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On Being Out Versus Living Out Loud

January 31, 2013

Because they aren’t the same.

This is my girlfriend A- and I playing in a photo booth at a wedding.

Is & A

With Bonus Cleavage. You’re Welcome.

What do you see?

If you see two people who love each other, then well done. You see what I see.

If you see two women in love with each other, then well done. You see what most people see.

If you see an interracial couple in love with each other, then well done. You also see what most people see.

A- and I aren’t just out. We’re out loud and that’s why these different views matter. What is the difference?

Being out is the act of being openly gay. It is refusing to pretend to be straight. Instead of calling A- my “roommate” I openly refer to her as my girlfriend. We refuse to play the pronoun game. When people talk about their significant others we talk about ours too. We don’t hide. We don’t pretend.

Being out loud is taking that behavior to the next level. It is refusing to accept those tiny offers of privilege that happen every day, “Oh A-, your friend?”

“My girlfriend.”

It’s wearing the pride bracelet. It’s sometimes rocking the rainbow and sometimes rocking the high heels, makeup, fierceness at the same time. It’s breaking old stereotypes and making new ones that benefit the whole LGBTQ community. It’s taking the risk so that other, often young and less secure gays, don’t have to. It’s calling out the gay jokes as personally offensive every goddamn time. It’s standing up and saying something even when whatever bullshit comment isn’t aimed at us. It’s speaking when social convention allows us or even urges us to stay quiet. It’s taking the hit publicly, so the next person in line doesn’t have to, or at least takes a somewhat softer hit. Generally these hits are metaphorical. It’s not just standing up for ourselves. It’s standing up for everyone.

But we’re also an interracial couple and you know what? That’s not something we often think about. One fight is so active and so constant that the other fight gets pushed to the background. I mean sometimes we can’t help but notice, like when she’s the only Caucasian in a room or when the Obama for America office sent us to the blackest neighborhood in our town to canvass on election day. I kind of become her black card. I’m her passport into spaces that are otherwise considered safe for People of Color and largely devoid of Caucasians. She’s with me so she at least gets the opportunity to prove that she’s not trying to shove her way in and throw her privilege all over the place and while she participates she doesn’t appropriate culture.

So we’re out and out loud as gay but not so out loud as biracial, just out. That’s weird isn’t it? I mean its a little bit weird that we’re so conscious and kinda militant about one thing but so much less so about the other. Part of that is generational, in that the LGBTQ community is currently waging battles that the PoC community ostensibly won in the 1960s. Part of it is also the fact that people feel significantly more comfortable stepping to us on the LGBTQ issue than they do on the race issue. In fact, I can’t ever recall having anyone say anything to me about the fact that we are interracial, but wow do people feel the need to tell me that they don’t have a problem with the fact that we are gay. Nope, there is no problem there! The are totally comfortable. They don’t even think about it. It’s cool with them. Which, of course, means that they can’t stop thinking about it and it’s probably not all that cool with them because nobody says anything about the fact that we are of different races. If they were actually cool with it they would shut the hell up.

As prevalent as racism is here, I can’t help but wonder if the  homophobia is so strong that it counters the naturally racist reaction or if people really are over that shit.

I’m guessing the first one.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 31, 2013 5:50 AM

    When my friend came out she kept on referring to her girlfriend as her ‘partner’ and we never understood why, its was only after a few years that she was strong enough to do away with the word. I often think it damaged her relationship because how do you expect other people to accept you when you don’t fully accept yourself?

    • January 31, 2013 9:40 PM

      I am truly amazed, and to a point humbled by the fact that there are children in grade school that are able to identify their orientation, and in some cases their true gender.

      Whenever I hear about it, I want to find the parents of those children and hug them close and thank them from the bottom of my heart. Because those are parents who have created a positive and welcoming home and accept their children for who they are. It means that those children have not been taught that there is only one way to be, and that anyone is growing up like that is heartening to me.

      I am also jealous. Deeply truly jealous.

      It’s one thing to say “accept yourself”, it’s another to do it. I have struggled with my orientation for decades now. Even now it’s not an easy thing for me to talk about. Oh I will re post every LGBTQ quote, post, picture, story etc. . on Facebook. I wear a pride bracelet every day as a part of living out loud. And yet, saying the words, out loud, even in the privacy of my home. It’s hard. It is painfully difficult, and I force myself to say them at a normal tone and not whisper it as if I am referring to a recently deceased relative.

      I am very open about having a girlfriend, and we go out together and make silly pictures in photo booths. I challenge anyone to deny me my right to call her my girlfriend, and I take on anyone who makes disparaging comments or uses the word “Gay” in a derogatory fashion. And yet . . . to say “I’m Gay” is one of the hardest things I can do.

      I understand your point about accepting yourself. It’s valid. But some of us have a lifetime of denial and self hatred to wade through before self acceptance, much less self love, can become a reality. I would say, accept and love your friend so she can become more comfortable accepting herself and be patient when that is a long time in coming.

