It’s Pride in my part of the world. I am lucky enough to live in a city that wears a conservative mask but has a super liberal underbelly that it likes scratched hard and often. Pride is a big deal. There is a parade. There are events consistently through the week and then intermittently through the month. The city painted sidewalks rainbow and business all hung Pride Flags down the parade route. The mayor, the Premier, and Justin Trudeau, who really wants to be Prime Minister, were all there. I’m very fortunate to live in a part of the world where being gay is no longer demonized.
That being said, that is a privilege that many groups still don’t have. Racism is a thing, and holy shit is it a thing in Canada. If someone tells you Canadians aren’t racist just bring up Residential Schools. Super. Fucking. Racist. Transphobia is a thing. Fat-shaming and slut-shaming are things. There are still a lot of things going down that are wrong and, for some people, dangerous. And there is a sense of not fitting in.
This is my first Pride having come out as Ace (which is how I shall now refer to asexual because I’m lazy. Also, it’s a cool term for a minority. I have the best abbrevaitions. I'm a BAD Ace XD ). That means it was my first Pride where I was looking for ace representation.
And I didn’t find it.
And I felt kinda empty.
The worst bit of this was that I didn’t know why I wasn’t feeling the same bubbly affirming joy I usually get from Pride. I mean, it’s great to see solidarity. Everyone was hugging and supporting and there were a tonne of allies who were being all awesome. Everyone was very “We’re here and if you don’t like that we don’t care! Lulz!” There were street preachers this year, complete with a soap box and a Jesus Saves sign with a spelling mistake. And how the crowd handled them was amazing. A few people had friendly yet serious discussions with them, most people ignored them, and a bunch of people in rainbow gear got pictures with them. When the parade started people just shuffled them to the back. It’s a super passive aggressive things Canadians do. Just shuffle things we don’t like out of sight. It was great.
But I felt empty because this year. There were gay people and trans people and leather fetish flags and THREE tanks, which was all amazing. But I felt off.
So I got muddling over that. And while I was muddling over the next few days I had a trans woman come up to me at the bus stop and ask me for a light. And this was an interesting interaction. At first she did the hand motion from far away. When she spotted my Pride pin she actually came up to me close enough that I could tell she was trans and started talking to me. And after I caught my bus I realized that the only reason she felt safe talking to me was because of the pin. It was a sign that we were on the same team and that I was safe.
And I realize that that was why I felt so mixed about the parade. There was no one on my team there. I was standing in a sea of people feeling all alone because no one was flying the colors for my team. And I didn’t realize how important that type of solidarity was until that moment. Before I'd identified as straight, so it was easy to just assume that everyone was straight. Then lesbian, and they are heartily represented at Pride and also make it a lot into TV, with icons like Willow and Original Cindy and Dr. Torres to look up to. I didn't even have to google those names. Lesbians aren't obscure or hard to find anymore and a lot of them are very positively represented, though they still tend to get killed off disporportionately, hugs to Charlie and Tara. I'm white, so I still struggle to remember that the media is made for people of my color and I do my best to critique it when it fails. But there is a quote from Whoopi Goldberg on how amazing seeing Uhura on tv for the first time was and how important it is for everyone to have their icons. I thought I got it. I did.
But I had never really understood the importance of representation until I didn’t have any. When it is your team sitting out the feeling is bone deep. It rattles the foundations and makes you feel like dust in the universe, but not in a good existential way. There is no asexual parade. We don’t get a thing to let people know we are out there and let people know that it is okay for us to be out there. And to let people know that if they feel the same way they do that they aren’t alone and they aren’t broken.
And this has made me realize how important having things like pins and Pride jewelry are not just now, but all the time. People need to feel included all year long. You don’t go visit your mom on mother’s day and then not talk to her until next mother’s day. You still talk to her throughout the year.
And I want to provide that. But I also want to receive it. So I am going to go out and buy myself all the QUILTBAG flags I can find and I am going to sew them into my backpack, no matter how hipster or teenage it looks. I am going to make me into a Safe Space, so queer people don’t have to worry if they see me and wonder where I stand, because I am going to be standing beside them. And maybe they will see my flag on my bag, and maybe they will ask. And maybe they will start to wear it so I will know that they are a safe space for me.
And maybe, just maybe, there will be someone carrying my flag at Pride in the next parade, telling me that I am not alone.
It's Pride in my part of the world. I know that there are probably like, ten people reading this because one person has commented and that is how representation works. I figured that I'd pass on how Coming Out works.
So. I come out all the time.
