"Who cares?" - a case study
Whenever I tell people that I’m queer, after a few seconds of computing the information, I’m often met with the following response:
“Okay. Who cares?”
I have received this reaction from a fairly wide demographic, ranging from family members, dudes in night clubs, politicians, the elderly, pseudo allies who go to pride parades and drink matcha, classmates & middle-aged strangers to distant acquaintances. Oftentimes, the phrase is succeeded by questions such as “Why do you feel the need to tell me that?” and remarks along the lines of “It doesn’t matter anymore, everybody can do whatever nowadays” and, my personal favourite, “I don’t talk about being straight all the time, so you really don’t have to tell me about your queerness 24/7”. Then, as I begin to answer the question I’ve just been asked - like it’s usually a polite thing to do - I’m cut off quickly with the words “It’s honestly none of my business.” (Translation of the latter: I don’t hate you as much as almost the entire rest of the world does, I’m just uncomfortable talking about it, let’s move on.)
As I tilt my head, brainstorming the best way to explain bigotry to a person who chooses not to acknowledge it, one inevitable thought remains on the forefront of my mind: This is a major Sandra thing to say. It’s not as outwardly homophobic as the Karen insults we’re confronted with on other days, but a sweet, subtle yet very inevitable micro-aggression. First of all, straight people calling me out on ‘talking about my sexuality 24/7’ generally make me chuckle. The goldfish really doesn’t have a clue he’s in the water if all he knows is the tiny glass bowl, does he. Heterosexual people talk about their sexuality without a comma or a full stop. And I’m saying that because, to me, these set phrases and everyday-talks that assume everyone to be straight until proven otherwise never reinforced the norm nor simply blended into conversations under the disguise of ‘the default’ to me, but rather made me feel alienated. Every day of the week, every month of the year, at all the family dinner tables, political discussions, small talks with strangers, online interactions: the entire world is fundamentally heteronormative. Maddi, you got a boyfriend yet? No, Sandra. Don’t worry, you’ll find the right guy one day! I could practically make out with my girlfriend in front of people’s eyes, and they would call us very close friends. We are practising for the boys, for the husband material.
At the same time, I know that I’m fortunate enough to live in a surrounding in which living authentically doesn’t immediately mean being rejected by my loved ones, fearing for my safety, and being denied basic human rights. I’m well aware that in itself, it comes from a privileged POV to even voice discontentment with the “Who cares?” remark, considering that hate crimes and throwing dishes at people are also widely occurring reactions to coming out. I’m not going to feel physically unsafe or emotionally assaulted when somebody lets me know that they do not, in fact, care about me being gay, so it seems over the top and nitpicky of me to not shut up and like it. Oh boy, everybody is offended so easily these days. Trust me when I say that the amount of benefit of doubt I have given to people with this mind-set is humongous. Since harassment and assault are the bar, we really learned to appreciate the bare minimum. And I even went as far as to think that the “Who cares?” folks are allies in disguise at the end of the day. LGBT supporters with room for improvement, their award-worthy acceptance voiced in questionable wording. This person may just fiercely believe that the experience of being queer is - at least in the 21st century in the Western world - the same experience as being straight because they personally don’t have a problem with seeing same-sex couples exist. I’ve spent days and nights thinking about my ickiness with the phrase, even briefly believing that it’s the mere frequency that makes it irritating. I asked myself: who cares, and who should care?
I have to admit; somewhere hidden in the silver lining of this logical fallacy, Sandra and the not-homophobes have a point. As an angsty baby gay, I used to love this reaction. Even if they would then go on to brief me about how I should watch out to not become a masculine-presenting butch who hates men, because they can only accept gay people who look straight & act straight, I was just so happy about them not insulting or killing me. But the older and wiser of a gay I became, the more I smelled bigotry in these words. Nobody, literally nobody, who doesn’t walk through the world with a smashed cake covering their eyesight, can be unaware of the inequality and danger that LGBT folks still have to deal with on a daily basis - even in the most progressive corners of the earth. It is impossible not to acknowledge that the power dynamic keeping queer people inferior to their straight peers is still very much in place, and very much oppressive, and that the dominant group’s ignorance and dismissal deadlocks it right there. Shutting down a gay individual sharing their experience with their marginalised identity because of one’s own discomfort to acknowledge a reality that is different from your own is a major part of the issue.
