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Opinion: Why do some straight people automatically assume a gay person fancies them?

Gay people aren’t sexual predators ready to pounce on unsuspecting straight friends and colleagues… so calm down.

Christine Allen Sports convert and IT engineer

“YOU LOOK GREAT! … but not like that.”

My hairdresser smiles nervously. Moments ago, I came out to her indirectly, by deciding to answer her mandatory “any plans for tonight?” question with an honest answer, which involved The Dragon and a drag show. Her need to assert that her complimentary observation about my new hair was purely platonic betrays her discomfort regarding my sexuality. I leave the salon feeling a mixture of relief and frustration.

Later that night I can’t help but wonder why, upon hearing that they are gay, some straight people automatically assume that a gay man or woman fancies them. I also can’t help but feel that these bordering-on-narcisstic tendencies and the reluctance that many LGBT people feel in regard to coming out are related.

Sexualised and ostracised

Case in point, at 15, I was outed at secondary school. Through dirty looks and sly comments, which were thrown and uttered in my direction, I was made to feel as if I were a convicted criminal or, worse still, a deviant sexual predator.

Such prejudice had earlier showed itself at one ‘friends’ sleepover, in which I was ordered to sleep on a mattress, well away from the other girls present. I fell asleep crying that night. At 12 years of age, I had been completely sexualised, not to mention ostracised

More recently, I experienced such segregation and sexualisation when I was informed by the organiser of a group on a social networking site that their lunch dates were for ‘straight women’ only. This statement made clear that the women involved would feel uncomfortable having a bagel and a coffee with a lesbian present.

Such sexualisation can often, too, be seen in how some straight people hone in on the sexual acts that homosexual men engage in when defending their reasoning behind their view that homosexuality is immoral. It can also be found in the policies of mobile phone networks, who automatically block access to LGBT news sites, as part of their anti-underage porn viewing policies.

Insistent indifference can belie intolerance

While on the face of it, most straight people over the age of 18 will react maturely upon hearing that someone is LGB or T, I believe that beneath the ‘PC’ reaction that a portion give, in which they say it’s no big deal, there can be a discomfort which stems from a fear that the person in question will be sexually attracted to them.

In fact, it is often those who almost aggressively claim in the comments section underneath articles similar to mine that they ‘don’t care’ about someone’s sexuality that will be the first to either assume that a female or male friend/colleague is attracted to them or to distance themselves from such an individual. After all, it is my view that such insistent indifference has aggressive undertones which betrays intolerance – the opposite of what the commentator is attempting to portray.

Regarding workplace colleagues, I know how reluctant I was to tell my work friends about my sexual orientation. (Keep in mind that this was without the archaic threat of Section 37.1, which teachers have hanging over their heads, censuring my behaviour.)

In fact, during break time banter, I would use male pronouns when referring to my girlfriend, having heard a rumour that a lesbian in another department had come on to a straight girl during after work drinks. The inference – that the office lesbian was some sexual predator, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting straight girl – wasn’t lost on me and so I kept shtum.

If you’re straight and hot, it doesn’t mean we’re going to jump you

A recent workplace survey, conducted by Gay Community News, found that 30% of respondents had experienced homophobic bullying in the workplace, revealing that my reluctance to come out was not unjustified.

In fact, on foot of coming out in her workplace, a friend of mine felt that the lads in the office treated her differently – something which a respondent in the GCN workplace study too claimed. Her suspicions were validated earlier this year when she became aware that the lads in question were making inappropriate comments regarding the prospect of engaging her in a threesome with her girlfriend at the upcoming Christmas party, another example of how gay women can be sexualised.

The bottom (no pun intended) line is this, LGBT people need to stop being sexualised. If you’re straight and hot, it doesn’t mean we’re going to jump you. And if an Armageddon scenario arrives at your doorstep in the form of a gay man or woman finding you attractive, take it as a compliment, politely turn them down, and unless they are a total stalker all will end well.

As for my hairdresser, she is undoubtedly a good-looking woman. However, I’m more into brunettes and, as she knows herself, hair matters.

Christine is 26 and entering her third year of Information Technology at DCU – a part time course funded for those that are unemployed. In between trying to get to grips with JAVA programming and looking for work, she loves nothing better than sitting down at the laptop with a cup of tea, and writing. She has been published in DIVA Magazine, on TheJournal.ie and Gaelick.com. She is also Opinions Editor for the DCU newspaper, thecollegeview. One day she would like to be known as the lesbian version of Carrie Bradshaw. Follow Christine on Twitter @AllenChristine2.

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About the author:

Christine Allen  / Sports convert and IT engineer

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