So we’re now about a week into Pride Month, which means my 100% enthusiasm about being gay will now be unapologetically upped to 1,000%. This month really gets me thinking about my status as a gay male, especially in relation to my existence in contrast to a straight person’s. There are several different topics that come to mind, but the one that seems to float through my brain the most is something I try to contribute to on a daily basis.
That, my friends, would be the topic of visibility.
Now, I could do a whole blog series on visibility alone, but what I wanted to talk about is how I contribute to visibility with how I present myself online. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve mentioned on pretty much all of my bios on social media that I’m gay. I had a very, very long debate in my head as to whether or not this was good because it would enhance visibility, or if it would be bad because it would make it seem like everything about me is defined by the fact that I’m gay. I definitely wanted to slide something in my bios that at least suggested that I identify with the LGBTQ+ community, but in the end, just labeling myself as gay in the bio felt the easiest.
It also felt…right, you know?
When I meet people in my day-to-day life, there’s not a casual way to make my sexual orientation visible, unless the conversation manages to go in that route (and it definitely doesn’t always). Sure, I could say “I’m Jeff, nice to meet you. I’m gay,” but that’s one of those social scripts that you have to force, thus feeling like your LGBTQ+ status is the ONLY thing you want them to focus on. Not only that, but it’s weird to be a part of when you’re on the receiving end. Because it isn’t a necessary step in greeting someone, trying to get it out there shortly upon meeting them feels like you’re forcing it out, rather than simply presenting it as a fact you want them to know about you due to its importance.
There’s more hesitation in trying to be visible in person, because you’re going to get those direct reactions from people, whether they’re favorable or not. However, people online who see it can react, but they won’t always feel compelled to tell you how they feel about it. If the reaction is good, then great! They know you’re gay, now. Cool beans. However, if their reaction isn’t necessarily positive, having them see it online as opposed to in person means that both parties can avoid whatever sort of impact that could create. I’m not saying that people would be openly hateful about it, but revealing your gayness is vulnerable no matter how many times you do it, so any sort of disapproval could result in quite a negative impact. No matter how comfortable you may be with your sexuality, it still feels like another “coming out” moment, creating a feeling of dread in how the other person will react.
Though these things contribute to difficulties in being visible in society, labeling my identity in my spaces of the internet provides an open way for people I know, whether in cyber-land or in person, to know about this part of my identity without us having to take a chance with an awkward encounter. Though I did struggle with whether this would help or hurt my impact on the community, ultimately, my gayness is a very important factor of my identity. Even though it’s not the only aspect of me that matters, it does contribute so much to how I move through society, and how I’ve been shaped into the person I am, today. It’s very important to me for people to know that I’m gay, not because I’m “shoving it in their face” like some people may think, but because it’s important enough due to how it would influence our interactions. Even if their reaction is to shy away from me due to some homophobic tendencies, I at least made my identity known (and good riddance to them). Even though that could cause some unwanted stress, I know I feel more comfortable having my identity known than having it be a part of me that everyone overlooks, or thinks doesn’t even exist.
See, the thing is: I am gay. My gayness heavily contributes to how I experience life. Though it is not the only thing that drives my experiences, it is something that sheds light on my world view, and how I exist in it. That is why I contribute to this aspect of the community the way that I do.
I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who’s had this idea, so I’m not trying to present it as if it’s completely original. I just feel that this is the easiest way to be visible (for anyone who feels safe to do so) to be open about their sexuality. Of course, this is not the only way to contribute to LGBTQ+ visibility, but given that the world of social media is such a staple in today’s society, slipping in a quick “yo I’m gay” is the easiest way to show that we have a presence in this society, and straight people should remain aware of that.
Visibility for our community is incredibly important, whether it’s in the media, online, in books, or whatever else can include LGBTQ+ representation. Seeing people in the community in such a public way is so inspiring, which could then inspire others to come out, or even to take more pride in their identity. Though I had my internal struggles about labeling myself in such a public way, it feels good to have it out there. It’s making my identity more visible, and through that, I’m normalizing identities like mine in our society. It’s know it’s not the biggest contribution, but I definitely feel like it helps.