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New People and Invisibility

When was the last time I posted here? Well…I’m back from my unintentional hiatus and I have things to say (hopefully interesting things).

So, I’ve basically been a hermit lately, but the other day I attempted to socialize and had an experience that reminded me why I find meeting new people so uncomfortable. There was this social gathering thing at my mother’s apartment building that I went to (free food was involved) and I got to talking to some of the other tenants. None of these were people I expected to see again frequently or soon, since I’m going back to school in a couple weeks, so the whole thing was pretty low pressure.

The problem event was brief, so much so that by the time I realized I was uncomfortable the speaker was already several sentences ahead and it was too late to say anything. The people in the group I was with were discussing some movie* specifically the actors involved*. Several women in the group mentioned the attractiveness of one of the male characters; then one of them motioned to me and one other member of the group who was apparently male and stated that we might have found the female lead more interesting.

*Cowboys and Aliens, not important which is why I’ve clarified down here. Also, I’m crap with names so I don’t remember who was discussed.

This is a pretty small thing, but it was kind of alienating at the same time. This is the sort of action that is insignificant to most people, but stands out wildly to me. I feel like there’s very little I can do in these sorts of situations. I think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s very hard to correct someone without interrupting or derailing the thread of the conversation (and it never got back around to a subject where I could correct her assumption easily). This is not helped by the fact that I am pretty socially awkward, and that these situations always throw me for a loop even though they’re not really surprising. These were nice, mostly liberally minded people, they were not cracking gay jokes or being homo- or transphobic, but they still managed to make me feel like I was excluded from the conversation, albeit in a small way.

Theoretically I’m “out”, at least about my sexuality. But this really drives home how much of an active process that is. What was a casual conversation suddenly, and for a brief moment, became very high stakes for me. Even if I had been prepared to say something, I had an infinitesimal amount of time to decide how these people, whom I had just met, would react to my being queer and how to present that information. And there’s really no cure for this as far as I can see, all of the steps involved in heterosexual assumption are involuntary and people don’t like to analyze these sorts of processes. I don’t even really feel justified making a big deal about it, all of the arguments people make about assumptions being “normal” start bouncing around my head.

But the truth is it is a big deal, even tiny moments like this one. One instant of assumption moved me from cheerfully (if awkwardly) interacting with a group of people to being uncomfortable with the whole group. Do people get used to this? Because I can’t, it feels too much like being back in the closet.

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  1. August 14, 2011 at 15:09

    “This is a pretty small thing, but it was kind of alienating at the same time. This is the sort of action that is insignificant to most people, but stands out wildly to me. I feel like there’s very little I can do in these sorts of situations. I think I’ve mentioned it before, it’s very hard to correct someone without interrupting or derailing the thread of the conversation (and it never got back around to a subject where I could correct her assumption easily).”

    this kind of thing happens to me all the time. if it’s somebody applying the wrong pronouns to me, i usually interject with a quick, “no feminine pronouns, please.” sometimes, though, you just have to let it slide.

    sometimes, when i feel alienated by some innocent comment and i don’t say anything, i feel as though i’ve betrayed myself. which is kinda weird because, well, derailing conversations isn’t good, either.

    anyway, i’ve been practicing my swift, self-explanatory interjections. i find that practicing builds my confidence and my proficiency in standing up for myself.

    keep working at it, but don’t let it get you down when there’s no time to correct someone during a conversation. if you never meet that person again, it doesn’t matter. if you DO meet that person again, well, you could always take them aside and politely tell them that their earlier comment bothered you.

    i love your blog, by the way! i’m gonna read it all.

    • August 15, 2011 at 06:39

      Practicing sounds like it could be helpful. If I at least had some sort of script or wrap I could go off of it would be less stressful. Thanks for this idea, and the complement!

  2. andryfemme
    August 14, 2011 at 18:43

    I wouldn’t say it’s something we get used to, but having to deal with it repeatedly does make it easier to navigate to some degree, although I wouldn’t ever say it becomes easy. I still get dumbfounded by people’s assumptions sometimes. Just remember that you are not the only one to experience this sort of thing, and that it doesn’t really mean anything about your “outness.”

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