AskMe coming out confusion November 21, 2006 2:39 AM   Subscribe

Just curious, do other mefites think the situation/question in this thread is clear? Was it a badly worded post or not understanding what "coming out" means?
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Etiquette/Policy at 2:39 AM (148 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Well, it appears that an awful lot of mefites, understood, and answered the question. It must have been pretty clear.
posted by the_epicurean at 2:58 AM on November 21, 2006


It was the latter: you don't understand what coming out means.
posted by chickletworks at 3:29 AM on November 21, 2006


I imagined some guy counselling troubled teens saying "I just want you to know I'm gay", which I think is an incredibly stupid idea. As stupid as me, in my line of work, telling my teachers and trainees, "I just wanted you to know I'm not a homosexual."

To me, "coming out" has a celebratory / big event connotation associated with it. "Sit down and listen, because I have important news to share!!! Are you sitting down? Get ready..."

You come out to important people in your life, who were previously decieved, or unaware.

Someone talking about "my girlfriend", or "my boyfriend" while talking about their evening or weekend is to me not "coming out": that person, gay or straight, is just being themselves and making incidental small talk.

Someone mentioned putting a triangle or rainbow out, so people could ask if they were curious. I think that's also a shit idea - at work, you needn't make a point of telling us who you like to hump.

How often, when you are serving your client at work, does who you hump after hours enter into things? The only time I get into that with people at my workplace is once I have them out for drinks and am trying to hit on them - maybe that would be a more appropriate time for the original asker to "come out"?

Or maybe I do not understand what this term means. Is "come out" a synonym for "be gay"?
posted by Meatbomb at 3:30 AM on November 21, 2006


chickletworks has it, I think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:42 AM on November 21, 2006


Is "come out" a synonym for "be gay"?

No, it's a synonym for "be gay and not have to hide it."
posted by grouse at 3:46 AM on November 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


grouse: I said "Someone talking about "my girlfriend", or "my boyfriend" while talking about their evening or weekend is to me not "coming out": that person, gay or straight, is just being themselves and making incidental small talk."

So, it seems we agree in principle, it's just I don't have the same understanding of the term "come out". Apologies for any misunderstanding.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:24 AM on November 21, 2006


I think the comment challenging straight folks to go a week without "coming out" as straight was spot-on (except for slandering dirtynumbangelboy, that is :). Looks like a combination of male answer syndrome and standard "straight people really don't think much about what it's like to be gay" stuff. Nothing to get furious over, but I can see why dash_slot got impatient with the folks who don't have a clue about this kind of situation but decided to chime in anyway.
posted by mediareport at 5:20 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


To me, "coming out" has a celebratory / big event connotation associated with it.

It's a cliche in the gay community that "coming out is a process," but it's true. It's an ongoing process of constant assessment and engagement with a variety of people, almost all of whom begin their association with you under a colossally wrong assumption. The ongoing negotiation of that incorrect assumption gets easier over time, but trust me, after a few years there's little that's "celebratory" about it. It can be a chore, honestly.
posted by mediareport at 5:27 AM on November 21, 2006


I think the comment challenging straight folks to go a week without "coming out" as straight was spot-on

No, it wasn't. It didn't answer the question. If chickletworks wanted to call people out, then s/he should have done it here, not in the thread. Of course, dash_slot marked it as a best answer, so I suppose that dash_slot thinks it answered the question.
posted by antifuse at 6:00 AM on November 21, 2006


Thanks for your support, mediareport (seriously). However, if reminding people what the question was - with a little jokey 'frigging' thrown in - is getting impatient, then I don't know how to describe the usual snark on Mefi.

"a combination of male answer syndrome and standard "straight people really don't think much about what it's like to be gay" stuff" Yup, I reckon.

Meatbomb: why do you think I am counselling troubled teens? Are you again reading more than is on the page?

And Brandon: why not leave a note in the thread and let me know you were Meta'ing this - it's a basic courtesy, no?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:00 AM on November 21, 2006


I am persuaded that to be more relaxed at work - with the clients, that is - I want to come out to them. I suspect most are, in fact, already in the picture. - me

Get a clue, people: this question isn't about someone wanting to stand up on his desk and treat his coworkers to a description of his favorite sexual position. This is about someone not wanting to spend every minute monitoring every word that comes out of his mouth for something that might give him away. - chickletworks

That is a relevant response, so taht's why it is marked best answer. It doesn't need further explanation than that.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:05 AM on November 21, 2006


That is a relevant response, so taht's why it is marked best answer.

Sure, do what you want. Just remember that questions with a marked best answer are considered "Answered" and some people might not join the thread after you've done that.
posted by grouse at 6:13 AM on November 21, 2006


dash_slot: perhaps you should have been more clear as to what your occupation was? Most people would interpret "I work with mostly underprivileged under-18's" as "teen counsellor". I, specifically, would assume that since that is how a couple of my good friends, who are/have been teen counsellors, describe their work.

And if you're going to cherry-pick parts of answers being relevant meaning that the whole answer is relevant, I technically *did* make an effort at answering your question before suggesting that perhaps you might not want to continue your course of action. Which, since you decided in fact NOT to come out to your teens, it would seem was a valid answer as well.
posted by antifuse at 6:14 AM on November 21, 2006


dash_slot: you wrote "I am working with young people up to 18 years old...with the clients, that is - I want to come out to them...the client group is no more enlightened than before. In fact, they are the same group - disaffected, excluded, so-called 'underprivileged'... I do help 'em with career stuff - good guess."

And I was just taking a guess, based on the info about your work situation you were providing - so, do you not counsel them? You a probation officer? Priest? It seems based on your info there is a limited set of potential jobs you are in.

But anyways, look - I suppose I just misunderstand what exactly you meant by "come out". I'd say just be yourself, don't make a big effort to hide or cover, and deflect any of that rude / off topic stuff if it starts up.

But I still think, if by "coming out" you mean making a big song and dance about being gay, that that's not smart.

Regardless, all the best to you with the decision, I'm sure the situation you're in isn't an easy or comfortable one.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:21 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


It was the latter: you don't understand what coming out means.

I would agree that's part of it. I took coming out to mean some dramatic sort of statement or action, which is pointless. But just wanting to shoot the breeze about SO penchant for X type of movies and general thoughtfullness at doing the dishes when the OP was tired, well yeah, I understand a lot better now. He just wants to be normal. By not having to watch every word, he'll be more relaxed, and be better able to handle clients. I understand a lot better now, thankyou.

That said, dash_slot, you coulda been a bit clearer, because you got two issues going- being normal with your co-workers and how some of the clients react to you being gay. I'm STIll not sure what one has to do with the other, nor do I know what the you actually do with said clients, so maybe being clearer on that might have helped.

why not leave a note in the thread and let me know you were Meta'ing this - it's a basic courtesy, no?

Just didn't think of it. Brainfart, no harm meant.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:39 AM on November 21, 2006


You ask do other mefites think the situation/question in this thread is clear?

The question was how do I have ready made answers for their personal questions.

Most of the posters made assumptions about the situation and did not answer the question.

On the side issue, I am a gay man who defines "coming out" as being myself, speaking and acting honestly and openly. For me, it is not "making a big announcement." For example, the following exchange: Co-worker: "What did you do last weekend?" Me: "My partner and I took his mother to Sea World?"
posted by Robert Angelo at 6:44 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


But I still think, if by "coming out" you mean making a big song and dance about being gay, that that's not smart. - meatbomb

No, believe me, that wouldn't be appropriate.

My job is not easy for others to understand - it is what we describe as support work. Some elements of counselling skills are used, but we do not have just that role, nor that boundaried mode. We listen, and motivate. We advocate and set targets. We manage housing for kids leaving foster & group homes (we in the UK call it 'care leavers').

Some of these kids are likely gay, but they don't have role models. The others all think we are limp wristed molesters. However, we all work well and are engaged in a common purpose. We like our clients, and mostly - they like us. I would, if the setting was safe, come out - as in 'not gloss over', or admit, or mention, aspects or elements of my life. But no - no big scene with drama and passion. Just coming out [with it]. Very simple. Very honest. That's the note I would prefer to strike.

That would be my style.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:45 AM on November 21, 2006


Co-worker: "What did you do last weekend?"
Me: "My partner and I took his mother to Sea World?"
Co-worker: "Jamaica?"
Me: "No, she wanted to come with."

BoomBoom!

The question was how do I have ready made answers for their personal questions.

Thank you - it thought it was clear enough - I composed it carefully. The background - "being normal with your co-workers" - was context. The question was the bit ending with a ?
posted by dash_slot- at 6:51 AM on November 21, 2006


I would, if the setting was safe, come out - as in 'not gloss over', or admit, or mention, aspects or elements of my life. But no - no big scene with drama and passion. Just coming out [with it]. Very simple. Very honest.

