Don’t Feel Guilty If…You Are Straight

by AJ on October 25, 2010 · 19 comments

[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.

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{ 17 comments }

Smash @ Appreciate The Now October 25, 2010 at 4:21 pm

I love when you post — glad to see you’re an official Hollaback writer! I’m not sure why, but I don’t like the term “partner”. I would never call my boyfriend my partner and I wouldn’t expect anyone else [gay or straight] to.

Katie October 25, 2010 at 4:22 pm

That first paragraph was so good. I read it and thought “that’s a really strange way to start..” and then it clicked like that’s unfortunately something geared at LGBT people ALL the time. Also loved the RHCP reference. Time to go over to your blog now!

Kim October 25, 2010 at 4:43 pm

This was a great post! Very interesting and made me think. Moving forward I’ll definitely put extra thought into what I put out there so that I don’t exclude or offend anyone, it’s the very last thing I would want to do!

Chrissy (The New Me) October 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I use the term “partner” because I feel like it’s a more progressive way to define my relationship. Boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife – they all come loaded with expectations and ideas, so many of which do NOT apply to my relationship. To me, “partner” is more egalitarian, more equal, and better expresses what we are – two people working together to have a happy, fulfilling, and support life full of love and respect. What could be more romantic than that?

I have to admit, I did worry that perhaps my use of the word “partner” was maybe co-opting LGBT language for my own use. I’m glad to know that this is not the case at all, and that gender neutral terms are actually helping out my gay and lesbian friends!
Chrissy (The New Me)´s last post ..friday -

Betsy October 25, 2010 at 5:37 pm

Woot! AJ! Official Hollaback Girl!

This was an excellent post. And I am 100% behind being accepting vs. being “tolerant” — what an awful idea, simply just tolerating someone.

Betsy October 25, 2010 at 5:41 pm

As for the gender-neutral relationship titles, and as Chrissy said, expressing a relationship in more equal terms, I’ve used “SO” and “partner”, but my favorite is “my other half” — it just so perfectly defines how I feel about my other half.

Ellie October 25, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Great post! Your posts here are always so detailed and well-informed. I love long posts. Like Smash above I really don’t like the word “partner” (although I admit it mostly annoys me when people use it to describe a heterosexual relationship – is this dumb?) but I love “S.O.” I recently learned that in Australia they have the term “defacto” which refers to a de facto partnership that is recognized by the government. I think it’s a great term that could reduce a lot of societal imbalance between both gay and straight people and married and unmarried people.

Retta @ RunRettaRun October 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Great post! My brother is gay and though it doesn’t bother him, “homosexual” seems so archaic. Congratulations on becoming a Hollaback Girl! Love the haircut.

Libby October 25, 2010 at 9:12 pm

You are fabulous!

About the word partner: I tend to use that to describe The Big Guy when I first meet folks, and it becomes kind of an interesting litmus test — when I say the word partner most people still hold onto their initial assumption that I’m either gay or straight and that my partner definitely identifies as either a man or a woman, and then people still ask me what she does or how he ended up in Minnesota. I get that it can be kind of awkward to use gender neutral pronouns/possessives, but still! There are alternatives!

Anyway, thank you for this series. I’m kind of loving it.
Libby´s last post ..IUD Insertion &8211 One Month Update

Rachael October 25, 2010 at 9:35 pm

I’m completely guilty of using the term “gay” and even “retarded” in the wrong context, so middle school. It’s a habit I’ve been trying to break for about a year (!) and I can’t seem to nudge my way out of it. I have to imagine this is something like smoking cigarettes and trying to quit …. filthy dirty habit that is somehow ingrained in my being.
The good news, what comes out of my mouth is usually just trucker trash but what comes out on my blog is just trash, that I’ve swept up into a nice neat pile.
I will continue to try to stop using those terms for evil and educate those around me (who probably help influence my usage of them) so that I don’t say something hurtful that I didn’t mean to imply.
Rachael´s last post ..Project Tasteless- Naked Lemon-Raspberry Cupcakes

Emma October 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

SO happy that you are officially a Hollaback girl; as a reader since the inception, I feel comfortable saying that you totally embody what these girls have going on (and I know that they agree, so I’m not stepping on any toes!). Congrats and welcome!

Great post! I especially like that you said to *ask* if you don’t know what is correct; I think sometimes people worry about sounding “not PC” by asking, or they’re just too afraid to bring up the subject, so they dance around it. It’s 2010, people! My thought is, it’s *always* okay to ask, it’s not okay to ignore, exclude, or “tolerate” (I hate that word too!) your wonderful readers.

Joanna Burgraf October 26, 2010 at 1:47 pm

This is a great reminder that not everyone is around the LGBT community regularly and sensitive to inclusion. As someone who has been involved with various charities geared toward the LBGT communities as early as high school I forget that it’s not common for everyone. We all live in different parts of the country and in different communities.

I like your last point, accepting the readership. I would say take it step further and celebrate the readers and all the different types of people that read our blogs.

Alli October 26, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Congrats on becoming a full-blown Hollaback writer, AJ! I’ve really enjoyed the thought-provoking posts you’ve contributed so far, and can’t wait to read what comes next.
Alli´s last post ..What’s for Dinner 10-17-10-23

Emma October 26, 2010 at 3:33 pm

Holler back to THAT!

LoLo October 29, 2010 at 2:12 am

I get the spirit of equality you’re going for here, but doesn’t calling someone the “other half” imply that neither individual was whole to begin with? And if that’s the case, are those who choose not to be in a committed relationship of any kind always lacking?

Anna @ History Running Girl October 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm

Love this post. I’m so glad you are a Hollaback Girl now!

I’m really bothered when people use the term gay or retarded in a negative fashion. I didn’t even do that in 10 years ago in middle school. It it really time to stop now.

danica February 25, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Thanks for the shoutout! I don’t want to offend anyone! :) Thanks for being understanding.

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