Many people have claimed some variation of the following phrase, “I don’t have a problem with gay people, as long as they don’t bring their gayness near me.” Those claiming this sentiment often believe that they are not homophobic. They may believe they are providing gay people with the opportunity to participate in their lives, so long as they do not ‘act’ gay in their presence, which they view as a small request on their part.
In our society, it is acceptable and encouraged for single heterosexual people to talk about who they are attracted to in the opposite sex. Groups of friends exclaim about good looking members of the opposite sex at social gatherings, whether they be at house parties, nightclubs, or bowling allies. Nobody bats an eye when the single guy tells his group of friends about his date the other night, or what the woman he picked up at the club looked like.
For heterosexual people hoping to be allies of the LGBT community, imagine a social situation where heterosexuality is not permitted in any way. Then imagine the repercussions of accidentally showing heterosexuality to the group of people imagined. This request may seem ridiculous. And it is. This is why a desire for gay people to keep their ‘gayness’ to themselves is both homophobic and ludicrous.
For those seeking to become LGBT allies, become comfortable by picturing gay relatives and friends with their partners or spouses. Rather than immediately picturing sex, picture a romantic dinner, or a walk in the park holding hands. When comfort increases, ask if they are dating anyone, or who they are attracted to. Ask what their idea of a romantic date is. For allies who witness homophobic sentiments of friends and family, try to educate them that their requests to keep someone’s gayness away are not grantable. This will increase understanding that being gay is not restricted to an act of sex, but that being gay affects all areas of a person’s social life.