Yesterday, in my upper-level course on gender and sexualities, my students and I discussed the life-long process of coming out as LGBT. In essence, because of heterocentricism (the assumption that everyone is heterosexual) and, what we can call ciscentricism (the assumption that everyone is cisgender), LGBT people are forced to out themselves to each new person they meet (if they decide not to be presumed cisgender and heterosexual). As one student pointed out, that, of course, presumes one is closely aligned with the stereotypical images of heterosexual and cisgender people; any displays of gender non-conformity may lead one to have their sexual and/or gender identities questioned. Still, to some degree, we believe there is some choice in the matter, whether to out oneself or confirm others’ suspicions.
In this conversation, I chose not to out myself — a position I usually take until the end of the semester (once course evaluations are in). I have mentioned “my partner” to two students, and, aside from wearing suits, I rarely obsess over presenting myself as hypermasculine (or even masculine, for that matter). So, my students may already have suspicions about me, at least regarding my sexual identity.
And, though quite relevant, I had not mentioned an incident that occurred immediately before class. I briefly returned home to regroup before the late, 4:30pm-7pm class. As scheduled, our front and back doors had been replaced. The workers had thrown our door mats aside, failed to return moved furniture to their original location, and left sawdust on the floor and some furniture. The blinds from the original back door sat on our kitchen table. And, a bag of used doorknobs sat on our front porch. This was just shitty, inconsiderate work.
The worst sign of their inconsiderate presence was this:
Ugh. This pamphlet from a Billy Graham affiliated church in the city was left on our kitchen table. If this was “innocent” proselytizing, it was inappropriate. But, with a number of pictures of my partner and me up in the kitchen and other rooms, I suspect this was something more. An unknown number of strangers entered our house and decided we needed Jesus in our lives. As gay people, this was a minor, yet symbolic assault from strangers who decided we were immoral because of our sexual orientations and our relationship.
Connecting this back to my class’s discussion, I realized that I could be in the closet in every aspect of my life: at work, with friends, doctor‘s visits, etc. No one but my partner and I would know we identify as gay and that we are in a long-term, committed, loving relationship. But, if we lived together, as we do, at some point the apartment complex may know (or suspect), and the service people who enter our homes would figure it out. To these strangers, we would have no choice about being out, unless we went to the lengths of hiding any signs of a relationship, or even living apart. There is a base level of outness that life demands if you want any semblance of a full life as a queer person.
As I threw clean dishes into the cabinets later in the evening, I began to realize just how upsetting this experience was. Simply put, I feel violated. Strangers were given access to my personal home, and judged me, and had the audacity to leave behind their propaganda just to let me know what they thought. Even in my own fucking home I am not free from homophobia. It is bad enough that I bring the stress of bigotry home, in its wear on my health, in the suits I quickly strip off when I get home like taking off a costume, and in the taxes I pay for my partner to receive benefits in a state that ignores our relationship. But, this incident pushed beyond that. I came home to a visible reminder that strangers think I am immoral. Fuckers.