Difference Matters


One of my siblings and I recently “ended up” talking about issues of sexuality—and I do use that term “ended up” purposefully, because sexuality is a subject I have vehemently tried to avoid with my siblings over the years, considering our highly acrimonious history. But on this recent occasion, my sibling mentioned that they preferred not to talk about someone as being “homosexual or even heterosexual,” because, as they continued,  “We’re all just the same anyway. After all, I don’t need to know what goes on in the bedroom of a heterosexual person either. I don't need to know that someone is gay.”

I suppose my sibling’s comment was meant to be a (very loose) sign of solidarity (although I am likely deluding myself on this account), but I interrupted the flow of our conversation just the same and said that, “No, homosexuals are not the same as heterosexuals; gay people have lived a completely different life trajectory than the average straight person, if for no other reason than our culture is highly heterosexist, and there is still very good reason to ‘come out’ and declare oneself gay. Visibility matters; you do need to know that someone is gay. Besides, you can’t make me the same as you no matter how much you try. We’re not the same, and the difference is not just a matter of who I sleep with.”

My sibling said nothing—as I pretty much figured—and then we moved on. Hopefully, though, my point was taken.

Again, I’d like to think that my sibling meant well, but I couldn’t help think that their belief system—which is, I’m sure, shared by a good many straight, and even gay, people—is yet another form of shielded homophobia. “I accept you, so can you please just stop talking about it already?”

No, I can’t stop talking about it. And neither should anyone else. 

Moreover, I honestly don’t think gay people and straight people are the same—and why should they be? What’s wrong with being different, in recognizing our differences, and in not wanting to assimilate? I often worry that some people think that legislating same-sex rights means that gays and straights will therefore all be “the same”—that the end goal should be some sort of homogeneousness.

“Equal” under the rule of law does not make us all the same. And neither should it. We are not the same. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms speaks about “equality” under the law, The Constitution of the United States about “equal protection”—not about being “the same.” 

I also worry sometimes because as laws change and gays are granted equal status under the law, some people may think that means the fight is over; that once “the political” has been achieved, there is nothing left to fight for, to even talk about. 

The political will never be the personal, and on a very individual, personal level, there will always be endless stories of sexuality. Gay people wrestle with all sorts of issues—as do straight people—not only about whether or not to “come out,” if they can legally marry, adopt children, serve openly in the military. All people share the same humanity, but we are also not all “the same.” We are all different, and our differences must be voiced, and celebrated, seen, and never assimilated.

Difference matters.