I used to get nervous in the weeks leading up to a conference talk because I was talking at a conference.
These days, it appears I get nervous for an entirely different reason: casual homophobia. Unfortunately in my industry – web development – comments such as these are not rare transgressions.
Him: I know you can never tell who is gay these days, but give me a hug anyway.
I was genuinely surprised when a sentence that started with so much promise ended with casual homophobia. I felt it would have been silly to complain to the organisers, so he repeated the line as I was rushing for a plane at the end of the conference.
Them: An [attendee of CafeConfCamp*] was wearing a dress. I know we’re supposed to be all accepting these days but come on man.
Me: Yes, trans people can be interested in coding too.
Them: Oh… um… yes, I know.
Fortunately the conversation moved on fairly quickly afterwards. That I had to pour ice on it in the first place was still not good enough.
Them: (referring to me) ‘she’
Some gay men refer to themselves as she around other gay men, some don’t. I tend not to, but in mixed company it doesn’t generally stand.
So these days, in the weeks leading up to a conference it’s a fear of experiencing casual homophobia that makes me nervous. And slightly angry too.
I can’t imagine how it feels for women feeling like they’re been ogled, or assumed not to be coders. I can’t imagine how it feels for trans men and women as they experience transphobia or are mis-gendered.
But this is how heteronormativity, casual homo & LGBTI phobia make me feel. It really pisses me off these comments get to me, I feel a bit like I’m buying into a bigoted commentary.
Although, it’s 2015 and I work in a mature industry and attend professional networking events and conferences; that there are bigoted comments to deal with (and these events are not isolated) is an ongoing industry problem, and something to be condemned at every opportunity.
* Note: this comment was identifying, so I’ve changed this quote to reflect the meaning with non-identifying information at a fictitious conference.