I would suggest you convey that meaning of "coming out" when bringing it up to straight people in the future. Might help avoid misunderstanding.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:55 AM on November 21, 2006


I'm straight, and I take "coming out" to mean "not hiding your gayness." I respectfully submit this is your personal problem and not that of straight people in general.
posted by languagehat at 7:04 AM on November 21, 2006


Point taken.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 AM on November 21, 2006


This straight person didn't know that "coming out" could be used in this way. Thanks for shaving another point off my ignorance score.
posted by Shutter at 7:36 AM on November 21, 2006


Languagehat, you're straight with a gay brother (based on your post to the Ask thread). Not typical of a lot of straight people. To your average straight person who doesn't have much (or any) insight into the gay world, "coming out" means "Mom, dad, everyone, I'm gay. <insert big family moment here>". This was certainly what I thought coming out meant when I read this question. For this, you can blame popular culture, which is the only place that I've ever seen "coming out" used in context (and I presume Brandon is in a similar situation to me).
posted by antifuse at 7:36 AM on November 21, 2006


That thread is a disappointing mess.

This is a total flashback to that ruckus over the menstruation thread a week or so ago: a classic example of people scrolling through questions and feeling they have a worthwhile opinion, whether or not they have any insight or experience on the subject. You don't have to answer every question, ya know.

Also, if you don't know what's involved in the poster "coming out", you can always ask questions of your own... or leave the answering to those who know of which they speak.

Reading post after post of people saying "don't do it!" was really depressing. In every new job I've had, people try to make friends by asking me questions, and I often wind up outing myself without having a chance to decide whether it's wise or appropriate: they want to know what I'm doing for Thanksgiving, what am I supposed to say? Having to constantly think on your feet like this is exhausting, and for some people, it's a permanent fact of their professional life.

It is so important for professionals to address the subject of sexuality, and it's especially responsible for them to be able to do so when they work among younger people. First of all, kids can tell when someone's different-- their senses to this are sharply honed because of their own social paranoia. You can either hide all traces of yourself so as to not give them a grip on anything they can use to push your buttons (impossible) or you can be honest with them and teach them a little about what life is like for those who are different with them (difficult, but commendable). If they feel like you're hiding anything, they'll never drop it. And it's not about "sexuality" or in any way sexualizing your dialogue or relationship with kids. If anything, they are the ones who are going to take it there, and need to be corrected (as do a bunch of MeFites) that being homosexual has cultural, political, and social aspects that reach far beyond its sex-acts.

Also, what sort of message does it send to those queer youth who are themselves hiding? I probably had contact with plenty of gay adults growing up, but it was a very conservative small town and so I never knew it. I was an adult by the time I consciously met any "gay" people, and it took years to adjust to the normalcy of accepting and loving them, or myself. It's not about rubbing your gayness in their face; it's about presenting a well-rounded model of society that they can hopefully one day function in.

More and more, this will hardly be the case in the world that kids are growing up into-- and it will largely owed not to what they see in the media, but to their exposure to actual gays and lesbians holding everyday positions of esteem.

Sorry the green (mostly) let you down, dash-slot-. As a group, we can be helpful to a fault.
posted by hermitosis at 7:43 AM on November 21, 2006 [5 favorites]


And I'm straight, and I take 'coming out' to mean 'making some sort of specific statement about your gayness.' I respectfully submit this is not just his personal problem, though it may not be that of straight people in general.

Describing your partner in gender specific terms wouldn't, before this thread, have struck me as 'coming out' but rather as 'being out'.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2006


do other mefites think the situation/question in this thread is clear?

Well, to answer this question, no. It's taken both the green and gray threads to arrive at semi-clarity.

Based on that semi-understanding, I think the answer is probably to rehearse. List specific questions, talk to friends in the same situation, get specific responses that have worked for them in the past.

However, one wonders if MeFi could actually support such a process on this subject without devolving into something er... non-supportive anyway.
posted by scheptech at 7:44 AM on November 21, 2006


I would have interpreted the statements in that thread exactly as Brandon Blatcher did.
posted by cribcage at 7:45 AM on November 21, 2006


My habitual perception of the meaning/magnitude of "coming out" is similar to Brandon, Meatbomb, et al. Maybe it's a Portland thing for me—relatively chill, gay-friendly atmosphere growing up, so out gay folks were just out gay folks. The only time I noticed someone coming out was when they were Coming Out with attendant drama—otherwise, it was pretty much, oh, boyfriend? Guess he's gay, then.

But then I hung out with the self-identifying freak crowd in high school, where everybody was gay or bi, even if they weren't. No one in the crowd cared or minded.

As antifuse says, it's probably a pop culture thing and a situational thing. It's nice to have some context from the other side—I'll be a little bit more nuanced in my understanding of the term now.
posted by cortex at 7:46 AM on November 21, 2006


That thread is a disappointing mess.

Amen to that, and it's unfortunate because once dash_slot actually got around to explaining what he was really asking, it's an interesting topic.

The question, as posted, was vague to the point of coyness, and dash_slot, your ongoing insistence that people who are trying to answer it "don't get it" isn't helping.
posted by mkultra at 7:52 AM on November 21, 2006


i don't have a particular opinion as to what "coming out" means or doesn't but i wanted to answer something mediareport brought up:spending a week not outing yourself as a straight person is not as hard as you might think. at one of my first legal jobs, apparently, no-one had the slightest idea whether i was straight, gay, married, single, dating or a weird celibate recluse. i know this because after working there for over a year, i went out for drinks with someone i worked with--as i was getting ready to leave for another job--and after about two drinks he said "you know, now that you're leaving, i can say this. i wanted to ask you out on a date, but no-one in the office knew whether you were single or not, and a couple wondered if maybe you were a lesbian. even [coworker who you go to lunch with several times a month] couldn't tell me whether you were single or even straight." i had a similar conversation with one of the other instructors at the university where i teach after three semesters (she wanted to set me up with her brother and didn't know if i was single, although she assumed i was straight). you see, my relationship status (unmarried, but with the same man for the last ten years) just really never comes up at work. my clients don't know; my coworkers don't know; my students don't know (when i was advising one on a paper about women's issues in the law, i bought my condo in an historically gay neighborhood and she asked if i was lesbian because no-one seemed to know if i was married or not). it's not that i sit in my office and don't talk to people, but that it never comes up. i'm willing to accept that it's a little odd to go a whole year without it ever coming up, but a week, really not that hard.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:07 AM on November 21, 2006


Crush-onastick, that's a fine example of how a person can be themself and still avoid unnecessarily mingling their personal/professional lives.

But as it's the result of simply doing what you do, I'm guessing that others would have a much more difficult time, while still others (such as the OP) can not necessarily risk being oblivious to how they are perceived by their contemporaries.
posted by hermitosis at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2006


yeh, hermitosis, i know it's not really much to do with the actual topic at hand, but i've heard that challenge before and a week really isn't hard. not outing the orientation of your personal life, ever? impossible and people shouldn't have to live that way.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:22 AM on November 21, 2006


I think jacquilynne nailed it. Observe the difference:

"I want to come out to the underpriveleged teens I work with, even though some of them are probably prejudiced."

and

"I want to be out in my work, even though some of the underpriveleged teens I work with are probably prejudiced."

The former sounds like an uncomfortable announcement; the latter sounds about right.
posted by argybarg at 8:31 AM on November 21, 2006


Folks, even causally mentioning your partner for the first time (or some other conversational revelation) is considered by most gays to be "coming out". And the reason it's considered as such is that you never really know how they're going to react. Very often it immediately results in a short conversation about the out-comer's situation, and sometimes that is not a comfortable conversation a-tall.

The context is muddy for a lot of you because you consider yourselves people that someone wouldn't have to come out "to". As in, upon perceiving or learning that someone was gay, you'd simply register the fact and move on. But really coming out can be more about the way someone receives the news and less about the way it is offered.

If I mentioned my partner casually to a co-worker and received no real reaction, I wouldn't think much of it either.

If I mentioned my partner casually to a co-worker and they expressed surprise, or had questions, or seemed troubled, I would probably come home and tell my partner, "I came out to so-and-so today".

If you're in a position like the OP, you have to handle such things strategically and prepare for possible questions and fall-out. You have to "come out" to them. I don't know why this is so confusing. You have to COME out in order to BE out. BEing out, as argybarg specified, means COMing out to certain individuals so that it becomes common knowledge among the workplace. This is what the OP asked for help in accomplishing. What's so stymieing about that?
posted by hermitosis at 8:49 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


As to chickletworks comment:

Megatherium, Brandon Blatcher, Oxford blue, Mrbill, Fogster,
StrikeTheViol, Meatbomb, Dirtynumbangelboy, Tomble, and Antifuse:
I'd like to challenge you all to make it through the rest of the workweek without "coming out" as straight.


Oh please. Try being black for a week in America. Oh wait, it's not that hard, so pardon me for not weeping because you can't (at least in your own mind) talk about your SO at the office.

