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Content warning: mentions of sexuality, homophobia
It's a Wednesday afternoon and I'm fighting the urge to tell a Boots cashier I'm gay. He's around my age– I know because we had classes together in school, despite never speaking– and as he slides my pack of hair bleach across the counter he asks how things are going. Things, presumably referring to university and work– yet as I tell him the course I'm studying, I find myself fighting the urge to tell him how different I am, now. Different from who I was in school, different from who I was while still wrapped up in compulsory heterosexuality– different, perhaps, from him.
Later on that day, I think how incredibly short-sighted this was of me. I know nothing about his sexual orientation, nothing to tell me there's some sort of wall between us, or between who I used to be. I was me when I still thought I was straight, and I'm still me now, in my all my sapphic glory. I don't need to tell everybody I meet for this to be true.
So why do I still buy into this idea?
This isn't the first time I've felt the urge to wear my sexuality on my sleeve. I'm proud of it: have explored lesbian fashion styles in an attempt to signify to others that I'm part of the community, have taken free reign with tattoos and piercings known as queer indicators in women. I've even taken liberties with my hair (note the bleach), all in an attempt to express who I am. I feel most comfortable this way, both feminine and masculine. I love rejecting this idea of a male gaze with how I look, and how I express myself. But with all this considered, later I reflect on the Boots cashier incident and think perhaps I'm still more serving of a male, heteronormative perception that I'd originally thought.
Straight is still the default– despite data suggesting a different picture
There's an expectation in our Western society that anybody identifying as queer will at some point 'come out' to their friends and family (or the entire internet, for celebrities). We think of it as a statement of queer liberation, this idea that we're living in a day where people can announce and embrace who they are. We even have a day dedicated to it. This is nothing short of incredible when taking into account the difficult history leading us to this point. According to studies, Gen-Z is queerer than any generation before, and more comfortable as identifying with labels, too.
But coming out isn't what everybody wants, and some view it quite differently. For Richard Morgan it isn't empowering– it's something he feels he owes to straight, cis people.
'Coming out is embraced only as otherness, a kind of queerientalism, a wonderland. But I refuse to serve in this brave new world as other people’s cartographer or their tour guide.'
Now, I really consider whether I feel I want to come out. While I'm proud of my sexuality and will always be open about it, I take comfort in having some privacy with it, too. It's no longer something I feel I need to explain to the straight people I meet: I'm gay, unapologetically, and it isn't that shocking of a diagnosis.
(No Boots cashiers were dragged into a painfully awkward situation in the making of this story).