Thursday, January 12, 2012

Coming out to those "situational friends"...or not.

You may have a few of them: Situational friends. People whom you primarily see within the context of one activity. I've had many of them from work, classes, groups, volunteer activities, and Occupy. I see these people a lot, in some cases more frequently than I see my close friends. But no matter how much we chat, they still don't know a lot of personal stuff about me. (In fact, I'm a champ at knowing people for a really long time and having them know almost nothing about me as a person. I don't even know how I do it.)

This is on my mind, because at the last Occupy meeting, someone mentioned that "half of the working group is out [as gay]." I cynically thought, "I can't come out because everyone would make fun of me". Even though I've come out to positive responses a bunch of times, and I'm a big proponent of the action in general, it doesn't stop being scary. Although I doubt anyone cares what my orientation is, suddenly it felt like the elephant in the room to me. I am, indeed, the only person in that group who is not either out as gay or in a long-term heterosexual couple.

Situational friends can be the hardest people to come out to. The level of emotional investment is fairly low, and yet you still have to spend a lot of time with them, making things difficult if their reaction is negative. Situational friendships also often take place in groups, and it's much harder (and in my experience, not the best idea) to come out to a crowd. I don't want to come out, at the wrong time, just for its own sake. I won't lie about my sexuality--the one time a situational friend asked me, "Are you straight?" I said, "No, I'm asexual". But that rarely comes up. No one EVER asks me annoying stuff like, "do you have a boyfriend?" or "why are you single?" As aggravating as those questions (and the assumptions behind them) are, I'm left with no real segues.

It makes me bemoan the fact that there's no way to successfully drop hints about being asexual. I think it's that lack of cultural context that makes coming out so hard and so formal-seeming a lot of the time. In my experience, no one says "by the way, I'm gay" to their situational friends. They mention a girlfriend, wife, boyfriend, husband, or someone they find attractive (of course, there's room for misinterpretation here, too...another place where bisexuals easily share our experience). I can't say "that person is cute" without having people think I'm straight or gay. I think that's why I never told my friends about my rare crushes, even though I cultivated them (sometimes) in order to fit in.

If someone knows me for 10 years, they'll see that I never date or have sex, and they might start to realize that I'm "different" somehow. But even in the case of these sticky situational friends, I don't think I'm going to wait quite that long.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

So true. As a homoromantic asexual, I can relate to it so much! It's so damn difficult.

Asexy Librarian said...

It is difficult! As you said, it is not easy to drop hints, but that's what I try to do.

It is such a foreign concept to most, that even directly telling someone often confuses them, so dropping hints is even worse.

Ily said...

Thanks for the comments, y'all! It's true, I never seem to succeed in dropping hints about anything, let alone a topic some people might be confused by.

Ally said...

You are very lucky. Where I'm from, casual conversation includes, "So, are you seeing anyone?" and when you say no, the textbook response is, "You'll find someone." It is incredibly difficult to say, "I don't want to find someone." because that just leads into more questions. Especially as I have a physical disability, people make all kinds of assumptions about me. Mind you, the fact that everyone's always asking about it means I've never had an issue with coming out with people who've known me a long time, mostly just with people who are just meeting me. It used to really bother me, my friend used to introduce me, "this is my friend Ally." and then, if the person was trying to set me up, "She doesn't date. BUT she could get any guy she wants, if javascript:void(0)she wanted to." Which always sounds to me like people making excuses on my behalf, which I absolutely HATE, and usually led to me having to convince people that I really DIDN'T want to date.

Ily said...

@Ally: Grrr, that's quite aggravating! I've had people who knew I was asexual say, "Don't worry, you'll find someone"...you know, like a "Wait until you meet the right person" kind of thing. What can I do but *sigh*. I know, I'm thankful that people don't hassle me about my relationship status much, although I wish it wouldn't happen to anyone.

Ambriel said...

I completely agree. I find it is sometimes not worth the trouble to even attempt coming out to casual acquaintances. People "get it" when you say "straight" or "gay"; when you say "asexual" they're just confused. At least where I'm from.

Ily said...

@Ambriel: In terms of people being confused, I doubt if location has any bearing on it. There are some individuals who get it, but they're not always easy to identify.

Ambriel said...

@lly, that's true. by "where I'm from" I just meant that I live in a fairly rural, conservative community (overall). It's hard enough to tell who would have a supportive reaction, let alone an understanding one.

Ily said...

@Ambriel: For me, that's one of the strangest things about coming out as asexual...someone who's really liberal and all about gay rights can still be totally hostile about asexuality. I haven't found any way to gauge what someone's reaction will be...