Straight people "flaunt their sexuality" all. the. freaking. time. You enroll your spouses in your company-sponsored health plan. Your coworkers take up a collections to buy wedding/ baby shower gifts for you. You bring your spouse to the office holiday party. You get flowers at work on Valentine's Day. You leave work early to go pick up your kids.

Tell me: why is it not okay for the OP to want to do those things?


Get a grip. Seriously. Because NO ONE said that.

No one is "flaunting" a damn thing, so take that violin, that piece of cheese and most of all, those ignorant assumptions about how people live and act, get back on that lbroken down high horse and scurry back to whatever pity party you crawled out of.

It was a badly worded post. It happens.

Several people read the post wrong. It happens.

No one said anything remotely like "ew ew gay people, don't be gay around me." It was variations on "What does this have to do with your job?"

But for you to assume that those people you cited wouldn't give the OP basic human respect is just arrogant, stupid and short sighted.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2006


"I'm straight, and I take "coming out" to mean "not hiding your gayness." I respectfully submit this is your personal problem and not that of straight people in general."

A gay pal of mine made the distinction between "coming out" and "being out," in that he said he stopped "coming out" when he was 19, and has since just "been out" and assumed everyone knew.
Or, to phrase another way, I always assumed that "out" was the state, and "coming out" was a specific verb phrase.
I do think it may be generational in some respects— once you know a lot of out gay people, they're just "out," and you don't think of them as specifically "coming out" all the time. I realize that this is probably the function of not having a tremendous amount of contact with the gay world, but I do know at least a couple of gay folks who think like that.
posted by klangklangston at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2006


You have to COME out in order to BE out. BEing out, as argybarg specified, means COMing out to certain individuals so that it becomes common knowledge among the workplace. This is what the OP asked for help in accomplishing. What's so stymieing about that?

That is NOT what was asked. His specific question was "So: how do I have ready made answers for their personal questions - eg, "you put that there? Eww?!!? Ain't that dirty?" in response to ignorant teens.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:04 AM on November 21, 2006


once dash_slot actually got around to explaining what he was really asking

That would be where i said :"So: how do I have ready made answers for their personal questions - eg, "you put that there? Eww?!!? Ain't that dirty?" - ie, in the post. In the question.

Sheesh. Every body who didn't get it didn't read or jumped in with two feet without looking, not knowing the terrain and assuming it was safe to spout off.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:14 AM on November 21, 2006


coming out is both big declarative announcements and small, casually-mentioned-in-passing indications and remarks--it's all of it, and it all matters, and it's always a risk.
posted by amberglow at 9:16 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Just curious, do other mefites think the situation/question in this thread is clear?

I thought the question was very clear: How do I deal with offensive questions about my sexuality?

Everything else was added by the readers, IMO.
posted by muddgirl at 9:17 AM on November 21, 2006



You write this:

Every body who didn't get it didn't read or jumped in with two feet without looking, not knowing the terrain and assuming it was safe to spout off.

after writing this?!:

My job is not easy for others to understand - it is what we describe as support work.

Jesus Christ, you're being thick. Do you at least have a job title, or will people not be able to understand that either?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:22 AM on November 21, 2006


Actually, Brandon, you chose the wrong sentence of mine to quote. How about the one before it?

"If you're in a position like the OP, you have to handle such things strategically and prepare for possible questions and fall-out" fits what he asked to a tee.
posted by hermitosis at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2006


Most of my gay friends also consider mentioning "my boyfriend" for the first time to a (probably) straight person as explicitly "coming out." And it does cause many of them a fair amount of stress, and I've watched friends really torture themselves about what the reaction would be. The resulting conversation may have been casual, but sometimes the lead-up to it was anything but.

I do think the question was a bit ambiguous -- I also had visions of some big announcement -- but I also think the various "OMG, why do kids need to know about your sex life!?!?!?" comments were ignorant, unhelpful, and homophobic. They made the thread ugly and overly hostile from the beginning, and prevented any actual discussion from happening because of their attacks.

I would suggest that commenters who made such comments think about NOT COMMENTING in threads in which gay people are asking for help with aspects of their romantic lives in the future. You don't know what you're talking about, and your assumptions are unhelpful at best and harmful at worst.
posted by occhiblu at 9:30 AM on November 21, 2006


And why are you still baiting slash?

People not out at work exercising discretion when posting work-related questions isn't thick, it's precautionary. Posting anonymously doesn't allow you to supplement your question with responses to the venerable likes of you.
posted by hermitosis at 9:35 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


You write this:

Every body who didn't get it didn't read or jumped in with two feet without looking, not knowing the terrain and assuming it was safe to spout off.

after writing this?!:

My job is not easy for others to understand - it is what we describe as support work.

Jesus Christ, you're being thick. Do you at least have a job title, or will people not be able to understand that either?
posted by Brandon Blatcher


OK, do I respond by describing you as wilfully unsympathetic, or a bigot? I'll do neither.

I, Support Worker. Sadly lacking in drama, but quite descriptive, and it is perfectly consistent with my wording in the post - "I'm in the UK, and I am working with young people up to 18 years old. " Most brits know what the 'working with young people' bit means - it's not far removed from youth work.

Maybe you don't understand that phrase, 'cos it's UK centric - but then, you would have asked for more info then, wouldn't you.

You did jump in, you didn't understand, you weren't alone, it's ok.
posted by dash_slot- at 9:42 AM on November 21, 2006


I would suggest that commenters who made such comments think about NOT COMMENTING in threads in which gay people are asking for help with aspects of their romantic lives in the future. You don't know what you're talking about, and your assumptions are unhelpful at best and harmful at worst.

Excellent suggestion. Since Brandon got his answer can we close this thread?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:42 AM on November 21, 2006


If all you want is good responses to rude questions about homosexual practices from young client, then just ask for that - it's a one sentence question. The same basic principle applies to that "how to tell when my period is coming" thing. Complaining about the quality of answers that were given for free seems to me to be a bit ungracious, we're not robots.
posted by teleskiving at 9:47 AM on November 21, 2006


And enough of this, "you're not in this category, you don't belong here" stuff. If your question includes a bunch of chatty framing, it's fair game for everyone.
posted by teleskiving at 9:50 AM on November 21, 2006


Yes, we're not robots. Which means we can exercise agency about which questions we answer. "Not answering" is an option.

On preview: Why is it fair game? I know nothing about computers; should I wander into the tech-help threads and give my treatise on how the IT support guy always tells me to unplug it and then plug it back in? Why not?
posted by occhiblu at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2006


"Most brits know what the 'working with young people' bit means "

So, for those of us non-Brits, what might it mean?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2006


That is to say, it's not a "If you're not in this category, don't answer" request. It's a request to THINK about whether you have any useful, real information. It's likely that if you have no firsthand experience with the matter at hand, you will be less helpful than those who do. If there are many people available who do have firsthand experience -- programmers, DIY handymen, women, gay people, tourists who have actually visited the locale in question -- than you should probably just automatically defer to them. They will have better information than you do, and will be more helpful, and are less likely to cause huge trainwreck arguments about the premises of the question.
posted by occhiblu at 9:55 AM on November 21, 2006


coming out is different in different contexts! It is sometimes a big announcement because you cannot just casually mention your boyfriend to your family as if it's no big deal if they've been trying to get you to date the girl next door since you were 15, or whatever. If the situation is going to be a big emotional hurdle for the people involved, it's only fair to set it up with a little warning - to "sit them down" and reveal the news with an expectation that it will need to be considered and digested and talked about.

But in the context of casual acquaintances and co-workers and that sort of thing, coming out does not generally require those sorts of safety measures. INstead, it is just revealing the information - but depending on the environment, responses will differ, and usually there is a period of sorting of "feeling out" whether it will be comfortable to directly make reference. IME sometimes people will refer to cultural or secondary examples ("my friend john's boyfriend...") to gauge how it will go over before explicitly sharing something personal.

Coming out casually is no less "coming out"; it's the relationship that's different, not the information - the information is less of a concern for those involved, so the revelation is less dramatic.
posted by mdn at 10:08 AM on November 21, 2006


"you're not in this category, you don't belong here"

Clearly, I never said that. I learned a lot even from those that answered inappropriately.

"Most brits know what the 'working with young people' bit means "

So, for those of us non-Brits, what might it mean?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:51 AM

As I said, it's not far removed from youth work. I give up now. Do you guys have youth workers? I didn't want to be too descriptive - it wasn't necessary, and I am cautious.

If you didn't know what I was on about (not you, crash - those who chipped in and got it wrong) - why answer?

The thing was - straights didn't get the 'coming out' nuances, and yanks didn't get the UK job description. OK - nuff said.
posted by dash_slot- at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2006


OK, do I respond by describing you as wilfully unsympathetic, or a bigot? I'll do neither.