As a result of my late night questioning, I tried to formulate an answer to be used the next time I’m hit with this phrase after coming out.
As long as nowadays only a fraction of the LGBT population has the courage to openly embrace who they are for the valid fear of rejection and violence from the ones they’re supposed to feel safe around,
As long as in the 21st century gay men still aren’t allowed to donate blood because AIDS remains widely known as ‘the homo disease’,
As long as I can never hold my girlfriend’s hand in public without cautiously scanning our environment upfront, carefully evaluating the chance of physical assault and death so that we only have to deal with looks, stupid comments and moderate sexual harrassment on the good days,
As long as 40% of the homeless youth happens to be queer, and calling this a coincidence is fucking delusional,
As long as my existence is forbidden in 72 countries, legally punishable by death in 11,
As long as you, a stranger, consider questions about my sex life ‘out of interest’ as appropriate (like you would ever do that to a random opposite-sex couple),
As long as most men can only accept the way that I love if they can click on it, one-handed so to speak,
As long as you don’t feel addressed because “you’re not homophobic” and then use gay as an insult in the same sentence,
As long as too many people make me their wildcard, so they’re still going to vote for right-wing parties but at least they now have ‘that one gay friend who is totally normal’,
As long as transgender folks have a life expectancy of 30-32 years as they’re quite literally slaughtered in front of our eyes and no political system bothers to raise a finger to protect them,
As long as gay conversion therapy, with a higher suicide rate than so-called success-rate, is actively practiced in 188 countries to this very day,
As long as the capability to be attracted to more than one gender is widely equaled with being an attention-seeking cheater who is also very confused and horny,
As long as LGBT workers of colour are statistically the frontrunners of the most disadvantaged in the international workforce,
As long as you identify as a helicopter from here forth in order to verbally vomit into the non-binary person’s face,
As long as Black trans women globally face the absolute highest risk of being murdered in the midst of their day-to-day life,
As long as half of our letters and facets are just too complicated for your comfort zone, so you choose hatred and discrimination instead: the easy way out. Yeah, hating and discriminating is easy, very easy and convenient.
As long as abandoning your queer child and torturing them in the name of religion is so common, so justified, and so acceptable to this date,
As long as from the moment I came out, I became ‘the dyke’ in your eyes, with my entire character, passions and everything that makes me me evaporating into thin air - and you assume to know me better than I do. When I have a boyfriend I’m straight, when I have a girlfriend I’m a lesbian. It’s a bi-yearly switcheroni, that’s how that works.
As long as you can only accept queer people if we flawlessly blend into heteronormativity because we wouldn't want people who hate for no reason to be uncomfortable for a reason.
As long as you still don’t feel addressed since “Everybody can do whatever they want… just not in front of my child”. The same child that you sexualized with the quirky writing on her onesie before she was able to walk and the same child you exposed to sleeping beauty getting molested by that creep who kissed her in her sleep, and the same child you asked at the age of 7 if she had a boyfriend yet. But oof, a same-sex kiss on a kids TV show is a perversified part of the gay propaganda.
As long as this is just another day of my relationship being a political topic, put out on a table to be discussed in a room full of rich white straight people possessing the power to take my rights away in the snap of a finger and the Italian senate bursts out in applause when the law protecting LGBT folks from discrimination is taken back,
As long as you can never understand how traumatising it is to be rejected by the very people you love the most now that you’re finally in a relationship that feels like the rightest thing you have ever experienced,
As long as you ask "Who cares?" while this is how our world looks and you're well aware of it yet choose to turn a blind eye to protect your own bigoted views,
You should care. You really should.
And with that being said, happy pride month x