I Don't Feel LGBT Enough.
I DON’T FEEL LGBT ENOUGH.
Content Warning: Sexuality and gender discussion with mentions of violence
It’s June 1st, meaning companies all over are swapping their logos temporarily for rainbow-ized versions. As is usual, everyone is making fun of them, while simultaneously acknowledging that awareness is good, but that actual actions need to be taken rather than the hollow lip service that most companies do.
We’ve never changed our logo into a rainbow, as it’s always felt like a corporate, jump on the bandwagon, meaningless and hollow kind of move.
I don’t think we’ll be changing our logo this year, either.
So, that begs the question, why am I sitting here, compelled to write this completely off the cuff, unprompted piece that no one else besides the grumpy, fluffy cat who wants my chair knows I’m writing, at 5AM in the morning instead of going to sleep?
It started with a simple chat I was having while playing games late at night. This time, it was specifically Apex Legends, which famously has openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and pansexual characters. I dropped for one last solo game, and had two energetically typing teammates who seemed to enjoy bantering, and possibly flirting, through text chat rather than looting or shooting.
They’d make jokes about who their characters would find attractive, get into explicit detail about what one character might want to do to another, and so on and so forth. The character I was playing at the time, Gibraltar, is canonically gay. They eventually turned their attention to me, after a particularly rough fight that we’d barely managed to scrape by, more through the fault of the last remaining enemy player stepping on their own grenade than any exceptional skill on our part.
“You know you’re playing a gay dude right?” one of them asked.
“Yeah, I watched a two hour long lore video that kind of covered everything,” I responded.
“Doesn’t make you feel weird? Makes you a lil gay doesn’t it?”
As much as I want to say I had a witty quip prepared, as fun as it would be to fictionalize the interaction into something that made me look laconic and witty, I’ll say instead that what actually happened was that we got ambushed and eliminated as I stood still trying to think of a clever response.
See, specifically, the thing that got us killed was the fact that I stood still, typing, then deleting, then typing, then deleting, then typing again.
Because, thing is, I am a little gay. Sort of. Kind of?
Well, more than a little then, I’d say.
Does that classify me as LGBT?
And if it does, can I say that this business is LGBT owned?
And if I can, then am I allowed to say I, Jian “Tim” Zheng, am LGBT?
I’m not sure.
Among my friends, and those who know me well, it is no secret that I am pansexual.
I stipulate pansexuality rather than bisexuality, simply for the acknowledgment of non-gender binary people, and also because... well, bear with me here, I can make stupid jokes about how “I went to culinary school to be a chef because I was pansexual.”
Ba-dum tish. The crowd boos, and rightfully so.
Also, the pan flag is just way prettier. I will take no questions on that one.
I don’t believe it’s wrong to say you’re bisexual either, as the modern definition of that term also tends to encompass all genders, regardless of the binary. What you define yourself as, whether it be bisexual or pansexual seems to be more of a personal preference than anything.
I’ve come out of the closet about that a long time ago, and have never had any qualms about saying that I enjoy how men look, how women look, how androgynous people look, how non-binary people look, and have a wide range of attractions to many body types and styles.
I will happily and readily say to anyone that I’d kiss and flirt with a man, especially if he’s particularly witty, or well muscled, or has a little extra cute softness to them indicating that they’d probably love eating lots of food I make for them.
And I will happily and readily say to anyone that I’d kiss and flirt with a woman, especially if she’s well muscled, particularly witty, or has a little extra cute softness to them indicating that they’d probably love eating lots of food I make for them.
And I will happily and readily say to anyone that I’d kiss and flirt with someone who doesn’t want their gender defined in the binary, especially if they have a little extra cute softness to them indicating that they’d probably love eating lots of food I make for them, are particularly witty, or well muscled.
But I am a cis-gendered, masculine presenting man, and the second option seems to be the default assumption that people make on first glance.
See, I am also in a loving, long term relationship of 13+ years with my partner, Anna, a cis-gendered, feminine presenting woman.
I am still pansexual.
I have also never dated, or kissed another woman before, as Anna is my first relationship, a high school sweetheart, and we’ve been together ever since.
I am still pansexual...
I have also never dated a man before.
I am still pansexual?