Be an adult please, and own up to your feelings and/or thoughts rather than being passive aggressive.

Maybe you don't understand that phrase, 'cos it's UK centric - but then, you would have asked for more info then, wouldn't you.

A question was asked.

In closing, perhaps a different line of work?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:09 AM on November 21, 2006


I know nothing about computers; should I wander into the tech-help threads and give my treatise on how the IT support guy always tells me to unplug it and then plug it back in? Why not?

If you can be amusing about it, knock yourself out.

(Tech threads are about specific concrete information. The question in, er, question is more of a human relations question and we all have experience with uman relations, and probably a lot of us have experience with gay people, so the pool of potential answers is larger and more perspectives are welcome, I'd imagine.

This whole 'defer' thing is kinda Nurse Ratchedy.
posted by jonmc at 10:14 AM on November 21, 2006


Pot: "Kettle, be black please."
posted by hermitosis at 10:19 AM on November 21, 2006


But it doesn't actually seem that many of the people in that thread have enough experience with gay people to be commenting. The idea that homosexuality is only about anal sex does not seem to be an idea with wide circulation among the gay community and its friends.

Yes, obviously, there's a wider network of people with ideas or experience for the human relations questions. But that still doesn't mean that anyone's required to respond, or that any one commenter should assume he knows more about the situation than the asker does.
posted by occhiblu at 10:22 AM on November 21, 2006


Quick responses:

Clearly, I never said that. I learned a lot even from those that answered inappropriately.

Yeah, I know, I was responding to occhiblu's comments.

If there are many people available who do have firsthand experience [...] than you should probably just automatically defer to them.

This is hard to argue with. Yes, you probably should stay out of the question if you have reason to believe that better-qualified people will answer. Nevertheless, people like answering questions, and I regard this as a healthy component of human behaviour which is the fundamental driver for the site. If people are chased too hard out of threads about human relationships because they are the wrong kind of human, they won't be there to answer the question about which widget does x, y, and z and costs less than 50 bucks.
posted by teleskiving at 10:27 AM on November 21, 2006


It's a request to THINK about whether you have any useful, real information.

That's a fair point about a legitimate problem on AskMe, but it's irrelevant in this instance. The question was phrased poorly. If the OP had asked what he apparently meant — which seems to be a pointed question about the experience of being homosexual — instead of polling AskMe for advice on talking to students about anal sex, the thread almost certainly would have developed differently.

If you didn't know what I was on about...why answer?

Don't be dense. Nobody walked into your thread thinking, "I have no idea what this guy is asking, but I feel like making up some bullshit." People thought they did know what you were asking — and as has been explained in several different ways, that's because you phrased your question carelessly. Your fault.
posted by cribcage at 10:32 AM on November 21, 2006


The idea that homosexuality is only about anal sex does not seem to be an idea with wide circulation among the gay community and its friends.

Sure, but even 'wrong' answers can be useful in that they give us a sense of what an ignorant but non-malicious person is thinking.
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM on November 21, 2006


"Do you guys have youth workers?"

Well, I read this which is a fairly similar description to what the typical American might refer to as a "youth counselor", so yeah, I think we do, and I think a lot of the confusion lies in the differing terminology.

No big deal.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:36 AM on November 21, 2006


If people are chased too hard out of threads about human relationships which they have no useful answers because they are the wrong kind of human have no useful answers...

...then perhaps they will grow to be known for their expertise in a few key areas and not get fooled into thinking that they know more than they do about everything else.

I can't tell you how many times I've written answers and then at the last minute looked it over and thought, "Umm, actually I don't think I'm the person they're trying to hear from on this." That (and the fact that I then delete my answer rather than post it anyway), sets me apart from at least some others.

Considering the traffic that AskMe gets and the (over)eagerness of everyone to respond, I don't foresee our maintaining rigorous standards as being anything that will threaten the site's usefulness. Quite the contrary, IMO.
posted by hermitosis at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


> In closing, perhaps a different line of work?

Suggested the very thing in the green thread. If you aren't a shrink of the touchy-feely sort, there are actually very few reasons to reveal anything private and personal (be it sexual or financial or religious) to professional clients -- unless they force the issue with obtrusive questions. In which case, if it were me and I found I wasn't allowed to taser the little chavs, I'd be in a different job before sundown.


> give us a sense of what an ignorant but non-malicious person is thinking.

and may very well be able to see things that those who are steeped in the in-group subculture can't see, or don't want to hear.
posted by jfuller at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2006


Leave it, Brandon. I made that remark in response to your saying 'Are you thick or what?' - the first insult to be cast in the thread was from you. I do think you have exhibited your ignorance and obstinacy. it doesn't look like you recognise it, and have started to run out of arguments - hence the abuse.

It's funny that you are now telling me to stop being p-a. A much greater crime that attacking the poster, not the post.

In closing - a different line of work, perhaps?

Is that how to do passive aggressive?
posted by dash_slot- at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2006


cribcage:
That's a fair point about a legitimate problem on AskMe, but it's irrelevant in this instance. The question was phrased poorly. If the OP had asked what he apparently meant — which seems to be a pointed question about the experience of being homosexual — instead of polling AskMe for advice on talking to students about anal sex, the thread almost certainly would have developed differently.

You are still seemingly misunderstanding the question. After this, where I made it clear what I was asking about [clue: not 'a pointed question about the experience of being homosexual '], I can't make you understand if you don't want to.

I am clear that gays do other than bumfuck.
Are you?
posted by dash_slot- at 10:47 AM on November 21, 2006


wait...so...a poorly written question gets undesired answers.

where is the outrage suppose to be again? i've got these pitchforks and torches but i'm having a hard time figuring out the antagonist.

dash_slot, please hope me.
posted by Stynxno at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2006


Sure, but even 'wrong' answers can be useful in that they give us a sense of what an ignorant but non-malicious person is thinking.

Do you seriously think that a gay man has no idea what sort of prejudice he's likely to encounter?

I feel like this is exact idea that's problematic. This idea that the "mainstream view" is somehow missing from the experience of women, of homosexuals, of racial minorities, etc. This idea is exactly what propels "male answer syndrome" -- the idea that somehow everyone doesn't already know what the majority of straight white men think about issues that don't immediately pertain to straight white men, and so that information is useful to present as if it's deeply important and sorely lacking from the matter at hand.

Y'all are firmly in control of the media, the government, and this site. We KNOW what you think about these sorts of things; many of us spend large portions of our time trying to contort ourselves to fit into your worldviews. If you don't understand that, and if you can't frame your answers to take that into account, then, again, you're unlikely to be a helpful commenter.

Which isn't to say "Shut up," just "Think before you speak, and come in with an understanding that you may be ignorant."
posted by occhiblu at 10:54 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


Actually, Brandon, you chose the wrong sentence of mine to quote. How about the one before it?

How about we put them all together to make the full paragraph then:

....
If you're in a position like the OP, you have to handle such things strategically and prepare for possible questions and fall-out. You have to "come out" to them. I don't know why this is so confusing. You have to COME out in order to BE out. BEing out, as argybarg specified, means COMing out to certain individuals so that it becomes common knowledge among the workplace. This is what the OP asked for help in accomplishing. What's so stymieing about that?
....

Again, what does coming out to his coworkers have to do with client relationships with ignorant teens?



but I also think the various "OMG, why do kids need to know about your sex life!?!?!?" comments were ignorant, unhelpful, and homophobic.

You're being willfully dramatic here. No one said that and no one was being homophobic. Not understanding? Maybe, but there hasn't been a whiff of homophobia in either thread.

They made the thread ugly and overly hostile from the beginning, and prevented any actual discussion from happening because of their attacks.

Look, if the OP was only looking for responses from gay people ONLY, as he seems to be inferring NOW, then he should have said so from the beginning. Evidently there was some signal that, not being gay or British, I missed. These things happen when try to be obtuse in a public forum.


Excellent suggestion. Since Brandon got his answer

That wasn't an answer. It seems to be a comment that made your feel better (i.e. it's all HIS fault), which is fine, but it wasn't an answer.

Look, I certainly misjudged what the OP meant by the phrase "coming out", no question. Also learned something new today. and I'm glad I started the metathread which helped explain some layers and meaning of "coming out". THIS IS A GOOD THING.

But please, spare me the "It's all your fault, you didn't get what I was saying, you have no idea what it's like to be gay" rap. It's childish, and trite and makes the original poster look bad.

On preview:

Leave it, Brandon.

Dude, if you want to have the last word, JUST SAY SO.
Clearly you think i'm an idiot. Clearly I think you're an idiot. So be it.

Still, I DO hope your work situation turns out positive and then you're able to not only come out, but deal with crazy questions you get from the teens.

And finally, seriously, thank you for working with the kids. My mom did that for years and it's not picnic, so kudos to you for actively trying to some good in this world.

Good day.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:56 AM on November 21, 2006


Do you seriously think that a gay man has no idea what sort of prejudice he's likely to encounter?

