I’ve always been the second choice,
the one they’d leave for their
Until I met the one,
that special one,
who was so
faithful and so good,
that she would not leave her
I’ve always been the second choice,
the one they’d leave for their
Until I met the one,
that special one,
who was so
faithful and so good,
that she would not leave her
This closet of mine is empty,
and has been, for years,
balls of dust and detritus
rolling to the corners
when I open the door and look in,
confirming that it is truly vacant,
and there’s nothing left inside
that needs to be aired
in the light of day.
So, if it’s become too great a burden
and you want to let it go,
I’ll let you store your pain in it…
This is a piece on the NC Legislature’s recently-passed ‘Restroom Law’ that I had written in the week it was passed and signed into law. In the time since the passage of HB2, Gov. McCrory has attempted to back-pedal on the intent of the law, signing an Executive Order that tried, poorly, to ‘clarify’ the bill, resulting in a deeper pit of shit from which he cannot extract himself.
Over the past few weeks, this state has lost millions upon millions of dollars from the loss of a number of potential businesses, meaning a huge loss of tax dollars and jobs for under- and unemployed residents and vendors. It may also lose millions of dollars in federal aid, if it has not already, funds that impact a number of programs and businesses statewide.
Not that this state really cares about that. The Republican legislators prefer a large, poorly-educated voter base over an educated middle class, and that is reflected in the cutting of education funding over the past two decades. A full reading of the bill will also provide information as to what the legislature is actually hiding (and, in my opinion, the absolute and entire reason for the bill itself) regarding workers’ rights–they now have absolutely none in this right-to-work state, thanks to this bill, and attention is being deflected away from those actions with the ‘bathroom’ shenanigans laid atop them.
Admittedly, there are ‘pockets’ of liberalism in the areas surrounding the universities and the few larger cities in the state, with populations bolstered by out-of-state students and residents transferred in by large corporations. Not far outside of those cities, however, less than twenty miles in many places, are the rural areas where the majority population of the state reside. The area east of Raleigh, extending from state line to state line (a portion of the state I am extremely familiar with), is agrarian-based, where the ‘Religious Right’ is the ruling class, and is why this state is so deeply mired in the bigotry and contempt that has long been its history.
“Who needs dystopian novels when we can just read the news?”–this isn’t mine, credit to whomever it belongs…
I’m sad. And mad. And I am too damned old for this shit.
I live in North Carolina. I am a butch lesbian living in North Carolina. And I’m really, really pissed, but, strangely, not surprised by the heinous actions of the NC legislature. I have lived here long enough to know that this state has been heading in this direction for the past twenty years.
From “Complacency Kills:”
I’m in a small, rural, southern town in a ‘red’ state, a state that has a legislature comprised almost solely of white men who are trying to pass laws that would turn back time, take the state and, in their last, best hope, the country, back to the 1950s. They are trying to legislate my people back into the closet, and, being ‘female,’ back into the kitchen. Trying to legislate the poor back into the fields and the warehouses by gutting education funding. Trying to rig elections by passing the ‘first cousins’ of Jim Crow laws. Their ‘rule of law’ is based on the Bible, or rather, their interpretation of it, where they, as white men, are at the top of the heap, standing on the backs of the people who’d elected them, their sheep, easily frightened by the slightest noises of the things they don’t understand, do not wish to comprehend, or even acknowledge.
I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know if there are enough people in this state to turn this around, understanding that the world is not just as ‘black and white,’ ‘male and female,’ as so many here would like it to be. The legislation passed by the predominantly-Republican legislators literally undoes decades of fairness in employment laws and wages, as well as the ‘restroom issue.’ The deed is done, for now, and I believe that it is not going to change until an Appellate Court and/or the Supreme Court of the United States hears a case that challenges this law, either from here or from another state.
From the time I was a teenage lesbian in the ’70’s and, at that time, living in the State of Georgia, wearing the typical jeans, boots and flannel, I have always been a little nervous about using public restrooms. I was relieved when, on road trips, I would find myself alone in the ladies room of whatever fast-food restaurant or service station we’d stopped at, moving fast to get in and out without encountering another woman. When that was managed, I could literally feel the stress leave my body as I walked out. On the occasions when I was not alone, I would wash up and leave without making eye contact, except for a few glances that let me know that I was being suspiciously appraised, and found lacking.
