Coming out to my parents was both the most terrifying and relieving act of my life to-date. As the daughter of two immigrants who have very strong views about sexuality and right vs. wrong because of how they were culturally raised, it took them a while to understand that this is who I am. At the end of the day, (quite literally) they both told me, “No matter what, you’re my daughter and I still love you.” My sigh of relief could have been heard across the world, I’m sure. You see, I’ve always been worried about what they would think — everyone else? Who cares! However, they didn’t feel that way. They told me time and time again that they were worried how people would treat me. “I’m navigating through the world just fine” I’d think to myself.
I wasn’t fully comfortable with my sexuality but was uncontrollably happy in my relationship. And, no one really questioned it or looked at us funny. Cut to college and that’s where everything shifted. College was the easiest time for me to be open with who I was in public but it was also where I encountered an insane amount of ignorance from people outside of my immediate circle.
The first time I had to deal with this kind of adversity was when someone asked me if I had a boyfriend. Instead of just saying no and leaving it at that, I went on to tell them how long me and my current girlfriend had been together and before I could even finish my sentence he said, “But you don’t even look gay!” I felt my eyes roll severely to the back of my head and could only mouth “Excuse me?!” He went on to say how I didn’t look like a lesbian so I couldn’t very well be one. (WTF?!) I should have said something then, but I got up and walked away. I hoped this confrontation was a one time deal. But I was in college after all, so as you can imagine that wasn't my last confrontation with utter ignorance. I went on to hear variations of equally offensive, and now funny, statements. Here are some of my non-favorite favorite ones:
Person: “But you can’t be a lesbian, you’re not”
Me: “But I am”
Person: “No, you’re not”
“You’re too pretty to be gay”
“But you look straight”
“You don’t dress like one, like, at all”
“So is your girlfriend the boy in the relationship because you look like the girl?”
“You’re a lesbian? Well, that’s disappointing, you could have made for a great straight chick”
“But you’ve never been with a man like me”
“So why do you wear lipstick and nailpolish?”
“Eww, have you been checking me out then?”
I'm even a bit embarrassed to admit that the "disappointment" comment brought me to tears out of pure anger and frustration. But hey, what can I say, I'm a sensitive soul. How quickly people judged me and fought me on who I am, based solely on my sexuality, has been really disappointing. I can't believe there was a time when I entertained these heinous conversations. Now I can look back and see how absurd and funny this all is, but it wasn't until recently that I felt confident enough to confront someone when they utter one of the ludicrous statements you read above. Okay, I'm sugar coating it. I now laugh and get in their face à la Jennifer Lawrence style out of Silver Linings Playbook and ask if they are joking because things are about to get all too real. I'd like to think people walk away a bit more educated on how small-minded they sound and the repercussions of their ignorant comments. People will continue their habits if they’re never told that it's wrong. What if I turned the tables and said, “But you don’t look straight"? It would be just as crazy as the things I've heard.
What I've learned is that it comes down to people being uncomfortable with the unknown. If it doesn’t match what they’ve envisioned in their head, they get scared and retaliate with ignorant questions and statements. I have not and will never dress a certain way or put on particular makeup because of my sexuality. I’ve always dressed for myself and no one else. I am more than my sexuality, where I work, my ethnicity, etc. (although all those elements do contribute to who I am) — I’m a human being, but people can’t see past what isn’t “normal”. Which begs me to ask, what is normal? It’s 2015 and you’re telling me that I’m “too pretty to be a lesbian”, really?! Come on, we’re better than this.