I was scrolling through my news feeds and article recommendations this morning when I came across a post that stopped me up short.
It was a perfect snapshot of how ignorance and fear alienate people from one another. We're all aware by now of the propaganda being spread across the news, nonsensical claims of child abuse on the part of the LGBTQ+ community.
There's this idea that simply acknowledging gay people exist is somehow indoctrinating children into being gay. Somehow, people who aren't straight are grooming children by walking around in public and living our lives instead of hiding in the closet where we apparently belong.
There was a meme being shared around in one of those comment sections that basically followed the same line. To their credit, most people were rolling their eyes and calling it stupid. It was. They were right. You can't trick someone into being gay.
Kids see straight couples around them 24/7 in television shows, their own family lives, walking down the street, so on and so forth. People still grow up to be LGBTQ+, even when they're told that being gay is a sin that will send them to suffer for eternity.
Peer pressure doesn't make gay guys like girls. To quote Taylor Swift, "Shade never made anybody less gay!"
It just doesn't work like that. I went through a period of denial about being Asexual and tried very, very hard to develop a crush on someone. Everybody else made it seem pretty awesome, so why not?
Turns out my brain just doesn't work that way. Nobody's brain works that way.
But not everyone seemed to know that. There was this older lady who took it to heart and decided that everybody needed to be educated on this point.
She went on a tirade to her fellow commentors, telling them all about how simply telling kids it's okay to be gay is a form of indoctrination. Because, you see, if they know that it's okay to be gay, they might feel like there's nothing wrong with being gay!
Shock horror. Can't have that. The world would surely end. Heavens to Betsy.
There was a response to her tirade that got a good laugh out of me, though. "You're not the dumbest person in the world, but you'd better pray he doesn't die!"
I'm totally going to steal that line. I can be petty like that, and I love a good snarky quip.
The point of all of this though, is just to point out that while that old lady is definitely being rude and spouting off shit that just straight up isn't true, these ideas don't come out of nowhere.
It's the result of misinformation. Propaganda filling in the cracks left by a lack of education on a subject she probably never had to confront when she was young. Age is not an excuse, of course- there were allies back in the day, just like there were abolitionists during the time of slavery.
But it's not surprising that somebody who never had a reason to think about the LGBTQ+ community would have a lot of ignorance about it. She's never bothered to look it up, to read what we have to say, to try and empathize with us before.
It just wasn't on her radar until somebody gave her a reason to be afraid of us. It's a bullshit reason that goes against reality, but she doesn't know that. She's been primed not to take our word for it.
This is why normalizing our existence is important, so people don't go through life with these giant empty vessels waiting to be filled with lies. This is why it's necessary to talk about ourselves, to tell our stories, to not hide that we're just normal people living normal lives.
Our relationships may not look exactly like theirs. The way we dress and present ourselves may seem different, but being different is not a scary thing.
Being your authentic self should be something we can all embrace. Don't we tell kids to 'be yourself' while they're growing up? Do we not believe in that anymore? When did we stop?
With that said, I don't mean to pressure queer people to come out of the closet when they feel unsafe, especially not with the thought that we need to be an example for others.
You do not need to risk being set on fire to keep other people warm. It is not your job to put your life on the line to educate bigots and pull them out of their ignorance.
Nobody should have to stop what they're doing every five minutes to explain themselves to every stranger that wants to ask them questions. Sometimes we just want to do our grocery shopping in peace, right?
Rather, normalizing our existence can be as simple as putting us in a movie, or a show. Talking with a psychologist on the daily radio who can explain that sexuality and gender variances are normal for humanity, and not a new trend.
I envision podcasts with historians talking about examples of non-straight and transgender people through the ages- if you want a fun way to spend an afternoon, look into that. You'd be shocked at how many stories just never come up!
Did you know there were openly gay Roman Emperors? In fact, they didn't even distinguish between gay and straight in Ancient Rome. Relationships were just relationships, no matter if it involved men or women. Do you know about the gay and trans nightlife in Harlem back in the Roaring 20s? Drag performances were the most fashionable entertainment around!
Doing the research and having these conversations are part of how we combat the lies. The nonsense about indoctrination, about 'Social Contagion Theory', and how it's just a silly fad.
We fight this by putting our experiences out there for people to be exposed to what our lives are really like. We combat ignorance through exposure and through empathy.