John M. Becker

On the Business in My Bedroom

Filed By John M. Becker | June 10, 2013 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: coming out of the closet, language, language matters, language usage, sexual orientation, sexuality

language-matters.jpegMaybe it's just me, but certain words and phrases make me positively cringe when I hear them used in reference to LGBT people or LGBT rights. They include outdated terms like lifestyle, homosexual, sexual preference, same-sex attraction, and even tolerance. (You're going to endure my presence and allow me to exist? Gee, thanks, but I'll take that "tolerance" with a side of equality.) The assumption that all married same-sex couples use non-marital terms like "partner" instead of husband or wife is also a major pet peeve.

Yet another skin-crawling phrase is the one I often hear from people reacting to someone coming out of the closet or explaining their non-opposition to marriage equality: "What someone does in their bedroom is none of my business." This phrase is almost always meant to express support, but what it actually does is patronizingly reduce that person -- and by extension, LGBT people in general -- to nothing more than walking sex acts. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not minimizing sex. It's really important. In fact, sex is so integral to the human experience that most post-pubescent people (gay, straight, bi, whatever) need to be able to express themselves sexually in order to be fully healthy, whether it's through self-stimulation, a casual fling, or in the context of a romantic relationship.

But is a person's sexuality limited to the types of sex they engage in (if they're having sex at all)? Of course not. Do we define committed relationships solely by their sexual components? For the sake of the people involved in those relationships, I would hope there's a little more to them than just bumping and grinding. Sexuality isn't just act, it's an orientation in which affection, companionship, and love also play important parts.

So if your response to someone coming out of the closet is "What so-and-so does in their bedroom is none of my business," you're not being affirming, but rather, slightly insulting. And if your sole reason for supporting marriage equality is because it's none of your concern whether your gay and lesbian friends are doing the jackhammer or scissoring when the lights go out, that isn't very supportive, it's actually kind of offensive. (But thank you for not voting against our rights!)

Think about it: we don't define our friends, family members, colleagues, or even the people walking past us on the street by the kind, position, or frequency of sex we think they may be having, do we? Hell, most of us probably don't think about others having sex very much at all -- I'm one of the most sex-positive people I know, for example, but when I bump into Mary and Joe Schmo in the frozen food aisle, I'm just not thinking about them doing the reverse cowgirl. Mary and Joe should be able to extend LGBT people the same courtesy.

Because while LGBT people certainly like sex as much as Mary, Joe, and everyone else -- and many of us don't mind answering questions about sex when they're asked respectfully -- there's so much more to us than just that!

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