Outward Bound

CRUISE FUNDRAISER UPDATE: 98/100 prints are sold!  Only 2 prints remain! I am expecting delivery of the prints any day now and they’ll start shipping as soon as they arrive.

I made a new eBook/iBook! It’s called “Sorry I Ruined Your Book Vol. 1” and it has over 180 pages of HE book 1 preorder/artist edition sketches with commentary on every drawing! Donation subscribers get it free and it’s also available to anyone for a one time “pay what you like” donation.


[Context for the Nell reference, if you need it]

Jodie Foster’s public coming out may have been unnecessary at this point, but it was certainly a grand gesture. “On the stage of the Golden Globes, accepting a lifetime achievement award for “An especially good job at being one of America’s favorite and most enduring movie stars for the last 40 years or so” is a pretty impressive answer to the question, “When and where did you come out?” If you watch the speech, it’s very odd that the audio drops out just as she says something along the lines of “…this isn’t going to be a big coming out speech…” I wonder if the network got antsy and considering muting her or if it really was just a poorly timed audio mishap.

Her speech may have been an odd, stream of consciousness (albeit joyous and life affirming) ramble-fest, but anyone reporting confusion as to whether or not she publicly affirmed her sexuality or not just weren’t paying attention at all. She spelled it right out and did so with confidence and class.

I’m anxious for the day when a well known woman can get on a stage, talk about her achievements and thank her wife (or ex-wife in this case) for her support without first having to ADMIT to her sexuality. When I (a straight, white man – the lowest difficulty setting) get up in front of strangers I don’t in any way feel compelled or obligated to discuss my sexuality. I don’t feel nervous that they are assuming thing about who and how I love. And if I said “…and my wife was there,” no one would blink an eye. Actually, someone might think, “Oh, he’s married. I didn’t know that.” Which is exactly how the thought process should work when Jodie Foster starts talking about her kids and casually mentions the woman she is raising them with. “I’ve got new information and the sexy details are none of my business.”

I wasn’t really planning on writing a mini-rant this morning, but this is something I think about a lot. Primarily because, while INCREDIBLY close to the the real life truth, panel 3 up there in that comic conceals a lie. When Josh actually came out to me via instant message all those years ago, I was SUPER freaked out. Not because he was gay, but because I didn’t KNOW he was gay. We had been friends for years and I just thought he was terrible with girls. When I received the new information, I made the erroneous and selfish determination that he had been lying to me for our entire friendship. EHHHHNNN! Wrong. The truth, which I understood much later, was that our friendship had not yet progressed to the point that he was comfortable discussing sexuality with me.

I realized what a dick I had been when I started to think about all of my other straight friends who NEVER talked to me about who they desired bang times with or in what ways they wished for said banging to bang. People are not obligated to reveal their sexual details with anyone. The only reason gay people are even expected to “come out” is that we (even the most enlightened of us) still consider straight to the the baseline and gay to be the aberration  “I will assume you are straight unless you otherwise inform me,” is the most common attitude when it should be, “You seem to have brown hair and like to wear ironic t-shirts. If I want to know anything else, I’ll have to get to know you better.

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  1. Meh, golden globes. I'd rather talk about the sentiment in this post. Because it's awesome, and makes me want to hug you. It just isn't said enough, you know? That sexuality is somehow a thing that has to be 'admitted' to, that 'the norm' is the presumptively hetero, and 'the gays' have to tell us heteros that they are gay. I've been thinking about this a lot lately too, and while I'm ECSTATIC that people can come out and feel love and support (in some cases) I'll be even MORE ecstatic when it just isn't even a thing. When it's a non-issue and doesn't need to make freakin' head line news. A person's sexuality is such a private thing, why do we fixate on it so? For example, I didn't watch the golden globes, have no clue who won, but I DO somehow know that Jodie Foster made a big speech that got everyone in a tizzy (albeit a in a good way) about coming out. That's pretty weird.

  2. Damn, Joel, I think you just mentally one-upped me! I've been saying for years that I long for the day when coming out is treated with about the same level of gravitas as "I like fried chicken." But now I realize… why have to come out at all? Why assume heterosexuality unless told otherwise? It's a good nugget for me to chew on, and I guess it's also an example of how insidious that line of thinking is in our culture; even those of us who actively support gay rights have to check our mental foundations sometimes.

  3. I think you've hit on Jodie Foster's point, here, Joel. And thanks for doing it as a "straight, white man." People, especially the gay media, which I follow cuz I'm a lesbian, have been clamoring for her to have a "big coming out" for a long time. And I think the main reason she's resisted is that she had no desire to make a big, public political statement. And since we're still in a time where simply thanking your partner in an acceptance speech is newsworthy, it's automatically such a statement. Hopefully this will be less and less the case going forward. 90% of the time, us gays just want to live our lives. Go to work, the grocery store, and do stuff. But every time I go to the hair salon or some such place, and get asked if I have a boyfriend or am married, I have to think, "Is my answer going to be taken as some 'in your face' announcement? Is it worth it today at the hair salon?"

    • My brother is a doctor, and they train for a while in maternity wards.
      He asked a new mother whether her partner was home to look after her. She replied "Mary* has just to get the car".
      He asked 3 times before it sunk in.

      *NAme changed cause I have a crap memory 🙂

    • I always thought Jodi had come out a long time ago. My surprise was that she felt she needed to divulge the details of her sex life. Is she having sex with a consenting human adult? Good enough.

  4. Didn't she come out, like, *years* back? 'Cause I'd just assumed for the past several years that she was a lesbian. I could have sworn she said something about her wife or her girlfriend or something a while ago…

    Not sure why it's a big deal, either way.

  5. But, but this raises so many questions for me about my friends, i mean, what if they have blonde hair, and prefer to wear band shirts. I mean, what if they've just never been comfortable enough around me to have brown hair and wear ironic t-shirts? I mean, i just always thought that blonde hair and band shirts was the norm.