On more than one occasion, when I was younger, I’ve had women, usually older, say, “Excuse me, this is the ladies’ room.” “Yes, it is,” I would reply, then smile. The looks I would receive following that were sometimes sneering, sometimes tight-lipped, but always disgusted. They were aware of my ‘femaleness’ after I spoke, but I wonder how many of them would have liked to tell me to grow out my hair, wear makeup, a skirt, hosiery, and heels, so that I would not look so ‘mannish.’
Today, however, I’m in North Carolina and, with those encounters in mind, I think that if a man was found in the ladies’ room, a man who entered said facility with the intent of doing harm to a woman, any woman he encountered would not be afraid to 1) call him on it, 2) give him a beat-down the likes he has not received since his mother or grandmother last whupped him. See, I know the women in this state and they work hard. They are tough. I just wish they believed themselves to be that way.
The NC Legislature believes, however, that ‘women and children need protection,’ that only they, as white men, can give them, from ‘bad’ decisions and ‘dangerous’ situations. And that is the plank this whole ‘restroom’ mess of hatred rests upon and hides behind; first, that men think women need ‘protection,’ and secondly, that men think women are only just above children in the Male Hierarchy of Human Value. This is a trope (I’ve heard this word more in the past month than I’ve ever heard in my life) that is perpetuated by the White Male Patriarchy (another term that I am thoroughly sick of), and it is drilled into little North Carolina girls’ heads from the time they are old enough to recognize the difference in the sexes. It is perpetuated from the start and, as these women grow up and move through their lives, it is reinforced from all sides by their church-based communities.
And that is what makes this fight so damn difficult.
Far too many women born and raised in this state seemingly believe that they need protection, not just from anyone not straight, white, and male, but also from themselves, as seen in the ‘War on Women’ regarding birth control and abortion. These women are given no faith in their own ability to make decisions for themselves, and they acquiese to the whims of their ‘betters’ on every matter in contention, letting ‘the men’ make laws regarding their bodies and their lives, with only a few taking a stand against them for themselves. Incredibly, there are women in the NC Statehouse, holding high office, who rgularly vote with their male counterparts to pass such atrocious legislation, siding with the oppressors of all beings not white and male.
It is a present-day Stockholm Syndrome compounded by a real lack of education, both scholarly and worldly, and the nationwide scholastic testing results bear this out. Admittedly, these are harsh words, and I’ll insert the required ‘Not-All-Women’ here, but I see and interact with these people every day, as I have for the past twenty-five years. I make this point to say that far too many of the women born and raised in this state have and will vote in the same manner as their straight, white male fathers, husbands, and pastors, because they truly believe what they’ve been told their whole lives–that they are only being ‘protected,’ that whatever ‘it’ is, it is ‘for their own good.’
How gallant of these straight, white males.
I don’t know how to ‘fix’ that, either.
I can only hope that North Carolina will be where the LGBT Community and its supporters take a stand, in a way that mirrors the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro in the 1960s. The predominately-white male NC State legislature needs a reminder of its own history, because they obviously did not learn it well enough the first time.
Still, once again, because of this mess, I suspect that I will be closely scrutinized when I use any public restroom in the State of North Carolina. I believe that an altercation is far more likely to occur, given that the white male population, old and young, righteous and ‘in charge,’ will use this law as permission to put their hands on me and demand that I prove my ‘birth sex,’ in whatever way they may deem necessary in that time and place.
Ignorance and fear make people do terrible things…
Thankfully, there have been calls for ‘sit-ins’ and lawsuits have been filed by several groups to seek relief from the courts but the law essentially stands as it was written, even with Gov. McCrory’s hastily-written, changes-nothing Executive Order. Some may protest the claims I have made above, that women are ‘brainwashed’ into believing they are unable to determine what is ‘right’ for themselves, to make their own ‘Life’ decisions, and that people who believe in the full intent of HB2 allows them to physically stop me, or anyone else they may decide is using the ‘wrong’ public restroom, but I stand by my assertions and words, determined by my own interactions and observations, and by the actions best displayed by Trump enthusiasts at his rallies. They are all of the same ilk.
