Tolerance: More Than a Number of Beers

By Edward O'Brien

You don’t control where you came from or how you were born. You don’t have control whether you were born with privilege any more than you can control whether you were born without it. The one thing you do have absolute control over is your actions.

I don’t want anyone to think that I am blaming straight people for being straight in this article. I want to blame a select group of straight individuals for their actions. Specifically, I want to call out an instance of homophobia that happened at the Q&A sponsored “Olympic Gaymes” party last Friday night and explain to these individuals what their probably thoughtless actions mean in my mind as a gay person (I cannot speak for anyone else).

Not much else was going on last Friday night other than the Olympic Gaymes, so a lot of straight people ended up attending, which is good in principle. That being said, there were some straight people there who should not have been. Yes, the party last Friday was open to everyone, but it was also a safe space for queer Midd kids. And in any safe space, it is absolutely inappropriate to make anyone feel uncomfortable for being gay.

I don’t think I’m the only member of the queer community that feels like these parties are the only place where I can go up to a guy and start dancing or flirting with him without the fear of humiliation (fear of rejection, maybe, but not humiliation). Last Friday, however, a group of guys became aggressive when other men tried to make an advance. When one man started to dance with one of them they would tell him to “Fuck off!” They acted visibly upset and disgusted… at a gay party!

To those guys: I’m sorry if you’re not entirely comfortable with another man hitting on you. I know how sensitive a subject your sexuality can be, believe me. So I can see how an immediate emotional response might be to get defensive. But you have absolutely no right to get angry at gay men for expressing interest in you at a gay party. If you’re really that homophobic, don’t come. If you didn’t know it was a gay party (I am told the rainbow flag fell down from the window), sorry, that’s still no excuse. Not only is it never okay to make a gay man feel bad for expressing interest in you, but it is especially not okay in our safe space. Telling a guy to “fuck off” sends the message that he has somehow wronged you or acted inappropriately by being attracted to you. He hasn’t. That suggestion is ridiculous. If someone likes you, it is a compliment. Just appreciate it and move on.

Advice: being hit on by someone with a sexual orientation incompatible with yours is not an impossible situation to deal with, or even a hard one (perhaps an awkward one, but that’s life). I’ve certainly never seen a gay man angrily rebuff a woman who tries to hit on him at a “straight” party. I remember one man at the Homo Estas Q&A party who, when I came up to him, smiled and shook his head politely. Immediately, I knew that he meant he was straight. That was an appropriate response and I applaud him for it. Take notes: that’s how you do it. We both walked away feeling fine, with neither of our sexual orientations threatened. No harm, no foul. Just an inherent hazard in a room full of people with different sexual orientations.

To add to the inappropriate behavior last Friday, some men felt it necessary to aggressively try to make out with the women there. First of all, you shouldn’t be doing that anywhere; a man trying to do anything “aggressively” with a woman is never okay. If a woman doesn’t want to kiss you, you need to accept that. Once more for emphasis: it is never ever okay to repeatedly try to force yourself on a woman. But, if it can possibly ever be less okay, it would be at a party where a large portion of the women are probably not straight. Men, when you are at a gay party, you might find that fewer and fewer women want to make out with you. In case you haven’t already figured this out, this is probably because they want to kiss other women! By repeatedly making advances, you are engaging in both sexual harassment and intolerance at the same time.

I’m all for straight people coming to gay parties, even straight couples coming to gay parties. In fact, I invite most of my straight friends whenever there’s a gay party. But this probably isn’t the place to be looking for a straight hook up (on principle it’s fine, but statistically your chances just aren’t as good. Sorry and welcome to our world).

The behavior at this party was shocking and disappointing for me. I’d like to think that this problem was nothing more than a bunch of thoughtless, drunk guys being stupid. But I also have to admit to myself that it probably wasn’t. I can convince myself that these men do not think of themselves as homophobes and even that they probably don’t actively dislike gay men. But if I believe this, I also have to accept that they do not think much at all about their effect on minorities.

I would hope is not too much to ask to reject homophobia at gay parties, and I would hope that most straight people who saw this behavior would step in. Therefore, I urge the reader to be conscientious of his or her impact on others. I hope that people will read this and take something away from it, because the straight guys in this situation may not remember what happened in the morning, but the gay guys will.