The best way to learn something is to ask. Especially if it’s about a group of people or culture you aren’t familiar with, asking questions is a great way to build empathy and understanding. However, the key here is knowing when it is appropriate to ask a question. Being a queer person myself, I know that queer culture is not something everyone is accustomed to. So when I meet a new person and they ask me questions about being queer, I understand where they are coming from. For the most part, no one asks me questions that are outwardly homophobic or hateful. But there are 5 things that my queer friends and I hate to talk about to new people in small talk settings.
1. Our dating history
When someone asks me about my dating history, it feels like they are trying to measure how legitimate my gayness is. Sometimes they’ll say, “oh so have you dated men/women before?”, which may seem benign, but it reads as “so how reliable is your gayness?”. Sometimes, they’ll literally say, “but you’ve dated men before; how can you be gay?”. That one makes me want to scream. The analogy I like to use is just because I’ve eaten meat before doesn’t mean I’m not a vegetarian now. Additionally, for my friends who date people of many genders, they don’t want to explain how being in a “heterosexual” relationship doesn’t make them less queer. That’s not how it works.
2. Our coming out story
“So how did your parents take it when you came out?” Oh wow, it’s 9 pm, I’ve only had a drink and a half, and some stranger is asking me about family trauma. Many of us are lucky to have a strong family support system, but many do not. I don’t know what knowing about my potential struggle or lack thereof with my family will add to a conversation or even tell this person anything about me. Coming out is a big part of a queer person’s life, but not the only one and definitely not one we want to causally discuss.
3. Logistics of sex
First and firstmostly, we do not want to get into any “top or bottom” conversation. That concept has more nuance to it than just physical positioning, and it also has negative underlying prejudices like misogyny. It’s not an end-all-be-all term to quantify queer sex. Queer sex is centered around pleasure, so we just do what feels good! That’s it! So please stop asking about scissoring!
4. Which one is the ___________.
Queer people have to freedom to develop relationships without the confines of heteronormative standards. So when someone asks a question that tries to shove us into those standards, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. “Which one of you is wearing a dress?”, “which one of you is going to have kids?”, “which one of you is going to stay home?”. These are all expectations of a straight relationship, which indicates to us that our relationship is only valid if it mirrors the acceptable gender roles of a straight relationship. Asking more open-ended questions (ex. “What are you wearing on your wedding day?” vs. “who is wearing The Dress?”) gives us more room to be our own version of a relationship.
5. Who we like, with specific examples
If you are straight, do you like every person of the “opposite sex?” Probably not. So no, we don’t have a crush on you, no, we don’t want to date a man just because we date a woman with short hair, and no, we probably won’t want to date your only other queer friend just because they are queer.
Even if your question comes from a well-intended place, ask yourself, “would I ask a straight person this question?”. That can usually give you a good idea if the question is actually out of line.