Sure, but maybe they don't necessarily know what's going through the mind of the people holding the prejudice. And in the cases of prejudices of ignorance or confusion as opposed to malice, than can maybe teach us something. I don't know.

the idea that somehow everyone doesn't already know what the majority of straight white men think about issues that don't immediately pertain to straight white men, and so that information is useful to present as if it's deeply important and sorely lacking from the matter at hand.

Well, if everyone knows, why don'y you just comment on our behalf from here on out and I'll just go play with my big red rubber ball like a good boy.

Y'all are firmly in control of the media, the government, and this site. We KNOW what you think about these sorts of things;

Yeah, Bush & Rupert Murdoch usually send all the straight white guys at MeFi an email before any major decisions. I missed a few, that's what held up the Iraq war. That's awfully fucking presumptuous.
posted by jonmc at 11:02 AM on November 21, 2006


OK, a little hot under the collar there. But if one considers oneself in the business of combating prejudice, starting things off with declarations that you KNOW what we ALL are thinking and that we should be quiet and obedient is not the best first step.
posted by jonmc at 11:06 AM on November 21, 2006 [3 favorites]


I do think [Brandon has] exhibited...obstinacy.

That's ironic. I'm still wondering why you felt compelled to jump on Brandon for making the reasonable assumption that you were a counselor, especially since your job descriptionSome elements of counselling skills are used... We listen, and motivate. We advocate and set targets... — sounds an awful lot like "counselor."

You are still seemingly misunderstanding the question.

To be honest, at this point, I'm not sure you understand your own question. If you wanted answers from homosexuals, you should have said so. If you didn't want to focus on "bumfucking," you shouldn't have raised it as an example (which you've done twice, now).

I am clear that gays do other than bumfuck.

You don't seem to be.
posted by cribcage at 11:06 AM on November 21, 2006


Well said, occhiblu. Saidly, those who most need to hear what you're saying are too busy talking to listen.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:06 AM on November 21, 2006


jon, I'm not saying "Don't talk about anything." I'm saying "Don't talk about my experience as if you had more insight into it than I do." Which seems to be exactly the issue you're getting bothered about; I'm saying that same seeming condescension happens to women and gays and minorities all the time. Since white straight men in this society are not often challenged on many of their fundamental views, because those same views are reflected by the white straight male society around them, y'all don't often realize that you're coming out of a specific cultural viewpoint that is not universal. And because of that, there's an arrogance in tone of "This is how all right-thinking people do this," rather than "This is how I might approach the situation." In threads in which white straight men are making judgments on non-white/non-straight/non-male situations as if those judgments were universally valid and as if they had equal knowledge of the situations as the poster, it becomes a problem.

I'm basically asking for an internal recognition of the arrogance, and for a shift away from the "This is how you do it" and to the "This is my experience" approach.
posted by occhiblu at 11:14 AM on November 21, 2006


occhiblu, this is the internet. I pretty much preface everything I read with 'IMHO' and I more or less figure everyone else does too.

Since white straight men in this society are not often challenged on many of their fundamental views,

I guess that depends on who you talk to. I was under the impression that we were responsible for everything bad in the world and that we were only useful for lawn maintenance and ice hockey.
posted by jonmc at 11:19 AM on November 21, 2006


occhiblu: I've read your comment several times and I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to be able to solve your problem. If you could rewrite it with more direct questions, I'll be able to apply my straight white male answer-power right quick and have you on your way! For quick service, other confused ladies can email me directly.
posted by mullacc at 11:20 AM on November 21, 2006


Is ice hockey useful? See, right there, unchallenged fundamental assumption.

I pretty much preface everything I read with 'IMHO' and I more or less figure everyone else does too.

There is still a difference between "In my opinion, this is what you should do" and "In my experience, I've found X to work" or "In my opinion, this is what I would do." The first assumes that your approach is universally useful; the second two assume that the poster is smart enough to pick and choose among various strategies that might work for her.

It sounds small, and I don't mean to get hung up on language, just the underlying attitude from the advice-giver.
posted by occhiblu at 11:22 AM on November 21, 2006


So, I should preface every answer with "As a straight white male," from here on out. As a straight white male, I enjoy garlic on my pizza.." Seems like the anti-prejudice is about putting everybody into compartments, too. Like everybody else, I'm more than my race, gender and sexuality. But the only roles that seem to open to a straight white guy in 'progressive' circles seem to be repentant sinner, brave crusader, and evil fascist ogre. None of which sound like all that much fun.
posted by jonmc at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2006


I'll chime in with some personal experience, as it gets to the heart of a lot of this hypothetical stuff. Just last week (!) I had my own work-coming-out experience. I graduated college last year, and spent my years there being very obviously blatantly out. [I had started a gay rights group on campus, etc.]

I moved to a new city and got a job and for the first four months the only person who knew I was gay was my supervisor, because it came up during my interview, because we talked about what I had done in college.

Anyway, speed forward four months to last week and in the course of an unrelated conversation topic I mentioned that I'm gay. This caused an immediate halt to the conversation and a detour while we talked about my being gay for the next ten minutes. I could hardly be described as closeted, as college newspaper articles had been written about me and my exploits, but I still felt like I was coming out. As was mentioned, coming out is basically a lifelong process, as you meet new people who may be unaware.

Because anyone who isn't stereotypically gay (and those stereotypes differ among people) is assumed to be straight, then a gay person who hasn't mentioned their sexual orientation is often de facto in the closet. And since the phrase, "coming out" is just the shortened version of "coming out of the closet" then any casual mention of sexual orientation to people who are unaware is "coming out."
posted by andoatnp at 11:25 AM on November 21, 2006


jon, you're not reading what I'm actually writing.
posted by occhiblu at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2006


It sounds small, and I don't mean to get hung up on language,

It is kinda small, and you are getting hung up on language, which has always been the left's problem, getting bogged down in minutia.
posted by jonmc at 11:26 AM on November 21, 2006


I wrote this comment before you wrote this one, not in response to it.
posted by jonmc at 11:28 AM on November 21, 2006


Languagehat, you're straight with a gay brother (based on your post to the Ask thread). Not typical of a lot of straight people.

Point taken. But I'm not claiming all straight people are just like me, only that they don't all think coming out means standing up and delivering a speech.

straights didn't get the 'coming out' nuances

Sigh. Nothing like lumping people together based on sexual preference, eh?

If you can be amusing about it, knock yourself out.


In AskMe? I don't think so. But aren't you the guy who had to be practically threatened with banning before you'd stop going into threads about women's problems and making HURF DURF BOOBIES comments under the impression you were being amusing? Isn't it time you revamped your attitude?

I can't tell you how many times I've written answers and then at the last minute looked it over and thought, "Umm, actually I don't think I'm the person they're trying to hear from on this."

Good for you, and Christ how I wish everyone would do that.
posted by languagehat at 11:40 AM on November 21, 2006


It *sounds* small but it's actually a large shift in how we approach and help and support other people. It doesn't take much energy on the part of the responder, and yet can immensely help him get his point across and actually help the person requesting help, without getting caught up in an ego war.

The underlying purpose of the response, it seems, should be to help the other person. If one can make a small perspective shift that helps accomplishes that goal, why not do so?
posted by occhiblu at 11:41 AM on November 21, 2006


l-hat, I wasn't even in the thread in question so I have no dog in this fight. I just really hate being told what I can and cannot do. And I don't think I'm alone.
posted by jonmc at 11:42 AM on November 21, 2006


Is ice hockey useful? See, right there, unchallenged fundamental assumption.

I can't tell if this a joke or not.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:42 AM on November 21, 2006



You're being willfully dramatic here. No one said that and no one was being homophobic. Not understanding? Maybe, but there hasn't been a whiff of homophobia in either thread.


Bullshit--automatically reducing our lives to sex is intrinsically homophobic.
posted by amberglow at 11:47 AM on November 21, 2006


But the only roles that seem to open to a straight white guy in 'progressive' circles seem to be repentant sinner, brave crusader, and evil fascist ogre.

"Decent human being" is open.

"Whiny self-pitying privileged person" is pretty much taken, though.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:48 AM on November 21, 2006


"Decent human being" is open.

And who gets to dictate the terms of what that means?

But, yazzuh ma'am, I'll shuts right up, now.
posted by jonmc at 11:52 AM on November 21, 2006


I just really hate being told what I can and cannot do. And I don't think I'm alone.

Goddamnit, you're right! This is motherfucking AMERICA, people! Are you all forgetting that? The goddamned Constitution says I have a fucking RIGHT -- a FUCKING RIGHT -- to say whatever the fuck I want, AT LENGTH AND REPEATEDLY, even if does make me look like a boorish twat who has no sense of empathy. If you DON'T LIKE IT, MOVE TO FUCKING CHINA! I hear they LOVE CENSORSHIP THERE.

