We all live in closets. Some of us live in the closet which deals with gender identity and sexual preferences being different from the sexual majority, that is, heterosexual cisgender people.
I am a bisexual cisgender woman who has not dated a single cisgender man in three years of college, and for some reason that helps my friends and other associates box me into the ‘closeted lesbian’ label, while they set out on a journey to compartmentalize the world around them. You see, organizing a book shelf and labeling your wardrobe shelves is really cool. It shows how organised and neat you are as a human being, but gender fluid and sexually fluid people aren’t clothes or books that you are allowed to conveniently tag and label according to your worldview.
In my first year of college, I fell in love with a girl from my class, and it was like the Eighth Wonder of the World for the rest of the department! Girls in my class have said, and I quote, “I wonder how its like to be with a woman. Must be so chill. I really wanna try it once.” Stop. My body is not a vessel for you to try and test your sexuality. Do not tell me you love me and proceed to sexually interact with me as an experiment. I am not your lab rat.
Of course, feel free to figure yourself out but, with perhaps with other people who are figuring themselves out, and not with people who already have. Because the aftertaste of your experimental kiss results in insecurity, self-doubt, and an array of other side effects which you are unaware of because now you have your cocktail party anecdote and an addition to your ‘never-have-I-ever’ game at a house party of how you kissed a girl and it was ‘exotic’. Stop. Queer men and women aren’t exotic seductive beings you have a one-time experience with. We have lives and we fall in love. We love ever so deeply, (you know, just like you). We fall for straight people and gosh, that sucks. But we love, and we live, and we learn. And it’s time the media stopped encouraging the experimental-one-time-queer-kiss idea through its various branches. It’s time we stop getting titillated by queer acts and respect them as natural behaviour by taking the exotic quotient out and burning it to the ground.
I remember when another classmate of mine, a cisgender man, had a crush on me, but the fact that a woman can choose a woman over him is something that hurts his male ego even till today, as I type this. This has been a cause for a very many foul things. In fact, in my second year, I was molested by another cisgender man who during the act tried to convince me that I am not bisexual, that I am merely ‘trying to act cool’, and that his masculinity could force my sexuality out of my system. This is not pity banter, or a cry for sympathy. One has never needed that, however one is appalled at the apathy of people, and the behavior triggered by internalized patriarchal norms. Queer people do not care if you ‘believe’ in our gender and/or sexual orientation because it exists despite your disbelief. I was once seeing a man who said, “I don’t think you like women, I think you just hate men because you are a feminist so you force yourself to only consider women as romantic and sexual partners.” Apparently the long-haired lady loving another lady is a myth—what a shame!
I can count the number of friends who have never joked about my sexual orientation on my hand, and the count doesn’t cross the single digit mark. There have only been two cisgender men from my class I have had the privilege of calling my friends, with whom my orientation was never an issue. After struggling with two workplaces, I have finally found an inclusive environment where I am not even remotely shamed, and here there is absolutely no place for casual jokes being passed about my sexual orientation. I am lucky, and I am blessed, and I completely understand my privilege, when so many other men and women from my community never get to understand what such a workpalce feels like.
So the next time you casually try to joke about your friend and their queerness, realise that they are probably still struggling with who they are in a world where their bodies and their love is unlawful and viewed as a criminal act. Understand that sometimes when they’re standing in the middle of a crowd of the labels you keep throwing at them they do not know what to choose, they do not know what to conform to. To my queer friends I say, do not conform if you do not want to. Take your time, and take it slowly. Stand up for yourself and never back down. You are who you are, and your love is your love—the words “minority” or “majority” shouldn’t define who you really are. If you think you’re alone, find a local LGBTQA+ NGO or cafe and interact with more people from the community, and you’ll know that you are anything but alone. There other people who will high-five you about similar life experiences. You’re beautiful and let nothing ever bring you down. Shine on!