Orlando was a loud and overt attack on the LGBT community. #HeterosexualPrideDay is a subtle one
As all writers should, I’m going to open this piece with an anecdote about a gay Brazilian.
On Saturday evening I was standing on Dublin’s D'Olier Street when a rainbow clad gay Brazilian rounded the corner. With a Redbull in hand, he stopped to wish me and the group with whom I stood a Happy Pride. He was a gregarious character, an impressive salsa dancer and happy celebrant of Pride.
In the few moments that he stood with us, he taught one of our party to salsa dance, shared that he had a particular penchant for men with chunky legs and informed us that he was 32 and still closeted.
For all intents and purposes, this man met every sexuality stereotype bestowed upon him. He was camp, he was a great dancer, handsome, draped in rainbows and larger than life. And yet he had been concealing his sexuality for 17 years. A task I imagined would be greatly difficult due to his inherent flamboyance.
But I could understand why he did it because I did it myself.
It was a lot easier for me. I didn’t realize my sexuality waivered until I was in my twenties and at that stage I had established enough of a history of dating men to hide my unexpected relationship with a woman.
A Poem for Pride
I didn’t make a conscious decision not to come out, I just struggled with finding a definition of my sexuality and my perception of myself. That struggle manifested in me for a long time, amassing lies and secrets and hurt.
I lived in a society that was very accepting, campaigns leading to Ireland’s Marriage Referendum offered consistent solidarity with the LGBT community and I had a shit tonne of gay friends. And while I was a passionate and outspoken advocate of gay rights, I had internalized fear and self-loathing that made coming out seem like an impossible feat.
The reason for that struggle is confusing for onlookers now who see a confident young woman in a healthy happy relationship surrounded by supportive friends and family. But that struggle was the accumulation of years of sly remarks, overheard conversations and misconceptions about the LGBT community.
I remembered the times as children we’d referred to something embarrassing as “gay,” I recalled the depictions of the LGBT community on TV as novel, sexual or worse - a passing phase.
Sure, my relationship occurred during a time of incredible support and social change, but my perception was formed during a time of unrest. Gay people and straight people were and still are treated differently.
I’m alright now. I’m out and comfortable and happy.
But for some many young people in the world today that turmoil persists. The slow building of self-contempt prevails and opinions of homosexuality and the LGBT community are still being formed in a negative light.
Orlando was a loud and overt attack on the LGBT community. Today’s trending #HeterosexualPrideDay is a subtle one.
Any comment, tweet or remark that promotes difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals is detrimental to LGBT youth.
The default setting in society is straight.
Television, movies, music, literature, advertising and art is dominated by heterosexuality. That’s fine, that’s not something I expect to change overnight, it’s not even something that makes me angry. But it’s there and it’s one of the realities that contributed to my own misconceptions of being gay.
As CNN writer LZ Granderson so eloquently put it:
“Gay Pride was not born out of a need to celebrate not being straight but our right to exist without prosecution. So maybe instead of wondering why there isn't a straight pride month or movement, straight people should be thankful they don't need one.”
Being comfortable in one’s own skin is a feeling everyone deserves and something that should absolutely be celebrated.
It’s just a shame that few realise that the celebration is about people arriving at that feeling rather than being about the colour, origination or orientation of the skin they live in.