"I have a weird question."
My straight female friend had FaceTimed me to settle a debate: "Do gay guys get turned on when they look at themselves naked?"
I laughed. "I don't think I do," I said. "Maybe, though. Some of the hot guys I follow on Instagram—the shirtless selfie ones—they might?" She seemed satisfied by that. I added, "You're lucky you called me—you can't ask just any gay person that."
As the gay son of a Muslim immigrant, I'm often asked offensive questions by strangers. And I'm not alone. To better assess where we're at in 2016, we asked LGBTQ people to tell us the most offensive questions they've ever been asked and how they responded.
JASON COLLINS, 37, RETIRED PROFESSIONAL BASKETBALL PLAYER, LOS ANGELES
When I first came out three years ago, people kept asking, "Are you sure you're gay?" That was easy to answer—I'd flip it with, "Are you sure you're straight?" But one time, I was in the Houston airport after a trip to Puerto Rico. I was in line to buy water and a cashier said, "Where are you traveling?" I told her, and she said, "Puerto Rico, lots of beautiful ladies down there. Did you have fun?"
I shot back, "There are a lot of beautiful men down there, too." She gave me a look and told me I didn't look gay—something I get a lot. I said, "Yep, I am," paid for the water and walked away.
I could've let it go, but it's important to challenge preconceptions. Maybe next time she'll say, "Puerto Rico, lots of beautiful people down there."
LIANA M. DOUILLET GUZMÁN, 33, VICE PRESIDENT OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS, BLOCKCHAIN, NEW YORK
I wear dresses and high heels and used to get questions about not "looking" gay. Now it's about the child I have with my partner. Outrageous questions like, "Who's the dad in the couple?" There is no dad. That's the whole point.
More often than not, it's about my pregnancy. I'm not offended, but you'd never ask a straight couple if they had trouble conceiving or how they did it. I get asked, "Who's the sperm donor? Why did you pick him? How'd did you decide who would carry?" Very detailed questions. Colleagues who I wasn't even close with would say "are you going to turkey baste it?" at cocktail parties. At face value, it's offensive, but no one had bad intentions.
I get detailed in my responses. I walk through the reason we picked our donor, why I carried. I carried my [blond] partner's egg, and I'm this brunette Puerto Rican. Our child looks more like her. It makes people curious, and I'm happy to make it comfortable. A lot of ignorance comes from an inability to understand and a fear of asking questions. By answering them, I want people to think of me as less of an other.
TAYTE HANSON, 26, DANCER, PHOTOGRAPHER, PORN STAR, NEW YORK
In porn, you're totally exposed. Everyone's seen my butthole, so people feel comfortable asking me anything. Most gay men are hypersensitive to superficial questions, like sexual preferences, or if I feel feminine when I'm bottoming. I don't have a problem with those—porn has hardened me.
The ones that bother me scrape at the psychology of my homosexuality, like, "If you had a choice, would you be straight?" It implies that being gay is wrong, and it's asked with a level of complete ignorance. They assume, prior to asking, that I'm uncomfortable or upset with my life. I think so much of my life is perfect, and I'm extremely fucking happy.
Not a lot of offensive questions about me or my work. But I'm not counting online comments—I stopped reading those a long time ago.
SARAH MEYER, 33, MULTIDISCIPLINARY ARTIST AND PART-TIME UBER DRIVER, CHICAGO
I don't define my gender. I respond to all pronouns—so people will ask, "What are you?" I say, "I am a giant human person filled almost always with anxiety. What are you?" But offensive questions don't just come from strangers.
My therapist once asked how women have sex with one another. Like: What? Where is your imagination? Why should I help you use it? Did you realize before this moment that your sexual experience apparently only included putting whatever penis into whichever vagina and that this means you are bland and that bland is not great?
My answer to her and every other time I've been asked this (why does it keep happening?) is always just another question: "How would you have sex with someone if they didn't have a penis?" Somehow everyone who wonders about queer sex can answer this question. They just can't ask it of themselves.
JOHN TARGON, 33, FASHION DESIGNER, CO-FOUNDER OF BAJA EAST, NEW YORK
I came out when I was 14. I work in fashion. I live my life. I don't get a lot of questions that offend me, but the most common is that if my co-founder Scott [Studenberg] and I can truly be friends—everyone automatically assumes that we've slept together. We haven't.
As a big astrology guy, I know we're best for work. And I've known him for 12 years. He's my business partner, best friend, and roommate. We have a brotherhood. I feel it with a lot of attractive, eligible gay men I'm friends with—this brotherhood that has nothing to do with sex.
It's similar to when someone finds out you're gay or first meets you and says, "Oh hey, I have someone cute to set you up with." Being a gay man isn't all about sex. We don't like all other gay men. The whole thing discounts the fact that gay people are multidimensional, too.
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