Sunday 26 August 2018

Nerd Church - The Slow Process of Learning To Stop Straight-Passing

It's been about two years since I came out as Sexually Fluid.

And I'm so much happier in myself.

The Slow Process of Learning to Stop Straight-Passing title image with rainbow flowers and a rainbow symbol

The process of letting myself 'act Queer,' though?

That's still very much on-going.

So since it's my coming out anniversary, and also Pride Cymru weekend - and I'm Welsh and Queer - I figured I'd talk about it a li'l bit.

Because it's definitely true what they say (and by 'they' I mean the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,) we never truly stop coming out.

In every new situation, there's a self-preservation mechanism in the back of our minds assessing:

Is it safe to act Gay here?

Can I mention I find a woman attractive here?

Do I need to, and can I, fully come out to these people? Or would that put me in danger? Or make things too awkward? Or damage the way I'm treated by this group of people?

Even in front of the handful of people to whom I'm fully out, it can be difficult.

Because 'the norm' is so often just assumed to be allosexual, cisgender, heterosexual.

And breaking that 'norm' can be difficult - even when you tell yourself it's ok.

So what is straight-passing?

Well, put simply, it's when people assume you're straight.

At some point, many Queer people are straight-passing, though for some people it's less possible than for others.

There's a difference between actively straight-passing, and passively straight-passing.

Passively straight-passing is just people assuming, even though you're being 100% you.

Actively straight-passing, something we all at least aspired to when we were closeted, is the habit we have of making ourselves seem less Queer.

A lot of the time this is for safety - both emotional and physical.

There are many situations where being LGBTQ+ means you're a target for abuse, discrimination, or even murder.

Straight-passing is something we all try to train ourselves to do to stay safe.

Trying to coax ourselves out of trying to do that after we've come out? Not the easiest thing!

As understanding as my family is, I'm still hesitant to be 'too Gay,' in front of them.

If I'm reading an LGBTQ+ book, I try to hide the cover, even if it's not racy.

If it is racy, I go out of my way to hide the cover - especially if it's F/F.

I know I don't have to. But I still do, almost automatically.

Sometimes I catch myself trying to make my outfit more feminine, not for myself, but for other's perception of me.

Which is ironic because I tend to dress the most feminine when I'm fully lesbian, and the most non-feminine when I'm fully straight.

(Yes, I can be straight and Queer at the same time - the perks of being Sexually Fluid!)

I can be hesitant to raise LGBTQ+ issues 'too often' in front of family, or make eye contact when I'm talking about them, because I'm still worried about the response I might get.

To be fair, this is probably because even the most well-meaning responses can be ignorant af.

I'm also more likely to mention when a dude is attractive if we're watching a film or whatever, than when a chick is. Because, again, of those ideas of 'normal.'

But don't think I still have the largest of straight-passing habits.

In the two years since I've come out, I have relaxed a lot (believe it or not!)

I don't try to sit 'ladylike' when I don't feel like it - y'know, with your legs together? I can't be ar*ed to do that most of the time!

I'm more comfortable wearing accessories that are seen as less feminine, like my fedora and my trilby. And since I'm more comfortable, I wear them more often.

I actually read F/F romances instead of stopping myself from doing so. Yes, even the 18+ ones. And there's some uber-good lesfic out there!

I will mention out loud, sometimes, when I find women attractive.

More importantly, I'll admit it to myself. 

Flash back four or five years ago, and I would have stomped down any same-sex attraction that cropped up.

I'm glad I can be more myself now, and that I've come more to terms with who I am.

Of course, it is strange that we have to put so much effort into looking straight in any stage of our lives - especially considering how completely clueless allocishet* people can be sometimes.

This is legitimately a conversation I had as a teenager about the film** Interview With the Vampire with a straight friend of mine:

Me: So I was watching Interview With the Vampire and-

Her: I love that film!

Me: It's great, isn't it?! So I reached the bit where they're making their little same-sex family-

Her: ...What?

Me: Y'know, when L'estat's, like, saving his relationship with Louis by bringing in Claudia as their daughter.

Her: You mean their friendship?

Me: But... they're Gay.

Her: No they're not! What are you talking about?!

Me: That film is really Gay... didn't you notice?

Her: It's not.

Me: Antonio Banderas strokes Brad Pitt's face.

Her: Yeah. And?

Me: ...

Brendon Urie 'Really?' gif
Via Giphy

Her: I don't get what you mean. That's not Gay!

Me: ...I'm pretty sure it is. Like, if you watch the chemistry between those two, and also Tom Cruise, then-

Her: No, they're just being really friendly.

Me: ...

Me: ...As my friend, please never do that.

*allocishet - allo = allosexual, feels sexual and/or romantic attraction; cis = cisgender, not-trans; het = heterosexual

**I know it's a book too, I actually read the book because I loved the film so much. I do that a lot. 👍

L'estat biting Louis
Yeah... nothing gay about this subtext... 😳

Via Giphy

...She actually found several people who agreed with her.

