Friday, July 23, 2010

Honesty is a Privilege (LGBT)

(This is something I wrote for a philosophy class. I was supposed to recall an instance of lying, cheating, or stealing and then try to justify it, the implication from the text being that these are always bad and we’re just kidding ourselves when we tell ‘white lies’ because all lies cause damage, and no one deserves to be lied to, etc. The only moral use of lying was in a situation like where a violent racist asks you where the black people live, and you’re obliged to lie to save people from obvious physical harm. This sentiment annoyed me, and the textbook author seemed a bit heterosexist, so I wrote a small paper against it when I only needed about a paragraph.)
Honesty is a privilege of heterosexual individuals, those who are well-liked by society. For gay, lesbian, or bisexual people, lying is a way of life. It is true that one lie begets another, but it is not true that all people start out at the same level of honesty because of the presence of homophobia and heterosexism (the prejudice that occurs from the perception of everyone as heterosexual). Everyone in our society does just assume that everyone else is heterosexual, and a person who does not conform to this must “come out of the closet”, meaning to directly tell people that he or she is not straight after having lived in secrecy. Our society is just not friendly to gay people, so if you aren’t straight you have to be very careful who you tell and under what circumstances.
Until the circumstances are right to “come out”, you really have to lie in order to survive. Gay male people are asked about their girlfriends, and in many circumstances they must either outright lie about being in a relationship with a member of the opposite sex or otherwise lie by omission through saying evasive things like “in a relationship” with “a great person”, often using the genderless plural pronoun “they” to provide the impression that they are in the expected heterosexual relationship. When they are teased by their peers, they often have to say “I’m not gay” to end the teasing even though this may very well make it more difficult for other gay people in the same environment. It is not the case that lying is 100% bad, because the hostile environment necessitates its use.
Some straight people say “I’m okay with gay people, just as long as they’re not all upfront about it”. Well, as members of the well-liked heterosexual group, they’re allowed to be upfront about their own sexuality. It’s the minority gay, lesbian, and bisexual group that is treated as this strange other group invading the sameness of a heterosexual society. They are actively encouraged from every direction to conform to the heterosexual standards, to either truly be heterosexual or lie and say they are heterosexual when they are not just because their being different makes some heterosexual people feel uncomfortable.
While all this is anecdotal based in personal experience, rest assured that it applies to the great majority of GLB people.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not from America, but this post puts me in mind of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the US army that's been in the news so much recently. I've always thought that was an appalling policy for a supposedly free country, but I'd never thought about it in this way before - I think you're right when you say that a large section of Western society encourages LGBT individuals to actively lie about themselves.