Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

August 22, 2013 — 33 Comments

Last night a woman asked me if I was single because she wanted to set me up with her friend. Her male friend. *sigh* So I told her that I’m a lesbian. She said it was too bad because the guy would be perfect for me (what kind of guy is perfect for a lesbian I’m not exactly sure …), I said that it was a damn shame about the whole penis thing and we had a little laugh.

She’s an acquaintance and, obviously, not someone I’ve ever told that I’m gay. It’s not that I cared if she 0023 Why Didn't You Tell Meknew or didn’t want her to know, it had just never come up. I’m not one to randomly declare my orientation to people I hardly know, so it didn’t make sense to tell her before last night. And to her credit, she didn’t react as though I’d been harboring some deep, dark secret. But that’s not always the case …

I remember once when I was a number-cruncher a woman I worked with stopped by my cubicle to ask for some information. While I ran the data we made small-talk and she picked up a framed picture from my desk.

Is this your sister?”

I don’t have any sisters,” I said. “That’s my girlfriend.”

Your girlfriend?”

I nodded.

So does that mean you’re …” she lowered her voice, “… a lesbian?

You don’t have to whisper,” I told her. “It’s not like I have …” I matched her hushed tone, “… cancer.”

Why didn’t you ever tell me you’re gay?” she asked.

I didn’t know it was required,” I said. “You never told me you were straight.”

But that’s different! you protest. Most people are straight so unless you tell them otherwise, they assume you are, too.

And I agree with you, I do have to tell people that I’m gay if there is a reason to. But this woman was simply a co-worker, someone with whom I worked on projects and attended meetings, or ran into in the break-room. We weren’t friends, we didn’t go to lunch or get together for happy hour after work. In what context was my gayness relevant to our working relationship? Was she going to look at the reports I’d been providing, slap her forehead and say, “I didn’t appreciate the significance of the managerial changes contributing to the increased turnover rate in the Northwest region over the past three quarters, but now it all makes sense. You’re a lesbian!”

There are a lot of factors – attraction, love, politics – wrapped up in the whole gay package. But that’s not what all people hear, some only hear is the sex part. And I can think of very few instances where it’s appropriate to say, “Hi, it’s nice to meet you! I have sex with women.” Your best friend may know some of the intimate details of your personal life, but you don’t reveal these little factoids to everyone. Because of the automatic association between gay people and their sex lives (seriously, how many guys hear “lesbian” and think womens’ rights and strong female role-models?), it would be similar to having everyone know you’re into light-bondage or heavy-anal.

If you’re not gay, it may be hard to imagine what it’s like knowing that people have an expectation that you’re obligated to reveal something personal about yourself. But perhaps there’s something that people can’t tell by looking at you, or might not know if they’ve never seen you in person. Religion isn’t visible; so if you showed up at the gym during Hanukkah wearing a yarmulke, you might find it somewhat surprising if your personal trainer demanded to know, “Why didn’t you ever tell me you’re Jewish?” Or, what if you were a hotel clerk who buys her clothes in the full-figured department. It would be rather unnecessary for a guest with whom you’d dealt with by only phone to show up and say, “You never told me you were so big!” Religion has nothing to do with getting rock hard abs and being a zaftig reservationist doesn’t affect ones ability to book a room, so (hopefully) these things wouldn’t come up. Yet when it comes to sexual-orientation, people seems to think they have a right to know.

I know some people who do feel the need to reveal their sexuality to everyone. And to a certain extent I can understand their reasoning. Since it can’t be seen, like race or a disability, there’s always the chance that someone will make an off-hand remark in your presence without knowing they’re offending you. By telling people you’re gay right up front, you can make sure to save the person who declares, “Homos are ruining marriage for normal people!” any unnecessary embarrassment. It’s only polite …

I’m by no means closeted, but I prefer the “let them figure it out for themselves” method of disclosure. Which, if you’ve followed my blog at all, you know doesn’t always work out for me. My sexuality is only a part of who I am, and telling the barista won’t make my coffee any more caffeinated, my melons won’t be any riper if the produce guy at Trader Joe’s knows and my money won’t go any further if I come out to the bank teller.

I did think it was important to tell my gynecologist, though. Oddly enough, I find this has never stopped him from asking me if I’m currently using any birth control. Yes Doc, as a matter of fact I am … it’s called I’m a lesbian!!

33 responses to Why Didn’t You Tell Me?

  1. 

    Any douchebag who says, “Homos are ruining marriage for normal people.”, DESERVES two platefuls of embarrassment, with chocolate sauce! 🙄

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  2. 

    I was laughing out loud reading this to my partner. I’ve given this speech so many times, in shorter words. My coworkers didnt know I was gay for years, which threw a few of the ignorant ones for a loop! They already liked me…..so what do they do now that they know I’m gay….they never liked gay people before!!! It amuses me. I just live my life and don’t like to be noticed for it! I love your blog…glad to have found it:)

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  3. 

