Zahida Ashroff / The Daily Gamecock

Opinion: Acknowledging identities doesn't dismantle personality

I am scared to hold my girlfriend’s hand in public. For years, I have seen people pull off multi-colored pins and rainbow bracelets after pride in order to stay safe on their rides home, and while the world has become much more friendly towards the LGBTQ+ community, a lot of us still live in fear.

As of where we are in Trump’s presidency, it seems like every other month brings one more punch to every queer person in America. Just recently, the Trump administration approved Henry McMaster’s waiver allowing “faith-based adoption agencies the ability to deny LGBTQ couples adoption rights based on so-called ‘religious exemptions’ — all while using government tax dollars.” Also, on top of the blatant discrimination happening in our own state, there have been efforts to remove all LGBTQ+ progress made in the US from “erasing all references to gender identity and the issues relating to trans and gender non-conforming people” to the transgender soldier ban.

Because of this, now more than ever we are in desperate need of identity validation. It is fine if you think that a person’s sexuality or gender doesn’t define their personality, but it is definitely something that adds to it. In that sense, when a person comes out to you, it is not okay for you to say, “I don’t care,” and then move on. In fact, sometimes this is worse. 

The translation of the “woke” answer of not caring usually forms itself into the idea of never acknowledging a huge aspect of their life. It makes me feel invisible. The concept that we can gloss over sexual or gender presentation is great in concept, but it usually just leaves everyone wondering your true thoughts on the subject are. “Coming out” overall is not a one act play, but something that you have to do in every aspect of your life.

For my straight friends, think of it in terms of an allergy. I am allergic to citrus. That’s fine; no one questions allergies and they're a part of many peoples lives. However, if I tell you that I can’t eat oranges, you aren't going to keep giving me orange juice. You are going to acknowledge the fact that I can’t drink lemonade or eat grapefruits, and then we can move on. It’s honestly not that hard.

However, if you say you “don’t care” about my allergy and continue to give me a lemon with my water, I can tell that you know very little about who I actually am. Coming out is the same thing. If I come out to you, I expect you to stop introducing me to single men and to stop referring to things as “gay.”

But if you move past sexuality and gender, you are left misunderstanding a huge part of my personality. I have grown up having to defend my right to adopt, marry and now join the military, and without that, I would not be who I am today. Identity is a huge part of people’s self esteem. It allows us to find a community, a safe space and an acceptance of self. If you disregard my sexuality, you are disregarding who I am as a person and making my past, present and future irrelevant and invisible. 

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