Recently I was talking with an acquaintance of mine about my involvement with Hayden’s List. After I explained our mission — to direct the LGBT community and its supporters to those with open doors, she goes, “Aren’t you afraid everyone will think you’re a lesbian?”
I laughed. What made it even funnier is that she, the question-asker herself, was a lesbian. Yet to say that this never crossed my mind would be a total lie. In fact, when I told my mother about HL, she didn’t pose this as a question but an actual fact saying, “You know everyone’s going to think you’re a lesbian.” To which I responded, “So?” My mother shrugged. She said, “Ah you’re right. Who cares? So what? It’s not like it’s a bad thing.” My mother, a southerner from another generation, pleasantly surprised me. Even if she’d had a problem with it, she knows me well enough to know that she’d be the one to have to get over it and get okay with it.
Not long ago I dated a guy who came from a very conservative background. As a native Texan with parents from the bible belt, I’d say that I came from a very conservative upbringing. But his childhood and early adulthood was even more sheltered, vacuum sealed from sinful-like things such as certain movies, alcohol or even coffee and tea. In comparison to mine, his pious life up until a few years before meeting me made me and my life look like it could have been a hit reality TV show: Texan Catholic Goody-Goody Girls Gone Wild. Needless to say I was curious as to what his reaction would be when I told him about Hayden’s List.
Of course, because he was awesome and enlightened, his response was awesome and enlightened. He loved it. (Just like my mother, it’s not like he really had a choice. He’d either get okay with it or mosey on.) But really. He loved me and because he loved me, he also loved Hayden’s List. It’s a part of me — something I whole-heartedly believe in and put my time and energy into. Why wouldn’t he embrace that? Still, there was that tiny doubt in the back of my mind that he might not.
The reason why I bring this up is because I feel it’s important. There are so many times when we shy back or step down or keep quiet just because we’re afraid of what other people will think of us. Read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” about how women in general, regardless of sexual orientation or nationality, are proven to take on an apologetic disposition or demeanor in comparison to our male counterparts.
It does not upset me on a personal level when people ask me if I’m afraid of being labeled a lesbian just by merely associating myself with Hayden’s List. This is because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being a lesbian in my book. What upsets me, and what I feel is wrong, is that there’s this largely held notion in general that being something other than straight is still something one should feel ashamed about.
Before Hayden’s List went live I told a gay male friend of mine about what we were doing. His response surprised me. There’s no need for that at this point, he said. Marriage is going to become legal in all fifty states soon and people are moving on from this discussion. Feeling the heat of indiganance surge up from my heart center, I stopped to think about this for a minute before responding. Was this true? Could he be right? Are gay rights about to become a non-issue?
But then I considered my source. He was a well-built, well-to-do, good-looking gay guy living in a posh, embracing neighborhood, surrounded by loving friends and accepting family. I pointed this out to him and then kindly reminded him that not everyone has it so good.
The reality is that there are millions of people around the world who cannot come out because they will be ostracized, criticized, could lose their family, their job or even their life. It’s unfortunate but racism is proof of amount of toxic discrimination that’s still out there. We are well into the future with that battle and yet it’s an on-going war raging in our neighborhoods, our schools and even our families. And it’s certainly not just contained to the U.S.
The irony of all this is that the number one reason why people are inclined not to review on Hayden’s List is because they don’t want to “out” a service provider or a lawyer or a doctor as being “gay.” Whether the business is or isn’t LGBT is irrelevant because people feel that associating a business with a LGBT-friendly website will automatically categorize them as being LGBT. It’s as if leaving a good rating is equivalent to giving people the cooties — some people, despite believing in what Hayden’s List is trying to accomplish, simply aren’t okay with doing that.
I want to know: what’s so bad about that? It’s laughable if you think about it. Not only does it reinforce the need for Hayden’s List in the first place but it just goes to show you just how much of a stigma there is around being seen as homosexual / trans / bi / queer.
My hope for 2015 is that we all pry open our minds just a little bit more to let in some room for further enlightenment. That more people than ever find the courage to step into who they are; to accept and love themselves first and foremost, realizing there’s no shame in being yourself. That we remember — for every hater there are a gazillion of people out there who will love us for exactly who we are. My other hope? That in ten years from now (or maybe five) or even if it takes fifty, someone reads this and mocks it for sounding oh-so provincial, backward and small-brained. Let’s hear it for 2015: the end of the dark age of sexual discrimination.
, Dark Age of Sexual Discrimination
, Hayden's List