Dear Dr. Darcy:
I feel a little weird just sharing this with you. I’m 20 years old and I’ve been out since I was 18. Ever since I realized I was gay, I’ve had this issue with women’s dressing rooms, bathrooms, and locker rooms. I feel VERY uncomfortable in them and will only go to stores where they have individual booths so that every person gets their own room. But even then, I feel a little creepy walking into the area in general. I’m in college and I live in a suite with 5 other girls and they’re all straight. These girls walk around naked and half naked all the time like it’s nothing and it makes me very uncomfortable. It’s such a shitty feeling because I don’t want to feel this way… I don’t want them to think I’m looking at them. And I’m not. But I’m so aware of not wanting them to think that I’m looking at them that it makes me feel self-conscious. I don’t know if I’m making sense or if other gay people feel this way.
This is a very common feeling among gay people. Think about it: They separate us out by gender from the time we’re little kids: Separate bathrooms, separate locker rooms, separate dressing rooms…and it’s done based on the presupposition that girls won’t be attracted to other girls and boys won’t be attracted to other boys. This separation is intended to make everyone feel comfortable about being naked or in a state of undress. So what happens when the gender that you’re attracted to happens to be the gender that you’re assigned to undress in front of?
Nothing. Nothing happens, at least on the straight person’s part. Straight people (who have a modicum of sophistication) are fine sharing these quarters with us. We’re the ones with the problem. Having grown up in the era of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, we’ve been conditioned to feel uncomfortable about our sexuality and the effect our sexuality has on straight people. But it’s been confirmed through COUNTLESS studies that having gays in the military does not have a negative impact on straight servicemen and women. That’s why Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been repealed. But many of us are still stuck with some baggage.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m in and out of the locker rooms of my dance studios as quickly as possible. Maybe its internalized homophobia that I’m projecting onto the shoulders of the women who are in the locker room with me. Or maybe I’m grandiose in my concern that anyone gives a shit about who I’m looking at and what I’m thinking when I look at them. But I’m not so different from you, except that I know I’m not a creep. Just a chick with some baggage, some of which will get worked out in this lifetime and lots of which won’t.
Writer’s Stats: Female, lesbian & the future inventor of the Gay Locker Room.