Apparently I was seeing Gay subtext where there was none (*laughs in Queer*) despite the fact that that film has a Queer streak a mile wide.

I didn't push it though, cos then people would've started asking why it mattered so much.

Heteronormativity; what a b**ch.

Queer subtext apparently goes over a lot of allocishet heads.

Yet on another occasion I grabbed a (different) friend's hand to get away from a group of kids who were chasing us (and not in a 'playing around' kind of way,) and had people screaming 'LESBIAN!' at me like it's a bad word.

The way they said it made it feel like a bad word.

The hypocrisy of homophobia is mind-blowing sometimes.

But I'm proud not only of who I am, but how far I've come in accepting myself.

Sure, I definitely have a way to go. But then, we all do, regardless of gender or orientation.

My dearest darling nerdlets, if you take only one thing from this post, let it be this:

You're beautiful, valid, and loved.

Maybe you're in a situation where it's not safe for you to come out at all, maybe you're still trying to figure things out, maybe you're out and loving it, maybe you're out and feeling rejected...

Whatever your situation is, the point remains the same.

You rock. You're amazing. You deserve to be happy being you.

Maybe it's not safe for you right now, but one day it will be.

Meanwhile, I'll continue working on letting me be truly me. One day at a time. 😊

Do you miss or get Queer subtext? Do you find yourself trying to pass as straight? Or are you allocishet and not aware of any of this? Talk to me! 💖💬

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Last updated: 10th September 2018


  1. I totally get how allocishet people tend to look at everything through a heteronormative lense. The amount of times people will look at a same sex couple in a movie or tv show and consider it a friendship is baffling. Like, boys can like boys and girls can like girls to, you know?

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this post! I think it's a post everyone, regardless of their identity, should read. As someone who is straight and has a wide variety of friends who identify as bi, queer, pansexual, aro/ace etc. I've grown up doing my best to be inclusive of everyone and not assume, but one thing I never really think about is just how much people within the LGBTQ+ community have to hide parts of themselves on a daily basis. I think a lot of us (those who identify as straight) take for granted that because being straight is 'socially acceptable' (I don't think that's the right term because all sexualities and identities should be socially acceptable, but I wasn't sure what else to use) that we don't have to hide those parts of ourselves, whereas others do. This post was very eye-opening and is something I'm going to think a lot about when it comes to my friends within the LGBTQ+ community. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much for this awesome comment!

      Yeah, I think a lot of allocishet people are unaware of the level of pressure there is on LBTQ+ folks to conform to normative social standards, especially in public where we aren't always sure how safe we are to just be ourselves.

      Thanks for being open to being more inclusive and thinking about the needs of LGBTQ+ folks! :)

  3. A brilliant post. I totally agree with the above comment, I am straight and don't consider how much you have to hide daily x

    1. Thanks!

      I hope you now have a little more of an idea of what LGBTQ+ people go through, so many allocishet folks simply don't know what we're talking about. <3

  4. I'm happy for you that you're able to be more yourself. I can imagine it'd be hard to remind yourself you don't always have to be straight-passing after doing it for so long. I'm straight, but I'm always trying to be more aware of what others go through!

    Btw, if it makes you feel any better, I've never been a 'ladylike' sitter. My feet are rarely on the floor when I'm in a chair lol. I never understand people who say skirts and dresses are more comfortable cuz I'm like wha? No, I can't move freely w/o flashing people lol.

    Also I cracked up at your conversation with your friend about IwtV.

    1. Thanks - and yeah, it becomes second-nature to act straight, and then you're like, 'Oh, wait! I don't have to do that any more!' (although, like I said, in some situations, you still do.)

      Ha, I like to sit forward with my legs apart dammit!!! It's not like I do that in skirts... well, ok, I do, but I always make sure everything's covered!

      That conversation is totally 100% true (to the best of my memory, anyways, it was a while ago!) I was like... how?! what?! why...?! HOW?! Because that film is about as straight as a hula hoop! ;)

  5. I didn't actually know what straight-passing was until I read this post, so thank you for teaching me something new and informing me of the definition. You explained everything really clearly. And I can see how in modern day and the social situations at the moment, the quote of always coming out again and again depending on the people/place is true... which is a shame because it shouldn't need to be like that to be yourself. But I guess we still have some ways to go :)

    1. Glad to be of educational value ;) *doffs imaginary cap*

  6. This was a really eye-opening read. I hadn't really thought about this in much depth, so thank you for bringing it to my attention. I can understand how sometimes it might feel safer to 'blend in with the crowd', but it's sad that it's like that. I'm glad that you are feeling more accepting of yourself and more comfortable with expressing your sexuality. I hope we can reach a point in the future where straight and cis are not seen as the 'default' all the time.

    1. Thank you :)

      It's also surprising to me just how many people hadn't thought about this - I figured a few people would be unaware, but it's more people than I (perhaps naively,) thought.


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