    This is confusing on so many hair and shirt based levels

      • But dude, what if you got the band to sign your shirt, that's how i got my signed rolling stones shirt

        And i will never be ashamed of that

      • Just for the record, every guy at a Rush concert is "that guy". I think they hold secret competitions over whose shirt is from the earliest tour. I'm not included because I'm not a guy. At Rush concerts, we womenfolk are like unicorns. Also, I'm not included because all their shirts made to fit females are hideous, so I don't wear one.

  6. "I’m anxious for the day when a well known woman can get on a stage, talk about her achievements and thank her wife (or ex-wife in this case) for her support without first having to ADMIT to her sexuality."

    THIS. And *everything* that followed. I was thinking the same thing when I saw the Gawker article. I don't pay attention to any of the awards hype and the only reason I know about this is that there was a link at the bottom of an io9 article, lol. But the Gawker article was terribly pissy about Foster's 'coming out', and I couldn't help thinking how petty that was. Here's a quote from the article:

    ""One day in the future people will look back and remember how beautiful it once was," she said. Way back when people could just shut up and stay closeted?"

    Clearly that is not what she meant.

    I loved that Foster brought attention to that too. The people that mattered already knew. I should read the Takei article another commenter has posted, though. I can see how, for now, this sort of symbolic gesture is important for the recognition and acceptance of the LGBT community.

    I totally agree with you, though — I look forward to the day when (non-hetero) sexuality ceases to be newsworthy.

  7. " is that we (even the most enlightened of us) still consider straight to the the baseline and gay to be the aberration"

    Reading a few comments around the English speaking countries recently and I may just have to assume your comment above is for Straight folk who have been living in a "Straight Closet" most of their life.
    For many people I know, a persons sexuality just isn't something that matters. Having a wife or husband is a public thing, but what they do in the bedroom just isn't stuff that gets discussed much. Most guys I know learn this in college/HighSchool pretty damn quick – talk about what your girl or guy likes it's around the school in a flash and you can say good bye to more fun times, when your partner dumps you for being "spilling things that were special just between the two of you". Girls tend to act similarly, and only tell 30 or 40 of their best friends, but they don't admit to it to guys, so it doesn't count (apparently – safety warning, don't bring it up with them!)?

    Seriously guys when was the last time where you were waving your junk around popped up in conversation with your mates. Is that some kind of American Superbowl type discussion or something? (three rounds of "guess whose butt I unloaded in last night, while the cheerleaders were shaking their pompoms?)
    OR more importantly, do you really want to know/hear from your mates? 'cause unless you're looking for a date, why would we want to know? And seriously if your mate IS gay (or BFF is gay) what does it change? nothing. If you're so shallow for it to make a difference, you ain't friend material anyway.

    • I see from all the disapprovals, that perhaps chatting about your buttbuddies is something American lads are into while watching the Superbowl….who would have guessed.

      However. Reading some of the replies on George Takei site, and here on HijiNKS ENSUE, while "A persons sexuality" might not matter or be of interest to many of us, and not affect the way we think about them particularily…..
      …. the fact that such a thing ("the outing/coming out of a public figure") shows us that for many people it is an issue. So until that isn't an issue for everybody, then high profile people who risk that profile, to help others who aren't in an accepting environment – well, that matters. And if we are to get the message that it's ok to be who you are, then we need to care.

      • I think your downvotes are more to do with your comment taking a tone that suggests Joel and anyone else to have commented prior to you must be super-heterocentric homophobes who are probably closet homosexuals, or perhaps that you spend the rest of your post attempting to explain that mature adults don't discuss the intimate details of their sex lives with everyone if they want to be treated like mature adults in such a way that you condescend to everyone as if we were 13.

        The discussion as I see it isn't about intimate details, it's about sexuality. While sexual preference shouldn't be something that marks anyone as "lesser" or "weird" for most people it's a large part of who they are. I'm not talking about what I do in the bedroom, I'm talking about the fact I'm only sexually attracted to women.

        The point Joel was making (as I understand it) is that automatically assuming things about anyone's sexuality is something we should move past, that doesn't mean it automatically has to be public knowledge, but it does mean that if you want to know someone's sexuality you ask, with an open mind that won't see any one answer as being surprising or different.

        And just in case you were wondering, I'm not American, I don't watch the Superbowl and in case you hadn't figured it out using "buttbuddies" as a derogatory suggestion is way too homophobic for any of your "informed" opinions to be worth a damn.

          • I'm already out as a confrontational and aggressive person. Just because the norm is otherwise, and that I reject that norm, does not make me bad or wrong.

            • Yeah, super funny. Anyway, this is your only warning. The next confrontational or aggressive comment you make gets you banned. Take this as an opportunity NOT to retaliate and show us how amazingly sarcastic you can be. Just calm down and be nice or your words are unwelcome here. This is not a site for stirring shit and showing people how cool of a jerk you can be.

              • Sorry Joel I just don't do passive aggressive.

                I'm not trolling for giggles or taking the mickey out of anyone (if a readers country doesn't use that phrase, it means to tease or have humour at someone elses' expense.)

                If you find my feelings too much and that I believe that it's important to seize life and not be fooled by passiveness or false humility (the links I just included) then that's your call.

                Every time I come out, whether it's about my sexuality (bi), being polyamourous, transgender, religious non-wiccan paganism and as a magician and alchemist, someone somewhere disapproves – even if it's 6months suffering side-effects of a pill given by a doctor that I turned out to be adversely sensitive to (it killed all sexual desire for 6months).

                But that's the real deal Joel. I love the comic. But I am who I am. Ban me if you like – after all the modern world and being published is all about buying publicity – but it's your call. I will not stuff myself in a bottle and keep quiet for other peoples' convenience.
                After all it's about being yourself (otherwise whose life is it….)

