Normalising or over sensitising?

So this has been bothering me for a while now — actually, just this weekend because before this I had never really had this conversation with anyone. On Friday night, two friends of mine came to hang out with my boyfriend’s friends, who obviously thought of the girls as really pretty and they are, but to their disappointment, if you’d let me use this word, both of them were not straight. Automatically somehow being lesbian became their identity because the next day, that friend referred to her as “the lesbian” when I was talking about her and some incident that had happened. “Oh you mean the lesbian?” was his question. I was a bit offended and now I’m questioning whether it was right of me to take offence at that or not, because when I did, I was told that by a third person that I was over-sensitising an issue. “It’s completely acceptable to refer to a gay/lesbian person as that,” he said. For me, that wasn’t okay. “Do you go talking about straight people, as X the straight?” And then I was told that he had lots of gay friends and that he’s had this conversation with them many a times and that is completely normal to differentiate on the basis of their sexual orientation and that it is a normal identifier. I couldn’t digest this and didn’t say much but now I can’t stop thinking about it. If my friend was straight, would my friend have instead asked — oh are you talking about the girl who was wearing a black shirt, or the one with the short hair, or the one who sang really well that night? I may be off in my thought process here– and that’s why I’m opening this to discussion so that I know where everyone stands and doesn’t — and whether I was really being dramatic and acting up on my sensitivities towards people.

I asked a couple of people about it — obviously some seem to think I did over react to a very normal comment (if not used in a mean way). “I’d be referred to as the straight girl if I went to a party full of gays,” a friend explained. A friend or two seemed to agree with her that it is in fact okay to do so and unless the guy friend who said I was ‘over- sensitizing’ this was just mansplaining — then it’s a different issue altogether. They’re my best friends and I tried to agree to them but I just couldn’t. I kept thinking this which was very well articulated by another friend of mine that why should anyone be identified with their sexual orientation alone and why do we do this in case of people who aren’t ‘straight’ — are we not, by referring to them as that, reducing their identity to their sexual orientation alone or choosing to see that instead of other traits that would distinguish him or her as an individual. Then she brought up another point that many of you may agree or not, I don’t know, that by asking ourselves to be careful in this sphere, are we hindering the process of normalizing homosexuality? Or was it just because he was a boy and as girls, we are more sensitive to the queer community because of the oppression we face in our daily lives — whether it’s a lower pay check, not being able to go out as often or as late, or being judged extensively on our life choices.

There are obviously two sides to every coin but when you’re unable to put your opinion out there to someone who tells you to calm down and not make a big deal out of it — it stays on your mind for a while, doesn’t it? I still stand with the fact that there are lots of other things about my friend that she could be identified with — sings really well, has gorgeous hair, and what not — than the only one thing that was picked on. And then I should’ve lost my patience, but I didn’t, on the usage of the phrase — over sensitising — God, I hate that phrase.

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