[Check out the first two posts from AJ in this series: Don't Feel Guilty If...You're Not Straight and I Call it Visibility. But she's no longer a guest poster...we adored her so much, we asked her to become a bona fide Hollaback Girl! Welcome, AJ!]
Look, I have no problem with you being heterosexual. Sure, it’s not my choice and I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t rub my face in it by making out in public like that…and just so you know, your life is going to be a lot less fabulous. But if that’s what you really want, I guess I can tolerate it.
It’s OK if you are a straight blogger. You can still reach the fabulous reading rainbow audience out there. Here are some simple do’s and don’t’s to serve as a guide:
DON’T use the term homosexual. It’s archaic. Soooo pre-1980’s. Leave it with the bell bottoms where it belongs. Step out in some skinny jeans and LGBT, or LGB, or lesbian and gay. I would tread lightly on “queer” – yeah I use it, but it can get misinterpreted so unless you really are a friend of a friend of Dorothy’s (straight translation: friend of a gay or lesbian person), I would steer clear.
If you’re unsure what kind of term to use…ask! I would much rather answer a question of “is this an ok term to use?” than to not have the issue that involves a term be discussed. For example, Danica over at Chic Runner wrote in her race recap for the LA marathon, “In West Hollywood it is a notoriously gay area (is that pc? sorry if it’s not). There were some drag queen (don’t know if that’s pc either… sorry!) cheerleaders passing out water and there were tons of people out in this area.” As a new reader to her blog, I felt comfortable because I knew that she would ask questions rather than shy away from discussing running through my very gayborhood (and therefore making me feel excluded) and that she cared whether or not she was offending a minority group.
DON’T describe things that are un-cool as “gay.” That went out of style in middle school, along with braces and pimples. Also, don’t describe un-cool or stupid things as “retarded.” That’s not about gaining LGBT readership, that’s about being not a total arse.
When I asked Danica if I could link back to her blog for this post, she wrote back saying yes (obviously) and added, “I also always make sure not to use terms on my blog like slang, which would be hurtful to people like ‘it was really gay.’” Now I may not be the most fashionable person around, but if Chic Runner herself says it’s not cool, I’m going to trust her. So from her authority, cut it out. (I hope you saw me making scissors with my hand and miming the “cut it out” – old school.)
DON’T assume that everyone is partnered and if they are partnered, that they are in a heterosexual relationship. This series came about because right here on Hollaback Health there was a post titled Please Blog Responsibly: How to Write About Guys. Well, I was intrigued, and I clicked on over to take a look. After all, I consider myself a responsible conscientious blogger and I had to make sure I was doing my very best while blogging about guys. What I found applied more to blogging about male romantic partners than the guys in my life (Kinney and Emmett, two of my three cats…yeah yeah I do fit some lesbian stereotypes!). I immediately commented, “This is an awesome post but I gotta add, not all your readers are straight.” Luckily Rachel e-mailed me to ask what does one then say that’s LGBT inclusive? Admittedly, writing “your girl/boyfriend” is cumbersome. I recommended keeping it nice and simple with a “partner” or “SO” (short for “significant other”). Not only was I able to teach her a lesson, but it led to me writing this series, for which I’m so grateful!
I really appreciate it when straight folks use gender neutral terms because then no one has to disclose their sexual identity! Otherwise, any discussion I have of my partner automatically outs me. (This isn’t a problem for me personally, but for others whose jobs may be in danger, because, yes, in many states it’s legal to fire someone based on sexual orientation…).
And finally DO DO DO value the contributions that your LGBT readers make to discussions! A great example of this is from Caitlin was discussing her decision to go off the Pill and use other forms of birth control. A really interesting discussion ensued and a lot of the comments were bashing on the Pill. Well, I have been on the Pill for over ten years (I just dated myself a bit…I was also the queen of the mix tape which is a whole art form above and beyond the mix cd, but I digress). I take it because in my lifetime (which is not thaaaat long) I’ve had four surgeries for ovarian cysts, including the first when I lost one of my ovaries at age 8. Since I only have the one ovary and it’s now covered in scar tissue (“that I wish you saw”…sorry I couldn’t help myself, RHCP fan), the Pill does an imperfect job of preventing these cysts and risking more surgeries and early menopause should I lose my remaining – but very hardworking – ovary. Plus I get light periods and clear skin, so no complaints. I chimed in the discussion with my Pill experience, and then ended my comment with “Being a lesbian is the best form of birth control! We joke that my pill is our ‘back up.’” She responded “haha and yes being a lesbian is a great form of birth control.” And then tweeted that this was one of the best comments on her blog ever.
Yeah, I rule.
When I contacted her about this piece, I acknowledged that we as bloggers do not need to make every discussion applicable to everyone. We are, after all, writing from our own experiences and our own experiences are unique to us, to our gender, our sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, culture, religious affiliation, and favorite color. But what I appreciated is that she did not become uncomfortable by having a lesbian chime in and make a joke about birth control. In a discussion that could have made me feel excluded – although as someone with 10+ years of Pill experience, I did have something valuable to share – she made me feel included and as though my opinion mattered. She said “I am 150000% supportive of the LGBT community and loved your response so much. It was full of humor and was generally awesome and made me (and several people) LOL. One of the things that I strive for on HTP is that even if the blog post does not directly apply to someone, I always want EVERYONE to feel like they can comment and be included in the discussion.”
The final DO is to just be accepting of your readership. Not tolerant. Yuck, who wants to simply be tolerated? I tolerate mosquito bites and cilantro in a spicy salsa. Accepting is very different. Remember, your readers are what make the blog. If there is a group you do not accept, that is your right, but you likely will not have them as readers. Maybe you’re OK with that…but maybe you’re also missing out on generating some valuable discussions that would attract an even biggerloyal readership. Or at the very least, you’re missing out on my comments, which as we know, make several people LOL.