
"Some of my best friends are gay." (No way! I also have some great friends who are straight! Imagine that!)

"I've been to a gay bar. Twice." (Get out! Me, too!)

"I've been to a Gay Pride Parade." (Get out! Me, too!)

"I took my daughter/son to a Gay Pride Parade." (Get out! Me, too!)

"I bought you this rainbow flag as a housewarming present." (Thank you. I'll be sure to put it out in June.)

"You know, I was going to get you a macrame plant hanger, but I couldn't find one anywhere." (Well, it's the thought that counts. No, really.)

"Do you have a gay friend who could help me ....
(1) pick out a good wine? 
(2) help me with my window treatments?
(3) help me remodel my bedroom?
(4) pick out a dress for the party?"
(Yes. Yes. Yes. And, yes. This is also part of why we call ourselves 'gay'.)

"I'm sorry, I can't rent this apartment to you." (Yup, I get it.)

"I'm sorry, that position has already been filled." (Yup, I get it.)

"You don't have any trouble with homosexuality, do you?" (Nope, not at all.)

"What books would you recommend that I read?" (Oh, where to begin? Try the library.)

"I don't understand this book you recommended." (Did you not understand or did it make you feel uncomfortable so you couldn't concentrate?)

"Can you help me understand homosexuality?" (No, actually, I can't. That's your responsibility.)

"Who does your hair? You are so lucky to know so many gay men!" (I know, right? How lucky am I? That's part of why we're called 'gay'.)

"Do you know the words to this 1940s Broadway Play? Or, do you need to call a gay male friend? How does that work, anyway?" (Hum a few bars and we'll look it up on Google.)
"I love Lady Gaga. And, Madonna, too!" (No way! I also like Tom Cruise and Denzel Washington.)

"I don't care what anyone does in the privacy of their own bedrooms. I just don't like it when you people flaunt it." (If I'm a 'homosexual' and I scratch my nose in public, is that a 'homosexual act' I'm 'flaunting' ?)
"Why is it that lesbian women don't molest children but gay men do?" (Why is it that anyone molests children - especially heterosexual men?)

"Is it nature or nurture?" (Actually, it's a spectrum.)
Well, that's probably more than enough for now.  You get the picture.

The thing of it is that we all say dumb things from time to time. We all have a lot of healing to do.  That's because prejudice and bigotry are social diseases. We are all carefully taught. 

Sometimes, the best way to 'unlearn' something is to learn to laugh at ourselves - and others who say dumb things that can be hurtful.

Laughter may or may not be the 'best' medicine, but without it, our humanity is diminished.

Indeed, I think laughter is one of the greatest statements of faith. If you are able to laugh in the face of the evils of sexism, heterosexism and homophobia, you know God is, ultimately, in charge.

The only 'medicine' I know, besides laughter, is forgiveness.

The healing really beings when you begin to forgive yourself.


James said...

Sad to day, I've heard each of those in conversations.

Derekac said...

Heard recently: The vicar is gay. We have to do something about it; he is letting the devil into the church...

Sometimes I think that we've advanced, but then I look at where we are...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

James - I'll bet there isn't an LGBT person who hasn't. And, more. This is just some of the stuff I could print.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Derekac - Well, we have made SOME progress. Not enough, but some... And then there are times when I know we haven't made enough. Rick Santorum comes immediately to mind.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

You did have to include the Ross Perot "You People" in there didn't you? LOL (inside joke twixt me and Elizabeth.)

I just wish to hell someone would institute the GLBT discount, like the Senior discount. I think a lot of folks, gay and straight, could save a lot of money. If stereotypes can't be gotten rid of overnight, we could all at least save a little money...

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kirke - What a BRILLIANT idea. We could do it for all oppressed minorities. That would be the best incentive to stop prejudice and bigotry. Evah.

Paul said...

Cringe...People do put their feet in their mouths and then shoot themselves in them. I think we (I) do so most often in instances of encountering those whose experience and reality is off our personal, social, experiential map. While some of the quotes betray basic ignorance and/or thoughtlessness others come straight from the influence of the great mediator of human misunderstanding: TV. I'm thinking of shows like Queer Eye. We see these exaggerated or distorted images and themes (stereotypes) and too easily mistake them for some sort of objective reality. One of the great gifts of where I am now is finally being exposed to the true diversity that exists in the LGBT community. To this point my encounter with the community was all with extremely well educated, articulate, middle to upper middle-class, liberal, religious individuals. But the community is after all simply an expression of our larger cultural and socioeconomic community…duh!

