People are curious. This is not a bad thing. It’s natural to want to learn more and try to understand other people’s perspectives. However, it’s important to keep in mind that you can learn while still respecting people’s boundaries and dignities. Invading someone’s privacy for the sake of curiosity is disrespectful. After I came out as gay, people got braver in their questions. When it was assumed that I was straight, no one asked me about my sexual preferences or my sexual history. Now that they know that I’m gay, people feel entitled to ask for details about my sexuality. When you’re straight, your sexuality is mostly your own. It isn’t up for public debate. No one questions it. Nobody asks, “when did you first know you were heterosexual?” or “when did you first realize you were sexually attracted to the opposite sex?”
There’s a certain fascination that straight people have with people’s coming out stories. They’ll ask questions like, “do your parents accept you,” or “how long have you known?” While they might be coming from a good place, fielding questions like these aren’t necessarily on the list of things I want to do daily. Knowing that someone may have endured hardship or difficulty as a result of their minority status isn’t an invitation to ask about it.
I’ve been asked if I’m a “gold star lesbian.” This term is used to describe a lesbian that has never had sex with men before. The term itself is almost used as a way to shame people that followed the heterosexual social script before they understood or accepted their identity. Having a history of having sex with the opposite sex when you’re gay is nothing to be ashamed of. And it certainly isn’t a question that we should have to answer. Your sexual history and experiences are not up for public consumption for the sake of “learning” or “understanding.”
Some people are more than willing to be open about talking about their sexuality, identity, and sexual history. But you shouldn’t assume that just because someone is gay that it is immediately okay to dive into their sexuality, especially if you do not know them that well.
Asking questions about someone’s sexuality or experiences with their orientation is okay at times. If you’re close with someone, and you know that they want to talk about it and be open about their experiences with you, questions are okay. But if you’re assuming that we want to share our life story about our journey to acceptance with every person we meet, you might want to reevaluate acting on your curiosity. There are plenty of resources out there if you truly are interested in understanding our community; there are memoirs, YouTube videos, and novels. There are more resources than that one lesbian you met at a dinner party.