I came out for being a lesbian. I came out for being bipolar. I came out for being asexual. And having come out that often there is a few things I’ve learned about coming out that I’d like to share.
For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.
Yes, that’s right. Newtonian physics make a great understanding of social interaction. The first time I came out it was a Big Deal. There was crying and hugging. My friend, who is also my ex-boyfriend, actually skipped my first ‘I need to come out’ appointment because he thought I was angry with him and that was why we need to Talk.
Everyone took it quite well. This isn’t to say that everyone is going to be this lucky, but I know my worst reaction was the patronizing eye-rolls of ‘sure you are’ with the it’s just a phase but we are will to pander to your quirks right now. My aunt was really cool and asked me if I was trans in a totally non-judgemental way. And she’s from the deep country and was raised by her Irish Anglican mother. For those who don’t know, Irish Anglicans fought with Irish Catholics because the Irish Anglicans thought that Irish Catholics are liberal. And grandma was Very Irish Anglican.
But going into it I was prepared to lose friends. That being said I am of the firm opinion that the caliber of my friends reflects upon me. This doesn’t mean that I don’t hang with people who ‘lower my status’ in the arbitrary way of constructs. It means I don’t hang out with bigots. So if someone in my friend circle was a giant homophobe then coming out was the quickest way to root them out so that when I did need them I didn’t have to deal with the drama of my main issue and discovering that my friend has a lot of other phobias and biases that make the situation worse.
So the second time I came out, with the bipolar, I toned it down a little bit. I didn’t make specific meetings but I did go out of my way to gather my friends and do the ‘I have something important to tell you” in big groups. It went well enough again. I only have had one person who I was barely friends with (he was a friend of a friend) try and take advantage of my mental disturbances, and now he is just a friend of a friend and so not my problem. I did tell my employers because I like medical accommodation and I had been at my job long enough that I couldn’t just be fired.
The third time I came out as asexual I tagged the people who needed to know, took the “What about second breakfast?” Lord of the Rings meme and made it about second coming out. Yes, I used second because people don’t realize that disclosing a mental illness really is coming out. My tag line for it was something along the lines of “Yeah, I’m asexual. As you can tell I’m deeply concerned about how you are going to handle this. Deeply concerned.”
And by going through this, all of this, I learned a couple of really valuable things I’d like to share.
1) Saying “I’m [insert here]” doesn’t make it any more true. I was just as gay as I was the year before I came out as I was the year after. I was just as bipolar. I was just as asexual. Saying it doesn’t suddenly cement it in stone, like making a pact with the universe. It’s true, whether or not you say it. That doesn’t mean admitting it isn’t liberating, but it’s a lot like saying that you really do just enjoy the taste of tofu. Most people won’t care, some will look at you funny and edge the way out of your life, some will try to convert you to vegetarianism, and some will just gladly hand you all of their tofu. It doesn’t change how much you like tofu, but it does allow other people to act on that information and for you to go get all the tofu you enjoy. dAlso, if you suddenly hate tofu you are allowed to change your mind.
2) How big of a deal you make is how big of a deal everyone else makes. When I came out as gay, as I said, there were a lot of affirming hugs and ‘we love you for who you are.’ When I came out as asexual, no one told me this. There was no affirmation because I wasn’t asking for it. It was here is a fact about me. Cope. So people coped.
3) The relief is totally worth it. One of the things that has made me the most uncomfortable with orientation was trying to have friends include me in the game. I understand that this came from love, like lending a friend your favorite books. You keep doing this in the hopes that they will love one of them as much as you do. But for me this was a huge problem because it made me feel broken. I’d go somewhere with a group of female friends and they’d go, “That guy is so hot! Don’t you think so?” Unless they pointed or there was only one guy there I’d actually have no idea who they were talking about. If I could figure it out through guess and speculation, I’d still not know why he was hot. I’d smile and nod and go totally and hope no one asked me any skill testing questions.
After I came out it got a bit better, but then everyone, guys and gals, would ask me which celebrities I figured were hot. I made up a lot of stuff. When I finally came out as ace that all disappeared. Yes, I can recognize aesthetic appeal, but that is built on very different components than sexual. Breast size is not a big thing for me. Bigger boobs actually freak me out a bit, especially when they aren’t proportional to the person they are on. It’s not an aesthetic I find appealing and I’m letting those who do like it to know that I’m not competition. But now a lot of the pressure to engage in sexual game behaviors has adjusted to fit me, instead of me having to pretend to fit it. It’s an enormous relief.