Today I was the interviewee for two people. One was my old high school biology teacher; I came out to her, and she wanted to know a little more about being gay. I had always admired her as a teacher, and now I was teaching her, though I was never going to give her an exam on this. (That would have been one interesting exam if I had made it like one of hers. "Mrs. W, for your essay question, tell me why queer people think Jerry Falwell is a major closet case. Please keep your answer to 50 words or less.") The other was a straight college student writing her thesis on gay athletes -- both closeted, like me, and out. I wondered why she picked that as her thesis topic, but I guess that she was one of the only genuine straight allies I've met. (I'm sure that there are real allies out there, but for some reason, all of them seem to come out after a while.)
I hadn't realized that so many educated people think that being gay is a phase. Mrs. W. asked if I had had any experience with the same sex or opposite sex. When I told her that I had not, she told me that I really couldn't be sure. So I asked her how many women she had to date before she knew she was straight. Then she saw the light -- I'll have to remember that question the next time the college's Republican club starts getting obnoxious.
That was also a common theme of the student's questioning. She wanted to know about my experiences, how those experiences affected my swimming, etc. As soon as I came out as a virgin to her, she had to skip several pages of her survey.
For some reason, there seems to be a lot of pressure out there to do something that proves a person to be gay or straight. I could call it peer pressure, but for some reason most of my peers aren't pressuring me into this. So, for sake of this article, we'll call it "queer pressure" and let some scholar decide later what we should call it.
So what are the sources of this queer pressure? I think it's the same kind of thing that straight youth face -- everybody in the movies and on TV seem to be having sex. Mulder and Scully haven't even kissed yet, but in That 70's Show, Donna gets on the pill so she's "prepared." I don't have time to go to the movies, but if people aren't sleeping around in Varsity Blues and some of those other movies, I must be seeing some of the most misleading trailers in history. It's everywhere; it gives people the impression that everyone is doing it, and that's a lie. I've gotten a large response from gay youth, and most of them aren't sleeping around. I realize that this is a profoundly unscientific sampling, and that bad sampling has been used against the queer community many times to justify bigotry, but I just thought it was interesting how many people write in to say, "I'm not having sex, and nobody believes me either."
When will the stereotypes die? When will we stop being questioned and start being accepted?
About the author: Mike is a gay college student at a remarkably conservative college in California. He's attempting to run his gay-straight alliance right now. If you have any suggestions for him, please send them to him at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you ever use AOL Instant Messenger, his handle is "hubfly."