ALSO: In addition to noting that women had voted for this bill (following the Republican ‘party’ line), I was also truly shocked to learn, nearly ten days after the bill’s passage, that this group of cowardly legislators, working quickly and in the dark, also included eleven Democrats, six of them male, elderly, and black. This was left out of nearly every news account I had read up to that point. I found the information in an op-ed piece and the writer speculated that the Democrats’ votes were cast at the behest of the pastors of their respective churches, but I still find it amazing that, within that group, is a once- and still-oppressed minority that would willingly turn on another, and do so ‘in the name of Jesus.’
Or, maybe I should not be so naive, that these men would so quickly forget their own history in this state, or perhaps bigotry only exists when it is levelled directly at them. The Human Race has long had a ‘Hierarchy of Value’ when it comes to the people who comprise it, using skin color and religion as its quide to ratings’ worth. I find it disturbing, though, that an elected official would be so quick to discount another human’s value at a time when everyone not white and male is trying to ‘matter.’
I am quite sure that this entire piece will truly offend some people, but they should only be as dismayed and disturbed as I was when this legislation was passed and I was made aware of those behind it. I know that I should not fear my government but, given the circumstances, I have no reason not to, as both a worker and a lesbian.
My regrets are long,
and have sharp teeth,
nipping at my ankles
as they dart and skitter about,
jostling and romping with my grudges,
nestling against them at night
I know them by their colors,
the older ones greying
as they lose their new blueness
All different, but
answering to a single name:
Shoulda, Shoulda, Shoulda…
Okay, so I’m older than most, I’m not the Demographic Everyone is Trying to Nail, I’m more like the crazy-cool aunt you always liked hanging with because I’m up on all the shit and I always had the best shit, so…
I’ve spent way too many years in a back-woods, throw-away town in the southeastern part of the United States, so many years working and taking care of things and being a ‘good adult’ that when I finally did have a chance to put my head up and look around…well, a lot can change in ten, fifteen years.
And, a lot doesn’t.
Mostly what I’ve found, mostly, is that there are a lot of labels out there. And young people love labels! They’re labelholics, really, some of them are multi-labelled, no, actually, a lot of them are multi-labelled. Anyway, at its most basic, it’s like when we asked, years ago, “what’s your sign,” and what it amounts to is this: it still breaks down to ‘I am attracted to women,’ ‘I am attracted to men,’ ‘I am attracted to men and women,’ and ‘I am not attracted to anyone in that way, at all, ever.’
Feel free to add any more distinquishing labels to the above groups to determine your ‘Life as it Pertains to You.’
I’m not knocking this. This is great. It’s so great that even the older people have adopted labels. Labels make it so much easier to figure out if we should even continue spending any more time talking, or should we just go our separate ways, or should we just go on to having sex because we’re completely compatible.
Actually, the first woman I dated, once I rejoined the living, told me she was ‘pansexual.’
Uhm, okay…I had no idea what she was saying. I had to take a minute and google it on my phone, because, hey, I didn’t want to appear stupid but, at that moment, I was stupid.
And, let me also just take a minute to thank Urban Dictionary and its lovely contributors for educating me in All Things I Have Never Heard of Before in my Life.
So, okay, pansexual. Cool. Whatever. At least I know that I’m in the running…
We didn’t hit it off completely, though, in ways that I don’t need to detail, just know that there are still personality flaws–I mean…differences, that are insurmountable. That, and weirdly, she was born in the same midwestern Ohio town that my family lived in, in the same few years that my family lived there, and I honestly froze when I heard that because I did briefly wonder about the possibility that she and I could be half-sisters, since my father was a bounder, and how ‘yick’ would it be for a lesbian and a pansexual to date and eventually sleep together if they shared the same father.
Yeah, I thought so, too.
So, first date over, got my toes wet, let’s see what I can get into next.
I attended my nephew’s wedding last summer. First of all, I hate weddings. Always have. In this particular instance, though, it was because I knew that, with the people invited, my reputation would precede me (and I have no intention of detailing any of that here except to say that she left her husband of her own volition), and I really did not want to reignite that whole mess. This was about my nephew, though, not me, I really had no choice, my sister would have killed me if I didn’t go.
I wasn’t ready to die.
I shared my distress with my crew of girls at work, and one tried to cheer me up with the comment that ‘maybe you’ll shag a bridesmaid.’
“At my age, it would be more like a bridesmaid’s mother,” I replied.
