I was twenty-four when I first found out that some people assumed I was gay. I was shocked--not primarily by their misconception, but by their ludicrous reasons: I wore rings, I listened to classical music and I liked flowers.
Fifteen years later, when I began advocating for gay rights, I wanted to identify as straight because I saw the impression it made. Most people expected a straight guy not to know or care about gay rights. In defying that expectation I hoped to make people reframe their view: to see, through my eyes, that my passion should not be remarked upon, let alone rare.
The problem was one of perceived practicality. If people had assumed I was gay for reasons unrelated to sex, how wildly would they misconstrue my advocating for gay rights? And if I attempted to correct them, how quickly would the words "Methinks thou dost protest too much" spring to their minds? I felt that to tell people I was straight would be wasted effort at best, and counterproductive at worst. So for the most part I didn't bother.
And then the other day something embarrasing happened that made me rethink my assumptions. I was telling a co-worker about Chris Kluwe's new book, Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies. He didn't know who Chris Kluwe was, so I told him Kluwe is a famous athlete who had recently come out as gay. But as soon as the words were out of my mouth, I had a feeling that I'd just spread a particular kind of misinformation that I, of all people, had no business spreading.
Sure enough, when I Googled Chris Kluwe, I found that he's a straight athlete who's recently become famous in the gay activist community for his outspoken defense* of gay athletes. Boy, was I embarrassed. I set the record straight (ha) with my co-worker, and decided that I'd been silly in erring on the side of not bothering to let people know I'm straight. After all, if I of all people can mistakenly remember someone as gay just because they're outspoken about gay rights, I shouldn't fault others for making the same mistake, nor should I assume they're any less accepting of correction than I.
Many of you out there don't know anyone (or don’t think you know anyone) who is GLBT because of where you live. Some of you may think that all such people look or act a certain way, but this is simply not true. There are many lesbians that most people don’t recognize as such because they don’t fit the stereotype, and the same thing applies to gay men.
The folks on these pages were kind enough to let me photograph them, and to allow me to share their faces and their stories with you. Click on a few and see them as the normal people they are. I hope that this will help break some barriers, stop some ignorance within people, and help to spread a universal message of love.