Comfort in Umbrellas

Happy Pride Month! If you happen to be familiar with the Try Guys, you are probably aware that their sole non-white, non-straight member, Eugene Lee Yang, recently came out as gay in a stunningly beautiful, dance centric video that he choreographed, directed, and helped to produce. The video is linked below if you’d like to check it out:

 

My intial response to the video was, “Yeah Eugene, we already know you’re gay. Beautiful video, but a bit unnecessary.” It wasn’t until watching the follow up video where Eugene talks about why he came out that I realized he had said he was queer and part of the LGBTQ+ community before, but never that he was specifically gay. I admire his candor in admitting why, saying that there is so much stigma around the word “gay”, whereas “queer” or “LBGT+” don’t mean anything to a lot of people.

I can certainly relate. Being asexual and homoromantic, I often say I’m gay in regards to romance and ace in regards to sexuality. A couple months ago, two classmates and I were talking about the YouTube channel Jubilee and their video featuring LGBT people and Christians talking about their views on relationships. I had come out to classmate number 1 as asexual and homoromantic minutes before classmate number two joined us to chat – side note,  I was positively terrified to come out to classmate number 1, but she actually thanked me for trusting her and as it would turn out, she has a friend who is biromantic and ace. When classmate number 1 mentioned Jubilee and their LGBT and Christians video, I commented that I would be interested to see it, as I belong to both communities. Simply saying I was LGBT+ was infinitely more comfortable than coming out with specific terms. Classmate number 2 was openly a lesbian and theoretically I shouldn’t have been uncomfortable saying I was gay in front of her – yet I was, never mind bringing up asexuality. With my mother, I’ve noticed that I’m more comfortable referring to myself as “not straight” – she’s far from a spring chicken and using the alphabet soup acronym LGBTQIA/LGBT+ would likely set her head reeling, and she’s of the era when “queer” was used as a slur – rather than saying homoromantic/gay or even asexual.  Not only are umbrella terms like “LGBT+” and “queer” often more comfortable for those using them as self descriptors, but for those outside the community who hear them. It strikes me as odd that essentially saying, “I’m not the norm when it comes to gender/ and/or sexuality/romanticism” is more comfortable to hear for some than having a term that specifically describes an unusual aspect of identity. In the follow up video, Eugene mentions some people he knows could be homophobic, and that claiming the label “gay” could result in him being disowned. He points out that “gay” is a toxic word to some people, and I definitely agree.

I recently purchased a cross inlaid with rainbow stones; I hoped it would go unnoticed by my mother and I would be able to avoid a potentially emotional and in depth discuss, but that was not the case. The talk was, however, briefer and less emotional than I anticipated. It went something along the lines of: pretty necklace, is it new?

Me: Yep.

Mother: (moves in for a closer look)

Me: (stating the obvious) It’s a rainbow cross.

Mom: (awkard silence, proceeds with light, cheerful tone) It’s a gay cross.

The talk then got a tad emotional with me saying that I was proud my God and how he made me, and I wanted the world to know that you can be Christian and gay. She looked at me affectionately and a bit sadly, muttered, “I’m so confused”, hugged me, forced a smile and said, “Okay.” Back when I first came out to her as homoromantic, the number one challenge was explaining to her the concept of sexuality and romanticism being separate things, explaining how some people experience romantic love without the sexual component. In her mind, I couldn’t claim the labels of “asexual” and “gay” at the same time, and, frustratingly, she still seems to think that “gay” eclipses my asexual identity.

A couple months back, an old friend of mine aggressively tried to set me up with a guy. I was incredibly uneasy about coming out to her in any way shape or form, not knowing how open she was to the LGBTQIA community. I simply said I was too busy for romance, but she kept at it for a week and I would always steer her away from the subject, by patience wearing thinner by the second. One evening, she messaged me, “Can I ask you something?” For some reason, in the back of my head I thought she was going to ask me if I was still a virgin, and if that was the case, I promised myself I would come out as asexual. Her question went a completely different direction, however, and it was the perfect opportunity to come out as gay. “Is the reason you don’t want to meet Stephan because you actually like girls? Ha ha ha.” I answered her joking query with a simple, “Honestly, yes.” She was confused, as in her view I was straight in high school and now I was suddenly gay, but she was kind and accepting. Just claiming the fact that I was romantically interested I females was infinitely more comfortable than labeling myself in anyway, and while I am a bit disappointed in myself for not having the guts to bring up the topic of asexuality, I keep reminding myself that baby steps are okay.