I have also never kissed a man before.
Am I still pansexual?
I, a cis-gendered, masculine presenting man in what is otherwise a long term, straight relationship, have never been in a relationship, never kissed, never sexually touched, and never romantically flirted with anyone of the same gender as I, or of non-binary gender.
Am I... actually pansexual then?
Am I, then, gay enough, bi enough, pansexual enough to call myself LGBT, if I’ve never experienced any of these other things?
“Yes!” you may say, “Yes, Tim, just be yourself, be proudly pansexual, and you’re LGBT!”
And of course, you’d be right. I think. I’m not sure.
Because what makes me hesitant isn’t a fear of being called gay. It’s not a fear of having to deal with homophobia, or of not wanting to face discrimination. These are all legitimate fears that can make the journey of others difficult, arduous, and dangerous.
And these are fears that I will not have to face.
I am hesitant because I don’t, have not, and likely will never face these problems.
I am cis-gendered.
I am in a straight, long term, wholesome relationship.
I will not face mis-gendering, and jeering and slurs and the pain associated with transitioning.
I will not face a fight for governmental or official institutions to recognize my love, and grant me the legal protections and boons of marriage.
I will not have to struggle to hide who I am for fear of losing my reputation, my career, or my life to angry homophobes.
I will instead benefit from everything a fully straight, cisgendered man would. I will instead avoid all of the hate, the anguish, the distress and trauma for being LGBT. I will instead have the option, the privilege to comfortably sit on the sidelines if I felt like doing so, declaring I am LGBT when it’s convenient, shying away from it when it isn’t.
Because that’s what I have the option to do, and the privilege of being straight passing.
And every day, I see others who don’t have this option. Every day, I hear friends being called slurs, friends being misgendered, friends being mocked, friends being hated.
And I fight for them, every time. And yet, every time, I sit there, and wonder, and a little part of me wishes they would call me those things too.
It doesn’t feel right to me to assume that mantle of LGBT, when I have the privilege to decide. It doesn’t feel right to me that my role, and my position seems to be more of that of an ally, rather than LGBT, because of these options given to me that other LGBT people do not have.
And yet, I also understand that, being in the position I am, it is important for me to take a stand, be an example, rise up against the chains of bi/pan erasure, and... and... !
And I want to. And I do. And I’ve shied away from it for so many years. Because what I feel cannot be unique. What I feel has to be felt by someone else, somewhere, sometime. This unbridled guilt, this sickening shame that permeates my flesh and burrows itself, nesting deep into my heart every time I even think of calling myself LGBT has to be something that someone else, too, might be struggling with.
And still, I don’t know how to come to terms with it. And still, I sit here, the sun bleeding its red-gold tendrils across the quieting darkness where the people possessing reasonable circadian rhythms have begun to rouse from their slumber, I have not come up with an answer.
Perhaps this is catharsis, in some way, or a poor attempt at it. These words that pour from my fingers carry nothing but the cacophony of sentiments and emotions spilled from a heart too heavily laden with the mind’s logic and thoughts, and suffers for it.
Can that really be called catharsis?
These feelings are carved from the core of bi and pan erasure. This is the root of where I cannot truthfully identify myself as straight, and yet I feel the judgemental eyes and whispering lips of those who have suffered in ways that I have not and will not and when I dig myself an entrenchment to declare that I am... [not]... LGBT, because that would diminish on their suffering, but I declare even louder that I still am pansexual to make up for it, somehow, and realize the fear is not all gone and wonder which of my family overseas may retch in disgust or what the repairmen might say or when someone will accuse me of virtue signaling while others accuse me of woke culture and I hasten to defend myself and my actions, and to state that I am not an evil, faceless, corporate entity, that we are a small business that cares, that I have done everything that I can as an ally, from hiring to the point where 50%+ of our staff are LGBT, to supporting LGBT events monetarily, even if it was at a loss, to anything and everything that I can think of to do that a good ally should, and be a good company, with good people that....
I’ve since forgotten. Silly me.
How airheaded of me. How forgetful.
I remember now.
Yes, I remember.
I am not an ally.
Because, you see, I am pansexual.
And I [am]/[am not] LGBT.
-Tim Zheng, CEO/Founder