She laughed and agreed (damn her) but then qualified her first statement with “unless you find one into May-December relationships.” I looked at her, blinking, realizing that, in this scenario, I was the ‘December.’
“Fuck you,” I said.
“Jus’ sayin’,” she replied.
So, I attended the wedding and, sho’ nuff, got hit on by one of the bridesmaids’ mothers. Well, I’m not entirely sure she was actually hitting on me but she made sure I had a list of all her labels. I wouldn’t have thought she’d have more than one or two, but her list was fairly extensive. I mean, I could practically pinpoint her location on the Big Map of Demographics that political strategists routinely use when they’re canvassing cities and counties for their candidates.
And I’m not complaining. Really. She was witty and charming, could tell a good tale, and she absolutely knew who she was and what she stood for. After forty-five minutes and a shot of tequila with a beer chaser, I knew who she was, too.
She was Involved. Like, every day, all day long. I had met a rare bird in this area, a ‘radical feminist’ who ran her own flower shop, and had raised three kids on her own after throwing her ‘worthless husband’ out on the street for not keeping a regular job and putting ‘huntin’ and fishin’ ahead of his family. She was proud of herself, hell, I was proud of her, proud to know her, but I had to wonder if she took everything in her life as a challenge. She seemed to approach everything as a ‘Fight to be Won,’ but I was in her corner from the start. She was so forthright, though, as I’m sure she’d had to be to get the things she had in her life, but I’m fairly easy-going and I wasn’t sure that I could keep up that Level of Intensity all day, every day.
So, I took her number and we had lunch a week later. That was less intense, but we still had some issues (kids, raising kids, sending kids to college…) but in the end we decided that ‘lunch’ was ‘a thing we could do’ on occasion. And that’s what we do, especially when we’re approaching an election season and I want to talk politics with someone who isn’t staunchly old-guard Republican.
Okay, so, last one…I chatted with a twenty-six year-old who was smart (she could actually spell), funny, and determined to meet me, even though I explained that I was far too old for her. She asked something I hadn’t heard in years, asked if I thought people would think I was ‘robbing the cradle.’ I said “No, I think people would think you’re robbing the grave.” She laughed, as best one can in writing, and went on to give me her ‘deets’ which were: non-binary genderqueer, polyamorous, bipolar (but medicated and stable), vegan.
The only way I could reply to that was, “Hey, well, that’s great! You Do You!”
Because, shiiit. What the hell does all that mean? Well, what it meant was, because she was persistant, and funny, and smart, I met a skinny little dyke in a Denny’s off the four-lane that connected our towns. Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, she reminded me of a friend of mine when I was a teenager. That girl was a misunderstood kid who didn’t quite know what to make of herself, either, but she was my friend and I paid attention to her as best I could because, in the end, that was all she really wanted, or needed, for that matter.
After about an hour of talking about a number of things too superficial to recall, I paid for my new little friend’s fruit plate, patted her on her cute little snap-backed head, and high-tailed it home.
So, I’m still in this backwater town, still looking to find my way out, but I have the Internet, I have a solid, working knowledge of all of the current Labels, and I have learned so much about Life in the Real World. I have learned, most simply put, that I am a Curious Butch Lesbian willing to listen to anything you want to share with me.
And I’ll try, really hard, not to judge…but…really? Really? That’s what you’re going with?
Nancy Reagan died over the weekend.
Please do not give her the ‘glory’ you all think she deserves.
You are hearing this from someone who was there…
Her anti-drug campaign was a fallacy based on an off-hand, dismissive comment that did not even begin to address the factors that young people faced in their every-day, working-poor lives. She flippantly told her handlers to “well, tell them to just say ‘no.'”
When AIDS reached our country, she, and her husband, the White House, the Nation, laughed and turned their backs as my friends died in droves, our communities decimated in a matter of months. No one deserves the lack of sympathy she and her husband showed us.
They left us out there, alone, because those homosexuals were not worthy of their concern.
I speak not just of the gay men whose deaths left holes in our hearts, but as a health care professional who honestly did not know if we would contract and die of AIDS simply because we touched the men who came to us, dying before our eyes so quickly, in days, weeks, and for reasons that we could not counter with any of the knowledge and medicines we had available to us at the time.
We did not know, but we touched them anyway, through gloved hands, our faces masked, our bodies covered with paper gowns that may, or may not, protect us.
