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‘We All Knew You Were Gay’: My Sexuality Is Not Your Property

You’re blatantly gay.

Anyone heard this little gem before? Because I got it a lot growing up.

My uneasy relationship with masculinity was a likely cause. I’ve never ticked off many of the acceptable masc traits: I chose books over sports; I’ve a longstanding penchant for weekends spent baking. I’ve naturally had many meaningful friendships with girls. And my vaguely camp manner’s had me compared to Stephen Fry more than once (‘course, I’ve always taken this comparison for what it is – the ultimate life validation.)

But outward behaviour has little to do with sexuality. I’ve met very few people who’ve authentically satisfied all of the traditional masculine or feminine roles – roles which are themselves intrinsically contradictory. Historically determined and arbitrary. The course of binary genders never did run smooth.

What was more telling, probably, was my resistance to being open about sexuality. And I’m not just talking about the closet, here – I’ve always experienced a profound discomfort when it came to sharing any sexual aspect of myself. With anyone.

l went through school and university without experiencing a serious relationship. Which, in our sexual society, is a massive queer question mark over my identity. To those custodians of normative behaviour, by which I mean, every fucking person who’s never interrogated what sexuality and gender actually mean, I was a problem. An enigma. Outside of the norm.

What frustrated me the most was knowing that I didn’t fit others’ expectations. Bolder friends would suggest, in conversation, that they ‘knew I was gay.’

When I didn’t want to kiss a female friend at midnight one New Year’s Eve, a male friend labelled me as ‘blatantly gay.’

Now, finding myself in a place where I’m able to share and discuss my queer identity more widely, I’ve discovered how others have speculated about me – a truth I’d tried to ignore as I resisted expectations to be openly sexual. Hearing these speculations has made me feel intensely vulnerable. There’s something horribly intimate when someone else reads your identity – especially what you struggled to shield or hide.

The pattern, here, is that others felt they were entitled to know me. Based on a cursory assessment of my performance of gender and my sexual history, arrogant claims were made of my identity.

In a sexual society, there’s a pressure on us to define our sexuality, and to perform it. For some, it’s a double-bind: you’re compulsed to accept a sexuality, providing that it’s safely heterosexual.

The injustice is that for those who experience queer desire – or identify as asexual – society becomes obsessed. What’s routinely erased or denigrated becomes bizarrely fetishized. The queer other is read and defined from the powerful position of the normal. The faultlines of queerness, present in us all, are projected onto a target. Their agency – like mine, in previous settings – is shut down.

I’ve been extremely lucky that, when I’ve discussed my non-normative sexuality, the evolution of my identity and my choices have all been respected on my own terms. I haven’t yet had a condescending ‘I knew you were X’ – but, as I continue to grow, I’m sure I will. But I’ll be ready.

Sexuality belongs to the individual alone. Not gender, nor any aspect of our identity, owes anything to another’s approval. I can’t bear the arrogance of defining someone else. I’m repulsed by the superiority of pre-cast judgements.

My sexuality is not your property. You do not get to define me.

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6 thoughts on “‘We All Knew You Were Gay’: My Sexuality Is Not Your Property

  1. I got this all the time in college and i hated it! Especially because it was assumed that, because i dressed more on the masculine end of the spectrum, i was lesbian. When I got a girlfriend at the school, I had many people say ‘I knew you were gay’ and I would only get looks of irritated disbelief when I said I was not. I ended up just using gay as my identifier because it made things easier, and only my immediate friend circle knew that I was really not homosexual. I identify as pansexual, and also gender queer. I don’t really fit neatly into any of the gender or normative sexuality boxes, and the number of people who simply refused to accept how i identify was, well i wish i could say it was, surprising. I’ve been told i am just ‘confused’ more times than i care to remember, and usually by people who’ve never had to question their own sexualities or gender identities. I was more confused trying to fit into those boxes than when I realized I didn’t.

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    • Exactly- ‘people who’ve never had to question their own sexualities or gender identities’. I’ve personally found other non-heterosexual/cis people far more open to respecting individual identity choices, even if they don’t fit their existing notions (or I may just be very lucky in my queer friends). I feel that (certainly in the UK) people are more accepting of gay and lesbian, but anything vaguely beyond that cisgender binary is strongly resisted.

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      • Its the same in the US. And all my straight friends get a bit offended when i say i prefer the gay community most of the time, but i think teu jusy dont understand what its like to have a community that really is like a family. Sure we may fight a lot, but we stick togeter when its important. Or at least mostly, theres still a lot of trans and biphobia in the gay community as well. But overall it is much more accepting, which makes it much nicer to be around. Im always sad when im sonewhere without that community, it feels more like home when theyre around.

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      • Ugh so many typos, i hate working on my phone

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  2. Yes to this! It’s such a gross narrative.
    I feel like this can be divided into two sections:
    -Adults talking about adults (or people old enough to be confident in their sexuality). The assumptions are always based on gendered behaviour! But guess what? Gender=/= sexuality.
    Although he did turn out to be gay, I remember one of my classmates saying “he’s definitely gay” about another, slightly effeminate well-dressed classmate.
    I feel like it needs to be like, has he said he is attracted to/involved with a woman? No? Don’t make assumptions. Has he said he is attracted to/involved with a man? No? Don’t make assumptions.
    -Someone (usually older) talking about someone who has just discovered their sexuality. This one I find particularly gross. Because “I knew all along” = “I know who you are and your personal feelings, better than you do” and urg I don’t have words for how annoyed this makes me.

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    • I mean, I’ve not minded once but that was because
      1. It doesn’t happen to me often
      2. Rather than gender presentation I think they were confused by my obvious discomfort when our teacher talked about (hetero) sexual attraction and my half-hearted involvement in classmates’ conversations about hot guys and stuff. (Probably also when I got into this almost shouting match when I said “TMI” to an almost 40yo telling us about her sex life (“everyone has sex!” “I don’t!”))

      (Basically what happened was a guy was “Y’know, I thought you were a lesbian for ages” but more in a “I thought you weren’t straight” way.)

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