Jon, thanks for fighting the good fight, in this, and countless other threads. Man, post-high school I guess I just forgot how necessary this culture war really was. How could I have forgotten that I really was into like, totally fucking with those squares using my mad rhetorical skills of pretending not to take any stance whatsoever and like, having opinions that nobody else had even thought of! Man, I'm gonna go find my copy of the Fountainhead right fuckin' now!
posted by fishfucker at 11:54 AM on November 21, 2006 [2 favorites]


But, yazzuh ma'am, I'll shuts right up, now.

Just go back under your bridge like a good troll.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:54 AM on November 21, 2006


Jeez, fishfucker, I'm disappointed in you, man, really. I thought you got it. But here you are offering an illustration of what I was talking about: unless I meekly accept everything said by a self-appointed representative of whatever group as gospel, I'm a 'boorish twat.' Guess I'll get used to my boorish-twatdom.
posted by jonmc at 11:59 AM on November 21, 2006


(For heaven's sake, yes, it was a joke!)
posted by occhiblu at 12:07 PM on November 21, 2006


So, I should preface every answer with "As a straight white male," from here on out.

Actually, you don't have to, the fact that you commented over ten times in this thread (one that you have "no dog in") pretty much says that for you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:11 PM on November 21, 2006


I have no dog in the thread they're arguing about because I didn't participate in it. I do have a dog in the fight over who's allowed to say what and on what basis.
posted by jonmc at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2006


occhiblu offered you a nice friendly hit off the clue bong. How you turned that into not being "allowed" to say whatever you want is beyond me.
posted by ottereroticist at 12:16 PM on November 21, 2006


Well, to me it sounded like she was saying unless you phrase your answers just so, you're being sexist/homophobic/take-your-pick and can thus be disregarded. That's basically saying who's opinions are valid or worth hearing based on false criteria.
posted by jonmc at 12:19 PM on November 21, 2006


> Bullshit--automatically reducing our lives to sex is intrinsically homophobic.

Egad. It's the most salient characteristic, indeed the defining characteristic, but only a beetle-browed 'mophobe would dare to notice and say so. Watson, do you notice anything in particular about that gentleman? Merciful heavens, Holmes, it's the Characteristic Whose Name We Dare Not Speak.
posted by jfuller at 12:27 PM on November 21, 2006


That's ridiculous, jfuller. What about someone who has known they are gay for years but has never had sex, such as people who can't find partners or are afraid to look?

It's about identity, affinity, and desire, all of which may include, but certainly aren't limited to sex.

You can certainly Speak Its Name. Just be sure you know the whole fricking name.
posted by hermitosis at 12:43 PM on November 21, 2006


It's about identity, affinity, and desire, all of which may include, but certainly aren't limited to sex.

Well, ultimately isn't it sexual and romantic desire for the same sex that makes one gay (or bi to put a fine point on it)?
posted by jonmc at 12:57 PM on November 21, 2006


As I said, "...all of which may include, but certainly aren't limited to sex." So yes, it's all about sex, but it's about so much more than sex. Just like heterosexuality. Which is why reducing an argument to that point is pretty feeble, or as Amberglow asserted, possibly even homophobic.
posted by hermitosis at 1:28 PM on November 21, 2006


Bullshit--automatically reducing our lives to sex is intrinsically homophobic.

Can you point out such comments, please?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:30 PM on November 21, 2006


it's about so much more than sex.

Yes, it's also about smoking in the dark afterwards.
posted by jonmc at 1:31 PM on November 21, 2006


Look, jonmc, there's a very basic principle at work here. Nobody likes to have their intelligence insulted. If you answer a complicated question by explaining something obvious, it's likely to give offence — it's just plain condescending.

Let's say you're a mechanic. You ask a complicated question about engine tuning and some amateur chimes in explaining what a spark plug is. You'd probably think he was kidding at first, but if he kept at it, you might think he was insulting your intelligence. After all, you're a mechanic. You know way better than him what a spark plug is.

That's what's going on in these threads. A gay man posts a complicated question about office politics and a straight guy pokes his head in to remind him how straight folk can sometimes be clueless. But dude, the poster's gay. He knows all about straight folks' occasional cluelessness from firsthand experience. Just like the mechanic, if he doesn't think the answer's a joke, he might well think it's condescending.

Or a woman posts a complicated question about sexual health and a guy pokes his head in to remind her that some guys fetishize the phenomenon in question. But dude, she's a woman. She knows all about the fetishization of her body from firsthand experience. If she doesn't think the answer's a joke, she might well think it's condescending.

Nobody's telling you what you can and can't say. Sure as hell nobody's trying to censor you. And nobody's crusading against straight men, or caucasians, or whatever, any more than anyone's crusading against amateur car tuners. You've just got a few folks here reminding you that an exciting insight to an outsider might be old news to an insider. Any time anyone — regardless of race or sex — is an outsider in a thread, they'd do well to remember that.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:37 PM on November 21, 2006


And I'm not implying that you are singing this tune, jonmc. It's just alarming to read all those comments in the AskMe thread which imply that there is practically no situation in which someone need reveal they are gay at work or among children, as it is an inappropriate matter of sexuality.

Meanwhile the woman down the hall wears a wedding ring and tells stories about her kids, both of those matters having LOTS to do with sex in their own right, yet no one thinks that's creepy.
posted by hermitosis at 1:37 PM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


I do. I've seen her kids.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:41 PM on November 21, 2006


Jon, as a straight, white male, I say: Get off your fucking cross you goddamned whiner and try for a second to understand what the hell you're being told. It's not fucking about you, Jon. That's what the whole goddamned thread is stating.
And it's not the fault of "the left" that your ego isn't being felated every goddamned second. Christ, the entitlement that straight white men have is staggering (having just gone through an election that had affirmative action on the ballot).
posted by klangklangston at 1:44 PM on November 21, 2006


"If there are many people available who do have firsthand experience -- programmers, DIY handymen, women, gay people, tourists who have actually visited the locale in question -- than you should probably just automatically defer to them."

So, this question is about how to fix up a lighting system for the Wimmynfest in mid-Michigan?

(What else could need just the firsthand knowledge of the above?)
posted by klangklangston at 1:48 PM on November 21, 2006


A gay man posts a complicated question about office politics and a straight guy pokes his head in to remind him how straight folk can sometimes be clueless. But dude, the poster's gay.

Dude, I admit I overreacted, but suppose a straight guy who works in an office full of gay and straight people has some insight into what's got those wacky straight folks all bent out of shape and maybe has an idea or two on how to help? He shouldn't have to be all unctuous about offering it.

It's just alarming to read all those comments in the AskMe thread which imply that there is practically no situation in which someone need reveal they are gay at work

Hey, I'm all for people open about it. I spent a lunch period listening to my boss tell his coming out story to me and two other straight cubemates and then one of them piped up and told us about his mother being gay.It was illuminating. On the other hand, if I ordered a pizza and the counterman said "By the way, I'm gay," I'd say "Good for you, hoss. Now where's the garlic?"
posted by jonmc at 1:49 PM on November 21, 2006


Dude, I admit I overreacted, but suppose a straight guy who works in an office full of gay and straight people has some insight into what's got those wacky straight folks all bent out of shape and maybe has an idea or two on how to help? He shouldn't have to be all unctuous about offering it.

Oh, of course not. And look, there've been plenty of cases where straight folk have given helpful advice to gay folk, or men to women, or whatever. (We just don't get MeTa threads about 'em.)

But there is a difference between a helpful outside perspective and an annoyingly obvious "answer." It's not a matter of tone or, uh, unctuosity — it's a matter of content. That's all I'm saying.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:00 PM on November 21, 2006


cribcage:
why you felt compelled to jump on Brandon for making the reasonable assumption that you were a counselor, especially since your job description — Some elements of counselling skills are used... We listen, and motivate. We advocate and set targets... — sounds an awful lot like "counselor."

Well, it turned out NOT to be a reasonable asumption. He didn't know that was my job description at the time he said that. Listen, teachers, cops and bartenders use some elements of counselling skills. No counsellor I've ever met does the job I do. If I won't describe it as such, why should s/he think I am? If you are pinning things on that word, where is it in my poorly worded post?

Course, the word 'counsellor' may have a radically different meaning in the states. Here, in the UK it means - approximately - a person whoregularly and consistently listens to your troubles for, say 50 minutes on set days per week; s/he responds compassionately in terms that help make sense of prior experience, using techniques of analysis, empathetic communication and probably a qualification in psychology.

None of the structure of a counselling relationship is in my job. Much of the personal qualities are. I don't think ay more needs to be said, lest we bore the stiff pants off the readership.

Why do I have to spell this out? I didn't make the erroneous assumption, and when I corrected someone - you lambast me.