      • February 1, 2013 1:18 AM

        I understand your point, I suppose I don’t know how it feels because I’ve never had to experience it

  2. January 31, 2013 8:01 AM

    The last picture says it all to me. Your happiness is evident.

  3. January 31, 2013 11:22 AM

    Really interesting, well-written blog.

    I was nodding along in agreement – until I got to the very last sentence. Don’t do white people as a whole a disservice by assuming that they are all racist (and I assume that it is white people you are addressing?). I appreciate that I am writing here from a white perspective in a multi-cultural city a continent away from you so can’t comment on your specific experience, but there is something of an irony in your bitterness!

    Awesome photos by the way! I wish I could persuade my husband to have our photo taken together more often, but he’s something of a camera-phobe…

    • January 31, 2013 11:55 AM

      Don’t do white people as a whole a disservice by assuming that they are all racist (and I assume that it is white people you are addressing?).

      That sentence clearly wasn’t conveying what I wanted it to convey. In this area, there are a lot of people who will make comments about the fact that we are together. Of those people, I wonder if the fact that we tend to get more anti-gay and racist comments is indicative of the fact that they anti-gay hate is stronger of if people are really over the race thing.

      Having said that, of the racial comments I have gotten, they’ve been about evenly split between PoC and Caucasians. Interracial relationship drama crosses color lines. Everybody has an opinion.

      • February 2, 2013 3:20 PM

        “That sentence clearly wasn’t conveying what I wanted it to convey. In this area, there are a lot of people who will make comments about the fact that we are together. Of those people, I wonder if the fact that we tend to get more anti-gay and racist comments is indicative of the fact that they anti-gay hate is stronger of if people are really over the race thing.”

        No, I got that. It was the “I’m guessing the first one.” which I was referring to.

  4. January 31, 2013 11:59 AM

    This was a very beautiful post. Any circumstance in which love prevails is a victory, full stop.

    This line had me scratching my head, though:

    “She’s with me so she at least gets the opportunity to prove that she’s not trying to shove her way in and throw her privilege all over the place and while she participates she doesn’t appropriate culture.”

    I appreciate that every person’s experience is different, but I’m a white guy who’s worked a ton of different jobs in many states, in both rural and urban areas, and so I’ve made many friends from many different backgrounds, and sometimes I’ve been the only white guy in the room. The notion of white privilege, while I acknowledge that it exists, never entered my mind in these circumstances. I never concerned myself with the notion that I was shoving my way in when spending time with my associates outside of work, and I never honestly gave a thought about being on a higher social standing than those around me due to the color of my skin. We were just people, having a drink on a Friday evening. Is this something that white folks need to keep in mind while engaging with PoC? I don’t think I’m in danger of offending someone if I don’t constantly keep white privilege in mind.

    I guess it just sounds like a pretty exhausting way to live. I’ve had people tell me while discussing race relations that, only on the virtue of being white, I will treat PoC differently than I treat other white people. I’ve always disagreed with that idea; no-one’s been able to convince me that’s the case. I don’t think it’s possible to see “no race”, as some people claim, mainly because a person’s race is fundamental to who they are and no fundamental aspect of a person should be simply ignored. What I do believe is that it’s simple to treat people with equal respect without always keeping in mind the privileged position we white heterosexual men have in society.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

    • January 31, 2013 1:32 PM

      Is this something that white folks need to keep in mind while engaging with PoC?

      Yes.

      I don’t think I’m in danger of offending someone if I don’t constantly keep white privilege in mind.

      You kind of are. The thing is, privilege isn’t generally something that you do, it’s something that you have and that most people don’t recognize. So the fact of privilege gives white, male voices more value. When you’re hanging out, that’s less of an issue than when you’re, for example. in a majority PoC neighborhood talking to people about issues that disproportionally impact PoC. It;s important that Caucasians be aware of this and do their best to learn to listen rather than trying to direct the conversation when it comes to these issues.

      I guess it just sounds like a pretty exhausting way to live.

      I would point out it cannot be more exhausting than living under the pressure of racism and we don’t have a choice as to whether we live that way.

      What I do believe is that it’s simple to treat people with equal respect without always keeping in mind the privileged position we white heterosexual men have in society.

      But maybe I’m wrong.

      Yes, you’re wrong. No one is immune to institutional racism. It’s simply not possible to overcome all of that conditioning all the time. All that any of us can do is gaurd against it and when we fail, which we all do, apologize and try not to do it again.

      • January 31, 2013 2:02 PM

        I really, really don’t want to start conflict with you. I respect you, I enjoy your writing, and to be perfectly honest I doubt I’d stand a chance with you in a debate.

        That said, the following points:

        – you seem to work under assumptions often vis a vis Caucasian relationships with PoC:

        “It;s important that Caucasians be aware of this and do their best to learn to listen rather than trying to direct the conversation when it comes to these issues.”