                • "I am who I am." is just another way of saying "Im going to act however I want to act with no regard for other people's feelings." It's not "living out loud" if you're just rubbing everyone the wrong way. The consistent downvotes on your comments are the overall readership's way of politely asking you to tone it down considerably. The reason they aren't outright attacking you is I've spent years trying to cultivate a space on the internet where people can express opinions, enjoy things unironically and NOT have to worry about the typical internet troll, or agro-comments found nearly everywhere else.

                  I really do not want to ban you, but the majority of your comments are so close to crossing the line from "a little too abrasive" to "why is this person being an angry jerk on this silly comics website."

                  I don't buy the "im too extreme, Im the one who's really awake, my rudeness is my realness" attitude. I used to be a teenager, so I know what that's like and I know how boring and tedious it is to everyone you encounter. All Im asking is that, as hardcore of an attitude as you may have, simmer it down on my website or please refrain from commenting. This is a place for fun, and if you start ruining people's fun then it's my job to make sure you no longer have that privilege.

                  • Apologies for the swarm of posts, nature of Internet debate sadly.

                    I'm really glad you brought this point up – thank you.

                    This particular topic (whether coming out matters, whether sexuality is a large part of a persons identity, whether being a minority makes their "minority" "status" a larger part of who they are, whether other people (in or out) out of that minority should be able to spot the difference*) is not a particularly "fun" topic. Not to say you shouldn't make fun of it – that is something your comic does well, it takes some of the sting out of such serious topics.
                    But. There is again one of the debatable points. When such issues come up (eg Jodie's speech and the subsequent comments in the media) should it just titilate? Or for people with knowledge and experience be prepared to stand up and be counted.

                    As I mentioned before, when someone comes out they usually rub people the wrong way – that's often what keeps them in the closet. And with lack of role models and and whispering campaign of it's something to hide, then it is very hard for many people to come out.

                    Back in the early 90's I used to use sweet words and play nice. People just tended to ignore what was said, like a advert for a product they didn't really know. What wasn't ignored tended to be misquoted, or people would just post over top until the mess hit a flame fest. As annoying as it is, most people will not respond or move their thoughts in any until there is a confrontation with their comfort zone. Which when you think about it, is pretty much the definition of a comfort zone. So I found I have to be bold in approach, and I only have a couple of posts to get home the message (ie have supporting "thoughts" published) as the way Internet discussion goes it tends to fragment very quickly.

                    And as someone who owns a couple of business and is 45yrs old, I'm hardly a teenager.

                    And yes, creative writing is not my strong suite.

                    My original discussion was "to the floor" and not an attempt to engage you. But since you are on the line… What makes you think as Josh's straight friend that you should have been able to use your "gaydar"?

                • I appreciate the generous donation and will certainly put it to good use (ie keeping the lights on, keeping the cars gassed up, etc). That said, I stand by what I said about your comments and rudeness in general. You dont have to tiptoe around people's feelings, but you do have to (at least on my website) not purposely offend people just to get a reaction. Half the time it seems like you're insulting me directly. I honestly can't tell. Just save the attitude for somewhere that it's more appropriate. That's my "no shirt, no shoes, no service" policy. You dont have to be nice at home, but you have to be nice here.

                  • Just found this on the first Experiment page:
                    "Ten months into creating HijiNKS Ensue I was let go from my job. In the previous 4 months or so I had shifted nearly all of my focus to the comic. At work I was 1000 miles away. I was bitter that I couldn’t work on the comic during the day, so I spent my work hours writing jokes, responding to reader comments and emails, and researching ways to grow the audience"

                    See what you need is more pain!! All these silk pillows and cruising around cons is making you soft! A hair cut (beard trim) and a real job and inspiration will strike.

                    Actually I'm only half joking. Joking about getting a real job. Not joking about that for many creative people, the need to get beyond their current unpleasant experience is what gets their minds going. Once times get easier, motivation is harder. I liken to to opening a door – when you want to escape, to do something that means something to you, then the goal is obvious and the fight gets you going. Once you're through though…then what. How can the ex-slave fight for his freedom. Once you're the top gunman <dance number 🙂 > then you live the rest of your life defending yourself.
                    When life is an open field, how _do_ you pick a direction?

                    PS Believe me, if I was insulting you directly, you'd know. I'm also of the opinion that in circumstances where direct insult is intended, name calling etc is appropriate to sell the message of contempt. I hold you in high esteem, so I am bluntly honest with you, trusting that as a person of internal mental fortitude that you will be able to deal with other peoples' truths.

        • I have a friend, her name was Rachel. She was straight, got paralytic drunk, a couple had sex beside her, the woman "helped herself" to my paralytic friend. Her suddenly realised (a) it wasn't a big deal and (b) it was rather pleasant. She then went on to have several other lesbian experiences.
          It wasn't put forward because it's a single case study and not verifiable.
          Why is this relevant ?
          Because she started introducing herself to everybody as, literally, "Hi I'm Rachel I'm bisexual"

          The people she was introducing herself to, smiled, half put out their hands in a hello handshake, their mouths start to move in the "Hi…" and that's when the word 'bisexual' was pronounced. You could see their brain stop I swear.

          When someone reveals they're gay, straight, bi etc. Then they are definitely broadcasting their sexual activity. Please feel free to get together with a friend and test this observation.

          As for the buttbuddies things…well I'm not American either and have only heard of the Superbowl

            • yeah… i was thinking the same thing, but really didnt want to engage the OP. Getting blackout drunk, getting raped then behaving drastically differently? Not really an example of a plan coming together.

            • Yeah we were a bit concerned, but when a girl goes off, with people she hardly knows, invited by only one female friend who does the disappear on arrival trick, without telling anyone where she is, and gets herself written off, I'd hardly call it a surprise.
              And she seemed to enjoy herself (she was paralytic, rather than blackout) and she seemed happy enough to go on some more personal dates with her rapist, after making the effort to track down her name and number.

