Role Models

Yesterday I was hanging out with a friend in Brooklyn, and somehow the topic got around to Teh Gay (as it so often does) and the queer adults in our lives when we were children. (Two of our closest family friends are a lesbian couple, which I didn’t realize until I was in high school; Sig Fig has two sets of gay uncles; J recently tripped the gaydar of her family friends.)

J said something that I found funny, but also really interesting: “I think if I’d had a librarian like Pandanose in high school, I would’ve been gay a lot sooner.”

It got me thinking about role models. I’m actually still a little upset that my parents (or the women themselves) never told me the truth about those family friends, because when I was figuring out my sexuality I spent a lot of time feeling really alone. And I’m someone who has always looked up to the relationship examples in my life–like many queers, that was something that made me feel isolated when I was younger, because it seemed that marriage wasn’t for me.

I wonder how much I can fault my parents, though. In their minds, these were just their friends; they didn’t make a big deal out of anyone’s sexuality, so why should they make a big deal out of it for my benefit?

At the same time, I can fault them a little. They also didn’t make a big deal because they didn’t think it was anybody’s business–despite the fact that heterosexuality is everybody’s business. I was inundated from a very young age with images of straight sexuality and straight couples, and as soon as I realized that maybe I didn’t fit into that equation I started to feel very alone.

I didn’t have any real queer role models until I was in high school. My middle school librarian may have been queer but she wasn’t out, at least not with students, and none of my teachers through the years were gay. Ellen DeGeneres was coming out when I was in high school, but we only got one TV station, so I could really only read about that in the news.

I guess this gets around to the issue of celebrity outing and whether or not someone’s sexuality is anyone else’s business. I’ve never supported anyone being outed without their consent, but I also think it’s really important for us to push for visibility. The more examples of healthy queer lives and relationships we give, the more our opponents will have to reconcile their bigotry with human beings.

And more young queers out there in the wilderness will be able to see they’re not alone.


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