When I tell you that I’m gay…

…I am actually NOT telling you about my sex life.

This is important. In fact, it’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of gay life. For so much of my life, I’ve felt conflicted about when it is appropriate to tell people about my sexual preference. And rightfully so. It’s complicated. When I tell someone that I am gay, I am actually telling them something about me that straight people generally don’t say. Of course, they don’t say it because they don’t have to. In most of the world, it is assumed that a person is straight, so there is no need for a man on an airplane, when asked about the ring he wears, to tell his seatmate that he prefers girls over boys.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

All my life, I have carried around a varying amount of guilt and shame, some of it stemming from the idea that perhaps I am “oversharing.” Because so many times in my life I’ve heard people say things like, “It’s okay if you’re gay. I just don’t want to hear about it. I don’t feel the need to tell people about my sex life, so why do you need to do that?”

When people say things like this, they may be well meaning. They also may not mean well. Not important. What I want to say is that this is an extremely unfair argument.

Here’s why:

-When I tell you that I’m gay, I’m sharing with you NOT my sexual history or my likes or dislikes in bed. Instead, I am telling you who I am.

-I’m telling you that unlike a straight person, I must decide what to call my partner, since there is no official word for our relationship.

-I’m telling you that when I walk down the streets of my neighborhood in suburban Phoenix, I must decide whether or not to hold the hand of the person I love (the answer, by the way, is no).

-I’m telling you that I have spent a good portion of my life being told that the most famous book in the world, the one upon which a large portion of the world bases its morals, hates me. It’s unclear whether that is actually so, but I have certainly heard about the Bible’s hatred of me enough. Until you’ve heard that a million or so times, you probably don’t understand its impact on your soul.

-I’m telling you that every year when I fill out my taxes, I must lie. There’s a box that says, “Single” that I must check, because to the federal government, I am single. But in reality, that doesn’t describe me at all.

-I’m telling you that while people spout off about whether or not my relationship should be considered equal to that of a straight couple, my partner and I pay approximately $5000 a year more in taxes because we are not considered a couple.

-I’m telling you that when I was younger, the day came when I realized I was not like my family of origin in an extremely fundamental way. They were all heterosexual, and I was not. You can pretend this is like being lefty when everyone else in your family is righty, but that argument falls apart quickly. They don’t kill or jail people in many parts of the world for being lefty.

-I’m telling you that when I was younger, the worst possible word a person could use as an insult described who I secretly was inside. Think about that for a second. I had to make the decision, every day of my young life, to reject or accept that label, to partake in calling others that name, or not. To accept or reject self-hatred.

So please, the next time you feel compelled to tell a gay person that he needn’t express his or her sexuality because it isn’t “your business,” remember these words. You may mean to say that you don’t wish to hear about that person’s sex life, which is fine. That’s true for me too, when it comes to about 92% of the people I sit next to on airplanes. You may mean to say that, but what you’re really saying to that person is that you don’t care who they are.

And that’s a terrible thing to say to a person.

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7 Responses to When I tell you that I’m gay…

  1. Lee Lynch says:

    Thank you for making this point. Gay and sex are not synonyms. Countless times non-gays have assumed I write erotica when they a) know I am gay and b) know I write. I hate that!

  2. Humanity in general sometimes frightens me. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with this, that it’s still an issue. For what it’s worth, I care who you are.

  3. Jamus says:

    Ehhh…
    U may think u r saying all that but ehhh…
    U really r just saying who you prefer to have as a partner…
    Which is fine if it makes u feel better…
    But don’t chastise if someone says they don’t care and its none of their business…
    Because its not
    Btw
    It’s terribly rude of you to assume that someone doesn’t care about you just because they have no reaction to your relationship preferences…

  4. Talli says:

    There will be those that hate me for noting this, but as someone with sister who was left-handed… there are places in the world where being born left-handed is a curse, a sign of “the devil,” something that is beaten out of you, something that you are forced to change because “it’s wrong.” Many people don’t realize this because a) the majority is right-handed, and b) we think “these practices” don’t exist anymore. So yes, in a typical “1st world” family, the whole left-hand/right-hand thing is totally different from homosexual/heterosexual, but my sister was bullied in school until she learned to write with her right hand.
    I do agree with most of this article though.

  5. Genny says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is true, I am one of those people that believes in THAT BOOK.. BUT, I DO NOT BELIEVE IT IS MY PLACE TO JUDGE.. That is THE BIG GUYS job at the end. I believe that you are beautiful however God made you. There is no right or wrong when it comes to who our body/mind/hearts choose to love. And Love in in the end is the most beautiful thing any of us can share. We should share amongst everyone, Gay, Straight, Black, White, etc. Walk proud and know that even if you cannot hold your partner’s hand, (WHICH IS IN ITSELF A SIN), because the 1st thing God teaches is love, (unconditional), you hold each others heart,. That is something not everyone gets, even straight people. (and I am Left handed and proud of it)

    • bkonigsberg says:

      Thanks, Genny! I appreciate your response. I agree that only God can judge us, and I agree that the best thing any of us can do is share our love with the world. Much better than sharing hatred, right? God bless!

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