If you haven’t already heard – it’s been blowing up on all of my social media outlets, and likely on all of yours – Ellen Page announced on Friday, February 14, 2014, that she is gay. I’m not sure how to take the news. I don’t really care, but I feel like I need to respond in some way.
Here is her speech:
Before I go on, I’d just like to make a few things clear. I’m fully accepting of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer) community. I understand that their sexuality is considered alternative by many people, and that people who do identify as belonging to the LGBTQ community suffer hardships that people who identify as heteronormative don’t.
As a caveat, I want to make clear that this post is not meant to be in any way derogatory or denigrating. I’m writing this simply because I’m trying to flesh out some ideas. The language may not be sensitive to all peculiarities, and will be tongue-in-cheek at times. I encourage you to correct me where necessary.
So, we’re cool, yeah?
Let me begin by saying that I get hit on. That’s right, sometimes men try to pick me up. While it’s nice to know that I’m being noticed, it’s frustrating. I’m not gay, but there is obviously something about me that makes people think I am.
It doesn’t offend me that people make an assumption about my sexuality based on how I look, or maybe on how I act, because errybody’s just doing their thing. It’s easy enough for me to tell whomever that I’m not gay, but that I still appreciate their advances.
But, what if I were a gay woman being hit on by a man? Would I be as comfortable with blowing him off? Would it be as easy for me just say, “Thanks, but no thanks”, or some variation of the same?
It should be, but it probably isn’t. Although, women, gay and straight, regularly blow me off. I don’t got no game. Still, I think the situation for members of the LGBTQ community is a little different from mine. In some respects, I think I’m expected to make the first move and be comfortable with rejection. It’s a, “it’s not you, it’s me”, type of thing, isn’t it?
No, no. It’s totally me.
So, there, the self-identified heteronormative among us suffer from rejection, too. And, from more than half the population.
I think that our society is going through a fundamental shift in perspective, and identity is at the heart of it all. Sexual identity, in particular, has become a major player on the field. Feminism, I think, has been largely responsible for this.
The issue, too, is one of control. People have control over their sexual identity. It’s not a matter of deciding if you’re gay or not, but of how you choose to identify with who you are. Your sexual identity is something that you share with others, if you’re lucky enough to be getting lucky, making it a vulnerability. In a society where control is valued so highly, making yourself vulnerable is seen as a deficit.
The LGBTQ community celebrates those who take control of their (sexual) identity by “outing” themselves. Ellen Page is a large enough life-force on the social scale to have an impact; her speech is trending on social media.
I take issue with the whole “outing” thing. Seriously, have you been in a closet and where are you going? You’re announcing or revealing, not outing. An outing is a short vacation. The lexicon used when revealing that someone is publicly self-identifying with the LGBTQ community troubles me. But, I digress.
Why can’t we celebrate our heteronormativity in the same, or a similar, way? It’s in the damned name – heteronormativity is the norm. It’s normal to be straight. There! We have it again – straight, as in, correct or unswerving. Therefore, being normal doesn’t deserve a celebration.
There’s nothing more normal about being straight, because, like being gay, it isn’t a choice that people make. It’s something that people have to accept about themselves and self-identify with. It comes with its own set of struggles (some men who are gay are very forceful in their approach), each needing to be overcome when living a healthy and satisfying life.
Who wants to make the argument that people who are gay have to struggle and suffer more because society is less accepting of the LGBTQ community, seeing it as alternative, sinful, dirty, and impure? Furthermore, the LGBTQ community is the target of homophobic attacks, and you never hear of “heterophobia”? And, this is why we celebrate people who publicly self-identify as belonging to the LGBTQ community. They are displaying strength and courage in the face of adversity.
I don’t disagree with you.
What I do want to ask, however, is, are grand, public celebrations of revelations of identification with the LGBTQ community problematic to those who self-identify as heteronormative, because they celebrate membership within the LGBTQ community in a way that people who self-identify as heteronormative are not celebrated?
I should probably contextualize the question, a bit.
People who quit smoking are celebrated for quitting smoking, but people who have never smoked are not celebrated for living the healthy lifestyle that they have. But, people choose to smoke and people don’t choose to be gay. Okay.
Athletes are celebrated for victories in physically challenging competition, but people who are not athletes don’t get to stand on a podium when they win. I maintain that athletes have skeletomuscular systems that enable them to perform better in athletic competition than those who don’t have a similar physiological makeup. But, those who are athletic don’t have to compete, and people who are gay kind of have to be gay. Okay.
Celebrities are celebrated. I don’t know how people become celebrities, so I got nothing here. Okay?
I think what I’m trying to get at is that we celebrate “difference” as a success, and we should be celebrating all successes. People who self-identify as heteronormative should be as celebrated as those who don’t, because they are overcoming the challenges that they face, too. When we celebrate the courage it requires to reveal self-identification with the LGBTQ community and not identification with the S (Straight) community (yep, just made that up), are we effectively neglecting the strength it takes to live as a heteronormative individual in a society that celebrates that which a heteronormative individual is not?
Wait, wait, wait, you say, society has been developed to celebrate heteronormativity at every turn. The history of the world is that of the straight person succeeding in society, and pushing the fringes further out.
That is not, entirely, my lived experience. I face a lot of rejection in society, even though I’m a man who likes sleeping with women. I’ve never rejected or harassed anyone because of who they like to sleep with, and I never will.
But, I likely won’t ever have the chance to stand in front of a large audience, and publicly declare:
I’m here today because I am straight. And because…maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility.
(You can read the transcript of Ellen Page’s speech here: http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/Ellen-Page-Remarks.pdf)
I won’t ever get this chance because identifying as a member of the S community requires that I do more than simply identify as a member of the S community if I want to be celebrated.
I think that I should be as celebrated as you, my LGBTQ friends, because I’ve overcome challenges, and am overcoming challenges. I’m trying to make a difference in this life, the same as you. I’m pretty helpful, even if I’m fairly unreliable at times, the same as you. I’m still working out what I’m personally obliged to do, but I know that social responsibility has some part in it, the same as you.
And, really, I really don’t care that you’re gay, so you’re going to need to do a lot more than that if you want me to throw you a party.
Have something to say on the issue? Please leave a comment below, or surf on over to the Facebook Page. You’ll get to read what other people think, too.