Martha said...

My favorite is "which one of you is the man?" (Neither, which is why we are called "lesbians!)

IT said...

"If she's your wife, are you her husband?"

Yeah. Heard em all. Tired of em.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Paul - Yeppa. My 'growing edge' - besides trans men who are obviously men - is bike riding, cigarette smoking, leather wearing, dykes. Then again, I'm not at all attracted to anyone who rides a bike, smokes a cigarette and wears leather all the time. So, there you have it. My confession.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Martha - Yeppa. Or, which one of you takes out the trash?

JCF said...

"I knew a gay man once who .... (fill in the blank)...died of AIDS / committed suicide / drank himself to death." (I know lots of heterosexual men and women who have died tragic deaths. We all make bad choices. That doesn't make us bad people.)

{JCF puts Obnoxious Judgmental Hat on}

That said, there ARE too many of us queers drinking/drugging/smoking/unsafely-sexing ourselves to an early grave.

Or worse, to JCF's "Deal-breaker" list.

[I kid, I kid! I am sometimes horrified by how many lesbians SMOKE, however, that is a deal-breaker for me.]

It's like, the haters don't HATE us enough already, that we have to off ourselves through self-destructive practices? [Yes, I know, a lot of it's self-medicating in REACTION to The Hate. Including the obnoxious questions/comments you list!]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - And, I sit here, shaking my head and saying, "And, it's 2012."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - There's an old saying in 12-Step Programs - "If you hang around a barber shop long enough, you're going to get a haircut".

Until the whole "club" scene is not part of the LGBT "community experience" - and, as long as there are "good Christians" who hate LGBT people, we will continue to see a lot of "death-defying" - and "death-inducing" - acts in the LGBT community.

Lapinbizarre said...

"'s just so...icky to think about." Thinking about the private lives of most of one's straight friends & acquaintances is not that enticing a prospect.

Muthah+ said...

Sigh! I am not going to see the end of it. And I too have those growing edges--damn I hate being 'outgirled' by my gay friends.

Fran said...

Brilliant - so well done! I hear some of these things in my suburban enclave. (which has no shortage of gay families if people actually paid attention. gasp!) I have spent more time than you might imagine explaining some reality to folks.

Did you see the "gay lifestyle" parody on Huffpo a couple of months ago? I will link to it here, which I hope you don't mind me doing.

Ah, ignorance. We are all human beings. Can we just start with that? And then stay there?

Will J said...

"Oh, you're wearing purple! Again!...."

Unsuprisingly, I am warped. My initial thoughts were 'Congratulations! I didn't know you had been elected Bishop!Fill me in on the details!' and 'Did I forget or oversleep a couple of weeks and miss Ash Wednesday?'

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lapin - I can't even imagine spending time trying to imagine what other people do in the privacy of their bedroom.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Muthah - You're perfect just the way you are.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Fran - You are a fabulous ally. Love you. So much.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Will J - I've sometimes said, "Yes, and it's not even Lent!"

walter said...

Thak you 4 for your confession. Here is also a link that we hope may add greater depth to our Queerful Christian Community: Walter Vitale

Mich Magness said...

Happy New Year, Elizabeth, and thanks for another great post. Misunderstanding just seems to be part of the human condition. I tell people that our society has three major "-isms" in its foundation, and it's as old as the Bible that whatever is in your foundation will influence the entire structure. Racism, Sexism - which includes not only gender disequity, but heterosexism and homophopia as well, and Ageism. Prejudice based on age is so rampant today, and is too often bought into by the victims, most often older adults. Here's to hoping that 2012 is filled with -ism busting truth & advocacy.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Walter - Thank you

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mitch - "ism-busting". I like it. Thanks.

Turtle Woman said...

I wear birkenstocks and have a cat! Yahoo! Actually, what I find most interesting about straight people is how rarely they ask ANYTHING about my life. They seem afraid to say something wrong, so they erase my life. Or if they do, they seem to not hear what I'm saying, so I have to put my foot down with them... you have 30 seconds to mention your kids and that's it... I keep heteros on a time clock to point out their erasure. However, they are socially nicer without asking about my partner... better than getting stones thrown at you I guess.

