There's no denying that coming out as gay isn't as hard as it used to be: We're not considered mentally ill anymore, which is rad, and in some places we're even allowed to have jobs. But this kind of obscures how incredibly backward things still are, even in the most progressive parts of the world. That's because a lot of the really weird problems gay people still face in their day-to-day lives never get talked about.
For example ...
#5. There Is No Sex Education for Us
Sex ed classes are awkward and terrible for everyone, but all of that cringing is just the price we pay for the one chance to learn the crucial basics of sex. Well, for heterosexual sex, anyway. When you're gay, all of your high school sex ed classes are just an awkward set of anatomical IKEA instructions.
So while your classmates are all cracking jokes, you sink into your seat wondering what to do if your tab prefers a completely different set of slots, because while they get graphs and careful explanations, you're stuck trying to figure out the specific act that goes along with the slang phrases you've picked up, like "butt sex" and "carpet munching."
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Break out the coriander, we're gonna get freaky tonight!
When I figured out my sexuality, I obviously wanted to go off and explore things, and by things I mean the crotches of other women. But while my cousins had access to The Joy of Sex and its impressive array of 1970s pubic-hair sculpting, all I had was some vague understanding about objects going into holes and a surprisingly helpful monotype-font guide from 1995.
In other words, most of my lesbian sexual knowledge had to be reverse-engineered from heterosexual sex, or acquired from firsthand "research" in the field. While that probably sounds like fun, access to even just some goddamned line drawings might have reduced the rip-roaring case of carpal tunnel syndrome I have now. Hell, the quintessential lesbian sex act is scissoring, and I thought that was an urban myth until I actually saw a picture (even now I'm pretty sure it's a practical joke designed by the gods of sex to see how many women will accidentally kick each other in the nose in the throes of bliss).
"Not tonight, my temporomandibular joint dysfunction is flaring up."
Sure, no one really knows what they're doing their first time, but while straight people can at least take some hints from that one time they rented Original Sin while their parents were out of town, gay people pretty much have to make it up as they go. Googling "sex advice for lesbians" is hilariously useless; all you get is tips for men on how to make love to women using lesbian techniques, because apparently the best way to learn to have lesbian sex is to have sex with a man who has learned how to have heterosexual sex from a lesbian.
#4. We're Not Taught How to Take Care of Our Bodies
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If you're heterosexual, from your teenage years on you've been hearing about two distinct dangers: accidental pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. But homosexuality leads to a whole host of different health problems that don't get their own chapter in the sex ed book.
"Then it's agreed, gay stuff is still too icky to put in a textbook. Chapter 8 will therefore deal with vaginal prolapse."
I know what you're thinking: "But I hear gay dudes getting warned about the danger of HIV all the time!" Well, think about it -- if you're a sexually active gay teenage boy but haven't come out to your parents, you have to figure out a way to talk to your doctor about any sex-related health concerns without having a parent in the room. And you absolutely have to do this, because you could freaking die otherwise. Oh, and welcome to the world of routine anal Pap smears, because you're 17 times more likely to get anal cancer than you would be if that dude you're banging were a chick.
As for lesbians, sure, we have lower rates of some STDs than our boy-banging pals, but that generally translates into slacking off on the self-care front: Lesbians are 10 times less likely to get a routine Pap test, because they don't think they can get HPV (the virus that will give you a whole fuckton of cervical cancer) from another woman. But at the same time, four out of five lesbians (including those who have been man-free their whole lives) have HPV.
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"And also, why do I need a chicken pox vaccine? I don't live on a farm."
And, thanks to a trick of nature, not having babies and not taking birth control actually increase the risk of breast cancer, which means it's doubly important for lesbians to give a shit about their gynecological health. The problems persist for one simple reason: It's implied that if your lady bits aren't constantly exposed to penile germ warfare and aren't a potential staging ground for new life, you have no reason to run to the OB/GYN once a year to make sure that everything is moving smoothly under the hood.
Meanwhile, both groups are taking their problems to a doctor who probably had only about five hours of medical training on their needs. One study showed that a third of the responding medical schools spent a total of zero hours on LGBT medical training, because that's exactly how much of a priority it is. And those are the newly minted doctors -- the older doctors (the straight ones, anyway) probably know as much about gay sex as ... all other old, straight people, stereotypically speaking.
"So do you fit your penis inside the other penis, or just sword fight Zorro-style?"
#3. Everyday Paperwork Is a Nightmare
Every little thing involving paperwork becomes more complicated when your partner is of the same gender -- there are all of these extra fees we have to pay every time we want to get married, sign up for insurance, or just do our taxes. When my wife and I went on vacation, we brought along our marriage certificate to use as some sort of notarized shield against bigotry and stupidity -- because if, say, something happened to one of us and we had to go to the hospital, we can never be sure that our matching wedding rings and love/hate relationship will be enough to get us into a room together. Yes, we literally have to carry our "papers" with us everywhere we go, to avoid the "How can you be married when you're both women?!?" reaction.
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"So ... is this for a new Adam Sandler movie?"
And while everyone thinks their taxes are confusing, it's a goddamned nightmare for a same-sex couple. Until 2013, I had to file three sets of taxes to account for my being married in Massachusetts but not married according to the federal government. First, I'd create a dummy set of federal tax returns as a married couple, which I then used as the template for our state tax returns, which had to be filed as married. Then, I would file two individual federal tax returns for my wife and I, bringing the number of tax returns I needed to create to four, and bringing the number of hours I had to waste doing this bullshit to too damn many.
The next year, to save myself the agony, I went to one of the companies who do it for you, only to be charged twice as much as a straight married couple (but of course they didn't tell us upfront) because they too were baffled by the file two/file one thing. This gets undone under 2014's tax laws, but I still need to do some song and dance to get my refund from the last few years because of the stupid gay penalty. It's just one of countless little annoyances that you'd never think about if you don't have to deal with it yourself.
Like how exhausting it is to find a good stock image of a lesbian couple.