Thursday, November 8, 2007

How personal is outing oneself?

So I'm a friendly person and tend to take a fair amount of initiative to meet new people. So I asked this girl at school, who I think is cool, to have lunch. At lunch we talked about the presentation I am doing for class. I am doing it on counseling a christian lesbian and the harm that can be done by counselors trying to heal clients. A classmate of mine is going to counsel me in front of the entire class. Yes, I'm a bit nervous. But that's a whole different thing than what I am talking about.

I was sharing about the presentation. This student shared about hers. Talking about my presentation caused her to out herself as straight. It was smooth and came up naturally, but I started thinking: Did she think I asked her for lunch to ask her out? Crap! That was not at all what I was intending.

I am getting two reactions to me outing myself.
  1. People need to share that they are straight (98% of the time I know this). And pretty much everyone needs to share with me or remind me of this.

  2. The person shares something equally personal or usually even more-so. They are dating someone who was divorced, they were abused, they had a mental health issue of some sort. Sharing begets sharing I guess but it seems it's more personal than what I shared.
What I keep wondering is how personal is this "outing" of myself? Why do people think it's so personal? Being straight isn't a huge personal sharing, why is being gay? It's like I'm sharing my deepest darkest secret. For me it just is and it's only judgments towards me that make it something that needs to be secretive! Straight people display their sexuality all the time. That's not at all personal. This world is so weird don't you think?

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey there. I'm straight, and I have OCD and control issues.

Just kidding. It really is perplexing. I have a feeling that people do it out of plain ignorance or inexperience with people who are gay. A lot of the people you are outing yourself to just haven't known many people "like you" (ugh, I say that tongue in cheek, obviously).

Here's a thought at something comparable to the "I'm straight" response. I had a guy friend who I LOVED, but ONLY has a friend - much like a brother. I had an inkling he liked me, so I used the "you're such a good friend" line on him numerous times. While I do think it's ignorant for every woman to assume that you're attracted to them, I think that this attempt at "clarifying" is something both gay and straight people run into - in slightly different ways.

-tc

just me - titration said...

LOL. Hmmm. Good point. Now that I think of it... I do know one person who I wouldn't mind if they used the "friend language" and talked about their significant other more because it would help me not crush on them and would remind me they do not like me. But of course they are gay. But still, maybe that's my in-road to understanding this whole thing.

Quality sharing tc.

JJ said...

I cannot count how many times I've had that 'oversharing' reaction... well, I probably could if I thought about it, but I'm not going to. I know some rather odd secrets about people who felt the need to share something 'equaly personal'. It was a while before I figured it out, and I actually have to give some of the credit for this to Dan Savage, because he was able to articulate my thoughts on this much clearer than I could. I think what happens is that straight people (mostly) go straight to the sex place when we come out to them... so for that reason they equate coming out to giving rather specific details about your sex life -- which I think we can all agree is personal.

I suppose it is kind of true -- I mean, given that I know most of my married friends are straight, I could probably give some rather graphic, yet accurate details about their sex life, but to be perfectly honest, I don't think about their sex lives (unless we are talking about it for some reason... this also has happened to me more times than I can count). And I suppose that if I were sexually active they would be right about some of what they thought about my fictional sex life, but I would have to say that I still think the fact that they immedietly jump to the sex thing is the problem.

The people I know who haven't reacted in such a way are almost all people who later were revealed to be people who see being gay as a holistic thing akin to being straight, and not as this weird kink that I have.

Okay, done now... just my thoughts.

just me - titration said...

jj - I totally remember reading something on your blog about this I just couldn't find it. And until now I hadn't experienced it quite so much. But now I have!

I like this line of yours: "The people I know who haven't reacted in such a way are almost all people who later were revealed to be people who see being gay as a holistic thing akin to being straight"

Liadan said...

I've gotten to where very occasionally, I'm able to forget being gay is weird at all and just talk about my girlfriend or my undying crush on Scully or whatever the same way people will casually mention their opposite-sex sig.others, etc. Of course my friends don't care, otherwise they wouldn't be my friends, but I used to do it in class sometimes without thinking and I'd get the funniest reactions (like my senior project teacher: "Wow, really? That just makes you ten times cooler than you already were!")

I have had one straight person, who I had literally just met thirty minutes before, take my offhand mentioning that I was of the lady-loving persuasion as an opening to talk about how many men she had slept with and why. It was kind of surreal-- I didn't think I was saying anything particularly salacious, and yet it was received as "hey, let's talk about sex!"

On the other hand, I've had two close friends to whom I came out (as bi, at the time) react with "Hey, me too!" which was funny.

just me - titration said...

liadan - I think it is this part that you mention "I didn't think I was saying anything particularly salacious, and yet it was received as "hey, let's talk about sex!"" that throws me most! It's what makes me feel I am suddenly transported to a new planet. And I definitely haven't had people say "me too", yet at least...

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. Pretty much everyone I have come out to who isn't also LGBT has felt the need to share something with me. I had one person mention their sex addiction and another their trials with pornography. In my case however, the general sense has always been "but I have overcome that trial or I am dealing with it" and so can you.

I will admit that this sentiment has made me angry in the past. It tells me that they don't understand where I am coming from and that only makes me clam up.

just me - titration said...

Hi there Anony. Yeah, I hear you! I sometimes wonder if people who talk this way have any clue that it cause us to clam up...

(no subject) said...

i don't think that outing yourself is really that personal. i definitely have deeper secrets than being queer.
"For me it just is and it's only judgments towards me that make it something that needs to be secretive!" this is exactly how i feel!!!! i wish the world weren't so lame...