First of all I’d like to apologize in advance for any insensitive statements I might make (I hope I don’t though), I’m trying my best not to and I was just curious :)

I’m an 18-year-old cishet guy currently in uni and recently the thought popped into my head that I have no clue how the LGBTQ community would view me as someone who’s not in the space or actively an ally. I would more accurately describe myself currently as a “don’t care” person in the sense that to me it genuinely does not matter what someone identifies as or who someone is attracted to. I don’t know how much this means, but I have multiple gay friends, my roommate is bi and I dated a person who went as a girl in day to day life because it was more convenient to her/them although she/they told me she/they partially identified as nonbinary (correct pronoun usage pls >.<) but I don’t know if all this is the classic “but i have a black friend” argument that racists use.

To cut to the point: I’m curious as to how I would be seen by queer people in general, as I’ve witnessed both very inclusive and nice people (mostly here), but also some that said that LGBTQ places are not to be used by cishet people and I’m wondering what the best attitude to take would be.

Thanks!

  • Boz (he/him)
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    308 months ago

    I see that you don’t mean any offense, but this is an odd question as written. You’re basically asking what an extremely large, diverse group of people thinks about an even larger, more diverse group of people, and there’s no way to give an accurate answer. We have all kinds of thoughts about cishet people, some unkind, some sympathetic, and most of us have cishet friends and family members. I’d say that on average, LGBTQ+ people have a more negative opinion of cishet people than cishet people have of themselves, because, on average, cishet people do not understand LGBTQ+ people, and in some cases, actively hate us. It’s hard not to think of cishet people as a group as, in some way, hostile, even though not every cishet person is in any way a threat. We can’t tell which ones are going to hurt us, intentionally or otherwise, so we lean towards caution and distrust.

    I personally trust cishet people as a group less than I used to, because I just see more and more disappointing things over time. But it’s not a case of going from “I think cishet people are ok” to “I think cishet people are bad,” it’s a case of going from"I think cishet people are ok," full stop, to “I think cishet people are ok, but am I going to be disappointed again today?” And, to be clear, I don’t get disappointed just because someone accidentally says something offensive, that happens all the time. I can usually tell when people mean well, and I know it’s hard to get it right when you don’t know what it feels like to be on the other side. I do get disappointed when someone says or does something that lets me know they would be happier if I didn’t exist. That’s very different from just saying something awkward out of ignorance, and it happens more than I like to acknowledge.

    As for your second, more specific question, how LGBTQ+ people would view you in particular, I can’t speak for anyone but myself. I think you seem nice, but you also seem to be missing one of the most important aspects of the distinction between cishet and not, which is that as a cishet person, you have the option of saying you don’t care about gender and sexuality. No one is going to beat you up because you’re cishet, and you can go about your business without ever worrying about it. As a trans, queer person, I don’t have that option. Someone might beat me up because I’m trans and queer, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t think it’s a big deal. Other people do think it’s a big deal, and they can make it a big deal for me in the worst possible way. I have to worry about how cishet people see me, while they don’t have to worry about how I see them. They outnumber me, and are more likely to be in positions of power than LGBTQ+ people, so they are more likely to make trouble for me than vice versa.

    … except in explicitly queer spaces. In those spaces, LGBTQ+ people will usually outnumber cishet people, and if cishet people come in and give us grief, we can push back. Some of us can’t push back anywhere else, and it can make a big difference to have literally any space where it’s okay to tell someone to go be cishet somewhere else, politely or otherwise. Any cishet person will eventually be told something like that if they spend a lot of time in LGBTQ+ spaces, usually not because they are bad people, or even because they did anything wrong, but just because we are really tired of having to put up with people who don’t understand. If it happens to you, just remind yourself that the person yelling at you had probably gotten to the point where they were like, “if I hear one more straight person talk about their gay friend as a reason why they don’t have to remember my pronouns, so help me…” (Yes, it’s a little like “I have a black friend,” but there’s a difference between mentioning that as your experience, which is what you did, and using it as an excuse for bad behavior, which you are not. But being friends with people who are queer or trans just gives you information about those people, not queer or trans people in general, so be careful about drawing conclusions).

    I see a lot of cishet people in queer spaces absolutely lose their minds over getting yelled at by queer people, because they’re sure what they did wasn’t bad enough to justify the amount of yelling, and that always makes it worse. In general, if you get a response online that seems totally disproportionate to what you actually said or did, the response isn’t about you, and you don’t need to take it personally. You have the option of trying to clarify what actually happened, or of walking away, and the latter is often better for the well-being of all concerned.

    And that brings me to the answer to your last question, about what attitude you should have going into queer spaces. I’d recommend going in with the idea that it’s not about you, whatever you find, and however you’re treated. You’ll be more welcome in some queer spaces than others, and also, at some times more than others. There’s nothing you can do to avoid that, although you can and should try to figure out what is most likely to upset people. You don’t need to understand why a particular thing upsets people, and you won’t be expected to understand or to get everything right, but you will be expected to apologize for something you didn’t mean to do. Some things are going to upset people no matter how good your intentions are, and you can’t control that, either.

    Based on what other people are saying, you’ll probably be welcome here, and everything will be fine, and possibly I am a pessimistic old grouch who should go back to living under my bridge (lol). I have plenty of time for cishet people, even though I am an old grouch, and I hope you have only good experiences here. But maybe it’ll help you at some point to be aware of the grouchier side of the coin.