I am certain many people in the LGBTQ community have been asked, “So, are you gay?” A friend of mine said that no one really needs to know how you identify unless they’re attracted to you. So just reply, “Why, are you into me?”
I recently had someone ask me if I was LGBTQ. I am an LGBTQ Initiatives intern, so I do in fact deal a lot with LGBTQ issues and events. However, this by no means insinuates that I identify as LGBTQ. There are many heterosexual people who support the LGBTQ community and are endearingly termed “allies.” My topic of work has absolutely nothing to do with my identity.
I’d also like to point out the fact that this question is usually very directional. For example, what if you are not gay, but bisexual or transgender or literally anything else? It is still a shock to some people that there are more than just gay, lesbian and bisexual. On the upside, you could use this as an educational moment for the person and mention that there are a lot more options than “gay or nah,” if they really want to know. However, keep in mind you are never obligated to share something personal about yourself.
Just being “curious” is not enough of a reason to ask someone to divulge information about themselves if they seem uncomfortable. For the person being asked, good intentions do not mean you have to (possibly) out yourself. Personally, I like being ambiguous about my gender and sexuality. I see absolutely no reason why there should be a big hullabaloo over how I identify because, in the end, it doesn’t affect anyone else. Unless of course you’re interested in me. In that case, sorry. I’m taken at the moment. But really, there are only a few acceptable situations in which you can ask a person about their identity. One is if they are “out” about their identity. Generally, you would only want to ask about someone’s personal experience if you have tried to understand it and are confused about what that identity means (to them!) or about how to use gender-neutral pronouns, etc.
The point is to be respectful; realize that not everyone is as comfortable and open about their identities as others. Never pressure someone to disclose their identity (or lack thereof). To be frank, it probably isn’t any of your business anyway. On that note, consider that the person in question is currently questioning their identity. Some people go through a period where they may self-reflect, try out different labels (or none at all) and learn about themselves and their preferences. When you ask, they may feel anxious and guilty about not even having an answer. Think of it like someone asking you as a ninth grader about the college to which you will be accepted. Some people know exactly which one, while others haven’t even started the college search process yet! Everyone has their own pace and preference for divulging personal information.
So, am I gay? It doesn’t really matter. I support the LGBTQ community in earnest and try to convince others to do the same. While I may be an LGBTQ Initiatives intern, I still make a plenty of mistakes. I have some learning to do, but I’ve also learned a lot thus far as well. If you really must ask about someone’s identity, do it respectfully, don’t pressure them and make an effort to understand things from their point of view.