              A few of us evil peers did manage to impose our will on her that it could have gone badly, and so in the future of our association she did take a little more care of herself or at least arranged for contact if she needed a ride home. (she ended up hitchhiking from that aforementioned party). But where do you draw the line on living these peoples' lives for them, do us Greyfaces get to make the call on someone who is a rather life-of-the-party-type (anyone read Roomie?) – apologies for the cross-comic mention J. If they don't want to look after themselves, if they want to engage in sexual or other encounters beyond what I am happy with, do I get to impose my choices on her??

        • As for the buttbuddies things…well I'm not American either and have only heard of the Superbowl through American TV. But guess what …. I _really_ couldn't care less about what they do to each other..hence that particular comment. If "buttbuddies" gets you uptight… if it really matters to you…then you're not as desensitised as you'd really like to think you are.
          Perhaps, for example, you think people "should" be allowed to be gay, just as long as it's pretty girls, or hints on TV (some of Torchwood had to be circumcised for American audiences – because "the American public are ok-ish with gay characters, just as long as they just look or "behave" gay, and don't -actually- do anything gay. – The scene with Gwen catching Jack and Ianto in the "Hub" getting heavy, is some of the hottest stuff I've *ever* seen on TV!).
          Or perhaps it's ok for "someone" to be gay, but just not in a PDA next to you in a bus or pub.

          And the one of the points I'm making is while some people might think "we're beyond it", the huge majority don't. The tribal sub-cultures that we're seeing (sorry it's the social anthropologies uni courses kicking in…) means that many of the groups that are ok will tend to cluster in supportive structures. This will result in increasingly strong definition at the boundaries, especially as the excess resources and special interests available in Western culture encourage such diversity. The result being the "Gaybourhood" will become more open and that will be their norm, the supporters will form a buffer zone, but outside the safe areas, _lacking_careful_attention_towards_cross_pollenisation_ those areas not exposed to those concepts will remain _sensitised_ to them.
          Part of the difficult with this *is* that a large number of people still lie publicly and act like 13 year olds regarding sexuality. Many others, which can be shown through studies I can't be bothered quoting here, show that the loss of strong male leadership models, is leading to adaption of traditionally feminine roles, and behaviours. Which in itself is not a bad problem, however it does indicate many of the good qualities traditionally associated with those male behaviours and roles are being lost from Western culture.
          So while it is nice that some of us are moving to a point where another persons sexuality doesn't cause xenophobic or dogmatic reactions, unless such public endeavours are promoted until mainstream saturation is achieved then such behaviours and their associate behaviours will be still be important.

          • You are inferring a lot from nothing and seem like youre trying to pick a fight or have an argument with someone who isn't arguing back. Id suggest toning it down a bit.

            • Nope, just explaining how the social dynamics analyse out. It's the brief version but such stuff is usually present in 10-50 page documents with bunches of Names to reflect the different philosophies and theories involved. It tends to boil down to what people all know but don't like to admit; people lie and pretty much what anyone tells you casually tends to be tailored to what is socially suitable rather than the truth.
              (aside: which is good I suppose 'cause if everyone only told the truth, there wouldn't be much to talk about)

        • A much more interesting question is; Should such choices be worthy of "Rite of Passage" recognition within our own culture and psyche. Does that place too much emphasis on fixed and unchangeable labels? Does it recognise and formalise the individuals personal achievement within their life journey? Would it just create more "deadline" pressure for an individual to choose a side that they want or mentally project as desireable?

          Because take a look at the _tone_ in Joel's artwork and writing. There is still a solid undercurrent of "homosexuality" is dirty or disgusting, a touch of mild self-loathing as opposed to some of the more "gay-for-gay" cartoons (in the clubs and support society magazines and newsletters (wtf is it with lesbian cartooning anyway – is sequencing too male?…but I digress). While I'll accept that it does work from a dramatic angle, one does question the tone of it's origin….. Which says perhaps these things might stlil matter a bit more than folks want to admit.

          And in a final note. It is only recently I realised, that for many straight people, it's NOT a large part of who they are. When I was younger and "confused", well meaning authority figures used to say "everyone feels confused or has these types of problems at your age". It wasn't for many many years later than I realised that they had lied. Most people do not face bisexual, asexual, gender dysmorphic issues, depression, dissociation and misanthrophy issues in that level of concern.
          In fact for a large number of straight people, who don't feel like they're in the wrong body, the concepts often never occurred to them. Bringing up homosexuality, or that their friends might be sexually attracted to them, to some of these people…NEVER even crosses their mind. Not even the dream about a teacher of the same sex. The concept is _completely_ alien for them. Others, it's predetermined, it is literally beaten into them verbally or physically, that there is only one option, and coming from authority figures it's unquestionable.
          So it doesn't matter if someone was over the rainbow, a friend of Dorothys', or had read of Oscar Wilde, popped down the molly house,
          Heck here's a list (some of whom are bi more than gay) http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-gay-men-list-of
          For more Bi: http://www.biwriters.org/pages/famousbisexualsN.h
          A historical note to google: ""The world is chang'd I know not how, For men Kiss Men, not Women now;."
          Or a better written piece that has said it before: Rictor Norton, "Lists of Famous Homosexuals", 1 May 2004, updated 13 June 2008 &lt ;http://rictornorton.co.uk/famous.htm&gt;.
          (all found because I can't remember the name of 2 rather flagrant British lads of rather high fame in their time.)

          As you will note the last of those, the author does address the point of the prominence of sexuality in a persons character and subsequently their fame.
          If that were true, where are the lists of straight "heroines and heros"…..

          • "Because take a look at the _tone_ in Joel's artwork and writing. There is still a solid undercurrent of "homosexuality" is dirty or disgusting, a touch of mild self-loathing as opposed to some of the more "gay-for-gay" cartoons "

            WTF? Quit while you're ahead.

            • As far as I'm concerned, Joel has shown the same arc of learning and understanding that many of my straight friends have: they never realized I was gay, it shocked them when I told them I was, and ultimately it matters who I am as a *total* person, not just who I have relations with.
              Every gay/lesbian could use more straight people like Joel in their life, and then maybe the gay/lesbian folks would actually be comfortable as a minority and not feel the need to point out what may be less-than-obvious, but is still important.

