The Inside Out Film Festival is in full swing in Toronto from May 22-June 1, which means lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and queer cinema is being showcased downtown. Since its emergence on the entertainment scene two decades ago as well as the overall social shifts Inside Out became the largest event of its kind in Canada and one of the top five in the world.
“Taking place over 11 days, the Festival draws crowds of close to 35,000 to screenings, artist talks, panel discussions, installations and parties that highlight more than 200 films and videos from Canada and around the world.” Inside Out.
The massive attendance is not composed solely of LGBTQ people either. There are countless allies from the straight community who show up in support of this important event. The general archetypes/stereotypes of LGBTQ people is non-existent in a festival like this and is a reason why it’s catching on in mainstream entertainment. But there are still things that straight people do or say that don’t jive too well with LGBTQ people.
Being a queer man, even in Toronto (the most culturally diverse city in the world), also means I have to experience a lot of crap. I don’t really wish to address homophobia or bullying here. It’s too heavy and needs more space. Instead I have decided to compile a list of words and phrases that people, including friends and family, say to me on a regular basis that I wish they did not. And if you’re straight and going to check out the amazing lineup this year at Inside Out, here’s a list of things to not say to your friends or people you may interact with:
1. Gay “lifestyle”
I don’t really understand this one. Everyone I know that is straight, gay, bisexual, trans* or whatever all have lives. And we all live our lives in different manners. Reducing me to a sex act or stereotyped images from the media is so dangerous. We are humans with beautiful diversity, including the way we express ourselves sexually, romantically and emotionally. Sexual preference aside, some may be surprised to learn I am actually quite boring.
2. “How do you know that you’re gay? Just sleep with women”
First off, I have. I have slept with women. I have even enjoyed that. But reducing my identity down to the gender I sleep with makes me cringe. What if I said “well, how do you know you’re really straight if you’ve never had sex with a dude?”
3. “But you seem so straight acting!”
Being straight or gay should never be an act! This one is probably a bigger offense in the actual LGBT community. A lot of gay cis men are attracted or openly seek out “straight acting” men. This one is just a form of assimilation, which makes me want to hurl bricks at tiny animals (just an expression…I love animals). I do not strive to be straight or to be perceived as being straight. So stop. It is not a compliment.
4. Same sex marriage
I can go on and on about this one. Sex and gender are two completely separate concepts. Sex being the biological designation given at birth “Oh, it’s a [boy/girl] because it has a [penis/vagina].” Gender being how you wish to be perceived. To say “same sex” marriage would seem to disqualify a loving relationship between a trans* male and a cis male. Technically they’re not the same sex. I don’t advocate calling it “same gender” marriage either. I think just marriage without any kind of qualifier is sufficient.
5. “I have a gay best friend, I should hook you two up!”
Look, I know you’re being kind and trying to be helpful. But just because you have a friend who is also gay, bi, trans* or queer does not mean that we are meant for one another. Being gay is not like being a part of some secret society. I know queer people I loathe just as much as some straight people. Why? People are people. And some people, regardless of where they are on the Kinsey scale, are just dicks, and not the good kind.
6. “We should go shopping sometime!”
Nope. I loathe shopping. Stop watching Sex and the City. Those type of gay guys rarely exist.
7. “That’s so gay!”
This is a phrase to mean something or someone or someplace is stupid. But instead of saying that, people tend to call it “gay.” The words “gay” and “stupid” are not interchangeable. And I have never in my life said, “That’s so heterosexual!” Again, just stop. You all have a wonderful language at your disposal. Use it!
This is probably the most dangerous thing to say to anyone. It’s one of the most hateful words that bullies still use to this day. When I was a teenager a lot of boys called me a fag or a faggot. Actually, my grade 10 history teacher got in on that one too. This one word made me contemplate suicide on a few occasions. Just one word with so much weight attached to it. These days it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I am weirdly turned on by it in some contexts.
Honourable mention: “No homo.” Maybe you just need to stop listening to third-rate hip hop altogether.