My first AIDS patient was an eleven-year-old boy who had contracted the disease through a blood transfusion for a clotting-factor disease. His mother asked if she could touch him, hold him, as he lay dying, scared that she may contract the disease as well, but even more afraid that he would die alone, without knowing that she was there with him. And I honestly did not know, she knew that, but I said ‘yes’ anyway, knowing that he was all that she had and that neither of them deserved to be apart from each other in that moment.
It was a huge risk at the time, and she knew it, but she took it anyway.
She held him as he died, her tears falling on his face, risking her own health so that he would not die without her.
I will never forget that.
I will never forgive her, them, this Nation, for their callous indifference.
So please, do not glorify her. None of them deserve it.
I don’t know how to explain this, I won’t apologize for it even if it makes you uncomfortable, and I certainly don’t want you to think that I’m some strange stalker of poets, but the words you’ve strung together will suddenly spring to mind, maybe from something said, or because it’s quiet, brief snatches of words and images set off like bombs in my brain, resonating in my head. Filmed through your eyes, the scenes appearing as remembrances, not well-lit and quick.
We’ve lived different lives, nothing alike but still the same, yours was mine as we both grew up, separated by distance and time. I would recognize you across the ages…
Poetry is not my ‘thing,’ I do not actively seek it out, but I am drawn to yours and there’s been only radio silence, nothing new from your world, leaving me to wonder if all is well and hoping to hear from you soon.
“Where are your books?” she’d asked, as she entered my living room for the first time, taking a look at the books in my bookcase.
“My books? They’re right there,” I answered.
“No, I mean your books-on being gay, on how to be a lesbian,” she answered.
“What?” She didn’t understand why I’d laughed.
“There aren’t any.”
“There aren’t any books? On being a lesbian?”
“Do you mean like “So You Think You’re a Lesbian?”
“Well, okay, yeah.”
“There aren’t any.”
“No. Well, the only thing I ever read growing up was ‘Rubyfruit Jungle,’ but that was years ago, and I really didn’t think it was very good.” In fact, I remember thinking that I could be a writer if that book could be published. That I could tell a better story. The reality was, I didn’t ‘get it’ then, as a teenager, how truly important that book had been, in that day and time, that its merely being published was an achievement in itself.
The thing is, I never really looked for an outside source to answer any questions I had about loving women. None of my friends did, either. Mostly because we didn’t have any questions. What was there to ask, really? As a teenager, I had crushes, had dates to dinner, movies, followed by hot make-out sessions, like every other teenager in the world, I just had them with girls who were ‘like’ me, or weren’t, but wanted to kiss a girl, to discover what they needed to know about themselves. What we did amounted to ‘field research,’ studying what worked, and what didn’t, ‘out there’ for ourselves.
I don’t remember questioning anything about being ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ or a ‘dyke,’ which I was, so totally and completely that I got ‘sir’d, a lot (and although it was uncomfortable, for a few short minutes, for the person who’d said it, and for me, I secretly appreciated it). I didn’t question myself because ‘introspection’ was not a word used much, if at all, by anyone, back then.
So, I had no books on being a lesbian. Years later, I still didn’t think that there were any.
She wanted to check for herself.
We went to one of the major retail bookstores, found the ‘lgbt’ section, which amounted to maybe three shelves between the Social Sciences and Psychology sections. Most of the books were gay-male related, or were porn, books of hot fucks written to titillate, but none of them were designed to answer her questions.
Oh, for god sake.
“Then, how am I supposed to…how do I…”
“What. What do you need to know about?”
“I want to know ‘why.’ Why I’m attracted to you. Why I would even consider having a relationship with you. I don’t…I’ve never had crushes, not any on women, at least, not before now, I like men, I don’t ‘not like’ them, what does that make me, besides confused?”
“Look, I don’t know the answer to any of those questions. I don’t know why you’re attracted to me. You wanted to know my ‘story,’ and I told it to you, and, ever since then, you’ve, I don’t know, been even more interested in me, and I don’t know why. My story isn’t any different than anyone else’s, I’ve had relationships, some died of neglect, some exploded because of cheating, one was based solely on my lover’s narcissistic personality. The only difference is that they all involved women. You could substitute men in the telling of it, and then my story would be just like, well, any of yours.”
