For those who slept through yesterday, actress Ellen Page came out as gay, speaking to a conference of people who work with Lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ) youth. This is good! Society needs to see that people’s sexual and gender preferences don’t make them wrong, broken, sick or evil. It doesn’t make them different people than they were before they came out.
I’d like to live in a world where coming out as gay doesn’t mean mustering up all your courage, potentially harming your career, being ostracized by people you love, and living on the fringes of society. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last few years, but aren’t there yet. We could be someday, though.
As a a bit of a thought exercise, I took a look at one of the things about me that I had no choice in, that makes me a minority in our culture, and that used to be such a problem that people were burned at the stake for it. I’m left handed. My Grade Two teacher tried to make me switch, people make fun of my goofy arm-turned-back-on-itself writing style, binders are a pain in the butt, as is the whole latin writing system, and my mom still thinks I look awkward doing things like ironing, but really – it doesn’t make a difference to anyone but me. OK – me and good product designers. One day, I would like for discrimination against LGBTQ people to sound as ridiculous as discrimination against left-handed people.
Just for fun, I re-wrote this page on the history of left-handedness and stigma – in the hopes that someday discrimination against LGBTQ people will seem just as quaint.
Left Handed Queer People – sounds sinister – umm, gay?
It is fairly safe to assume that those interested in the history of
left handed LBGTQ people, will indeed be left handed LBGTQ people themselves. Right-handed Straight people basically take their dominance for granted. However, it is a fascinating subject for all, because almost everybody knows a “leftie” gay or lesbian or bi-sexual or transgendered person, be it family member, close friend, work colleague, school pal, whoever.
Looking into the history of
left handed LGBTQ people will shock today’s generation when they learn that in previous centuries not many years ago, and in some places still today, they would be spanked bullied and ostracized in school and chastised rejected at home for being different. Their left hands would be tied behind their backs They would have to go to sexual reassignment therapy, in an effort to force them to write with their “correct” hand love the correct people .
There used to be extreme and severe suspicions of anything
left not “heteronormative”. In the history of left handed LBGTQ people, the Latin term for left is sinister, which in modern English can be interpreted as meaning “evil”; “menacing”; or “threatening”. By contrast, “dexter” is the Latin word for right, which is used in a complimentary way when talking of someone well skilled in the hands, i.e. “dexterous” the terms “gay”. “homo”, “lezzie”, “faggot” are terms of abuse. “That’s so gay” has become a phrase of derision, specifically because it is identified with homosexuality.
Throughout the history of
left handed LBGTQ people, there has been many only too willing to cast disparaging remarks. One such person was a 19th-century Italian criminologist 21st century Amaerican politician named Cesare Lombroso [pick your person], who famously spoke of “ Left-handedness homosexuality being a stigma of degeneracy”. Such statements have thankfully long since disappeared from the views of the world [We're not there yet], and it is worth remembering that, if ever on the receiving end of any derogatory comments from a “rightie” straight person; the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body, and the right side of your brain controls the left side of your body; so only left handed people are in their right mind left-handed people used to be treated with ignorance and prejudice too, and now it’s just one of those things that makes a person different!