    Great post and so true, all of it. I’m the same. I don’t tell unless it’s necessary to otherwise why would I? (rather than why should I?). People always like to make judgements on people’s looks etc (I’m as guilty as the next person) but that doesn’t mean to say they, or me, get it right. Neither would I hide it but I just think there is always a time and place for this kinda conversation.

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  4. 

    Reblogged this on lgbticons and commented:
    Another great blog from Pucker Up Buttercup…

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  5. 

    Yeah, some things are sensitive topics but people feel the right to know or they will be obnoxious about it. But it is hard being on the straight side and figuring out who’s gay. Very.

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    • 

      I’m gay and often have trouble figuring out who else is gay, so I’d imagine it’s hard for a straight person to do so. But I have a question: I know that at least one reason I’d want to know if another woman is a lesbian is that I might want to approach her because I’m attracted to her; but as a straight person, why do you want to figure out who’s gay? Is it just curiosity? You’ve commented on my posts before and certainly don’t strike me as a person who might be pre-protecting herself from making an off-color remark, so I’m interested in your perspective.

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      • 

        Haha, I hope my loud-mouth comments haven’t offended x)
        Mostly curiosity. Actually I had taken a liking to one of the guys, so I was glad I figured out he was gay before my feelings got anywhere. I didn’t feel betrayed that I didn’t know, though. There never had been a casual moment to bring it up. I definitely would feel awkward if the first thing a person said to me was “I’m gay”. So it’s a weird thing to figure out.
        I can see why having a hard time figuring out who’s a lesbian is a bummer. I mean, I can make a bad choice once or twice but generally most guys I meet are straight.
        If it’s not too private how DO you meet a girl? In my imagination the gay community must be sort of like: “oh, you’re gay, too, I’ll have to see if maybe we could get something going.” Like, less pretense.
        Of course, I could be dillusional. Wouldn’t be the first time.

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        • 

          No worries! I’ve never been offended 🙂
          Sorry about the guy. I’ve taken a liking to plenty of straight girls, so I know the feeling. I knew they were straight to start with, but the heart wants the heart wants, right?
          So, how do you meet a girl … Well, if you’re at a gay bar or a gay pride event or something like that, you at least know she’s probably a lesbian before you make your move. But if you’re like me and don’t really hang out in bars or go to parades, you hope maybe your friends know someone who’s single or that you’ll meet a girl at a party. Then there are always the dating sites, like Match and Plenty of Fish. I guess in the end, it’s not so different from how anyone meets anyone else.

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          • 

            Yup, the heart is trouble.
            Being the socially awkward nerd that I am I’ve never quite understood how dating sites could work. I would feel like having an agenda when I wrote to people. And like there were too many expectations. Like, damn, it’s rough, having to be so blunt about your intentions even before you know if it’s what you want.

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  6. 

    “So does that mean you’re …” she lowered her voice, “… a lesbian?”

    This sent me right back to when I visited a high school in the Virgin Islands I used to teach at. I ran into a security guard there I’d been friendly with while working there, and he informed me that the number of fights had gotten “much worse,” and that it was the girls who had made it so, not the boys.

    “You know what it is?” he asked, and lowered HIS voice “…’tis lesbians!”

    Yup. Lesbianism causes violence. There you have it.

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  7. 

    I have always thought it was funny that when meeting someone new, nobody ever turns to me and says, “Do you think he’s straight?” But I often get asked the latter if a man has soft hands or a woman has short hair (those sort of stereotypical things). I always say, “I don’t know. Does it matter?” I guess in the “polite” way, it does so that (as you pointed out) we don’t end up having someone feel strange when they offend that person…but truly it might be nice to let them say how they really feel. If they are against your lifestyle it might be better to know than to have them fake “nice” to your face.

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    • 

      I’ve known people who were fine with my lifestyle, but still somewhat homophobic when it came to lesbians and gays in general. For instance, my Ex and I got married when it was briefly legal here in CA prior to the Prop 8 decision in 2008 and I had a couple of folks say things to the effect that they didn’t have a problem with she and I being married, but that they were against same-sex marriage as a whole. And the funny thing is that I don’t think they were faking being nice, I think they genuinely believed that I was different than all those “other lesbians.” What they didn’t understand is that the only difference is that they knew me.

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  8. 

    One of my new (back then – this was ten+ years ago) friends took me out for coffee to let me know she was a lesbian. She said she had something to tell me that she was aware might change our burgeoning friendship. All very serious – I honestly thought she was going to tell me she’d killed someone or something. I hadn’t really been paying attention to her (or anyone’s) sexuality, mostly because I don’t care and partly because I’m oblivious, so it was kind of out of the blue. Weirdly I felt under pressure to give SOME sort of reaction beyond a shrug and a ‘that’s nice’ because she was so very worried about letting me know. I think I said, ‘Oh, cool – well thanks for letting me know. Honestly, it’s so not an issue that I don’t know what to say.’