“But, when you were ‘young,’ (I shot her a look) “okay, ‘younger,’ didn’t you wonder? About why you were, about why you liked…like women?”
“What I remember, mostly, was that when I kissed a woman, I felt like it was the most natural thing in the world, that I was right where I was supposed to be. After that, there was nothing to question. And while I know that people thought that my loving girls was wrong, what I didn’t know was that people also thought I was ‘mentally ill,’ and should be hospitalized, put in an institution, based only on the fact that I loved girls, I didn’t know that I could not be hired for a job, or not be allowed to live somewhere, in an apartment or someone’s rental house, also based on my loving girls. I didn’t know that.
“And, maybe that was good, though. I mean, if I had known all of that, would it have made me afraid? To even try to do the things I’ve done? I think it would have only made me mad, frankly, and I already had enough things that made me mad. Like, I was only supposed to want to be a secretary, or a nurse, or a teacher, that those were my only options for a career, for a life. I didn’t think about my loving women as even being an issue, that ship had sailed, I really never thought about it, compared to what I was going to ‘be’ in my life. I had more ‘important’ things to think about.”
When I was seventeen, my best friend had introduced me to an older friend of hers, ‘Charlotte,’ and, apparently seeing something in me that I did not acknowledge, at that time, she did her best to educate me about ‘all things lesbian,’ things that she wanted me to know about. To take an interest in. Talking about the Daughters of Bilitis, showing me her issues of ‘The Ladder,’ sent to her from San Francisco. This was in the mid-1970s, and that was the only ‘print’ information I had ever seen about lesbians, all that I would see for a very long time. Sadly, though, I was really ‘just a kid,’ with minimal ‘real life’ experience, and I couldn’t relate to the things that she was telling me.
In a side note: Charlotte, I wish I’d been a better student. A better listener. Had asked more questions. Had appreciated what you were trying to share with me, by introducing me to and trying to encourage my ‘political interest’ in being a lesbian. I didn’t realize the ‘history’ of all of that at the time, that you were trying to tell me what the hell was really going on in the world, that we were considered ‘degenerates,’ ‘perverts,’ ‘sexual deviants,’ that the material you were showing me was ‘contraband,’ in a way that the pot we’d smoked was, and was not. I understand it now, and I have for some time. So, thank you. I’m sorry for not ‘getting it’ then.
So, she found a few, though not exactly choice, books, and she left them at my house, to read when she could, trying to educate herself as to why she was attracted to me. I looked at them, thumbed through them, read some of the anecdotes written by women who’d suddenly, unexpectantly, found themselves drawn to a ‘lesbian,’ a ‘butch,’ a ‘dyke,’ but none of them seemed to know why, either. The stories just detailed how they’d met, what they’d gone through to be together, some relationships not surviving, for various reasons, but none of the stories were actually ‘educational’ to her in the sense that she could pinpoint just why she was attracted to me.
Those books would come years later, after we’d moved on from each other, when people were less guarded, less private, about their lives and the ‘sex researchers’ could perform studies, then publish their findings on ‘human sexuality’ without losing their funding or their positions in universities or medical schools due to the ‘immorality’ of the research they were conducting.
Today is so much better than when I was growing up. There are books for lesbians, and for many others on the sexuality scale, how-to-‘s, so-you’re-a-‘s, and so on, along with websites that offer far more information on an amazing multitude of topics. Surprisingly, though, or maybe not, in this age of lightning-fast information access, some lesbians, and others, expect more, searching for books that speak to them, to their own ‘blend’ of who they are, their personal demographics. They don’t understand why “there aren’t any.”
The point is, just three or four decades ago, there weren’t any books at all, for any of us. That may seem like ‘ages,’ in this day and time, but it’s not, not really, when the printed word has been around for only about five hundred years.
So, if a lesbian, or anyone else on the spectrum, wants a book that speaks specifically to her own personal ‘take’ on the world, and “there aren’t any,” well, she’s going to have to wait until it’s written.
Or, she could write it for herself. For the next girl like her.
The ‘War of Words’
I spent this morning reading articles on a very popular lesbian/queer website. It was addicting. One article led to another, and then another, and I suddenly realized that it was very nearly noon, and I had spent nearly three hours drinking coffee and reading, putting off the chores that I needed to do yesterday. More significantly, I had taken a large portion of that time reading the reader comments associated with those articles.
