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I am not a symptom

The first person I ever came out to asked me if I had been raped as a child. Like that was just the most natural question to ask. I quickly learned that when you’re not straight, you simply can’t let people find out if you’ve ever had any difficulties growing up. Because you know what they’ll do with that? They’ll pick through everything until they find something, anything at all, to confirm in their minds that we’re only gay because of what happened to us. And what happened to us? It’s not even that important: If you were shy, if you weren’t very athletic, if you had trouble making friends, if you didn’t get along with a step-parent, if you were abused; practically anything is fair game, and they’ll insist that must be why you’re gay. And if there’s nothing they can dig up? Well, maybe you just don’t remember.

Where does this come from? What drives this fixation on gay sexuality as something rooted in trauma? Do we see anyone doing this to straight people? Do we assume they’re only straight because their parents didn’t love them enough, or they had bad experiences with men, or perhaps somebody raped them? No. Nobody even goes looking for that kind of thing. And, if they do find something like that, they certainly don’t say, “Aha! That must be why you’re straight!” But when you’re gay, they’ll pathologize you first, and then look for reasons to justify it. The conclusion has been settled on ahead of time, and now they just have to hunt for evidence in favor of it. And when that’s your approach, of course you’ll find confirmation of it sooner or later.

What’s wrong with this picture? Why is it that straight people are taken at their word, with no need for halfassed psychoanalysis, but gay people are assumed to be damaged in some way? Just think of everything this implies about us. It delegitimizes our orientation by treating it as some kind of harm that’s been inflicted upon us. It suggests that our feelings are a dysfunction, one that could conceivably be addressed with psychiatric care in the hopes of “restoring” us to heterosexuality. It depicts us as pitiable, and in doing so, it paints our relationships as a manifestation of illness. It gives straight people the benefit of the doubt, as if their orientation simply is, yet we require an explanation for ourselves. All of this, with no good cause – drawn from nothing more than idle conjecture, anecdotes, and outdated pseudoscience.

Why do they think that something had to “make” us gay, as if we weren’t before? Why is it that being straight is just how they are, but being gay couldn’t possibly be? Do they like to think of themselves as more authentic than us? None of this is supported by fact. Most gay people weren’t abused as children, and most people who were abused as children aren’t gay. If you’re trying to find causes, this isn’t it. Our relationships are no less real than those of straight people. Our love is not something that can be dismissed as a consequence of trauma. We’re not some kind of “failed heterosexuals”. We’re not a developmental anomaly. We’re as genuine as anyone else.

I’m not a symptom to be investigated. The only disorder here is ignorance.