It’s Good To Talk

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Let’s spread some love!

How many times have we heard in recent years, “We don’t talk to people who want to deny our existence!” Or “My existence is not up for debate!”

Thank goodness we are not in the middle of a world war. People who are this overly dramatic, emotive and angry simply would not survive in any real life situation where the existence of people really was in question. Thinking of my friends who survived war and genocide, none of them are dramatic or angry people. They tend to be quiet, thankful and eager to get on with living life.

In reality, very few people are a threat to your existence. People may disagree with decisions you make, but in no way do they pose any threat. I have friends who smoke. I don’t think smoking is the best decision a person can make. I am not about to take smokers’ lives – but the cigarettes are.

When I was at university 20 years ago, I was the first out gay person most students had met. I was friends with international students, I was in the Christian Union, the LGB group (we had no T members) and I was on a course with international students and mature students. People wanted to know about gay, what it was, what it meant for me as a person, what it meant for me as a Christian and how they could learn from me.

Much of the rhetoric around trans rights and gay rights today is to not discuss anything because discussion mean some people’s lives were up for debate ie they could be murdered. I believe talking is good. How can people be won over and change their minds unless LGBT people sit down and talk?

When I say LGBT people should sit down and talk with people who want to understand or who are phobic, I do not mean the LGBT people should make statements and demand everyone else accepts and agrees to those statements. That is not a discussion, that is a dictatorship. I also mean have discussions with people who are acting in good faith. If someone is determined to find something bad in everything you say, they are committed to being against you. The aim in discussion is to find common ground and build on things that both sides agree on.

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What I did at university – and in many situations since – when I was surrounded by heterosexuals who had never met a gay person before was I formed genuine friendships with people. People felt comfortable to ask me questions because we went hill walking together, we studied together, we ate meals together, we prayed together and played rounders together.

I listened to people and I answered their questions. I listened to their fears and concerns. Each and every time, there was a positive outcome… with secure gays and heterosexuals. I was actually taken to one side by the university’s “lesbian officer” and told that other gay people said I had been making homophobic comments. I asked what on earth she was talking about! Apparently me answering questions honestly about why I don’t have a girlfriend – my religious beliefs – upset some people. How insecure do people have to be to feel threatened by me not getting laid?! Those are serious personal insecurities! I spoke to some straight and bi friends from the Christian Union and they said, “Next time you go to the LGB group, wear your dungarees and Doc Martens.” This was after they had fallen about laughing at someone calling me homophobic.

Thankfully, I met some sane gay people at university who I hung out with and had a lot of laughs with. The same with the Christian Union and other people on my course. My course mates were mainly mature students, we were a very tight knit group and there was no reference between us to each other’s racial backgrounds, ages, nothing like that. In the Christian Union, other gay and bi members became good friends with me, invited me to parties and hung out with me. From straight Christians, I had nothing but really positive and loving reactions. I got a letter thanking me for talking openly and anytime I wanted or needed anything, that person would be there for me. Two days after someone else had caused a confrontation, someone who had been quite upset by the confrontation quietly approached me and said to me, “You know I’m not really homophobic”. I said, “Yeah, I know.” They said again, “I’m really not homophobic.” I said, “Yes, I know.” And then I asked how their final essay was going. People really were very kind.

The question I was asked the most was, “How do you know you are bi if you’ve never done anything with a woman?” I never got offended at what is a silly question in my mind, but was a serious question in other people’s mind. So I said, “John is your boyfriend, but Andrew is your friend. That’s how I know.” I met people where they were at. I used language they understood. I never demanded people get with my programme, I never spoke down to anyone, I was never sniffy with anyone.

I put myself out. I wanted these really nice people to like me and be my friend. I wanted to be seen as normal. I wanted to end homophobia. These days, we don’t hear much about self-sacrifice or giving up one’s own rights temporarily for the greater good. Even in religious circles, we don’t hear much about giving up the need to be right in order to show love and bring love to others.

I met people where they were at emotionally, culturally, religiously and in terms of how they themselves coped with life. The thing about sharing instead of demanding and dictating is everyone else opened up to me about their problems in life; alcoholism, porn addiction, social anxiety, promiscuity, the death of a parent. Everyone has something they are battling with. No one’s life is perfect. When we sit down and talk with people as equals, we learn a lot more about them as individuals, and we learn more about life.

When I talked with people as equals, they learned that they could trust me. I became the go-to person to talk to in a crisis. People showed such trust in me because of how I behaved towards them. Whereas the media and many LGBT media outlets portray bisexual people as people with loose morals, a lack of focus and meaning in life, abusers of alcohol and illegal substances and sexually promiscuous, people learned from me that bisexual people are just normal people.

If I was 18 years old and at university now, imagine how different things could be. I could be expelled from university for telling people about my personal decision to not have same sex relationships because of my personal religious beliefs. I would be confronted by aggressive LGBT activists who would demand I see things the way they see them. I would be told to give up my religion if I really am gay. I would be called all sorts of names to my face and on social media. These sorts of things have happened to me in recent years, which is why I avoid LGBT groups now. Many LGBT people are so insecure. This is something that needs to be addressed by LGBT people or the individuals themselves will continue to suffer from all the problems in life that go hand in hand with insecurities and a lack of self-esteem, such as abusive relationships and a poor work life.

Imagine my university friends being at university now, and instead of meeting a gentle spoken person with a big sense of humour, they meet the aggressive LGBT activists such as the ones on twitter who threaten to slit the throat of anyone who misgenders them or uses the wrong pronouns. Imagine my friends who were able to ask me any question they wanted asking questions to someone who shouts them down saying, “I don’t debate anyone who threatens my existence!”

I put myself out to create understanding and to lessen homophobia. I put myself out because I wanted people to see me as a normal person. And they did.

I met people for breakfast. I went on night time walks. I sat with people in the university’s bar. I answered the tricky questions. I used my gentleness and my sense of humour, and I listened to the other person speak about their own lives.

I think the best reaction I had was when a male friend asked me why gay women like women’s breasts. He asked if it was about returning to the mother’s breast from infanthood. I said, “No! It’s cos breasts are yummy!” He spat half his drink out, swallowed the other half the wrong way, fell off his bar stool, was coughing violently for several minutes, and all I said was, “You did ask!”

It’s good to talk.

About catherinehume

Catherine Hume: Writer, social care worker and a liver of a life less ordinary.
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