              • I very much agree.

                But here's another thought for you.
                My strongly lesbian, turned bisexual ex-girlfriend, once caught her girlfriend in bed with a man. They had been in a steady relationship for over a year (the women) and had discussed more permanent plans, as you do. The excuse she was given (by the cheating woman) "She missed c**k, and all women really want it, so it's not her fault",

                I'd just hate to see people lose/subsume their human identity to their "gay identity".

            • Hey don't panic dude.
              It's not overdone, it's comes out as a touch of drama which is not a bad thing. Some of those I'm comparing with are over at Slipshine for some of the homosexual based stories there, most which are romance plots.
              I'd really not have to get into a tedious "technical analysis of humor" discussion in your blog. This discussion is "pulling teeth" funny so far, lets not make it worse.

  8. You know what I have a problem with? "Gay rumors." Wherein straight people are "accused" of being gay, and then "defend" themselves against the rumor as though being gay were something shameful–not that said people always treat it as such, but the media reporting on it does tend to. "George Clooney defended himself against a rumor that he is 'gay, gay, gay,' saying, 'No, I'm just gay, gay–the third gay is too much.'" And then the paparazzi keep bringing it up, like they will never believe a straight person who says they're actually straight as long as anyone ever sees them being friendly with someone of the same sex or doing something that doesn't fit in a strict gender role. When a gay person says they're gay, generally people believe them–unless they're your conservative Christian parents who try to tell you it's just a phase and send you to de-gaying camp, but generally gay people don't have to "defend against straight rumors" the same way.

    Your solution, of not assuming one way or the other, would solve that too.

    • Well, playing the "are they/aren't they" game with famous people is one thing…trying to seriously come out to people so they understand more of who you are and not having them believe you because you don't act true to the stereotypes is another thing.

  9. Friend of mine and I are at lunch, having escaped our office for the lure of stacked ham. We're talking and she's tap-dancing around using particular words in a way that is both amusingly charming and slightly uncomfortable. After about 10 minutes of this, I look around and, seeing that none of our work colleagues are around, say, quietly,

    "It's okay to say 'girlfriend' if she's your girlfriend."
    "You knew?"
    "I had a pretty good hunch, but you're tap-dancing around saying 'girlfriend', and I can tell you're uncertain about whether it's okay to say that with me, and I'm just telling you that it is."

    Bit of a pause.
    "Okay, so my girlfriend and I…"

    And the conversation just continued on from there just as normal as could be. She was able to relax and just talk, and it was just something that was done in passing, held in trust — at that time, and in the environment in which we worked, keeping that under wraps was the norm from a safety and career standpoint. But we were friends, and had some shared adventures, and probably the funniest part of the the honesty in our friendship that came from this conversation was that some time later, she invited me to her house for dinner as a thank-you for doing some slightly convoluted car repairs for her, and I get there, and there's 8 amazing women there, I have the only Y-chromosome in the house, and I'm wondering if she's setting me up, and then she introduces me to the others with "This is Jim. He's safe." and yeah, she was setting me up, but not even remotely in the way I initially thought she was.

    It was a FANTASTIC meal, of course.

    • Thats a great story. The sad part is that your friend had to learn to be careful about what she said and to whom. That type of behavior isn't natural. We don't feel ashamed by default unless we know we're doing something wrong. At some point she had to have learned that her normal was considered wrong by enough people that she had to choose her words wisely.

      • That's the way it is before you come out, and sometimes forever after…depending on your industry, geographic location, etc. you may always have to be guarded about what you share with whom…which you'll notice straight people never have to deal with….they're assumed to be "in the right" and "normal".

  10. Excellent post!
    I watched her speech knowing in advance that she is a lesbian. And I thought to myself how pathetic society is that this is important to know. I applaud her for keeping her sexuality "Ambiguous" and not giving the "Witch Hunters" information they need to categorise others so they can put them into a stereotypic "Box" for their own mental comfort.
    Again, excellent post! 😀

    • Although to be honest, what about celebrities *isn't* "important to know" in this country?
      I heard a conversation today among highly intelligent people about the impending genders of Kim Kardashian's and Kate Middleton's babies.
      I think if something is a big part of a celebrity's life, the public feels like they need to know it to be "close" to the celeb. Because they're our friends, right?

  11. I agree with the sentiment up to a point. The fact that some homosexuals have to hide who they are for fear of some sort of retribution is certainly a terrible thing. I don't agree with the notion that making the initial assumption that a person is part of the majority is necessarily bad though.
    For example, I was born and live in New Jersey. I'd say 90% of new people I meet also grew up in NJ. So I make the initial assumption that a person I just met is originally from this state. It doesn't mean that I think less of a person from Maine. It's just another detail about the person I'm talking to. Likewise, if statistically speaking, 90% of the people you meet are heterosexual, then it follows that you might assume someone you just met is heterosexual. Again, it's just another detail.
    "Hey, did you ever go to The Land Of Make Believe out in Hope when you were a kid?" "No, I grew up in Ohio." "Oh, OK."
    "So are you married?" "No, but I have a boyfriend." "Oh, OK."
    Same difference.
    If you live in an Italian neighborhood, then you will probably assume your neighbor is Italian. She might not be. And does it matter if your first assumption was incorrect?
    One more example, then I'll shut up.
    When you call a customer service line, you hear the person on the other end of the line, and you get a mental image of this person, right? You could be completely wrong about every detail you assigned to them, but if you aren't going to treat this person any differently if they have brown eyes or green eyes, is the assumption a bad thing?
    My thought is simply that if the detail doesn't matter, then the assumption doesn't matter either.

    • Maybe I have too much faith in humanity, but I don't think "retribution" is the right word. I imagine that they just know it's a divisive issue for some folk, and don't want to potentially take the tension to that level right away.

