08 June 2012

Loud and Proud: LGBTQ

I posted yesterday for my "regular" day, but Mr. Bradbury's passing took precedence.  Fellow author Sela Carsen asked for someone to take her day today, and I agreed.  Thank you, Sela, for giving me the opportunity to write my thoughts on our theme for June - Loud and Proud!

I remember my first time. Omni Magazine. The image: The lover, alone, lying in bed with her hands still perfumed with her lover’s scent. I read a bit before I realized both were female. The shock that hit me surprises me now. How na├»ve could I have been?

“Dyke.” “Lesbo.” “Tuna-melt.” “Skank.” The words are many. The hatred and vitriol return to my memory like creosote comes to the surface of a board, foul and noxious, and sticky. So sticky. Back then, Mia Hamm hadn’t made it big. “Women in comfortable shoes” was the nicest metaphor in the public eye and at that, it wasn’t very nice. In small-town California, no one was out. No one was proud. And when you out-threw a varsity boy in discus, it wasn’t forgiven. Not by a long shot.

When I came out as bi (I still don’t like the word “bisexual” even today) in college, both sides gave me grief. My straight friends wondered whether I’d hit on them. “You know I support you right? Just don’t hit on me.” Like bi people have less self-control than het folks do. My gay friends accused me to being on the fence. “You’re just playing it safe.” My ex-girlfriend, dating a new dom girlfriend, asked me at dinner – in front of my then-boyfriend – “Why don’t you just admit you’re a lesbian?”

A couple years ago I marched in the Chicago Gay Pride Parade with a group of Pagan Gay Pride supporters. I’ve been in the closet since moving here, since I work in the Midwest in a conservative field, but I wanted to show my support for “my” people and to experience one of the nation’s largest parades. The Bisexual Union had… thirteen people in attendance. Out of several thousand. They were the only out bisexuals I could find.

The first book I read with a lesbian theme, Rubyfruit Jungle, didn’t titillate me as much as I wanted. The next one, a strange story about a woman who meets her lover while in prison and then, upon getting her liberty back, can’t decide if she’s gay and realizes she misses being dominated, didn’t do it for me. These weren’t “normal” people with “normal” concerns. The fact of their lesbian-ness took center stage to the story and became the story, in many ways. That’s not good storytelling, that’s polemicizing.

Then I found Mercedes Lackey’s Vanyel stories. A friend of a lover recommended it to me when she found out I was bisexual. It was the first time someone respected me enough as bi to not ask a bazillion questions and to not make me feel like the only giraffe in the Antarctic section of the zoo. I devoured Lackey’s stories and realized that they are fully-realized fantasy novels about characters, and that the characters just happen to be gay. It wasn’t flag-waving, it wasn’t “in-your-face,” it just was a fact. Vanyel has black hair and silver eyes, and he’s gay. It is central to his coming-of-age, but it’s a coming-of-age story – not a story about a gay guy who comes of age. The distinction is telling.

Now, in 2012, the debate over “lifestyle choice” has become a darling of the national media. Folks pontificate about what other folks should or should not do in their own bedrooms, waxing poetical about what religion and a punitive god have to say about the subject. Other, more moderate folks – on both sides of the line – keep quiet so as to avoid an uncomfortable topic. As we did in the 60’s with interracial marriage, we are obsessed with what two consenting adults want to do with their lives together, as though this somehow has a seminal effect on our own lives.

I still live mostly in the closet, for my own safety and out of fear. Some genies you cannot put back in the box. I write, however, from a very out perspective. When I am in my writing-brain, I allow myself the freedom to BE myself, completely and totally. I blog about being bi, poly, Wiccan, a textile addict, a cat and dog lover, all the things that make me Noony. But I am not yet Noony in my day-to-day life.

Slowly, that’s changing. But society isn’t yet ready to embrace itself. When we can still have national dialog about “gosh, did you realize we have a Black president” as though being Black is more important than whether he can do the job (which he can, and has proven himself capable of doing), when we become obsessed over whether two adults of the same sex can marry and share a legal contract the same as het folks, when we can still seriously discuss whether a woman’s body is her own to do with as she chooses, we do not live in an open and safe, out and loud and proud society. And because I have to live in that society, and make a living in it, I am not nearly as loud, proud, or out as I want to be.

My hope for my children is that they do not have to think on these things and that, one day when they are my age, they will look back on this time and say, “You mean gay people weren’t allowed to get married back then?” the same way we ask a similar question now: “You mean a black man and a white woman couldn’t get married back then?”
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