“Is he BI?” “Do you think she’s into girls?” “He has such a lisp—he must be gay.” We have reached a fascinating point in queer history in which peoples’ sexual orientations are often no longer hush-hush but rather the subject of intense speculation. When we meet someone new, we tend to internalize our own perception of their perceived sexual preference, especially if something about him/her does not quite fit into traditional gender roles. Is this sort of rushing to judgment even logical? Queer theory argues strongly in favor of sexual fluidity—the idea that one’s sexual orientation is not fixed as either gay or straight and that one’s attraction to others can change over time. Just because I hear a rumor that a guy I know had a boyfriend in high school does not mean that he is still interested in men or that he identifies as gay. What about people who consider themselves attracted to either gender, attracted to people regardless of gender, or people who do not even identify as male or female themselves? Plus, don’t we all know a straight guy who is into fashion and is still actually straight? Or a huge lesbian who wears dresses and flowers in her hair? Pigeonholing others as “gay” or “straight” based on rumors or perceived gender roles is nothing short of stereotyping—making an assumption based on past experiences and trends without actually accounting for the fact that we do not actually know anything about who our new acquaintance likes to have sex with. And most importantly, what if he doesn’t want you to know that he’s gay? Some queer people are not as “out” as others, and that’s okay. Perhaps she has not fully come to terms with whether she is gay, straight, bi, or any of the above. Maybe his parents are conservative pastors who would financially cut him off if they found out about his boyfriend. Maybe she’s just a straight girl who likes wearing plaid. As much as you may be dying to know whether the hot guy who just moved in next door to you is into girls, it isn’t fair to make his sexual orientation a source of intense gossip and speculation with your friends. If someone wants to “out” herself to you (whether by telling you directly or by making her preference obvious in some other way), she will. Until then, the best way to be an ally and a friend is to refrain from repeatedly questioning one’s sexual orientation and to respect others’ coming out processes. Some people are straight, some people aren’t—everyone deserves the right to declare their identities for themselves when they choose.
A Problem With Gossip