WTF?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:04 PM on November 21, 2006


Language hat -

apologies. I would have done better to have said 'some straights.' That was not a fair comment. Hopefully, you'll understand that in my day today, i've made two presentations to my team, travelled 30 odd miles visiting and speaking to clients, planning care packages and taking part in two threads. I've proofread as much as possible, but that was shoddy.

Brandon:
Thanks for the kind words. I do not think you are an idiot, and I don't know why you think I am. I don't even see where I wrote the question poorly.

My email is in my profile, if you have the energy - could you give me a pointer? It may help in future posts I may make. OTOH, it may be a cultural thing - which makes it all a tad more complex.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:19 PM on November 21, 2006


dash_slot-: You know, I would have understood the question initially if I had seen it straightaway. It's only all the subsequent discussion with various people claiming you meant various things that clouded it in my mind.

Anyway, as I understand it you really want to know how to answer offensive questions (right? please?), which is what you put before the [MI]. But the title of the question is about coming out, and a lot of the [MI] is about coming out, so some might have thought it was more generally a question about coming out rather than answering offensive questions.
posted by grouse at 2:46 PM on November 21, 2006


I just had an email which said it would have been clearer to the correspondent had I left out the first paragraph, and "It changed the focus of the question. From my initial reading (and not looking at your followups), the 'working with youth' became tied up into the question. The question became more about "discussing my sexuality with youths" rather then "how to deal with sexuality in the workplace".

Yet my question is about responding to questions from the young people. That is indeed the literal wording. There should be no confusion. It is not about "how to deal with sexuality in the workplace".

For those who say itt was poorly worded, does that help?

I only ask because I am sitting here, confused, resentful and a little upset. I get this way when I am misunderstood. I fear that more than being insulted by random strangers - dunno why.
posted by dash_slot- at 2:50 PM on November 21, 2006


you really want to know how to answer offensive questions
Yes. Exactly.

The title "Coming out to young people" is what I would effectively be doing IF i answered their queries honestly. If I dodged them, I would not be 'coming out' - I'd be lying. That I am fed up doing.

The first line - "How to answer offensive questions about homosexuality..." is one way of formulating the AskMe question; the last line - "So: how do I have ready made answers for their personal questions - eg, "you put that there? Eww?!!? Ain't that dirty?" is another way of saying thame thing.

The bit in the middle is context - not query.

Having deconstructed what I thought was straightforward, is anyone still in the dark?
posted by dash_slot- at 2:57 PM on November 21, 2006


I was somewhat confused by your question because of my perceived difference between coming out (as a big thing) versus just sort of being out (as a casual, if it comes up in conversation sort of thing), as I noted earlier in the thread. I think, though, the main thing that would have helped is a clarification of what you weren't asking, especially given the title, and perhaps more of an example of how you expected the conversation to start. The example you gave seemed like a reaction to an announcement, not a reaction to a casual comment about your boyfriend, which I think probably threw some people in terms of what scenario you were envisioning.

Having misunderstood your intent (casual vs. announcement) it's perhaps not all that surprising that people ignored your question and started commenting on the background assumptions of whether what you had in mind was a good idea or not.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:04 PM on November 21, 2006


The title "Coming out to young people" is what I would effectively be doing IF i answered their queries honestly. If I dodged them, I would not be 'coming out' - I'd be lying. That I am fed up doing.

Sure. But that wasn't the main focus of your question so it's not a good title. I'm not trying to argue posting style with you really, and I wouldn't ever mention this except that you asked.
posted by grouse at 3:11 PM on November 21, 2006


Ok, thanks for that.

As it happens, another assumption - maybe I shoulda corrected it earlier - is that I'm partnered. So the references to 'what I did on the weekend with , y'know, me life partner-type-of-guy' are tragically amusing.

Except with out the tragedy or the amusement.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:15 PM on November 21, 2006


Sorry, dash, didn't mean to make unfounded assumptions about your relationship status, it was just an easy example of a casual mention vs. a big speech mention.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:33 PM on November 21, 2006


apologies. I would have done better to have said 'some straights.' That was not a fair comment.

A classy retraction, and I thank you. I hope my comment didn't come across as too nasty—I'm totally on your side here, it just stung a little to be getting friendly fire. And try not to get too upset by all this foofarah; sexuality is a touchy subject. But you knew that.

Get off your fucking cross you goddamned whiner


While I get as irritated as anyone at my pal jonmc's frequent repetitions of his common-man mantra, to be fair I don't feel he's whining—he seems to sincerely believe that the rest of us are superficial hipster types who look down on the likes of him and need to be reminded over and over and over that white guys in flannel shirts are real people with thoughts and feelings of their own and don't like being told what to do or say.

Note to jonmc: You've been saying that for, what, going on seven years now? I think we've pretty much got the idea.
posted by languagehat at 3:33 PM on November 21, 2006


Metafilter: it's all about jonmc
posted by lonefrontranger at 4:09 PM on November 21, 2006


sooo....I stopped paying attention once people started arguing, but I just wanted to say this:

I was a little confused by the question (lots of theys and thems in the background paragraph, so that I didn't know who the "them" in the question was), and because I didn't understand what was being asked, I DIDN'T ANSWER IT. It's pretty simple, people.
posted by echo0720 at 4:24 PM on November 21, 2006


sexuality is a touchy subject.

well, there you go. the subjects that need to be discussed with some detachment (because they're causing us all such problems) aren't because we all (myself included) get so touchy about them, so we're kinda caught in a loop.

And to be fair, the question seemed to be a little confusing, but dash_slot's record here is a pretty good one, so I'd be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt and maybe ask for clarification.
posted by jonmc at 5:01 PM on November 21, 2006


(lots of theys and thems in the background paragraph, so that I didn't know who the "them" in the question was) posted by echo0720 at 4:24 PM

Rubbish. If you go back & re-read the sentences containing 'they' & 'them' (2 'theys', 1 'them') it could not be expressed more clearly:

I am persuaded that to be more relaxed at work - with the clients, that is - I want to come out to them. Them refers unambiguously to the clients - the young people I work with.

I trust my colleagues to back me up a lot more than they1 did in the last place, but the client group is no more enlightened than before. In fact, they2 are the same group - disaffected, excluded, so-called 'underprivileged' - the generation that thinks 'gay' = lame, nasty and worthless.
They1 refers unambiguously to my colleagues. They2 refers unambiguously to the client group.

I'm getting tired of guys doing their John McEnroe impressions. It really wasn't out. Honestly.

Good night, I need to let this go now.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:05 PM on November 21, 2006


...white guys in flannel shirts...

Ooooh, I'm old enough to remember when the flannel shirts were worn by the Castro Clones. And I could have been one of them. I wore a flannel shirt to work at my early-1980s data entry job once. The straight blond receptionist, the one who moonlighted as a pro-hockey cheerleader, said to me, "Ooooh, I love flannel!" I smiled coyly. True story.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:17 PM on November 21, 2006


dash_slot: As it happens, another assumption - maybe I shoulda corrected it earlier - is that I'm partnered.

So you're available? :-)
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:18 PM on November 21, 2006


I wore a flannel shirt to work at my early-1980s data entry job once. The straight blond receptionist, the one who moonlighted as a pro-hockey cheerleader, said to me, "Ooooh, I love flannel!" I smiled coyly. True story.

I wear flannel shirts pretty much every day, including the 2 years I spent living in Miami, mainly out of habit and because I need a place to keep my cigarettes. All I ever got were jokes about plaid.
posted by jonmc at 5:39 PM on November 21, 2006


One more note, hearkening back to the "what does coming out" mean part of this thread: I spent most of the day up in Houston taking my partner for some medical tests. Came back home this evening to see this thread had exploded.

At one point I was waiting for him to come back from his procedure to the recovery room. A nurse came to get me and led me to his bed, saying in a loud voice to the others in the area, "I'm bringing his partner..." Part of me was thinking, wow, they've all been so nice and sweet and helpful, and they don't care at all about us being gay, etc, etc. And part of me was thinking, OMG after that half this floor of the hospital knows we're gay. But it really didn't matter, not even with the middle-aged straight couple there where the wife was recovering in the next bed over.

So... Here I am. I've been "out" well over 20 years. I've marched in the parades, I've bought the t-shirts, I had the first-year National Coming Out Day coffee mug (nobody in my office noticed or cared), I even protested Bowers v Hardwick in front of the Supreme-Fucking-Court. And after all of that, I'm still coming out. Even on a day like today.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:41 PM on November 21, 2006


I had the first-year National Coming Out Day coffee mug (nobody in my office noticed or cared),

Isn't that kind of a good sign?
posted by jonmc at 5:56 PM on November 21, 2006


I don't even see where I wrote the question poorly.

I think there were three sources of confusion.
1. Whether you were planning to have a big dramatic Coming Out Moment, or just to start being unguarded, to "be out" at work. (Brandon's confusion, and others' above) This confusion has been cleared up now.