And this is where we will begin.
What I had wandered into, on that last essay, the one that had eaten up so much of my time, was a ‘War of Words’ from one very small group of readers towards, well, frankly, nearly everyone else. There were over two hundred comments on this essay that had been written by a staff member of this lesbian/queer website, an essay in which she told of her ‘coming out’ as a ‘lesbian’ only after she’d been married for a number of years and had had two children. There were quite a number of comments praising the essayist for the telling of her ‘coming out,’ for the bravery she’d displayed for having the strength to divorce her husband and live her ‘true’ life, with similar shared stories from a number of women who’d found themselves in that very same ‘closet,’ and had acknowledged, late, that they were, indeed, attracted to women.
Too late, apparently, for some (okay, a very small number- like, maybe, three) readers. And the following is what had started the ‘war.’
One reader was incensed that the essayist had the audacity to proclaim herself a ‘lesbian,’ especially after having been married and having children. The reader, presenting as a self-proclaimed ‘gold star’ lesbian, a woman who’d never slept with a man, had never been attracted to men, and most certainly, would absolutely never have children, took offense with the author’s use of the word ‘lesbian.’ The rift was based on the reader’s contention that the author absolutely could not be a ‘lesbian,’ that she was, frankly, anything but, though, more specifically, she was, in the least, ‘bisexual.’
That was the first shot fired. The argument lit up the thread as other readers got involved, and the original poster of the contentious remarks took offense to their defense of the writer, responding by becoming a typical internet troll, with comments spinning down, rather quickly, into inflaming remarks intended to wound those defenders, the readers, the website itself.
I read through them all, the ‘fors’ (those readers siding with the author’s use of the word) and the scant (though verbose) ‘againsts,’ with a feeling of deja’ vu. I have heard this argument before, in all its rage and glory over (too) many years (ahh, but with age comes wisdom, Grasshopper), and I have found myself leaning towards the ‘fors.’ That’s not why we’re here, though.
What struck me today, in thinking about what I’d read as I tended to my chores, is that I have heard this argument with regards to not being ‘ideal,’ or ‘gold-star,’ in a far different context and with far different words. The intent to ‘make less than,’ to diminish, though, was the same.
Okay, say what you will, but think about it. All right, yes, here is yet another lesbian making a Harry Potter reference, but in their individual contexts, the two words invoke the same visceral meaning. The ‘gold star’ lesbian used the word ‘bisexual’ as a slur towards a woman who was, for whatever reason(s), late in declaring her love of/for women, her lesbianism. The ‘gold star’ lesbian seemingly believed that including women who have had sex with men, have married men, have had children with men, would somehow dilute her own lesbianism in some (undefined) way. That belief in dilution is the same as the Slytherin House residents believing that ‘mudbloods’ dilute their wizard gene pool, and thus, their ‘power.’ In any case, the ‘bisexuals,’ the ‘mudbloods,’ must be dealt with, declared persona-non-grata, before they diminish the respective groups’ ‘powers.’
I call ‘bullshit.’
First, and foremost, the bigger we are, the stronger we are, the louder we are. The war on queers is heating up heading into the 2016 elections, and we need all the help we can get. Divisiveness amongst ourselves is not going to help further our causes. Remember, the Battle at Hogwarts was won because those loyal to all that was ‘right and good’ fought together, they didn’t splinter into self-satisfying exclusive groups that only defended themselves and no one else. It was ‘all for one and one for all,’ and dammit, that’s how we should be.
I am a full-blooded, warm-blooded, ‘gold star’ lesbian. I have known, all along, that I liked girls, that I love women, and I never faltered from that path. My journey has not been easy, but I also do not believe that ‘Life’ has been any easier for the women who did not, or could not, for whatever reason, or reasons, acknowledge their love for women, their true ‘essence,’ until later in their lives. I have shared my path with several of these women, and I can assure you that their struggle is real, that it can be painful to the point of anguish, and that it should never be discounted as less than it is just because it involves the opposite sex.
I will gladly welcome into this Life any woman who loves women. I will not fault you or penalize you for being late. It is your strength and resilience in getting here that I admire and respect, purely because you survived the trip.
You have the unencumbered right to live your truth. After all, you might well be the ‘brightest’ lesbian of your generation…