      For example, I feel very strongly about climate change, and know a lot about it, but I don't bring it up in certain crowds, because I'm having a good time and don't want to have to "open minds." I just wanna hang out and make fun of stuff. I know other people are, ahem, passionate about it, and I'd rather talk about Star Wars than have to defend the scientific method at that particular moment.

      I didn't remember until reading these comments of a few years ago when I went out to DJ a house party for someone who had hired me online. After about 10 seconds at her place it became clear that my client was one of two mommies in the house.
      The party got going and after a few songs she just came up behind me and kinda whispered "Are we cool?" I knew what she meant, and I assured her that we were. But I thought it was really sensitive of her, even though she didn't have to defend anything to me, to acknowledge that I might be uncomfortable with it, and *allow* me to be uncomfortable with it. Like, if I were judgmental, she wasn't going to judge me for it. Amazing.

      I mean I have my religious beliefs, which I honestly take very seriously, but I'm not an a**hole. I don't shout them at people. I think most of my peers are that way, despite the few whackjobs you see waving signs on TV. I appreciate people who are sensitive to differing points of view (like mine, sometimes), and always endeavor to *be* one of those people.

      • I did a computer repair (faulty mouse) for a friend.
        Her lesbian lover almost through her out, and wouldn't speak to her for a week, for "letting a man into the house" (which admittedly does serve as their "sanctuary" so isn't quite so surprising)

    • I dunno…Whole Paycheck doesn't seem to like giving their employees healthcare, according to the latest blatherings of their CEO…if it had somewhere else to get food, it might be interesting.

      • If there was a properly functioning healthcare system that wasn't run by overpaid vultures, and that catered to chemical pushers more interested than hawking medicines for obscene levels of profit rather than curing/preventing diseases, then just perhaps they wouldn't need the extra benefits to be provided by a Nanny employer (and they could split the cost of healthcare in to the persons paycheck…)

  12. GO JOEL! And Sean, I definitely agree. I understand assuming someone is straight (since the majority of the population is), but it shouldn't matter if the person ISN'T. I hate that people have to dance around pronouns for fear of a negative reaction.

  13. Wow. That's just a really cool, honest story in the comment there, Joel. Thanks for that.

    I don't have anything to add, I just really enjoyed your comments and agree with all of them.

  14. Is it selfish to wish someone famous would come out as asexual? I'm always worried about 'coming out', because I can never be sure how much people understand. Asexuality isn't the same as celibacy or abstinence, I'm not choosing to abstain, I'm just not interested. I don't understand the saying 'better than sex', isn't everything?

    If I say, for example, "I've never experienced sexual attraction," I feel like I have to add, "and there's nothing medically wrong with me." And I worry that anyone who has experienced such feelings – gay, straight, or bi – can't really understand where I'm coming from. (Well, people who are entirely gay or straight would have some idea – the way they feel about the gender they're not attracted to is how I feel about everyone.)

    The response I fear the most is "That doesn't exist, there's something wrong with you." I actually thought there was something wrong with me for many years. It led to a regrettable one-night-stand when I was 18, because I thought 'well, how could I know if I haven't tried it?', I came away thinking 'eh, I don't see what the fuss is about'.

    I also loathe "You just haven't met the right guy/girl yet." Do people tell a straight person they just haven't met the right same-gendered-person yet? No. So why is it said to non-straight people? (Also, I'll be 30 this year – that's well beyond 'late bloomer'.)

    I tried to shrug it off, but the day I learned about asexuality, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. I wasn't broken, I was this!

    I don't want to marry anyone, there are no 'rights' for me to fight for, the only time I really 'need' to come out is if I feel like giving more than a "no" answer if someone asks me out. In these respects, asexuality is a very quiet sexuality, it almost seems to belong in the closet.

    This has turned into a rather long and rambly comment, ahem.

    The main point: If it could help just one person find their way from 'I must be broken' to 'actually, it's okay', then I think coming out as asexual is definitely worth it, and important.

        • I read just read that article and oddly enough Ive had the documentary it talks about in my Netflix queue for a month. Consider my a little less ignorant. I find it's harder to relate to a different kind of sexuality until you know someone who identifies with it. I was always a "I don't hate gay people, but I still think it's weird and somewhat wrong" kind of guy until I started meeting and befriending gay people. There's nothing that fosters more understanding or breaks down prejudices better than actually caring about someone in a particular marginalized or minority group. So maybe the answer is to educate the people around you more. If they already care about you, then you might be able to serve as a conduit towards understanding for them. You certainly have for me, and all i know about you is what your wrote above. But after reading it, realizing there was an actual human being behing this asexuality thing Ive heard a bit about (and summarily dismissed) I was compelled to learn more and make sure I wasn't being an asshole. Turns out I kind of was. I'd hate to write a 6 paragraph rant about hoping for a day when gay people are treated no differently than straight people, then turn around and immediately say "but not those weirdos that are neither gay or straight."

          Anyway, if nothing else you made me do a little homework and I feel less dumb now.

          • I'm 'out' to just about everyone I know in the 'real' world, and a handful online, until today. (Responses have ranged from 'oh, okay', to 'me too', and a couple people coming out as bi. I think the bi people were hardest to get through to, the concept of not being attracted to one gender may make it easier to understand not being attracted to either, I don't know)

            Okay, I'm not out to everyone, but I'm out to all the family members I've seen in person since I found out, it seems a little impersonal to notify the interstate relatives via facebook or phone.

            I recommend http://www.asexuality.org/ as a resource if you can find the time, named as AVEN in the article. There's a forum for questions – open to all sexualities – and lots to read. (The forum can be viewed without having an account, and there are many informative threads.)

            Asexuality is not really as hard and fast as it seems, there's a spectrum. Some experience romantic attraction (heteromantic, homoromantic, biromantic, etc) but not sexual. Some experience sexual attraction only after a strong emotional bond has been formed (demisexual) – meaning, no 'lust at first sight', but it can come later in a relationship. I don't experience romantic or sexual attraction (aromantic asexual) so I can only really speak for that segment of asexuality. They're all equally valid, no one state is 'purer' than another in my mind.

