As Simon from the book Simo vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, a novel by Becky Albertalli, rightly said, “White shouldn’t be the default any more than straight should be the default. There shouldn’t even be a default. Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it shouldn’t be this big awkward thing whether you’re straight, gay, bi or whatever.”
I came across this wonderful book about four years ago and I strongly recommend it to everyone from teenagers to adults, especially parents. It’s a light and humorous story about love, family, friendship, high-school life, and coming out as gay. At the same time, it conveys such an important message regarding the LGBTQ+ community – namely that people who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ spectrum are just like everyone else.
The book and its values have resonated with me ever since and as the years progressed, I was exposed to a plethora of new ideas and identities. I was eager to know more about them when I learnt that people close to my heart are a part of the community.
All around me, especially within the older generations, I see a lot of heteronormativity. It’s the idea that binary gender identities and heterosexual orientations (meaning there are only two sexual orientations and genders) are the norms. They like to segregate everything into society-approved compartments with labels. Certainly, there are a lot of labels, like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc. But for many people, these labels are a way of identifying themselves and discovering their identities; others, on the other hand, choose to avoid labels altogether.
Gender and sexuality are fluid. This means that at some point in your life, you could feel completely straight, while at other times, you might feel attracted to the same-sex — and then you might go back to feeling straight. Gender-fluid means that your identity (like male or female) can move from one side of the spectrum to the other.
Some people also identify as genderless or with neither of the ‘approved’ genders imposed on people. It’s okay for our identities to be in flux; not everyone has an identity that remains the same throughout their lives.
If you’re not heteronormative, you’re forced to explain yourself while cisgender and heterosexual people don’t have to. When your identity does not cohere with heteronormativity, you are often asked to explain yourself — why you don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend and other insensitive, inappropriate questions (which 25-year-old hasn’t been cornered at a family member’s wedding and asked about their own plans for marriage?).
Perhaps sick and tired of nosy aunties prying into their personal lives, a lot of people have started coming out on public platforms including Instagram and Twitter because sometimes, they would prefer not to have an in-person, one-to-one conversation with certain people, fearing rejection and disapproval. It says a lot about the taboo surrounding this topic that sometimes, it’s easier to be yourself amongst strangers than with the people you love.
Most of the times, their disclosures are met with approval and support, But there are also times when they are bullied and pressurised to such an extent that they end up quitting social media. The world would rather have you live a lie than accept the truth about you that is often different from its perceived notions.
I’ve overheard remarks made by a distant relatives, supposedly made in jest, that if his child ever declares himself as queer, he would slap him and kick him out of the house. As if “queerness” could be slapped out of someone! It makes me sad to think that sometimes, your parents or immediate family, who are supposed to be your safe place, don’t accept you for who you are. Can you imagine how lonely and empty you would feel if you were asked to constantly deny your truth?
The LGBTQ+ community is one of the most marginalised and persecuted communities in society. The stigma, the secrecy and the social taboo associated with being a part of this community takes a heavy toll on their physical and mental health.
Although a lot of countries have legalised same-sex marriages and people from the community are being given equal opportunities in academic and professional spaces, there is still a long way to go when it comes to normalising the conversation around the LGBTQ+ community and their acceptance in society.