From the perspective of the “average” outsider looking in, the LGBTQIAP2+ community may seem a little….well, gay! In this case, I’m utilizing just one of the historical definitions of the word gay, meaning joyous, brightly-colored, cheerful, bright and showy.
So, why might many see the LGBTQ+ community as so out there, so separated from the norm, so boisterous, so bright and colorful? At a foundational level, I believe it’s because we’ve all been through the process of learning to love a part of ourselves that was at one time seen as “not right,” impure, or sinful. We took time for introspection, did the research, and came to terms with our own identities, no matter the level of acceptance or intolerance we faced. It’s this courage, information, and the personal relationship we’ve fostered with our own identities that drives us to be our authentic selves every day of every year.
Before we dive into our pressing question, in the spirit of pride month, let’s educate ourselves on what the world means when they say gay. The meaning of the term fluctuates quite a bit in human society’s social collective. The etymology of the word reveals definitions dating back to the 13th century where people coined the term as an adjective used to describe someone as joyous, brightly colored, fine or showily dressed, noble, excellent, or kindhearted. Then in the 16th century the term evolves to include sexuality as part of the definition, referring to “gay” people as hedonistic or frivolous. Continuing with the theme of sexuality, in the 18th century a brothel might also have been called a “gay” house. Though it wasn’t until the 19th and early 20th century when the term gay grew to include not only themes of sexuality, but also the description of same-sex relationships.
There is also a history (in the 1900s) behind the use of the word homosexual to refer to same-sex relationships; however, that word is a bit trickier to use today as it was closely tied to the (often religiously fueled) movement to “cure the sin that is homosexuality” in the deviants of society or that homosexuality was inherently a mental illness or psychological disorder. Finally, in the Mid-20th century, the meaning of gay began to include same-sex attraction, in particularly male same-sex attraction, as the term is often used today: to describe the male population that feels emotional, sexual, and romantic attraction towards other men. Though, the term was mainly used in colloquial English as a negative or derogatory until the reclamation of the word by the LGBTQ+ community in the latter half of the 20th century. Today, the term is still primarily used to reference male same-sex relationships, but the LGBTQ+ community itself has expanded the word to include female same-sex relationships. The word gay can even be used to refer to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole.
Now that we understand the history of the terms we’re using, we can attack our primary question: why are the gays so goddamn loud? As most in the DEI field would agree, groups that are marginalized or under-served are the ones in most need of our attention, support, and allyship. Perhaps the LGBTQ+ community is only so loud, out, and proud because equality hasn’t been reached yet and there is immediate value in raising marginalized voices. There are still countries where it is illegal and/or heavily punishable to be openly LGBTQ+; even in the United States there is still much work to be done in terms of rights and protections for transgender individuals, non-binary folk, and others. And these are just the obvious reasons! Starting to make sense why this may entail being a bit louder than the average Joe?
Let’s exercise our empathic brain power a bit and enter into the shoes of an actual queer person. The following are a collection of my thoughts, based on my lived and professional experience as a gay/queer man. I did a little brainstorm in addition to some online research, and the following are some reasons I think the gays are just so goddamn loud…
Before coming out as gay, most of my life revolved around trying to fit into boxes I knew I just didn’t fit into. I pushed myself to be a certain way because the environment I was in (a rather religious and conservative one) directed me to do so. With this experience, came the suppression of an important part of my identity and a general growth of internally directed self-hate. I was petrified of people finding out who I was and hating me for it, so I hid myself; and just like that, this happy-go-lucky, extremely talkative, and oftentimes louder kid became a bit quieter and a lot more shameful. I was less likely to engage in conversation, fearful that someone might uncover my secret. I lost the joviality and happiness that made me who I was, and not only was I suppressing my romantic feelings for other men, but I was also suppressing those traits that helped me socialize, interact with others, and participate in society – hiding myself rather than feeling confident and promoting myself. Now, this story ties back to our main question very simply…once I gained courage, more knowledge, and better (more warmhearted) self-awareness I was able to come out as gay; and once that process was over and everyone in my life knew, for the first time I could be my authentic self without fear of retribution, hell-fire, or being ostracized by everyone I loved. I bet if you were in this position and had lived in fear for so many years, that you’d certainly be looking for any opportunity to shout whatever you were hiding (especially if it was such an important part of who you are – your sexuality or gender identity) to the rooftops! Here, I believe that the diminishing of fear, growth of courage, and oftentimes newfound happiness in our own skin make up some of the contributing factors to why the gays may be louder and prouder than good ole hetero-Joe.
So, at this point in my life’s journey, I’ve come out, grown to love myself more, and garnered support from just about every person that’s important to me. It’s the norm for people to know I’m gay and I’m proud of it. For this reason, going back in the closet or being incorrectly identified as straight is very unappealing to me (as it is for many other LGBTQ+ folks). Because I’ve done so much work on myself, my mental health, and my personal identity, I don’t want people to think I’m straight. So, for this reason, I no longer limit myself when it comes to things that might easily label me as gay. I don’t lower the tone of my voice when talking to others, I don’t stop myself from wearing things like earrings and nail polish, and I don’t limit the colors in my wardrobe to blacks and dark blues. I no longer do things to hide who I am. And some with differing values may still see these things as negative, “too gay,” or “too loud,” but from my perspective, I’m just enjoying the happiness and pride in myself that I found at some point during my very long journey of self-acceptance. I may be a bit “louder,” brighter, or more noticeable in some of these areas than I need to be, but I’d much rather do that than push myself back into a closet filled with fear and self-loathing.
The final reason I think the gays are just so dang out there is a bit more concrete and I have less personal experience with this due to my gay identity. The idea here is that the LGBTQ+ community (with much reason) is in constant fear of erasure – erasure of culture, of personal identity, and even of bodily autonomy. An easy example is the idea known as bi or bisexual-erasure: “Bisexual erasure or bisexual invisibility is a pervasive problem in which the existence or legitimacy of bisexuality (either in general or in regard to an individual) is questioned or denied outright.” This may seem odd, given bisexuality’s inclusion in the LGBTQ+ acronym, but even some members of the community itself can be disrespectful to the legitimacy of the bi identity. When an individual comes out as bisexual, an unfortunate but all too common response is, “Oh, you’re probably just gay/lesbian and haven’t realized it yet” or the “Sure you’re not just too scared to come out as fully gay? You’re almost there!” This implies that one’s experience being bisexual is inherently less valuable than someone who is only attracted to others of the same gender, which is of course not true. The gender-diverse community also faces erasure in the forms of push back and denial of a gender spectrum rather than a binary (important for those who identify as non-binary or gender non-confirming). We also see erasure around the idea of bodily autonomy for transgender people – the readiness of others to outlaw and prevent gender transition or deny the reality of those who have gone through one.
Given this history of inauthenticity, fear, and erasure I think it’s pretty clear why the LGBTQ+ community is just a bit louder, brighter, and gayer than others. We’re fighting to be heard, to be tolerated, and eventually celebrated throughout the world. Until complete equality is reached, and our history is told correctly, proudly, and free from of stereotypes, I’m going to continue being that energetic, extroverted, and talkative kid that LOUDLY speaks up for what he believes in and is confident and proud in his LGBTQ+ skin.
For more information about the author of this blog, and Diversity Crew Partner, Denis Alexander, you can check out his company profile. If you’d like to book Denis to speak at your next townhall or book him for an ERG event, please contact us at LetsGo@DiversityCrew.com.