A Big, Gay, Happy Family? It Starts with Safety

by guest· Follow Dian on

This is a guest post, written by Kylie Springman.

I spoke with Dian a few weeks ago in response to her post about the dissonances between and within various LGBTQ communities. We concluded that it might be helpful to outline the various identities that exist in order to further discuss the relationships between these communities and the people within them. I told Dian I’d be happy to do a little overview of some of the different categories to share here on her blog.

I started to write, listing the differences between the innumerable ways we identify our sexualities and genders. As I was listing these terms, trying to articulate the differences between “gay” and “queer”, I began to feel a dissonance I couldn’t ignore. I found myself avoiding the post I intended to write instead of writing it.

After much avoidance of the piece, I got honest with myself. I don’t want to talk categories and separations. I don’t want to need to educate people about the differences between gay and queer and cisgender and fluid. I don’t want our world to be one in which people are assumed to be straight and cisgender, where we need to “come out” as something else. And I wonder if the real issue here isn’t categories of gender and sexuality, but actually a need to be safe and belong. I read the other day in Style Statement, by Carrie McCarthy and Danielle LaPorte, that “we desire to belong and to be seen for who we are,” and I immediately thought, “Yes! That’s exactly it.”

Photo by Kylie Springman

We latch onto identities largely because we’re scared. After a childhood or adolescence or lifetime of feeling as if we don’t fit within mainstream culture, we’re desperate to feel as if we belong somewhere. When we find a community that appeals to us, many of us conform to its spoken and unspoken rules. In turn, we enforce those rules to keep outsiders away. To keep ourselves safe.

I dream of a world where these categories aren’t important. Or maybe they’re important for identity and belonging, but they’re not divisive. We’d live on a great, big fluid plane of rainbow-ness. (My world would be very fabulous.) But right now, that’s not the world where we live. It’s people like you, and Dian, and even me, who are going to bring it closer to its sparkly, rainbow potential. To get to that harmoniously diverse utopia in my head, we’ll need to create safety for ourselves in ways that don’t marginalize others.

In order to gain safety in the world at large, be that safety to walk down the street holding our partner’s hand or safety to express our deepest longings, we need tell ourselves the truth about who we are. We need to accept ourselves before others will be able to. And we need to shift our focus from pushing others away to allowing ourselves to be who we are.

None of this is easy. It’s the kind of work that takes months and years instead of hours and minutes. It’s also the kind of work that benefits from experts like Dian, who have experienced the coming out process themselves and who know how to help others through it. As more of us are honest about who we are and begin to focus on accepting ourselves instead of excluding outsiders, the closer we’ll be to my utopia, where nobody needs to “come out”, because nobody’s hiding.

Kylie Springman is a queer empowerment coach and photographer focusing on the intricate art of liking ourselves. You can hang out with her on Twitter as @kyliewriteshere or read her weekly at kyliewrites.com.
  • It’s so interesting to read this post right now. I just finished defining queer on my website, since I’m now focusing on coaching queer parents. It was important for me to make it clear that I won’t judge whether I think someone is queer or ‘queer enough’. This is what I wound up writing:

    “In the simplest terms, queer includes anyone whose sexual and/or gender identity or expression is at odds with what is expected of them by mainstream society. I do not judge anyone’s right to identify as queer, and if you don’t like the word queer, I understand and I will not impose it upon you.”

    I use the word queer because I see it as encompassing all kinds of different. Unlike other terms that have been used against the community ‘queer’, in it’s original form, means something very similar to what I’ve described above: “strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; unusually different.”

    Thanks for this post, everyday is one day closer to the rainbow utopia.

    • There’s for sure something important about defining “queer” and also allowing others the right to decline being defined as such, even if they fall within the terms of our own definition.

      I’d like to flesh out this rainbow utopia we see in our minds so vividly … What makes it rainbow? What makes it utopia? Where does acceptance of all this really come from? I think it’s important to get super clear on what we want so we create just that, rather than trust blindly that it will all come together if we just keep hoping.

      Thanks for the comment, Kristin.

Previous post:

Next post:

© Authentic Realities 2009-2013 (All content unless otherwise noted). All Rights Reserved.