        So, when we engage and converse with PoC, whether consciously or unconsciously, we will always direct the conversation? With respect, attributing Caucasians with an inability to listen and empathize with PoC is a pretty massive leap. I recognize that my experiences are not yours and vice versa, but to simply say that Caucasians must be constantly vigilant of our privilege lest we dominate any social situation because that is what we do is damning, and it doesn’t recognize or encourage any sort of truly open dialogue.

        I don’t expect anyone to walk on eggshells while talking to me, just understanding, decency and respect, because that’s what I always try to provide.

        – “I would point out it cannot be more exhausting than living under the pressure of racism and we don’t have a choice as to whether we live that way.”

        Touche, and point taken. My point was not that the effort was not worthwhile, but simply to question whether it was necessary.

        – “No one is immune to institutional racism. It’s simply not possible to overcome all of that conditioning all the time.”

        I disagree, most vehemently. This suggests that biases, regardless of the level of conditioning, can override a human being’s capability to treat another with empathy, and I can’t accept this. I have no proof that such empathy exists; it is something I have to believe based on my own experiences and the view that if we, as a species, did not have this capability that we would have torn one another apart long ago. To simply say, “everyone is racist; you can’t escape it” is to ignore all of what is good about basic human nature.

        Respectfully, I can’t do that.

        • January 31, 2013 9:00 PM

          - you seem to work under assumptions often vis a vis Caucasian relationships with PoC

          You say tomato, I say every statistic ever put forward about institutional racism and how it affects interactions along with 37 years of living that data.

          So, when we engage and converse with PoC, whether consciously or unconsciously, we will always direct the conversation?

          Yes, that’s totally what I’m saying, except no, not at all.

          What I’m saying is, that as a Caucasian, your words usually carry more weight than do the words of PoC. That’s not your fault. That’s a privilege that society grants you. The only control you have over it is whether or not you take advantage of that privilege or not.

          This suggests that biases, regardless of the level of conditioning, can override a human being’s capability to treat another with empathy, and I can’t accept this.

          Yes. Everyone tries and everyone fails once in a while. Those failures are just unavoidable.

    • January 31, 2013 9:31 PM

      Brian, first of all you seem like a neat person. If you lived in our city I’d suggest we talk about this over some overpriced coffee and pastries. I am the A- mentioned in the above post, so I have a unique perspective on all of this.

      You mention that you have been the only caucasian in a room and the idea of privilege didn’t occur to you. One one hand, hurrah! That you don’t allow race or other basic aspects of people determine who you hang out with or where you go is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s the perfect illustration of privilege.

      As a white male you have privilege, and most of the time it’s not something you are aware of . You are able to walk into places and have certain basic expectations met every time, and you don’t have to think twice about a lot of things. As a white female I have a similar, although not the same, level of privilege. I observe first hand the assumptions that people make about me and the ones that are made about Isobel. We have comparable education, comparable body shapes, we even literally share clothing so we have the same clothes. All of the socio-economic indicators that tell us how to relate to people are the SAME except . . . skin and hair.

      Brian there are simply some things you will never understand. If you are a heterosexual male, then you are going to have a harder time empathizing with a lack of privilege. You can sympathize, but empathy will be far more difficult.

      As a Gay Woman, working in a male dominated retail world I am faced with challenges every day. More often then not it’s my gender that causes the issue. I am a manager, and roughly 50% of the time I have to PROVE myself to be a manager. I have even had customers tell me they want to talk to a MANager, as if I’m stupid. They don’t think I can speak with an sort of confidence on technology, nor do they expect me to have true authority.

      I constantly have my relationship challenged. Even when I say “Girlfriend” people either actually assume, or pretend to assume that I mean a friend who is a girl, but not my girlfriend.

      I have known Isobel for . . . okay if I say how long I will feel old, so . . . over a decade now. And my understanding has evolved, she has helped me (sometimes against my will) to understand what privilege means. I have seen it first hand. The writing of Richard Wright was profoundly moving to me and changed my entire world. So I can Sympathize with what her world is like. I can sympathize with what the world is like for other PoC, but I can only empathize to a small degree. As a result I am more aware of my privilege, sometimes painfully so.

      So Brian, my point is this. Don’t be ashamed of your privilege. I don’t begrudge you your privilege, even when I can’t share it. Be aware of it, be grateful for it, appreciate what you have. And when possible weaponize it. Use your voice to speak up for those who are not heard.

      Isobel and I have been active voices for various causes, and there were points where I was put forward because my white voice had more validity than the black voices that were with me. It was my privilege that gave me that voice. I was not shamed by it, I did not try and give it away. Rather I used it!

      So fellow Witch Readers of all orientation and race, look to the privilege that you have. Appreciate it and be grateful, then figure out how to use it to the benefit of those who do not have it. It makes the world a better place.

  5. July 29, 2014 3:47 AM

    Great discussion! And A if it makes u feel any better, Ive known her since High School, lol!

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