2. Whether you were deciding about being out to your adult co-workers, or to your teen clients. (Part of what you said suggested co-workers, part suggested clients. Then you asked about what to say in response to the clients' discomfort.)
Some people might have taken the word "client" to mean business clients, and in some businesses it would be unnecessary or possibly unwise to discuss private life with clients. But also, some people may have felt that it's a-ok to be out with co-workers, but maybe riskier/less ok to be out, or openly discussing private life, with teens when you're in a professional capacity with them. Of course, it sounds like you've decided that in your role with these kids, it's okay to discuss private-life stuff with them.

3. What role you have with your teen clients.
This has to do with how much personal information is reasonable to share. I know a lot of people who do various kinds of counselling work with teens (helping them stay in school, helping them find jobs, working with sexual assault victims, working at shelters with kids there, etc), and in some of those jobs the counsellors make a point of keeping all personal information quiet -- so, straight counsellors don't talk about their dating lives/marital status at all, for example. Especially with teens who are seeing a social worker for sexual assault counselling etc, this seems to be important. So, I think some people might have mistakenly assumed you had a role like this, and were saying "Don't talk about your personal life with your clients" for that reason. But it sounds like your job isn't of this kind.
Another reason in this category is if you were in the role of being a major emotional support (eg, only adult in their lives) for some very troubled kids with unstable lives, it might make sense not to introduce anything that you know will make them uncomfortable, or reduce their feeling of trust in you. I imagine this may have been what some people were thinking. But again, it sounds like that's not your job.
(For reason 3, I think it would have been reasonable to say a bit more clearly what your role is with the kids. Eg, you see them after school once a week vs. you see them all day every day; the whole group talks about personal matters freely vs. the group only talks about specific issues)
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:12 PM on November 21, 2006


and because I didn't understand what was being asked, I DIDN'T ANSWER IT.

Some people thought they understood it, so they attempted to answer based on their understanding.

I made one post to the thread, asking one question. It was never responded to. A bit of clarification would have been nice, rather than attitude.

and yes, I have no idea what some people were talking about in terms of "male answer syndrome" and "straight people really don't think much about what it's like to be gay".
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:23 PM on November 21, 2006


Me: I had the first-year National Coming Out Day coffee mug (nobody in my office noticed or cared),

jonmc: Isn't that kind of a good sign?


Understand, it was 18 years ago. At the time I was both disappointed and relieved. If it was now, I would agree with you -- but I also wouldn't feel the desire to have the coffee mug, either.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:36 PM on November 21, 2006


Yeah - until this thread, I understood "come out" to mean an actual announcement of some kind, and not as a term to describe recurring daily interactions. I can seen how the term could be used as a metaphor in that context, but I think it's safe to assume that the term doesn't have the metaphorical "I'm coming out every day" meaning to most people.

I read it as "I want to expressly inform them of my orientation," and not as "I want to start subtly including details of my life in conversation that would tip them off to my orientation if they're paying attention."

Apparently I didn't understand, either.
posted by JekPorkins at 8:13 PM on November 21, 2006


I totally understood the question and didn't think it was confusing at all.

However, I will say this about AskMe - we have a couple of situations that sometimes combine to create the worse possible results.

Often, very intelligent posters will frame their question in such a way that a certain amount of dialogue is invited (which I think was the case here), and hope to hear from a group they respect in ways that might even possibly reframe or just approach the question from a fresh perspective. They are purposely not structuring their query in a restrictive way, and they often give some background that might be helpful for thoughtful people who are trying to get a full picture of the situation.

We also have a lot of responders who automatically default to viewing the asker as a total idiot. They may not be familiar with the poster's history (assuming he or she has one), or for reasons of personality just assume all people are stupid until proven otherwise. Or maybe they are just "playing it safe" so choose to address the most obvious and simplistic ways the poster could "go wrong".

We've seen these two positions collide quite a bit here, and it doesn't usually end well. The poster is often accused of improperly framing the question or bad communication skills, when, I think, they were just imagining a more complex discussion than what ensues. In this case, for example, since I've known dash_slot online for years, it would never have occurred to me to imagine that he would be contemplating some dramatic, unwelcome pronouncement to his clients regarding his sexuality, and the question was easy to parse. Some people who aren't familiar with him obviously feared this was his plan, because with little else to go on, they defaulted to the most obvious warning.

I don't think there's a solution for this, really. My best advice is for posters to be prepared to face responders who are going to assume you are dumb as a rock. If you go in with this expectation, it may be easier to guide answerers (only maybe), and it won't be such a kick emotionally when you've made yourself vulnerable to some degree and then realize that a lot of the people you are talking to seem to imagine that you are some kind of moron.
posted by taz at 1:50 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]


JekPorkins writes "I read it as 'I want to expressly inform them of my orientation,' and not as 'I want to start subtly including details of my life in conversation that would tip them off to my orientation if they're paying attention.'"

Actually, I read it that way as well.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 4:21 AM on November 22, 2006


As it happens, another assumption - maybe I shoulda corrected it earlier - is that I'm partnered. So the references to 'what I did on the weekend with , y'know, me life partner-type-of-guy' are tragically amusing.

dash_slot, in that case perhaps you'd like to consider my earlier concept of a more traditional "coming out" - in the pub, once you've got a couple of beers into that sweet little 18 year old's flat belly?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:13 AM on November 22, 2006


Unless this would, ahem, violate any ethical codes, cough cough...
posted by Meatbomb at 5:14 AM on November 22, 2006


We also have a lot of responders who automatically default to viewing the asker as a total idiot.

And we also have a lot of posters who insist on chiming in when they have little or no experience with the particulars of a question.
posted by mediareport at 6:04 AM on November 22, 2006


And we also have a lot of posters who insist on chiming in when they have little or no experience with the particulars of a question.


And what about those of us who do have extensive experience--first hand, no less--and still agree with what the people who allegedly shouldn't be commenting are saying?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 6:55 AM on November 22, 2006


taz:
thanks - that was really useful, and makes mew think that there are not so many uses for online Q&A sites as I thought.

Help me buy my camera: Yay! We're the guys!
Help me with a complex human relationship issue: Yay! We're the guys (well, we're not really, but we'll make like we are!) Yay!

I don't communicate as well as I thought I did, clearly. Though you are not the first to tell me - some have done so privately - that the post was clear and straightforward, this little episode has left me & some others in confusion. Others, because of misunderstanding my terms; me, because that has actually aroused a little unexpected hostility.

And - as we see from Meatbomb, also now some slightly creepy humour. Well played sir! Muddy up that water on your way out, why not!

My intent was that IF & WHEN a client (16-18 english kids) made a remark that required clarification on gay issues, that I would do that & say that I was gay. Expecting offensive comments in return, I wanted to be forearmed.

I am not going to provide more of my job description, it's enough that I have said I work with that client group. Plus, it's up to me whether I assess that this is really important to my job function.

I was rather busy yesterday. I didn't respond to all of the comments, I chose which ones to. There was pretty much enough to answer the question - perhaps too much context, some have said.
posted by dash_slot- at 6:59 AM on November 22, 2006


And we also have a lot of posters who insist on chiming in when they have little or no experience with the particulars of a question.

Look, if someone only wants gay people to respond then they should say so.

Otherwise, there are all sorts of experiences that may be similar that can provide helpful viewpoints.

For instance, my only response in the thread was prompted by a roughly similar situation. Three years ago I discovered I was diabetic. One of my concerns was "Should I make some general announcement to my coworkers". I mulled this over with a good friend/coworker and he response to me was "What does this have to with your job?".

You and others can take such responses as helpful or not, but to completely disregard them as "have(ing) little or no experience with the particulars of a question" is short sighted and ignores the fact that other people may have helpful advice even if it isn't the exact same situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:46 AM on November 22, 2006


Not a good analogy. But then, analogies rarely are.
posted by dash_slot- at 8:32 AM on November 22, 2006


Unless Brandon is a quality control professional in a sugar factory.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:48 AM on November 22, 2006


Not a good analogy.

You and others can take such responses as helpful or not, but to completely disregard them as "have(ing) little or no experience with the particulars of a question" is short sighted and ignores the fact that other people may have helpful advice even if it isn't the exact same situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:11 AM on November 22, 2006


I didn't say that, as you have acknowledged before. Perhaps this has played itself out?
posted by dash_slot- at 9:35 AM on November 22, 2006


Brandon, in future I will bring all my queer etiquette dilemmas directly to you.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:29 AM on November 22, 2006


:::grabs Straight to Gay translater (2004 edition) and looks up meaning:::

Um, no, I DO NOT have any cigarettes.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on November 22, 2006


Look, if someone only wants gay people to respond then they should say so.

I didn't say that only gay people should have responded. Just that a lot of people who seemed to have no experience with the particulars of that kind of situation - from any angle - seem to have jumped in anyway.
posted by mediareport at 3:32 PM on November 22, 2006


My bad for inferring something else.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:51 PM on November 22, 2006


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