Lessons in Homophobia: A letter to all my straight friends

Posted on July 4, 2012

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I wrote the letter below exactly 3 years ago at a time when I felt I was overwhelmed by the homophobia that was surrounding me. I sent it to anybody who I felt was important to me. The feedback I got for it was very positive.

In many ways, this letter to my close friends is the beginning of the idea for this blog. Many of the things that I mention below have been taken up and transformed into a post on here.

I know it is quite simplistic overall, but it was necessary at the time.

Dear friends,

I have to begin by thanking you for your support over the years in allowing be to become who I am today. There was a time when I would have rather be stuffed and roasted, forgive the choice of words, than to tell a single friend that I am gay. Thank goodness, those days are gone, and I have come to realize that if you have a problem with my sexuality (and everything that comes along with that), then it is your problem, not mine, and you’re not worth keeping as a friend anyways.So, with time, I have managed to weed out the ugliness from my life and found myself within a group of friends who was tolerant (and I choose that word wisely) and who did not judge my actions.

If you are getting this email, it means that you have played a significant role in my self acceptance, and I am forever grateful for this.

Coming out is a lifelong process. It never ends. The first step is by far the hardest, and with the years, it gets easier and easier. Until you reach the point I am at today, and then it gets much much harder.

Let me explain. I am at a stage where absolutely every one I care about (with the notable exception of 3 individuals, who, for reasons of age mostly, cannot handle this news at this point in their life) knows I am gay. It is no longer an issue for me, and it is no longer an issue for them, or so it seems.

Problem is, of all of my straight friends, I have come to realize that not a single one of them is comfortable with homosexuality. They are comfortable with me, but not homosexuality, and they are comfortable with me as long as I don’t “overdo it”.

I have become the token gay boy to many people. I am brought out whenever someone needs to prove that they are indeed gay friendly. “Me? Homophobic? Are you kidding me? Raja is one of my best friends.”

In all of my years of friendships with most of you, none of you have made a conscious effort to get to know my world. I spend my time bored to death at the city’s most macho, overstuffed, boring places on earth, because that is where you want to go. Every single one of you knows how much I detest these places, yet I make the effort to join you, because I want to see you and spend time with you.

Not a single time have any of you joined me when I go to gay friendly bars or clubs. I have repeatedly asked you to join me, and the answer has always been no, justifying yourself with: “What am I going to do there? It is full of gay boys!” Never mind the fact that I am in places that are 100% straight, and often quite oppressive towards gay people.

To be completely fair, there is one guy, Z, who, once, about 10 years ago, actually said “Raja always comes with us to straight places. We should make more of an effort and go hang out in places he likes.” I still remember that day perfectly, because, forgive the drama, it really touched me.

It hasn’t happened since.

But this is not about going out. This is about your views of homosexuality. For the sake of simplicity, and because I know most of you won’t really bother reading this all the way through, below are some of the comments I have heard from you recently that have offended me and that have made me rethink our friendship:

1.    “Thank God! You’re not like him!” or “I’m so happy you’re not a total queen!” This is offensive on so many levels. If you are accepting of homosexuality, then it doesn’t matter how manly or effeminate I am. If I put on a dress tomorrow and decide that is how I feel the most myself, I should not have to worry about your comments. If you are accepting of homosexuality, you are accepting of all, that in your eyes, is weird or different.

2.    “That place used to be great, but now it is full of gay people!” or “That place is going down the drain now that all the gays go there”. Not to play on stereotypes, but, in all the places in the world, if gay people are there, it means it is a cool place. If you like a place, if you like the music, if you like the atmosphere, and if the people that go there are cool and nice, then it shouldn’t matter that they are gay.

3.    “Oh, Michael has the same shirt as you. Do all gay people like this shirt?” All gay people are not the same. We each have our own wonderful, fabulous personalities, and we can think for ourselves. If two gay people have the same shirt, it does not mean that all gay people have the same shirt, or that all gay people even like the same shirt. This seems pretty obvious, but I’ve heard that comment 2 or 3 times.

4.    “There is no such thing as lesbians!” or “She just hasn’t met the right guy yet!” Are you kidding me? This is 2009. I would think people would have gotten beyond this. In the same way that I am a gay man, there are lesbian women out there. It is that simple. They are real lesbians, not “temporary lesbians”, and if you would be more accepting, you would know that.

5.    “Bisexual men are just men in denial of their gayness!” While I agree that the situation in Lebanon is such that many gay men have to pretend to lead straight lives, this does not mean that bisexuality does not exist. There are men and women who are sexually attracted to both men and women. Don’t be so quick to judge someone who says he or she is bi.

6.    “Are you the man or the woman in this relationship?” This is ridiculously sexist, only because the role of the woman is usually assigned to the person who is on the receiving end sexually. It is often seen as the passive position, and, while I am not going to go into a big rant about sexism, I hope you see the problem with such a statement. People’s sexual roles have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they are effeminate or manly. Some of the most masculine men I know are power bottoms, and some of the most effeminate men I know are exclusive tops. Overall though, most gay men enjoy the luxury of playing any role they want in bed.

I could go on and on, but you get the gist of it.

This note may come from nowhere for you, but it has been a long time coming. I have repeatedly pointed out many of the things already stated, though never in a serious manner. It does come to a point where, it is too much to handle. I have been feeling an immense amount of homophobia for the past few months, and this, from some of my closest friends.

I know that this is not conscious on any of your parts, but I think it needs to become conscious. You all need to take a step back and rethink what you think of homosexuality, homophobia, me, and all that comes along with all that.

I hope you will take this letter seriously and understand that it is the result of months of frustration, which, as an activist (and a friend) I could no longer let pass.

Please don’t think that I am blaming you for all of this. I am very much aware that we are all living within a society that is homophobic, and therefore, we are the products of what surrounds us.

But we must be conscious of this, and take steps to work against it all.

I am more than happy to discuss all of these things with any of you, and I do hope that, in the near future, your attitude towards homosexuality will change for the better, and we can all stop thinking of each other in terms of sexual orientation, and start thinking of each other as fellow humans (I had to end it dramatically!) 🙂

Lots of love!

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