“Why is straight the default?”
This is a question that has always lingered in my mind. Isn’t it unfair that people who are “different” need to always explain themselves every single time they meet someone new while "straight" people can just live their lives the way everyone should be able to—unbothered.
I’ve had this belief for a long time that coming out of the closet is unnecessary. I have always believed that your sexuality is none of other people’s business. But as I grow and mature, I still believe that, yes, you still don’t owe anyone explanation, but it is kind of inevitable for us to feel the need to announce and define who we are to the world. What I noticed is that, no one comes out of the closet once—we come out every single day. When you hold your partner’s hand in public, when you bring him or her to your house to meet the family for the first time, when you answer a stranger when they ask you if you are straight and you answer a simple no—these mundane things count as coming out of the closet.
I have always believed that when you come out, you own your identity, you own who you are. But that isn’t always the case and I’ve learned that the hard way, ironically, in a place where I thought people would be wiser, by someone who I thought would know better.
I have this habit of counting starting from one up to the point when I know I am calm and my emotions are no longer at their peak. 21. It took me 21 seconds to calm down, but longer than that to absorb what was really happening. I heard gasps in the whole room the moment the words “Just for formality, how do you identify yourself? Are you gay, bisexual, or what?” fell from the mouth of my professor in our Creative Writing course as I froze and started counting as I realized that the question was directed at me. He even followed that question with a promise that everything we hear, say, and confess will all be confidential and will not go out of the room. We all knew it was just a lie; we neither trusted him nor liked him.
It took me 21 fast seconds before I could answer his question. With my eyes pointing directly towards his, I tried to compose the most coherent thought that a shell-shocked teenage boy could ever make. I didn’t deny anything, I told him what I really felt and thought at that time, “To be honest, I don’t know. I’ve had hetero experience but none with the same sex. And to be honest, I feel suffocated having to answer this question because I don’t like labels.” And up to this day, I still stand by what I answered—it will still remain the same, no pretentions.
I remember feeling numb, emotionless, and nauseated for the remainder of that day. I couldn’t really explain what I was feeling then—I wasn't neither angry nor scared. But when I think about it, I now know what the younger me was feeling: I felt my privacy was intruded, and I felt emotionally violated.
Years after that, I discovered a book that I wish I had read before that encounter which is entitled Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. There I learned that thos who "out" people don’t have the right to decide if it is a big deal or not. They have no right to dismiss what the outed person will feel—what I felt and still feel. If I were to see him again, I just want to say this: You stole something from me, you took something that is supposed to be mine. I should have the right to decide when, to whom, and how I’ll say it.
Looking back and thinking through all of it, my being outed, and me labelled as something shouldn't have taken a massive toll on me as a human being but through time, we learn—and I did. Yes, being outed against your will never be right. Yes, sometimes being labelled is suffocating. Yes, being feeling unease being labelled as something you don't identify with will always be valid. But you know, there is power in labels, there is power in embracing who you are and owning who you are. At the end of the day, it is you who knows who you truly are. No matter what other people think or assume, it is you who should and will decide when you are comfortable to come out.
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