    All this to say that probably just bringing it up when necessary is easier all round – except the reason she was telling me was because she’d had some bad reactions in the past from people who’d felt ‘betrayed’ that she hadn’t told them sooner and ended their friendship. My take on it was that the betrayal excuse was thinly covered up homophobia, but that doesn’t help someone who just lost a previously good friend over it.

    On a separate note – my favourite friend-coming-out-story is an old school friend who phoned me, drunk, to tell me he had a secret but it was one that absolutely had to be told in person. Red rag to a bull. “If I guess right now, will you tell me?” “Ok, but you’ll never ever ever ever ever get it.” “You have a girlfriend?” Hysterical laughter, “No no no!” “You’re gay.” Stunned silence, then, “How did you KNOW?!”

    Wow, this was kind of lengthy, sorry!

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    • 

      I think you’re right, that sometimes people the “betrayal” thing is an excuse to cover homophobia. Other times I think people do genuinely feel hurt that I didn’t take them into my confidence to share this thing. But what they don’t realize is that to me it’s not something I need to “confess” – – I don’t tell not because it’s such a big deal to me, but because it’s not. I’ve got secrets that are far juicier than the fact that I’m gay!

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  9. 
    fabulousbrokegirl01 August 22, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    I’m not a lesbian, don’t care if you are, and I’m glad I found your blog. I LOL’d reading this and LOVE your thoughts. I just love that you are open about it, and not hiding it on purpose. I can’t stand when we hide who we really are. I work on that everyday! And for the record….hot flashes SUCK!

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  10. 

    If you are truly as sensible and good-humoured as you are on this blog, you are a treat.

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  11. 

    I love, I love, I love this post. Ok, I’m from Jamaica and if you know what happens on an international level then you know the happenings here. I am 100% with you about this post. I for one, don’t go around telling people I am a lesbian because obviously I am living in the top country who declares homophobia like they are in parliament. My tiny workspace assumed I am because “a girl” pick me up on occasion, to and from work, even though they know I have sisters (yes they are that petty and ignorant) so the gossip has circulated on thay basis, not on the basis that I told someone and they repeated it. I am not one to put my business out there especially if I don’t know you(im a Scorpio) so im always observing/analyzing/scrutinizing before I relay my business. It never accured to these “Smart/educated fools” that I am contented in my lifestyle. So what if I am? Who cares?. They never questioned if I was happy and I’m loved and being loved.

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    • 

      First, I’m sorry that you can’t be as out and open as you should be able to be. I wrote a blog post earlier this month about how fortunate I am to live in a time and place where being gay isn’t much of an issue for me, so I feel bad when I hear from or read about someone for whom things aren’t so easy. Second, you make such a great point: what if rather than asking each other if we’re gay or straight, people just asked one another “are you loved?” What a wonderful world it would be …

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      • 

        Exactly, yet they focus on how the media portray someone they don’t even know about or get to know. It’s silly and pathetic that before they get to know us, they cast all sorts of judgment and how my homosexual lifestyle is wrong when the last time I heard heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same relationship problems, we hurt the same, we hide our pride and shame the same, so what is the issue?. We are some of the most loving, caring, empathic people on earth. It should be about what your heart yearn and desire. I think they would rather for us to marry straight people as a decoy for love and realization. They fail to realize that it’s exactly what is taking place, especially in my country where there is no freedom to be. We are all ONE!!!!!

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      • 

        Sorry to jump into the conversation, but I love this: “What if rather than asking each other if we’re gay or straight, people just asked one another “are you loved?” What a wonderful world it would be …”

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  12. 

    My daughter and I have had this discussion before and I stated that it must be onerous having to declare one’s sexuality for whatever reason. I can’t imagine having to let people know that I’m heterosexual. I mean who the hell really cares? Well, I might, but certainly no one else will. Actually to be more accurate I’d have to declare that I’m a post menopausal celibate death crone in the making.

    Hopefully the day will come when people can just live and let live.

    Your doctor was a bit of a twit…….

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    • 

      It tickles me when someone’s response to finding out is “that’s okay” or “I don’t mind.” I always think “How very magnanimous! I was really worried that you wouldn’t be okay with this thing that has nothing to do with you!”

      I guess your orientation means we’re going to have to change the acronym to LGBTPMCDC …

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  13. 

    It’s funny you mention the birth control. I’m out to everyone and to my family (and I blog about gay issues amongst other things) but my sister and I were recently talking about perimenopause. She wanted to make sure I knew that I could still get pregnant and should use protection during this time. I reminded her that it’s one of the side benefits of my lesbianism–no accidental pregnancies. I like your blog post. I’m out to all but see no need to just announce to casual strangers or acquaintances unless it just comes up.

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