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Ernest Owens Headshot

Attention Straight People: Being Gay Isn't a Stereo System with Controlled Volumes

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As an openly gay man, I never really had the time to reflect on the subtle jabs taken on expressing my identity. Beyond tackling blatant homophobic slurs and discrimination in my community I felt that as long as those issues were addressed, case closed. But as we all fight for institutional barriers to be lifted, we should also begin to check the myths and social stigmas that seem insignificant at first glance.

For some time, I have noticed that many "allies" (and even those who are not personally making it their mission to stop the rights and liberties of LGBT identifying members) have lost their knowledge as to who we are. It seems pretty odd that as many people post "equality for all banners" and update their statuses on social media accounts, they have not really taken into account their understanding of what it means to allow one to express their identity.

It wasn't until I was in a conversation with a group of peers that someone suggested (first prefaced that they weren't homophobic) that many gays such as myself would be accepted more if we "turned it down a bit."

Come again?

When I badgered this person to further explain what they meant by "turning it down," they argued that some gay people are not as "showy" and "out there" as my group of friends were and this may be what turns people away from supporting the cause.

So much wrong is in this way of thinking and yet this isn't the first time I have heard such an illogical set of ideals. In fact, many others have said it in very suggestive and subtle ways.

So this list of thought worthy points is for those heterosexuals that seem concerned in their thinking about what it means to actually be LGBT and express it. Please be sure to pass this along to your friends and family as well so they will never again make the mistake to utter such foolishness.

1. Being gay is not a stereo with volumes. Just how you cannot control how you express your various perceptions of masculinity and femininity is the same way we can't help the interpretation of our identity. LGBT is not a choice of action, but a way of life. So please, knock it off.

2. LGBT is not just a matter of sexuality, but identity as well. Just as much as one cannot "turn-down" their blackness, homelessness or any other cultural, racial, socioeconomical or religious characteristic, this is the same way gays cannot. In any other case, one would be considered a bigot if they made those suggestions, so the buck doesn't stop here.

3. Your personal discomfort with LGBT expression says a lot about yourself, rather than us. How I choose to walk, talk, and dress has no implications on how you do. If you feel that it does, perhaps you are insecure with your own identity and should seek council and guidance for it. Our existence is not to validate yours, but to pursue ours. Please read about the unalienable rights if you have some confusion with this.

4. LGBT expression is not expected to align with your standards and ideals. If this was the case, we wouldn't be LGBT, we would be you. If we are all striving for diversity and unique ideals...then let it happen. No a perfect member of the LGBT community is not one that falls along the lines of your patriarch, but a personal structure that they have created of their own.

5. And lastly, recognize that in many ways you are being oppressive if you intend to suggest others "turn down" their mode of expression. You cannot be an ally or say you are not homophobic if you find satisfaction in restricting the originality of those who identify LGBT. Your determined suggestions of assimilation are actually a subtle form of oppressing the very individuals you claim to help.

Collectively, these tips should be able to help you "turn down" your misguided mode of thinking. It's not enough to rally for the cause if you cannot shift the values in your own direction. Overall, I think it is time for everyone to being to reflect on what it means to fully accept someone who identifies as LGBT. It is not enough just to avoid making slurs or being a bigot, but actually respecting and accepting the expressions and ways in which you don't always agree.

Times are changing and even though some progress is being made, it does not excuse us from challenging ourselves to better. So whether you are straight or LGBT, please be mindful to put in check those who are unaware of their subtle suggestions of oppression.

Because there are just some things in life that shouldn't be "turned down." Freedom of expression should be one of them.