On one of the message boards I’m on, someone did something that somewhat annoyed me. I don’t think she (I think the person is a woman….) meant it the way I took it, mind you. She was just trying to stir up discussion. There are people who like doing that.
Basically, she started out asking for people’s views on homosexuality and bisexuality. Nothing unusual about that, I grant you. It’s a common topic that pops up semi-frequently on most message boards I frequent. And I really don’t mind it, other than the fact that it gets a bit boring to have the same conversation after about the fifth time. (And bear in mind that I had that conversation for the fifth time almost a decade ago….)
But then she went on to ask if anyone on the message board had a same-sex lover. In reality, I suppose it’s an innocent enough question. I’m sure that the person who asked it didn’t mean anything nefarious by it. But it bothered me, all the same.
I guess what bothers me is that it took the discussion from the hypothetical to the highly personal. She wasn’t looking to find out what people thought about same sex relationships, she was no looking to find out about real same sex relationships. I know she didn’t mean it that way, but it just felt like she was now saying, “does anyone here have a same sex relationship I can examine?”
I’m reminded of a comment made by Ellen DeGeneris (I probably butchered her name, I admit) on her first sitcom during its last season. One of her friends actually “outted” her to a couple of strangers. Afterwards, Ellen scolded him about this. She said that she didn’t like it when strangers found out she was a lesbian, because they often made her feel like she was a tourist attraction once they found out. “Look! The lesbian! Oooh! Get a picture!”
Truth be told, I’ve been there is a sense at times. At my last job — where I was much more public about my sexual orientation — I had a coworker who tended to see me as a curiosity to learn about. He’d often ask rather personal questions about my love life (or lack thereof at the time) and interests. I often felt like I was on display, or part of some sort of science experiment.
I know that this would probably surprise some of my friends — even some of my online friends — considering how plainly and openly I’ll discuss my love life and sexual interests and desires with them. But all I can say to that is that it’s different. With certain friends, you manage to build a certain level of trust and intimacy where you can talk about such things. There’s that sense that you’re sharing with someone who cares. I can easily share many personal things — both seriously and with a cavelier, joking attitude — with those I feel close to.
But I don’t have that with everyone. I don’t have that with my coworkers. And I don’t have it with most people on a message board. So I guess when someone starts asking about my love life — especially as a “matter of curiosity” — in such a public setting, it tends to bother me. Not that I think the person meant any offense by it. In fact, I didn’t take any offense by it. It’s possible to be bothered by something without actually being offended. (As I think about this statement, I realize that a lot of people don’t actually realize that.)
So, I kept quiet.