What The Gays Say: Emotional Labor, Why Isn’t it Owed?


You may have seen a lot of social media posts that spark debates, or you may have started some of your own in the comments, eventually creating a thread 40 statements long. Just asking a question with pure innocence usually results with someone sassily telling you that google is free. It probably makes you angry and leaves you wondering why they can’t just spit out a few words on a keyboard that will make everything oh-so clear for you.

The same thing goes for a face-to-face conversation. People sometimes dismiss a question, tell you to google it for a better answer, or just change the subject.

Some people might have the spoons to explain things, but other people might not, and that’s perfectly fine. ‘No’ is a complete sentence, and that includes telling other people that they aren’t obligated to expend emotional labor to answer questions.

If you’re part of the LGBT+ community, chances are you’ve heard the same questions over and over again. “How did you even figure out you were trans/gay?” “How does being nonbinary work?” “Can you be trans and gay at the same time?” It gets exhausting answering the same questions time and time again. There are even allyship guides that are created for people to read to prevent these questions being repeatedly asked of the LGBT community.

But should the community be doing that? Why can’t they take a second to say or type out a reply instead of forcing the people outside of the community–commonly called ‘cishets’, cis being not transgender and het short for heterosexual–to do their own work looking things up and searching for information?

Explaining the same answer over and over again is hard; it takes an emotional toll that a lot of people in the community refer to as ‘emotional labor‘– which is a word applied to a lot of other situations too.

The added emotional labor of finding proper sources, alongside what we already know, typing out a reply, and often having arguments to protect your LGBT+ siblings is tiring, even if you want to educate. I know people who keep note folders on their phone dedicated to pasted links to articles so they don’t have to look them up in the moment.

Who’s asking, though? Don’t most people know how to use google for mostly anything at this point? The answer: Baby boomers and Gen X.

They’re the ones who tend to be the most ignorant, the most hostile, the most bigoted, and most demanding when it comes to LGBT+ people, even if they’re accepting. However, those generations can also be some of the most accepting people and make you feel more validated than anyone else.

But on the other end of the stick, the demanding and rude ones will rebuttal a link with a demand for a personal explanation or experience, another article, or something I haven’t come across or could possibly imagine. They refute a suggestion to google it, because the answer is better found within personal research, and yell at me to give them a better answer.

In real life, they take your brush-off, your google suggestion, your ‘I can’t give a good answer right now, but there are some articles I could send you later!’ as a rude move. They consider it something that tells the other person you don’t like or care about them enough to actually explain.

So why don’t we just ignore them? Well, especially face-to-face, it’s seen as disrespectful, and most LGBT+ people (and allies) want to educate people, particularly people who want to learn. But Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers are especially hard to educate because they tend to be set in their ways, even if they’re the ones who have asked the question. In person can be especially dangerous because LGBT+ people are highly likely to be the victims of crime.

People aren’t required to tell you things, and it shouldn’t be demanded. Imagine if you were forced to explain why you should have the rights you do as a straight person, a cis person, or a white person. It gets tiring.

Image via SpringerLink


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