I told my mom with a wry smile that Victoria ( know as my adorably quirky friend who i met in elementary school) was trying to set me up with a guy, just as she attempted to do for senior ball – sidenote, she failed and I took a plushie of an anime character as my date. Photo below: IMG_0753

A couple weeks later while visiting my parents for the weekend, my mom asked if Victoria was still at it. I had come out to her and she had dropped the subject, but I did my best to dance around that little detail, as my mother is incredibly sensitive about me revealing my attraction to women. She could tell I was omitting information, and eventually I told her what Victoria had messaged me, and how I basically couldn’t not own up without, in my mind, being a complete and total self-hating coward. This led to a lengthy conversation about how my mother sees me as being, “More ace than gay”, and me doing my absolute best to explain to her how I am equally both, what the terms mean to me (“gay” being an abbreviation of homoromantic), and how one does not negate the other. Judging by her initial, “I’m so confused”, when discussing my gay Christian pride, the message didn’t sink in. It seems that, in some people’s minds, claiming the “gay” identity wipes out all other aspects of identity. It recently occurred to me that when people think of a gay identifying person, they think of a person who is sexually promiscuous with the same sex, and that claiming the term to describe attraction that isn’t sexual is so difficult for some to grasp because the term has become so sexualized. I recently watched a TED talk titled, “Homosexuality: It’s about Survival, not Sex” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Khn_z9FPmU) and the presenters mentions toward the end that a popular view is that, “Straight people fall in love while gay people have sex”.

Apart from simply the term “gay”, once a specific term is claimed such as asexual, bi, pan, etc. it is easy for it to become an all encompassing identity, for others (particularly those hostile toward anyone not hetero and/or cis gender) to think of you first as your sexuality/ gender, and secondly as anything else. My theory is that umbrella terms are more comfortable for some because they make it more difficult to be specifically targeted. To a certain extend, “asexuality” is an umbrella term, as it covers sexuality that is not strictly zed/allosexual. If you’re seeking more info on the ace spectrum, here is a great article: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/asexual-spectrum_n_3428710?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAACnqc7QIaDSRDkKfu8dwFdMlaAyWVfuc32t5oZf8zRcvheEvUxtRxQauPGV0Sx6WWox46JkPMlj0Owb0pf-44nK3hmNiap5e2rbUqrkDwsmhntLvr4-oXP_Ck2G-CVyR5HG6xT3BRS-1FYUh1OfI6hSy3VG4RN9SPRHB_yJ4Xh-8.

I have never verbally identified myself as aegeosexual, though that would be the most accurate term to describe my sexuality; this is solely because I feel asexual is an accurate enough description, and the term just “clicks” with me better. So, besides not wanting to specifically name and identity that could be controversial, I think umbrella terms are more comfortable for some because they simply resonate more with the self-identifier.

I would love  to hear your thoughts and the label(s) you feel most comfortable using to describe yourself. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Happy Pride, until next time,

Keep on Aceing It!

4 thoughts on “Comfort in Umbrellas

  1. I’m sorry it’s been so hard/confusing for your mom or that you felt compelled to come out to that pushy friend etc. I’d love to see your gay cross necklace.

    I definitely find occasionally I’m more comfortable just simply revealing vaguely that I’m “not straight” than actually going into the details. I usually dive into it, myself though, because I’m always trying to be less invisible.

    https://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com/2019/04/01/trying-to-be-less-invisible-a-symbols-of-identity-carnival-of-aces-submission/

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    1. Thanks, progress with my family is slow going and frustrating, but steady 😊 great for you going for visibility, as of late I’ve realized I have a lot of internalized aphobia that is making being an advocate difficult, working hard to break down that barrier.

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  2. My experience with labels has been rather the opposite, where “demisexual”/”asexual” is the most comfortable in coming out because it’s unknown, whereas the umbrella “queer” is harder for me to cop to, being more recent and rather more indicative that I really don’t fit in with some of my peers right now.

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