The Realization Response

There’s an interesting phenomenon when you tell a straight person that you’re gay in that their first response is usually a defensive “I’m straight” or other indication that you flirting with them or imagining them naked or whatever isn’t welcome. This is a silly if understandable response, but it’s not like anyone gets to control what other people think or imagine about them.

The bizarre response is that when said straight person is informed that no flirtation would be forthcoming, is to demand why not? Shouldn’t you as the gay person just be lusting after their forbidden straight self? In a word, no.

Often, it takes a while to convince the straight person that just as they are attracted to one or the other gender doesn’t mean that they are attracted to all members of their preferred gender. Ditto for gay people, just because I am attracted to women, doesn’t make me attracted to all women – especially women who are unavailable. I developed two dating rules from bitter experience – (1) never fall for someone in love with someone dead, straight or else; and (2)  if the person of your affection tells you that they are straight, non-monogamous or anything that’s a deal breaker, believe them. Even if it isn’t true, it’s an indication that they are not interested and giving you a face saving out.

Now I do not really understand straight people who are threatened by gays and lesbians – because it’s not like we want to convert them all and when it’s a straight person of the same gender, it’s not like we’re competing with them for dates, in fact, we’re doing them a favour by not competing.

That I am a lesbian has no impact on anyone else, especially not people who I haven’t invited to engage in a sexual way with. So for a straight person to feel threatened by the fact of there being gay people, suggests that the straight person is not as straight as they would like the world to be. As if knowing there’s an option to not present yourself as straight leaves a question mark on them as to whether they are really straight.

It is similar to religious believers who encounter their first atheist. They can’t quite believe that to the atheist, there is no meaningful difference between the extremists or the moderates. There are no good guy religions, there is just a spectrum of moderate to extremist behaviours associated with religions, but no religion is any more credible or truthful than any other.

Big Tent everyone welcome minimalist religions have no more basis for their beliefs than the most violent extremists have.

Atheism understandably makes believers uncomfortable and hostile, because to tell a person you are an atheist is to tell them that you think their religion is wrong. Whereas, telling a person that you are gay says absolutely nothing about them if they are straight – and if they are homophobic, it’s telling them that they are wrong and that being gay is okay – a message that homophobes are not open to. Particular since it’s most likely their own gayness and self hatred that has caused them to be homophobic.

And this is where religion connects – homophobes tend to be very religious and anti-homosexual ideas are religious ideas – so to be a good believer, one must be straight, so that means repressing the natural to the individual gayness. Openly gay people are threats to the religious idea that gays are bad and openly atheist people are threats to religious ideas of all kinds, not just the anti-gay ones.

So, being an atheist and a gay person is a double system shock – you can be good, gay and godless.

So whether you’re a gay person or an atheist or a gay atheist – remember when you encounter nice straight or nice believers or nice straight believers – they don’t want to be in our camp exactly, they just want to be invited.


This blog was inspired by Greta Christina‘s Atheist in the Pride Parade blog