A Note about Queerness

Posted October 11, 2011

I identify as Queer. My first post was very bi-centric, but even then I knew that it wasn’t the most descriptive label I could use. Instead, I chose the term “bisexual” to avoid confusion among readers in its original audience who aren’t versed in the LGBTQQA spectrum (and its many other variations). Put simply, I feel that my identity is defined not only by who I find attractive, but by my politics and gender identity as well. I’m deeply saddened by the political and economic inequality among sexual minorities, and these issues shape the businesses I support, the votes I cast, and the causes I champion. While I’m male-bodied and identify as a male, I have a healthy mix of traditionally-feminine personality traits that guide my emotions and interpersonal relationships. It’s this mixture of attraction, politics, and gender that shape my queer identity. Labels are a double-edged sword that can close conversations just as easily as they can open them – just remember that we each go through a journey of introspection and that there is always room for interpretation, difference, and compassion.

Coming Out 2011

Posted October 11, 2011

While I’ve been out to my friends and immediate family for quite some time, last year I took a chance and came out at work as well (see last year’s post below). Since then, I’ve had an number of awkward conversations with my very socially conservative coworker, called out a couple of jokes as insensitive, and have enjoyed a lot more freedom to say why I travel so much and just be who I am.

I’ve taken measured risks, inspired acceptance in those around me, and hope that I can help others do the same. It’s the least I can do to honor the Matthew Shepherds worldwide who may be living in hostile countries, states, cities, and families.

If any of what I’ve shared speaks to you or your situation, please feel free to share this with others.

Coming Out

Posted October 15, 2010

In the midst of the changes to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the recent passage of “National Coming Out Day”, I have something to share. I’m bisexual.

It’s true, I generally don’t have to face people who judge me for my sexuality. I’ve never had a boyfriend-level relationship with a man, and I predominantly date women. For me, coming out as bi is:

1) A way to publicly own something that I (and many of my close friends) have known for a very long time.

2) A way for me to show support for my friends and [chosen] family who don’t have the “luxury” to remain hidden. Call it “Bi Privilege” or “Bi Invisibility”, but for me it essentially boils down to hiding behind false hetero-normative assumptions made by others. Instead, I’m choosing to exercise confidence in who I am so that more people in my life can gain courage and acceptance.

3) A way for me to open up a dialogue about my work in sex education. For many years, I have traveled across the country, attending conferences, teaching workshops, and doing my best to help people learn more about their sexuality and relationship styles. While many of my classes are about things that I consider cool and interesting, I don’t want to shove it in anyone’s face. So if you’re interested in learning more, drop me a line!

> “Why now?”

This decision has been building for years. At first it was easy to segregate this aspect of myself (see #2 above). But as time goes on, I have realized that my identity and the education work I do around it have become a large part of who I am. Along with this realization, my relationship with my partner has given me a lot of courage and confidence as I’ve come to understand more about the issues facing queer people of every age, gender, ethnicity… (Thank you sweetie!)

> “Aren’t you afraid of _________?”

Yes. I came out to my immediate family a few years ago, and a vast majority of my friends have known it even longer. But sitting down with coworkers scares the hell out of me. So far it’s gone very well, but past employment experience still makes me cringe.

> “Wait, you just said that you’re out to your friends and family, so what do you mean you’re coming out?! Shouldn’t that be past tense?”

Coming out is a process. I started with the people who are closest to me – consider it testing the waters. At this point, I’m making a much more public declaration and including my coworkers. I am thankful that I’ve always been surrounded by amazingly loving and supportive people, and this message is finally going beyond that “safe” core. This is me saying “I’ve outed myself, I won’t be offended if you tell your friends and neighbors.”

I consider this declaration as the beginning of a conversation, rather than a self-contained statement. Please ask, learn, or open your own dialogues on GLBTQQ issues. Take a moment to reflect on others in your life who you may have judged or for those who have trusted you enough to open up in the past.

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