            (A random little thing about me: I've always loved ST:TNG, and Data is my favourite character – always has been. Not really an asexual thing so much, but I suppose it's not all that much of a surprise either.)

            Also, I couldn't find anywhere else to fit this, but I love it too much not to share: 'ace' is a sort of nickname for 'asexual', like gay is for homosexual. I'm ace! Heh.

            • "I think the bi people were hardest to get through to, the concept of not being attracted to one gender may make it easier to understand not being attracted to either, I don't know) "

              This actually puts it in better perspective for me. Im straight and Ive never been attracted to men. I understand when a man is attractive and Ive found men pleasing in an aesthetic way, but when I think about sex, men dont enter into the equation. So basically you just feel that way about men and women. I really do understand that.

              As for the Data thing: I was was watching "The Offspring" a couple of days ago, where Data creates his child. When she eventually dies from becoming emotionally aware, he mentions that he can't "feel" anything for her and she says she'll feel for both of them. In a way Data was expressing that his lack of emotions didn't diminish his [android equivalent of affection] for her, but he simply wasn't able to experience the events in the same way she was.

              Thats a round about way of saying, I see why you identify with him.

              I'm really just thinking about this stuff for the first time, but I can't help but feel sad for anyone that will never know what romantic love feels like. Again, it's just such a huge part of my identity that I feel it is a basic part of the human experience. I'm not sure if it's OK to say it's the same way I'd feel sorry for a blind person for never seeing a sunset since that makes it sound like I think you're disabled, which I don't.

              I guess my pointless point is in a perfect world, you would at least be able to "try it on" for a bit and see if romantic love was something that worked for you. I feel like if your brain is hardwired to be against that, then you don't really have the option. Of course, according to that article, there is no real interest in studying the brains of asexual since there's no money in it.

              On a somewhat related topic, I do think sexuality is a combination of biological predeterminations that are later colored or molded by life experiences. As such, I think as science progresses, we'll know exactly why people are born gay or bi or asexual. The scary part is with that knowledge I expect we'll eventually have the option of turning it off or setting sexuality back to a baseline default. If it's in the brain or if it's a gene, or a chemical/hormonal trigger, I don't see how we wouldn't eventually be able to control it. I wonder then if a doctor might tell expecting parents "based on our tests, your child is going to be gay," if given the options would they intervene. Anyway, that's something terrifying to mull over.

              • Yes, exactly – I can tell when men and women are attractive, I can find them aesthetically pleasing, but that's where it ends for me. I'm not really interested in anything more.

                I tend more, these days, to identify with Data's experiences with Tasha. In his own way, he felt some equivalent of fondness for her, always, but I wouldn't really call it love, as such. He was 'fully functional', and yet felt no urge to 'function', Tasha was undoubtedly the initiator. (And later Data had a girlfriend in one episode, but First Contact reveals they didn't get that far – when asked how long it's been, he rattles off a time period that indicates that time with Tasha. In fact, Data's lack of interest may have been why that brief relationship ended.)

                I understand where you're coming from, with the blind man and the sunset analogy, but where a blind man could hear about sunsets, and how wonderful they are (as is the case with our very sexually driven society) the blind man would never really understand what he's missing – and may find that music brings greater joy. The blind man, like asexuals, would understand that an experience is 'lacking', but there are many other pastimes, other senses. A fulfilling life can be lived without ever seeing a sunset, falling in love, having children. (Though, full disclosure, I've always wanted children. I don't want to do it alone, still, but asexuality makes things.. complicated. One day I hope to meet a similarly minded ace man. Or woman, if gay marriage and adoption is legalised by then.)

                Gene tinkering is a messy subject. I would hope, by the time a 'gay gene' was pinpointed, that we as a society have moved beyond gene-selecting for such petty reasons, and that being gay *would* be a petty reason, not a potential hardship for the child. "Oh, this embryo will be gay, okay. It will also have brown eyes, you say? Cool. But will it be healthy?" But honestly, I don't have that much faith in humanity. I'd like to, but, most places, gay couples still can not marry, in this day and age. It's not right. (I have faith in humans, but an individual human is usually intelligent, humanity as a whole, not so much.)

                • I find the blindman/sunset analogy fails because of what you mentioned in your first post. In that analogy we automatically move to the "blind is broken" mindset (he doesn't have sight to see it so he's missing something that others have.*) This also relates the "gay coming out" as it ties to that whole "this is not normal".

                  I would say it would be closer to owning a donkey. For some people they truly love it. It's perceived by the majority as a matter of choice, but in most cases circumstances environmental circumstances preclude any real choice. But most people if they don't have a donkey don't think they missing anything – it's not something they really have to "get fixed". And if a friend starts talking about their donkey, you're not going suddenly think how much you're missing out on. More like "that's nice for you" can we move on now.

                  * the assumption is also present that sunsets are a great thing that somehow something is being "missed out on"

          • "There's nothing that fosters more understanding or breaks down prejudices better than actually caring about someone in a particular marginalized or minority group."

            You could be in one.
            Perhaps you might be the only person in the entire world who isn't a member of some minority group…

    • There's no easy answer for you. Equality and general acceptance moves down the line in order of population. There were so many black people in the 50's and 60's that eventually their mistreatment couldn't be ignored. Laws were changed, opinions were changed and 50 years later we have significant progress. I feel like society can only handle liberating one marginalized group at a time and now is the time to give equal rights to homosexuals (the next largest, most oppressed group in America).

      The biggest problem for you is that you don't want anything from the government, and you aren't currently being denied any rights (as you mentioned). So where's the crusade? There just isn't one. I dont say that to be defeatist but rather just pragmatic. Basically all you want is awareness (because as you surely know, most people have never heard or even considered people like you to exist), and understanding. It seems like there will have to come a day, long after gay rights is no longer an issue when people stop worrying about how or with whom people have or chose not to have sex and at that, all sexual identities that dont fall on the spectrum of gay or straight will join the ranks of "as long as you aren't hurting anyone, I don't really care."

