the umbrella of ignorance
I am currently in a safe, loving, intimate partnership with the human of my dreams, and it makes me want everyone to find love in their lives. Immediately. You might see me at parties guiding one friend or another to a group of singles, offering the group a few tasty bites of information about my friend, and then abandoning said friend like chum for sharks with a glow in my heart that I am pairing soulmates.
Hey, I didn’t say I was proud of this tendency. And the first step is admitting it, right?
The catch in this whole scenario is that even though I am well aware that there are plenty of people out there who (disinterest in dating aside) wouldn’t be attracted to the gender of the group I lead them to, I always err on the side that my friend is straight by leading them to their “opposite” sex peers. Why? Because I know that it would be completely socially inappropriate to even insinuate that my friend might be anything other than straight.
As someone who identifies as bisexual and currently remains in the closet, I can totally understand the fear of a situation where my (assumed) heterosexuality might be questioned. And as much as I dislike it how people (especially those within the conservative Utah-Mormon culture) tend to speak and act as if no one who identifies as something other than straight and cisgender is listening—or exists—sometimes I feel like it protects people like me. When people assume that everyone is straight, including closeted me, I can avoid situations like a messy, premature outing.
I remember being at a YSA dance party the summer after I came out to myself. A few friends were going to return from their missions towards the end of the summer, and I felt like it was my last chance to flirt with my own bisexuality. I mean, it had been like going through puberty all over again. For the last several years I had been intrigued by, attracted to, and grown used to the allure of one gender. Then suddenly, almost out of nowhere, there was a whole new group of people that I hadn’t even considered before, and the whole experience was giving me palpitations.
Anyway, I saw a college friend at the party who had recently come out on Facebook as gay. I approached him and we caught up a little. He offered jokingly to set me up with any of the guys he knew at the dance. With my heart in my throat, I lowered my voice (the music was loud anyway) and asked if he knew any girls that might be interested.
I didn’t really want to dance with a girl or make a lesbian friend or anything. (My guilty, self-directed homophobia would never have allowed that.) What I really wanted was to be authentic, for one of the first times in my closeted life, with someone I knew would understand. (I’m what you’d call a late bloomer in terms of LGBTQIA+ identification—I didn’t realize it until I was an adult.) My friend and I ended up talking for quite a while in the deserted corners of the dance floor, sharing our experiences of a human quality that is so frowned upon in the day-to-day trenches of conservative culture.
When he originally offered me a selection of boys to meet, I recognized that in his eyes, I was safely and inconspicuously heterosexual. Then, on my own terms, I was able to open up about my true self. It was his polite assumption that I was “normal” that gave me the courage to out myself in that safe environment.
While I feel that in the long run it would be better for LGBTQIA+ individuals if everyone learned to use more inclusive language, the reality is that we live in a homophobic world. For now, I’d like to hide under the umbrella of others’ ignorance regarding my true orientation. Maybe society’s unspoken rule forbidding anyone to suggest that people in our own social circles might identify as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender does a little good after all.
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