Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 1, 2010

Three years, Poppets. As of last month, I have written for The Betty Pages for three years. It can’t possibly have been three years. And yet, it has been. In light of this, I decided I would re-introduce myself. After all, we have new readers who weren’t around three years ago when I first did so, and it would be easy to ask why this straight, cis-gendered woman writes this column every month. Why this straight, cis-gendered woman refers to “us” and “we” and “our” when talking about the LGBT community. Sure, if you’ve read me frequently or met me around town or asked Betty or Brian, you could get an answer. But what if you haven’t? Who the hell am I to be writing here, using the words I use? You deserve an answer.

What is/was interesting is that once I decided to write this article this month, once I started thinking about explaining myself to you, I started to get scared. This is a scary issue to address. People are wary. Legitimately concerned of being led into a trap. People are suspicious. With straight, cis-gendered privilege comes the ability to walk away if it gets too hard. Comes the straightsplaining. Comes the straight guilt. Because, let's be honest, the Special White Woman is just as insulting and degrading as the raging bigot, and worse because she tries to lull you into a false sense of security. You know it. I know it. And here I am, trying to find the words to explain why a straight, cis-gendered woman writes about “our community.”

And there’s the rub. The rub is, for me anyway, the words. Yes, words have specific definitions and that’s all fine and good. But words also have emotional meanings for us. I know people who cringe at the word “activist.” Yet, I also know people who relax once they hear it. Some people don’t want to hear an explanation at all. You either live it or you don’t and your words don’t matter. Other people need the words before they can trust the actions. As a writer, I am well aware of the importance of a properly turned phrase, and the dangers of a poorly turned one. So how do I find the way to explain to you who I am? To re-introduce myself to you? Say too much, and I sound like the Special White Woman. Say too little, and we go back to the who the hell am I, anyway, question. It’s a dilemma. It’s scary. It’s worth a shot.

The fast answer to why I consider myself a part of this community is that my husband, David, is gay. No, he’s not bi; he’s gay. He lived closeted for years, before finally coming out to himself and a handful of close, trusted friends. Neither one of us expected to fall in love. He was terrified of making another mistake that would send him back into the closet, and probably divorce court. I wasn’t the least bit interested in being a beard or a cover of some sort. We fell in love anyway. He’s not back in the closet and I’m not a beard. We are lucky enough to have been able to fall in love with people instead of just genders. As his spouse, his issues are mine. From the ones any couple faces like finances and employment and an aging father and a rebellious teenage son to ones that are more unique to our community like decisions about coming out and a legal system that doesn’t recognize him as truly equal to straight, cis-gendered men. These are my issues, every single day. Anyone who would try to tell you otherwise has never been in love.

Another fast answer is that human sexuality, orientation and identity is so vast a spectrum, it’s difficult for me to place myself on one fixed spot on it. Am I straight? In that I am not sexually attracted to other women, yes. Am I cis-gendered? In that I do not need to give up my female-ness to be in a male body, yes. But I do not believe, since we are being honest among ourselves, that our answers - our sexuality, orientation and identity - are that cut and dried. Western society in general, and American society specifically, is distressingly closed-minded about these issues. Americans like to pretend that because we acknowledge LGBT options, we’re being inclusive. But the spectrum is greater than the five points that make up Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Straight. And it’s certainly about more than who we want to fuck or who we want to be when we fuck them. Straight and cis-gendered define me because I have no other options, because once again, I am trapped by my words.

Since there are fast answers, it follows logically that there is a not-so fast answer. That there is, perhaps, a downright convoluted one. Never let it be said I am not logical. I consider the LGBT community “my” community because it is the only community I have ever known. Bear with me if you will…I walked into my first drag club when I was twelve. It was New York City and my friend knew the stage manager of the show. I’ve often wondered how they got away with having me there, in what was in essence, a bar. But it was the early-80s and it was NYC and maybe all that played into my favor. The point is I was there. And for the first time in my young life, who I was was…fine. From the bar backs to the stage crew to the performers, I was accepted. Looking back on it now, I have no doubt they were highly amused by the short, round little girl from the small Southern town trying so hard to be city cool – but they didn’t show it. They didn’t treat me like a problem to be solved or an outcast to be pitied the way most other adults in my world did.

From there on out, straight, mainstream culture never resonated with me. Whenever I would move, which was often, it was within the local LGBT community that I found friends, love, acceptance, and family. It was here, in these clubs, community centers, theatres, bookshops, reading groups, and cafes, where I was welcomed as exactly who I was, instead of being expected to change if I wanted to be allowed in. I was never treated as an outsider. Hell, I was never even treated as just an ally. I have been wrapped up, given cookies, and brought into the fold. This is my community, our community, because I have been assured it can be.
This community is my home, my family. Like all families, we can laugh and joke – and make each other crazy. But we do so with the knowledge of shared experiences and respect, love and yes, constancy. And that’s why I write for The Betty Pages.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you.

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