      To be perfectly honest, I sympathise with you for the discomfort explaining your situation must bring to your life, and I believe that you deserve to be happy and healthy and unoppressed just like everyone else, but I have to admit that I can't empathize with how you actually feel. Sex/love isn't something that I do. It's a fully integrated part of my identity and my personality. To me "i dont care about sex or love" is like saying "I don't care about food or eating." The love I get from my wife is something that I need. Without it I would be depressed, and feel empty. Again, I don't think you're a weirdo that needs fixing, but this is how foreign the concept of asexuality is to me (and probably most people), so I can understand the resistance from others (while admitting how unfair it is).

      Sex/love is the MOST driving force in the history of humanity (even above power and money). Wars have been fought, empires have been toppled and maps have been redrawn just because someone wanted to be intimate with someone else. Denying this nearly universal force might strike most people as so alien, so unrelatable that something must be wrong and something must be done.

      I think there's also the idea that society is very anti-lonliness. We want to see the couple end up together in the movie and we want our friends to pair off and be happy together. The idea of someone who doesn't want anyone might trigger some sort of "BUT YOU'LL BE SO LONELY" instinct-emotion in people and then misplaced empathy kicks in and they again want to "fix" you.

      I dont know if any of this makes sense. Really Im just sort of typing stream of consciousness at 5am trying to articulate a very complicated and poorly worded set of ideas. So I hope was I wrote wasn't offensive.

      • I completely understand how foreign my sexuality must seem to people who are not asexual, sexual relationships strike me as equally mystifying, to be honest. That attraction is one of those things you either feel or you don't. (There can be romantic attraction without sexual attraction, and vice versa – you can even get odd combinations, like romantically attracted to the opposite gender, but sexually attracted to the same gender – but I'm right in the spot where I don't feel either.)

        On a mental level, I can understand that a good deal people are happier when in relationships, I even feel that same 'you must couple!' knee-jerk feeling – I don't want a relationship for myself, but I still have trouble parsing 'happily single' as it relates to others. My younger brothers are both dating and I couldn't be happier for them, I wish them the best of luck.

        I'm very conscious of that gap in understanding, and it's simpler usually to just keep quiet. What is my situation compared to a gay couple who want to marry, after all? It almost feels disrespectful, to be 'coming out' without anything to fight for, when people in homosexual relationships are denied so much.

        But, if everyone thinks the same, and everyone keeps quiet, then no-one will know about asexuality, and asexuals who have yet to discover it will feel lost and alone. In a sense, I feel much less lonely knowing I'm part of something. It might be a 1% orientation, but 1% of 7 billion is no small number.

        I may never know what it's like to be in love, or experience sexual attraction, but I have friends, I have family, I have a community. I don't want for anything – I can't miss something I've never felt. I do sometimes wish I understood the sexual world a little better, but it's more of a nagging curiosity than anything. I find sexuality fascinating, with almost an outsider perspective. A bit like a fan of a sport who has never played that particular sport, nor desires to.

        Most importantly, I'm happy. I was conflicted for a long time, I believed I was broken, but now I know I'm not. I'm still kind of finding myself, I may always be 'finding myself', but I know my sexuality, and I'm definitely happier these days than I was before I knew.

        And, for the record, your comment didn't come off at all offensive to me. I don't take well to the 'it's a problem, you need to fix it with hormones/therapy/copious amounts of sex' mentality, but I didn't get that vibe from your comment, more that you were pointing out instances where people respond as such.

    • This. So much. I work in a profession where being gay would be a complete non-issue (its almost the norm!), but I don't feel like my 'coming out' as asexual would be understood at all.

    • You touch on a point that also seriously affected my life.
      When I was growing up my parents and teachers and books were forever telling me that "it was normal" to have "odd thoughts and concerns, especially about sex" while growing up.

      So I thought everyone had been through the dilemmas of bisexuality, asexuality, gender dysmorphism, and the psychological message from society that I was broken and a failure.

      I realise now that they simply couldn't realise the pain and damage their ignorance caused.

  15. Great post. I'm so glad to hear you talk about this.

    But can I just say how much I love your choice of Christmas decorations? Where can I buy some Christmas-themed badger traps?!

  16. to be walking distance to a whole foods i'd move to the gayborhood i'm 90% gay on paper already (the 10% is actually liking wiener)

  17. Am i the first one to mention that the owner of the boxes in that strip, CLEARLY has the most epic of christmas's i mean, he has xmas stalins, xmas snakes, xmas knives, xmas badger traps

    Wtf kinda crazy ass party do you throw down that even require xmas stalins?

  18. I would really hate it if someone characterized my coming out as "rambling".

    When I came out, I either blurted it out just to get it out or I beat around the bush by detailing the reasons I thought what I was about to do was unnecessary and a little demeaning. I guess I didn't get the memo that when you open yourself up to others with something very private, it should be completely coherent and succinct.

    I don't think Joel is trying to be insensitive and I know I'll probably be ignored or flamed for "not being able to take a joke," but the commentary on Jodie Foster's speech has rubbed me the wrong way.

    • I didn't say her coming out was rambling. I said her acceptance speech was. Go read the transcript. Its sort of all over the place. Not saying that's a bad thing. Just characterizing it the way I heard it.

  19. The group of friends I wound up with after college spanned pretty much the whole sexuality spectrum. Gay, lesbian, asexual, bisexual, polyamorous, transgender… it took some adjustment at first but after you go through one of your friends getting a new name and wanting to use the male pronoun, a second friend doing that is pretty easy to get used to.

    The biggest obstacle I've found is just talking about such things online rather than in person. In real-time conversations you can judge tone and body language and step in to correct a poorly-worded phrase before it does any damage, but online it sits there with no qualifiers for everybody to take their own assumptions of your motives to.

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