Last year (May 2003, to be precise), I came across The Fine Art Of Being Come Out To (A Straight Person's Guide To Gay Etiquette). This left me with rather mixed feelings. This page is based on an email that I sent to the writer at the time, although I never received a response. Just for the record, I'm a white, male, middle-class heterosexual, so I'm guessing that I'm in the target audience for the website (although I'm British rather than American). You should probably read the whole guide to get a balanced view, but I've linked directly to the parts that I quote, to make it easier for you to verify those quotes.
Firstly, the good - I thought there was some decent advice in there. Not much that was new to me, but it was worth saying, particularly the part about not being too enthusiastic to prove one's liberal credentials. And the comment about "Mild-mannered heterosexual by day--LOVE GOD OF THE GAY UNDERWORLD BY NIGHT!!" literally made me laugh out loud.
Mind you, the site mentioned the misconception that "your outcomer is telling you this because s/he wants your body". I've only had two people come out to me in person (as opposed to other cases where it was common knowledge), and in both cases the outcomer was a significantly older man (a stranger) who was propositioning me at a bus stop, and was reluctant to take no for an answer. I'm certainly not claiming to be irresistible, so I just mention this as anecdotal evidence which may not fit in with the author's own expectations. N.B. It has been suggested that this may be a misunderstanding over terminology, i.e. that "coming out" has to involve people that you already know. If that is what the author meant, then my comments here clearly don't apply.
And just as a point of interest, some of the problems that are mentioned (e.g. bachelor parties) may not apply to everyone. For instance, I've been to a couple of stag nights, which haven't involved strippers, and everyone who turned up split the cost (e.g. taking it in turns to buy rounds of drinks).
The basic problem I had with what the author wrote was that she seems to have a chip on her shoulder regarding heterosexuals in particular, and the establishment in general. E.g. "I'm in love with a breeder. Well, FUCK." It doesn't automatically follow that all heterosexuals will have children, and that term (breeders) strikes me as pejorative, comparing humans to cattle. Similarly, the repeated references to "The Man" emphasise a "them and us" mentality (and possibly also a 1970s mentality). Then she compares a bar being raided by the police to an attack by skinheads. My view is that if the police are doing a raid, i.e. they believe that a crime is being (or has been) committed, then the best approach is to co-operate with them and be polite, rather than to "join your acquaintance in taunting and otherwise harassing the moron at hand". This may be suggesting that a bunch of redneck police officers will say "Hey, let's go beat us up some faggots", but how often does that actually happen? Given the amount of litigation in America, I assume that such an event would have led to a court case, so there would be evidence to support this (such as a newspaper report). In all my own dealings with the police (both when I've reported a crime to them, and when they've caught me doing something wrong), I've found that if I behave reasonably then so do they.
However, the sentence that bothered me the most was "You see, by virtue of your heterosexuality, you are the oppressor". As I interpret that (and please do correct me if I'm wrong), she is saying that regardless of my actions or inactions, I am oppressing people simply by existing. This comes back to the "them and us" attitude - it sounds like "homosexuals and heterosexuals can't live in harmony, so the only way for homosexuals to be free is for all heterosexuals to die". The most charitable response I can think of is to dismiss these opinions as comic relief ("Help! Help! I'm being oppressed! Violence inherent in the system! Violence inherent in the system!" - Dennis, Monty Python and the Holy Grail), which I'm sure isn't the desired effect. To digress slightly, this reminds me of X-Men 2, where mutancy is a fairly blatant metaphor for homosexuality; using that metaphor, I think the writer comes across as being more like Magneto than Professor Xavier. If this is truly what she believes, then she is entitled to her opinion, but it seems just as bigoted as homophobia to me, so it's certainly not going to make her other comments any more persuasive. Hence the title of this web page.
Ultimately, I think this all depends on whether the original guide was written as a joke, or whether it was intended to be taken at face value. For instance, the Emily Postnews guide is clearly sarcastic, and is the opposite of what people should actually do, which I found entertaining. However, the context of the "gay ettiquette" guide doesn't seem to be tongue-in-cheek in the same way.
By the way, I haven't jumped to any conclusions regarding the author's gender - this is information that she provided on her own website.
This page was last updated on 2004-08-24 by John C. Kirk