Dear Friends and Family: I Am Not Special
Growing up in a small, somewhat conservative town was challenging in many ways, particularly as a closeted bi man. Casual discriminatory remarks about sexual orientation, gender, race and more are thrown around daily, sometimes fueled by hate, other times ignorance, but they are persistent nonetheless. However, many people like to make the following qualifying statement after their little quips, as if it somehow nullifies the hate those words carry.
In my experience, these statements usually go something like this:
I guess if I had a family member like that…you know gay or bi or something…I wouldn’t care as much because they’re my family and I care about them and I want them to be happy, generally speaking. Even if it’s a friend like you; like I don’t really agree with it or care for it personally…but in this case it’s fine because it is you and we’re close.
To be fair, I understand that sometimes there needs to be an adjustment period for friends and family to begin to understand the LGBTQ+ community and what it means now that their family member has publically come out to be a part of it. However, through this education process, it is imperative for them to learn something that I have tried to make abundantly clear to my friends and family since coming out.
It is the sobering fact that, in the grand scheme of things, I am not special; I am no more deserving of special treatment from you about my bisexuality than any other bi man out there in the world. It’s just a happy coincidence that you know me; if you didn’t, I would just be one of the many nameless LGBTQ+ individuals that you “don’t particularly care for.”
What’s more is that I don’t want to be the special exception to your small-minded belief system; oftentimes, these people act as if they’re making a huge personal and moral sacrifice to accept me as who I am and seem to think I should be thrilled to be the one person in the world who is like this that they accept.
I think sometimes when we come out, we are eager to take any type of acceptance that we can find; I was no different and accepted many comments like the one above without batting an eye. But as time has progressed, I’ve learned that there is a big difference between true acceptance and this begrudging level of tolerance that some reluctantly bestow upon those they have personal relationships with.
If you really accept me, take some time to learn about my new community, my new life and get to know who I am in full; you can’t claim to know me if you’re going to ignore a major part of who I am. If you do, your “support” seems more like a politically correct move than genuine concern and care.
It’s really not even that hard to do; if you can see me as more than my sexual orientation and not judge me negatively for it, then why can’t you see others like me in the same way? How about instead of having me be the one exception to your thinly-veiled LGBTQ+ discrimination, let me be the example that is able to show you what this community is really all about and all the truly wonderful things it has to offer.