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I recently purchased my first emblem of queer pride – a Bisexual Pride PopSocket depicting a cat wearing “bi flag” sunglasses (pink, purple, and blue). I like the image because it’s subtle – most people don’t recognize the bi flag and the colors are small on the cat’s sunglasses – but it’s also a way for me to identify myself as queer to a large group of people since it’s on my phone. I was showing the PopSocket off when a coworker, who is very much a straight ally and was genuinely curious, asked – “Why? Why do you feel it is necessary to identify yourself to the world? Why does it matter what your sexuality is? You should be treated the same no matter what.”
This is a common question when it comes to all identities, not just sexuality. I came up with a personal theory (that is not grounded in concrete evidence, mind you) a few years ago. Most people I know don’t think about, care about, or feel the need to identify with, any identity of theirs that is the majority. So, those who are cisgender, heterosexual, white, and male (plus any other majority identities) probably do not spend much time thinking about their identities – why would they? When your identities don’t negatively impact you in any way, you don’t have much reason to think about them.
However, this is very different for people with minority or oppressed identities. For example, I am a white woman that happens to be bisexual. I hardly ever think about my being white with a sense of pride. It is what it is. I know I have privilege because of my race, but I am not particularly excited about it. However, I take a lot of pride in being a woman, as women have historically been oppressed. I also take immense pride in being bisexual. I know that a lot of people in this world disagree with my way of loving. I have to deal with that if I want to be open about my sexuality, and particularly if I want to date another woman. These realities make me proud of who I am and I want to share that part of myself with the world.
Another reason I like to show and tell people about my sexuality is so they can better understand me as a person. I am a feminine woman, so I am very much straight-passing. Until I started dating my girlfriend, most people had no idea I was bisexual. While this is completely acceptable for a lot of people, it isn’t for me. I take my identity very seriously and am an outgoing and extroverted person. I like the people I spend my time with to know who I am as an individual, and that includes my sexuality. Since I pass as straight, I either have to tell people that I am bi or I have to show them. Coming out is an ordeal on its own (see my previous blog post – Coming Out, Again and Again). So having a way to show people who I am is very appealing. Anyone familiar with the bi flag who sees my phone might assume that I am bisexual – and that’s what I want!
I like the people around me to know about my sexuality because I want them to understand me as a person, but there is more to it as well.
Being open about my sexuality also helps me avoid uncomfortable and potentially harmful situations. If my coworkers are aware, they are less likely to bring up anti-LGBTQIA+ issues, even if that is what they believe. Similarly, I do this when I am travelling. I like to stay at Airbnb’s and when my girlfriend and I started traveling together, I began writing to any potential Airbnb hosts that “my girlfriend and I” were excited for the trip. This is my subtle way of letting them know that we are in a homosexual relationship before they accept our visit. I would not want to stay in the home of someone who doesn’t accept my way of life and being open about my sexuality helps me avoid that.
I am white. I was raised in a median income household. I have a Master’s degree with a *reasonable* amount of debt. I am able-bodied and cisgender. I am very, very privileged in a lot of ways. However, I am also a woman and a member of the queer community. I know that women and LGBTQIA+ people have overcome so many obstacles. They fought, and are still fighting, for people like me. This makes me so incredibly proud. It makes me want to shout to the world that I am like them too.
So wear your Pride shirts, get a queer PopSocket, tattoo your identities to your forehead, do whatever makes you happy! And if you do not identify with any marginalized groups, understand that this is why we care so much about people knowing who we are. (According to me, at least.) So please – ask the questions, learn the “why,” and accept us for who we are and how we want to show that.