Tag Archives: lesbian

DADT: The Battle and the Story

Introduction

I find it ironic that one of our most loved and charismatic presidents promoted the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the government (President Clinton) and that it still exists to this day. Right now in the Senate, according to the New York Times (NYT) as of yesterday afternoon the votes were 56-43, having the Democrats fall 60 votes short of a filibuster. All I can say is: WE”RE SO CLOSE!!

It was just this January that President Obama made a promise to the gay community that he was going to end the harmful DADT (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/senate-democrats-dont-filibuster-gay-service-ban/?ref=politics). Many of the comments that I read under this article stated that there was no research done on the repercussions on those in the military. The day after the above article was released, another one came out, detailing the stories of seven gay and lesbian people in the military, four of whom remain anonymous.

Gay Service Members Discuss “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Throughout the stories, I felt myself sighing. Over the past year, I have encountered a family friend who served in the Air Force as a gay man and later became a psychologist. I’m not sure if he lived under DADT, but either way, I couldn’t believe that he could go through the Air Force as a gay man. Also, someone from my college just entered the Marine Corps and he is gay and sends one of my previous housemates letters from his training. Before he went I asked my friend “Why is he going? Isn’t he gay?”. I guess many of these stories that I just finished answered this question. They say its because you love the work you do, you think you are strong enough, and hiding doesn’t seem so bad when you are surrounded by a different kind of family, the Army family. Even with all of these things, it seems as if every individual broke under the pressure.

Here is an excerpt I found to highlight most of the readings:

“For anyone serving in the military, certain hardships come standard: long hours, too little family time, and yearlong deployments to name but a few. But because of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” my hardships seemed different from those faced by others.

Other soldiers don’t get enough time with their families; I’m prohibited from having a family. They spend a year of deployment isolated from their significant other; I was never allowed to have a significant other. They are obligated to never lie; I am told I must lie to keep my job. They work hard to “do the right thing, even when no one is looking;” I am fundamentally unacceptable to military service according to United States Code, and it feels like everyone is looking.

When people ask me why I stayed in, I tell them it’s for the same reason everyone else does: We are all dedicated to “taking care of soldiers.” There is no responsibility more serious than that, and also none more rewarding. Not only are we growing an effective Army that will keep people safe, but we also feel we are instilling soldiers with values and growing them into even better Americans” (Stephen Farell 2010: 1).

And this one:

“No mention of the exasperating home-improvement projects that my partner and I have faced, no discussion about the surprise anniversary getaway he had planned for us, no sharing of the struggles I faced while he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The very things that all of us share, gay or straight, that bring us closer together, I had to avoid. Rather than lie and make up a cover story, I damaged the vital esprit des corps inherent to military life. The very thing that supporters of “don’t ask, don’t tell” fear will be eroded by openly gay and lesbian service members is already jeopardized by the inherent aspects of not “asking” and not “telling.”

Over the years I have had good days and bad ones — not unlike any other job. I love my job as a helicopter pilot, so the only bad days are those when I am placed in the unwanted position of having to lie or deceive my coworkers because of D.A.D.T” (Stephen Farell 2010: 1).

Also:

“I was not suicidal, but there were some dark days when I wondered what it would be like if I decided that I didn’t want to live any more. Being gay in the military under “don’t ask, don’t tell” really is a private hell. The psychological effect of feeling alone and depressed was more damaging to me than any emotional effect of being shot at or a bomb blast (both of which I have also experienced). The only thing worse for me was the loss of one of my soldiers” (Stephen Farell 2010: 1).

I recently heard a slam poet earlier, when I was still in my senior year of college, Andrea Gibson. I was surprised when she did a lot of poems about soldiers because whenever I saw a sticker on backs of cars saying “Support Our Troops!” I always sort of grimaced because I thought it meant supporting the war and what the troops were doing. After hearing her poems about bringing troops back home and about homophobia in the military the phrase “Support Our Troops!” started meaning something else to me. So now, SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! REPEAL DADT!

Conclusion

If you’re not obsessed with the L Word like I used to be and haven’t seen the scene in Season 5 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNjRVYVax5s) when Tasha gets discharged…yeah, made me cry. She also hires a lawyer and goes through the whole citing of cases where she has been found to be conducting homosexual behavior.

I don’t think a civilian will ever know what it is like to be in the military unless they have a loved one who is involved, or a friend, but even then, I don’t think I will know, even with reading the stories. After reading these stories, I definitely wish for DADT to be repealed, even if I don’t exactly know what it is like to be in the military, or how it will be changed if DADT is repealed.


MORE!! LINKS!!

Legal Defense Network: http://www.sldn.org/

OutServe: http://outserve.org/

Autostraddle’s Comments on DADT (there are numerous): http://www.autostraddle.com/on-countrymen-and-honor-60373/

http://www.autostraddle.com/dont-ask-dont-tell-hangover-day-60434/

http://www.autostraddle.com/lady-gaga-rocks-dont-ask-dont-tell-rally-and-if-you-dont-like-it-go-home-60233/

http://www.autostraddle.com/9-perspectives-of-john-mccain-60401/

http://www.autostraddle.com/repealing-dont-ask-dont-tell-its-a-thing-60113/

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under history, News, politics

Autostraddle

The other day I discovered a blog about “girl-on-girl culture” which made me laugh and also incredibly excited. This blog is definitely one of the most comprehensive lesbian blogs that covers pop culture, politics, contemporary news, and also has video.

