In my satirical piece titled, Why Passing as Gay Is a Privilege, which is a response to another article, Why Passing as Straight Is Not a Privilege, I try to bring across the point that "passing as straight" does have enormous benefits in today's world. My focus is on the issue of safety in public, and I argue that whether you're heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or transsexual, appearing as a straight person and blending in with the "majority" can render you safety from being verbally or physically attacked by anti-LGBT strangers in public spaces.
Personally, I feel a lot on the subject of "passing" because I myself had fallen victim to bullying in school as well as public harassment countless times due to the effeminate way I look, dress and behave. Growing up, I was teased by my peers, shamed by adults and even ridiculed by my own "friends." I was told so many times that "I wasn't man enough." These experiences over the past ten, twenty years have caused me social anxiety issues, which I'm still trying to resolve and overcome today.
But do not be mistaken. Sharing about all these, my intention is not to gain your sympathy or say who had or has it worse. I'm simply trying to emphasize that nobody should take something as basic as safety and comfort in public for granted.
Following the publication of my article, some people from the bi community were deeply offended. They responded on Twitter saying that I am biphobic, to which I explained that the focus of my article was on safety in public. I did not say that the rest of the matters that the other author mentioned in his writing, such as bi people being unfairly judged in the dating world, or them having their sexual orientation questioned constantly, are not true. I do believe that they are valid points. Neither was I trying to invalidate the existence of bisexuality, because I do believe in bisexuality, just as I believe pansexuality, asexuality and even demisexuality exist as well.
But even as I tried to be kind, straight-forward and open about the discussion, I was told that I am "disgusting," "gross" and was continually accused of bi-erasure and promoting violence against bisexuals. At one point I was just like, "Uh, whatttt???" I thought to myself, Why should I even bother showing more love, care and interest towards the bi community, when they are so eager to bite back at the slightest offense taken? This incident has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. Well of course I still have tons of love and support for those of my friends who are bi. However, I feel very much discouraged by the unkind barrage of rejection received, albeit only from a few members of the bi community.
As I tried to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, this question popped up: "As a group who can be so harsh, defensive and judgmental towards those who do not meet our expectations, how are we the LGBT community supposed to build support and alliance among ourselves and gain allies from without?"
Just look at the amount of hate Sam Smith had to deal with just because people think that he won an award he doesn't deserve, or that he could have given a better and more informed thank-you speech. And even after Smith's outright support and love for our community on stage, saying, "I want to dedicate this to the LGBT community, all around the world. I stand here, tonight as a proud gay man and I hope we can all stand together as equals some day," many people rejected him. Surprisingly (or not), gay men were the ones who had gone especially hard on Smith.
People make mistakes -- we all do. Rather than blaming their ignorance, shaming and rejecting them, shouldn't we show love and some understanding and forgiveness instead? I'm not saying that you have to be a saint. I'm just trying to remind all of us, myself included, that we can be more generous in giving other people the benefit of a doubt and be less quick to judge when it comes to others' shortcomings.
I myself have been trying to educate my family on the matters of my sexuality for years. I came out to my mom when I had my first 'serious' boyfriend at 21, and as a very traditional and conservative Chinese parent, she was extremely disappointed with my "choice." Well, at least she didn't try to stop me. (That's after I let her know that emotional blackmailing ain't gonna work on me, gurl.)
Two years later, I broke up with my boyfriend. When I told my mom that, she was over the moon. "That's good! Now you can go find yourself a girl," she said excitedly. At that time, I was going to Shanghai for a summer internship, and my mom even joked that she wouldn't mind if I were to bring home a foreign wife. In retrospect, I don't think she was joking.
Half a year later, I got myself another boyfriend. This time, my mom expressed her dismay again, though she also told me: "Well, you're old enough to make your own decisions in life."
It took my mom almost 6 years to finally come to terms with my sexuality. Today when I talk to her about my partner, she treats it like we are a normal couple. Even though she doesn't fully understand homosexuality, but she respects my decision, and I can feel it. In a way, she has become an ally. When I came out to my dad recently, my mom was there to support me. She spoke up for me. She wasn't ashamed of me.
Thinking back, had I rejected my mom because she wasn't as supportive as I had expected or wanted her to be, I would have lost an ally at home. Had I stopped talking to my mom about my love life because she wasn't at all knowledgeable or interested in gay dating, I would have lost a valuable friend in life.
Yes, it takes time. And sometimes it's gonna take longer than what we think we have the patience for. But let me tell you this: It will be worth it.
On top of time and patience, we also must be willing to teach and guide our allies.
For instance, I wouldn't have become a big supporter of transgender people and transgender rights if not for YouTubers like Gigi Gorgeous, Julie Vu and Benton. Through their videos, in which they speak so honestly and candidly about their lives as a trans person, I began to understand what it means to be trans, and the difficulties and hurdles faced. Of course it wasn't a one-day-know-it-all thing. I have been following these people on YouTube for years. Over time, I feel like I'm on a journey with them. I was learning, video by video, topic by topic, as they were themselves too. Thanks to these YouTubers who are willing to share the most intimate details of their lives, millions of people from all around the world, gay or straight, are able to connect, relate and empathize better when it comes to trans issues, and hopefully see that the fight for trans rights is their fight too.
In conclusion, whether a straight person comes from a place of good intentions, or they see a queer person as a fascinating "freak show," it is our responsibility to teach and guide them with patience and understanding. To open up their minds, we need to first open up our own minds, and our own hearts too. Yes, we might get hurt by their insensitivity, ignorance or their tactlessness, but the good news is, once somebody becomes an ally, they too can help us spread the love. Together, the weight will be lighter.
So, don't let high expectations and fear get in the way. Show love, even when it's not shown to you. Like MLK Jr. said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." Indeed, if we the LGBT community wants to change the world, we can't do it alone, we need our straight allies to march with us. And if we truly believes that we can, let's do it with love and kindness.
1. Give people time, and be patient with them.
2. Throwing people random pieces of information ain't education.
3. Don't be petty. Focus on the big picture.
4. Learning is a journey.
5. Love wins. It always does.