….. Is it so wrong of us to pretend to be something we are not in order to evade problems and gain acceptance?
The phenomenon of presenting ourselves in a way other than who we “really” are is all too familiar for socially oppressed people throughout history. Mills (1999) believes that if social oppression has precipitated our falsification of personal identity, then we owe it to ourselves, society, and other oppressed societal members to actually contest this inequality through our own individual actions. Choosing to conceal an integral aspect of our core identity in order to be positively perceived or accepted in society is a denial and repudiation of who we really are; and by renouncing our true sexual identity, we perpetuate the very stigma which keeps us locked up in the shackles of our own hypocrisy.
Pretense, Pretending or Misrepresentation of The Self as a Form of Deception
Pretense or misrepresentation of our true self is a form of deception which is morally problematic to ourselves and others. Pretending can involve simply refusing to be upfront with information or details about who we really are; or may describe how we willingly allow other people’s inaccurate perceptions of our identity to remain uncorrected. But we don’t even have to explicitly verbalise something in order to perpetuate pretense. -Deliberate intent to delude or mislead someone through nonverbal means is simply another conscious effort to maintain a falsified illusion of ourselves as actuality…….Don’t get me wrong, there is no specific obligation for any of us to reveal our sexual preferences or identity to our employers; however falsely manipulating our authentic identity by going out of our way to deliberately represent ourselves in a light which is contrary to the fundamental core of who we are, is a distinct betrayal of our true selves (Mills, 1999).
Examining the Real Reasons Motivating Your False Image
So now it’s time to be honest with yourself. Why do you keep pretending you are straight? What is the real reason motivating you to reinforce this artificial image of yourself? Is it your desire to conform to societal expectations? Is it your fear of being judged, ridiculed, mistreated, ostracised, or even fired?
Ask yourself where the impetus to falsely represent yourself as heterosexual comes from. Does it originate from an internal self-condemnation, discontentment or disapproval of being gay? Or does it come from an external social pressure to adhere to the heteronormative ideal which you do not personally endorse?…Or do you?
If you identify fear of causing others to feel awkward or uneasy in your presence as a result of revealing your sexual identity as the main reason you are pretending to be straight, then you need to ask yourself why another person’s comfort and ease has priority over your own.
Now let’s talk about the concept of self-regarding in relation to sexual orientation disclosure. The fundamental issue for you to explore here is whether your false heterosexual presentation involves any dissonance in the way you view yourself- as in, do you feel that by masquerading as a straight person you are actually betraying or alienating a core facet of your authentic self? Reflect on the following two questions: How much effort does it take for you to maintain your straight act? Is this effort worthwhile for you? Does the benefit of posing as hetero outweigh the psychological, emotional and moral costs of self-deception and denigration of your true you?
….. If you find that you can effortlessly and continuously uphold your falsified straight image and are happy to do so, or that the payoff for maintaining a hetero facade outweighs the consequences of disclosing your true identity, then by all means don’t let me stop you from continuing your performance. But do be mindful that more often than not, the decision to adopt a false pretense comes at an exorbitant price; and that while preservation of your heterosexual fabrication might give you a sense of security and comfort, it is at the expense of your personal integrity and self-hood.
And if you do happen to decide upon reflection and cost-benefit analysis, that you are better off relinquishing your sense of dignity and personal identity over having to endure socially-induced psychological distress, take a moment to think about what that actually means. –The right to embrace and express your own unique sexual identity should never have to come at a price. But the fact a person has to actually make such a choice; the fact that you may have chosen to disown your true identity in order to balance out the negative repercussions of coming out, is a clear yet disturbing indication of the extent to which we are governed by the tyrannical reign of our heterosexist society.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Miya Yamanouchi is an empowerment counsellor with specialist sexual health training who has extensive experience assisting men and women across Australia to discover and embrace their authentic selves. She has served as a sexual health counsellor for Impotence Australia, a sex and relationships counsellor for The Australasian Institute of Sexual Health Medicine, a reference for The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, and as an expert for New-York based international sex and relationships online magazine YourTango. She is also founder of MY Counselling Service Australia and Instagram Content Creator for The Sydney Feminists. Unconventional, cheeky, and a little audacious at times, Miya Yamanouchi is not your typical health professional. Vivacious counsellor, passionate artist and model,creative social activist, heartfelt author, spirited sexual health advocate, pro-BDSM and pro-sex work feminist, unashamed selfie-taker and self-professed “closet child” with a love of all things Disney Princess; who delights in challenging stereotypes and being a paradox.