Definitely check it out if you haven’t heard of it before: http://www.autostraddle.com/

The writers also include round-tables where they took about up-to-date feminist topics and also about self-identity (current round table is on intersectionality)

4 Comments

Filed under Education, Feminism, gender, glbtq, politics, Pop Culture, Queer, Sexuality

Curve Magazine

If you don’t know about it, you should. If you are just coming out and scared to check it out I suggest looking at the website online, it has articles, interviews, advice, etc.They even have a section of the website for a forum and a hook up blog! which I didn’t know about until a minute ago. I think since its new, the relationship advice section is sort of limited unless you want to check out their regular monthly advice section (which is sort of witty and sort of helpful and sort of essentialist).

The magazine has a variety of representation and does not have an abundance of ads. During the L Word, they had interviews with most of the cast and the most recent magazine had an interview with a surfer (pretty sweet, huh?).

I suggest taking a look. Something my boss at Sappho (a lesbian bar in Amsterdam) told me rings true right now. She said it in reference to movies, media, etc: “I don’t need them when I’m in a couple because I know I’m a lesbian, I know I like girls. When you’re single you have this need to be near it, to know that they are out there, you know?” After I thought about this I realized how true it is. Since straight people see other straight people all the time they don’t need something to validate their existence, glbtq do and this magazine helps. It helps you feel like you are not alone and in the magazine, there is someone for everyone to relate to.

(http://www.curvemag.com/)

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment, glbtq, Pop Culture

Transition from Romantic Friendship to Homosexuality: Acceptance to Perversity and Anxiety

Introduction

I found this part of an article when I was reading about romantic friendship and I found it incredibly interesting. Maybe you will as well.

Transition from Romantic Friendship to the Invention of Sexual Orientation

“Nineteenth-century British writer George Eliot apparently patterned many of the close female friendships in her early novels on her Romantic Friendship with Sara Sophia Hennell, but later became concerned about the lesbian implications of her writing. Fluent in German and traveling in international intellectual circles, Eliot was undoubtedly aware of the growing interest among German scientists in sexual pathology, something that may have contributed to her abandoning lesbian themes.

Faderman suggests that literature specifically linking lesbian love with evil and pathology was well-developed in France and Germany several years before it became the paradigmatic form of representation in the United States and Great Britain. She cites many examples of lesbian evil and exoticism in the work of French writers Gautier, Balzac, Zola, and Baudelaire.

Nineteenth-century American literature is not without its own share of pathological lesbian representation, however. Margaret J. M. Sweat’s Ethel’s Love-Life: A Novel presents Leonora as an “organism” whose peculiar pathology is related to her love for other women.

Louisa May Alcott, best known for her contributions to children’s literature, wrote two novels that, though typical of the Romantic Friendship model in some ways, also hint at something less “innocent.” In Work: A Story of Experience, Christie and Rachel’s romantic friendship is destroyed by Rachel’s attraction for a vaguely described sin. In An Old-Fashioned Girl, Rebecca and Lizzie, though idealized as feminist artists, are also expected to be “mannish and rough” by the conventional Fanny, who ultimately describes them as a “different race of creatures.”

Transitional Figures

Henry James and Mary Wilkins Freeman have come to be read as transitional figures whose writing represents a shift from the social acceptance of Romantic Friendship in nineteenth-century American culture to the redefinition of same-sex intimacies as pathological or perverse in the twentieth century.

In The Bostonians James depicts the “Boston marriage” between Olive and Verena as a wholly conventional aspect of New England life. But he also represents Olive’s role in the relationship as manipulative and vampiric.

Mary Wilkins Freeman’s short piece of detective fiction, “The Long Arm,” represents the culture’s growing distrust of relations between women but also gives voice to those who feel their Romantic Friendships are under siege from a culture that does not understand a broader definition of family and home.

The writing of Sarah Orne Jewett and Willa Cather, a generation apart, indicates the swiftness of this transition from social acceptability to outcast identity. Jewett, writing at the end of the nineteenth century, is able to depict Romantic Friendships between women rather openly, as in “Martha’s Lady.”

But, as Sharon O’Brien has demonstrated, Cather employs a more encoded language. Critics have interpreted Cather’s use of male narrators as a rhetorical strategy that enabled her to articulate a lesbian sensibility without appearing lesbian to a culture increasingly uncomfortable with same-sex intimacy.

Jewett, Cather’s mentor in many ways, objected to Cather’s literary cross-dressing, seeing it as a disingenuous “masquerade” for her true feelings. But Jewett did not understand the new sexual culture in which Cather was writing. Jewett probably would have been surprised to find that her own posthumously published letters were censored, four-fifths of them being omitted altogether.

