Don’t force the LGBTQ+ people in your life to be your educators
By Ezra Elias Vivas
[Image description: The Progress Pride Flag, designed by Daniel Quasar. It has five rainbow stripes, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violent, and a chevron pointing right on the left end of the flag. From its interior out, the chevron is white, pink, blue, brown, and black. End image description. From Dezeen.com.]
If you’re a straight person who’s the same gender they were assigned at birth, LGBTQ+ topics can seem distant and irrelevant to your life. However, your friend, sibling, partner, or coworker might come out to you one day. You have to now contend with your likely ignorance-- what’s a pronoun again? There are a lot of knee jerk reactions you might have, and one of those might be to immediately start asking questions.
Coming out is a difficult thing. No matter how many times a person does it, there will always be ignorance. There will always be questions asked, ranging from topical to deeply invasive. Answering (or skillfully deflecting) a question once is no problem. Having to do that every single time you come out is exhausting.
The fact of the matter is you, as a cisgender andheterosexual individual, have privelege over the LGBTQ+ person coming out to you. Alongside your ignorance is the fact that you could react extremely poorly, even violently, to the person coming out. Having to contend with that knowledge is draining. Having to politely field every ignorant question sent our way adds another level of stress.
This isn’t to say that asking for an elaboration on an individual’s experience is a bad thing. In fact, plenty of LGBTQ+ people are willing to talk about their experience of their gender/sexual orientation… with people to whom we’re close. I’m fine with talking about my plans for medical transitioning with my close friends and family, but to a curious stranger, no matter how well-meaning, I have no reason to disclose what’s in my pants.
There’s no shortage of coming out experiences that go poorly. There are plenty of resources for how to mitigate or avoid a negative reaction. What if instead of putting all of the pressure on LGBTQ+ people when they come out, allies took it upon themselves to pre-emptively educate themselves?
The point isn’t to become a walking dictionary of LGBTQ+ terminology well-versed enough in theory to write on par with Judith Butler. The point is to have some understanding of basic issues and vocabulary that affects the LGBTQ+. Educating oneself is part of being an ally.
Here’s a list of websites that have information both for queer people and allies to get you started:
Read more Voices of Gen Z content like this here.
Written by staff writer Ezra Elias Vivas.