‘An Other Tourist’ or ‘The Problem with Straight People’
The other day Kamilla and I were spat at for kissing in the streets of Dubrovnik. Now, I myself have great disdain for overt public displays of affection, but the violent hate on this man’s face told me that it was our gender and not any perceived cutesy romanticism that led him to part with his saliva.
Prior to our arrival, we had both read the Lonely Planet warning that homosexuality was legal, but not generally welcome in Croatia. Our couch host in Zagreb had spoken of being firmly in the closet and we had discussed difficulties and differences…but we mostly found amusing similarities in our stories (lesbian webs, asymmetrical hairdos and such.)
After the incident in Dubrovnik, Kamilla and I did not conclude that Croatia was a homophobe. Sadly, we acknowledged that what we had experienced could be suffered in any country of the world. But this overt rage at my sexuality reminded me of a complaint I’ve been meaning to Note for some time.
As I travel, I inevitably meet more new people than I would at home. Thus I find myself coming out several times a week, sometimes several times a day. This is not out of some desire to share of myself with these new ˝friends.˝No, it is out of necessity during any conversation that moves beyond the basic – that is, if I do not want to lie by changing gender pronouns on lovers, exes or indeed parents.
It is so tedious.
I have a rainbow flag stitched on to my bag as a reminder to myself that I must not allow laziness or frustration to tempt me back into the proverbial closet. This is of course a luxury of travel in Europe, knowing that the most I will probably suffer is some old man’s spit. But my insistence leads to the same conversations time and time again…
Answering those generic questions that people pose as if they are original…or indeed risqué. I am tired of my own voice, producing these old gay-clichés like greeting cards for the people of the world. I never refuse, out of some childhood belief that I can educate in some way. But Pride does not diminish the boredom of repetition.
I try to stay with queer couch hosts when I can to avoid the inevitable Heterosexual Assumption and allow conversation to get to the good stuff. But then, in Berlin of all places, I found myself justifying my need of a queer community to one such host. She didn’t ˝need˝ gay friends because all her other friends ˝accepted˝ her as ˝normal˝ and liked her just the way she was, Bridget Jones style (my bad pop culture reference, not hers.) I yearned for Laura to be standing next to me scoffing ˝gay˝under her breath…sigh… I explained, in as many different ways as I could, but she kept bringing it back to prejudice and discrimination, which apparently she has never suffered from.
But it is not the discrimination and the spitters that really bother me. It is the assuming (which I’ve heard from time to time makes an ass out of u and me…hehe…sorry…) The assumption of heterosexuality. When I meet other lesbians I have a joyous physical reaction, not of arousal but of relief – relief that they will understand that ˝I met a girl in Norway˝ does not mean that I only met one female in 3 weeks of travel, but that I met one significantly interesting female in Norway. (Incidentally there are many significantly interesting women in this fair nation, but one only has so much time…and this is beside the point…)
It is the assumption that bothers me.
So, if you have read this I set you the following challenge –
For one day, assume that everyone you meet is a homo. This is not an original proposition. In fact, I think a certain school teacher was crucified recently for suggesting a similar exercise with his students. But do it, nonetheless. If you meet someone and they mention a partner of the opposite sex, or indeed parents of opposing sexes, ask them the following questions:
1. Wow, you’re straight? (insert reference to another straight person you know. Maybe suggest that they should be friends.)
2. When did you know?
3. Do you think you inherited it? (find a way to use the phrase Nature vs. Nurture in a manner that suggests you came up with it yourself.)
4. Why do all of you dress like that? (insert description that suggests all straight women are fat and lack fashion taste or that all straight men spend their life savings on clothes items)
5. Why do you feel the need to separate yourselves from normal people? Like, do you really need your own parade? Your own bars? (scoff scoff)
6. How do you fuck? (you only need to have known a person for an hour or two for this intrusion to be deemed appropriate.)
I know I have straight friends who are sick of this rant, even gay friends who are sick of this rant. Hell, I am sick of this rant. But I shall rant on.
Don’t even get me started on coming out as a Vegetarian…