Turtle Woman said...

Come to think of it, I'm a pretty stereotypical radical lesbian... I really do hate men, or don't like to be around them. With some exceptions, but we really have nothing in common, and men bore me to tears. I smoke a cigar now and then, I have no patience for sexism or sell outism... and I want women only space as much as possible. What's so wrong with that? Dyke culture is powerful and dynamic to me, and lesbians should really be supporting other lesbian groups more than they do. I'm still lobbying for all those lesbian priests out there to do women only services in big churches... and I still think it would be cool for the lesbian bishop or two out there to do a big lesbian program, service and retreat at a really nice place. That is radical. Lesbians for lesbians, lesbians being proud of a lesbian community, without having to sell out to male pleasing or assimilationist values... so that's what I'd like to see more of in 2012. But I'm not holding my breath... since EVERY group on earth is more important than the needs of lesbians to be in lesbian only space.

Anonymous said...

My favorite-"Honey if you continue to live with that woman then no man is going to ask you out." Really?

Anonymous said...

Or my other all time favorite was when I agreed to take my daughter out to lunch with some of her friends and their mother's. My daughter introduced me as her mother. A bit later she introduced her other mother. One of her friend's mother turned to me and said, "Oh, I thought you were her mother. I replied I am this is my partner." Oh, your in business together?" One of the other mothers kicked her and said, "Marge, catch up, please." I thought I was in an episode of "Golden Girls."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Turtle Woman - You have the right to be anything you want. Just don't expect too many people to live up to your expectations - especially if you live freely into stereotypes.

Me? I'm pretty much a free spirit. I have a pair of Birkenstocks and wear them when I feel like it. I wear lipstick. Sometimes. Most times, I don't. I do when I feel like it. I wear skirts sometimes. I'm in my jeans right now. I'll go to a diner later on with them on. If I were going to a nice restaurant, I might wear a nice pair of dress pants or a long skirt. Depending on how I feel. I hate being stereotyped. If that's okay for you, then blessings upon your head.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - What I sometimes get is, "You know, there are lots of men who could make you very happy and would be thrilled to have a woman like you as their wife".

Problem is, I wouldn't. Be thrilled. I'm really happy just the way I am. And, I don't think it's anybody's job to "make me happy". I think that's my responsibility.

Sigh! I know they "only want what's best" for me, but I think I can determine that.

Matthew said...

Moravian Communion Biscuit Recipe. Elizabeth, sorry I am putting this on this post but it was the first one and I figured you would not mind. This recipe is based on the famed Moravian thin spice cookies that you can buy on the Internet but without the spices or molasses. In essence they are "plain" sort of like pie crust dough. BTW the spice cookies can be purchased at online stores like this:

1 and 1/2 cups flour (all purpose)
2 T sugar
1/2 teas. salt
I stick cold butter (unsalted)
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk to make a dough.

Preheat over to 425. Mix flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter like pie dough or use a processor. Add milk. Chill. Roll out very thin at least 1/8 an inch or even 1/16th an inch. Using a small lid or 1 or 1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, make small rounds and put on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a wooden skewer, make a cross (+) on each. Bake 6-10 minutes or until golden brown. Baking time depends on how thing they are. If they are very thin, they might be done in 5 minutes. If they are thicker it might take 10 -12 minutes. This recipe is the same or almost the same as the one in this cookbook which you can buy for (literally) pennies.
Store the cookies in tins or zip lock bags.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Matthew!!

Anonymous said...

Forgive the anonymous comment. My name is Jenny and I live in FL. And after reading this, I am now officially afraid to talk to lesbians at all, about anything. I don't think I have ever said any of these things. But I also didn't know there was a right way and a wrong way.

Then again, I am fat. You wouldn't believe the things say about THAT! And when you tell someone you have cancer you always hear about their aunt who had the same thing and lived five years. Gee, thanks.

But then again, they are trying to connect. Isn't that worth something?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Jenny - there isn't a 'right or wrong way' to say anything to a lesbian. It's all about thinking before you open your mouth.

If you search "Fat is a feminist issue" on this blog, you'll see that I have a great deal to say about that issue as well

Unknown said...

I can't believe you like Tom Cruise!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Mark, I did write this in 2012. We all evolve.