The Importance of the Romantic Friendship Hypothesis

The Romantic Friendship hypothesis provided a nonthreatening context for discovering and writing about literary foremothers, an important project in lesbian literary studies in the 1970s. For a culture whose existence had been made invisible and whose history had been erased, finding historical role models, literary foremothers to whom we could look for validation and representation, was empowering.

In this respect, the idea of Romantic Friendship has provided both a history and an education about historical accuracy. We now have a sense of the variety of forms that homosocial arrangements have taken in Anglo-European cultures over the last 400 years. We also have learned that what looks familiar to a contemporary gay or lesbian reader may have meant something entirely different to the author of an earlier text, an idea that was theorized more completely by Michel Foucault.

This idea of homosexuality as a recently socially constructed domain of identity has encouraged long overdue reconsiderations of what constitutes “lesbian literature”: Is it writing by self-identified lesbians, writing about lesbians, or writing with which the contemporary lesbian reader identifies? Or, is lesbian a metaphor for resistance? Is lesbian literature writing that disobeys more generally the male and heterosexual conventions of language and narrative?” (http://www.glbtq.com/literature/romantic_friendship_f,2.html)

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, history, Sexuality

Labels, Titles, Terms, or “What sexuality do you fit?” : Broad Overview

Introduction to the Terms

Disclaimer: Note, most importantly, this is just a broad overview and an introduction to these words. I will probably explore the separate terms in alternate articles in the future. Also, All of these definitions are not the definitions I myself always use. I put these definitions here to be used as a resource, as further exploration, and for questioning the definitions. There are plenty of definitions out there, more words that people use to define themselves and the gender/sex/form of expression they have. In addition, there are plenty of synonyms for the above words. I will try to update this page as often as I am capable of.  If you know of any terms, please contact me and I would be glad and excited to add another word to my vocabulary and to this site. Thank you.

1. Queer:

“The word queer has traditionally meant “strange” or “unusual,” but its use in reference to LGBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex) communities as well as those perceived to be members of those communities has replaced the traditional definition and application. Its usage is considered controversial and underwent substantial changes over the course of the 20th Century with some LGBT people re-claiming the term as a means of self-empowerment. The term is still considered by some to be offensive and derisive, and by others as a re-appropriated term used to describe a sexual orientation and/or gender identity or gender expression that does not conform to heteronormative society.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queer)

2. Questioning

“Questioning is a term that can refer to a person who is questioning their gender, sexual identity or sexual orientation.[1] People who are questioning may be unsure of their sexuality, or still exploring their feelings.[2]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Questioning_%28sexuality_and_gender%29)

3. Coming Out

“Coming out or coming out of the closet describes the voluntary public announcement of one’s (primarily homosexual or bisexual) sexual orientation or gender identity.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_out)

4. Bisexuality

“Bisexuality refers to sexual or romantic attraction toward members of both sexes. It is one of the three main classifications of sexual orientation, along with heterosexual and homosexual.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisexual)

5. Lesbian

“A lesbian is a woman who is romantically and sexually attracted only to other women.[1][2] Women who are attracted to both women and men are more often referred to as bisexual. An individual’s self-identification might not correspond with her behavior, and may be expressed with either, both, or neither of these words. “(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian)

6. Gay/Homosexual

A. adj. Involving, related to, or characterized by a sexual propensity for one’s own sex; of or involving sexual activity with a member of one’s own sex, or between individuals of the same sex.

B. n. A person who has a sexual propensity for his or her own sex; esp. one whose sexual desires are directed wholly or largely towards people of the same sex.
In non-technical contexts it is often taken to mean a male homosexual, a female one being termed a lesbian.

(http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50107612?single=1&query_type

=word&queryword=homosexual+&first=1&max_to_show=10)

7. Pansexuality

“Pansexuality or anthrosexuality (anthro- literally meaning human, human sexual) (sometimes referred to as omnisexuality[1]) is a sexual orientation characterized by the potential for aesthetic attraction, romantic love and/or sexual desire for people, regardless of their gender identity or biological sex. Thus, pansexuality includes potential attraction to people (such as transgender individuals) who do not fit into the gender binary of male/female. Some pansexuals suggest that they are gender-blind; that gender and sex are insignificant or irrelevant in determining whether they will be sexually attracted to others.[2]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pansexual)

8. Asexual

Not sexual, without sex. In Bot. formerly applied to cryptogams; cf. agamic. (http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50012857?single=1&query_type=word

&queryword=asexual+&first=1&max_to_show=10)

9. Transexual

A. adj.

1. Of or pertaining to transsexualism; having physical characteristics of one sex and psychological characteristics of the other.

B. n. A transsexual person. Also, one whose sex has been changed by surgery.

(http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50256546/50256546spg1?single=1&query_type=misspelling&queryword=transexual

&first=1&max_to_show=10&hilite=50256546spg1)

10. Transgender

“…derivatives [trans <L, combination form meaning across, beyond, through] and [gender <ME <MF gendre, genre <L gener- meaning kind or sort]) is a general term applied to a variety of individuals, behaviors, and groups involving tendencies that diverge from the normative gender role (woman or man) commonly, but not always, assigned at birth, as well as the role traditionally held by society.

Transgender is the state of one’s “gender identity” (self-identification as male, female, both or neither) not matching one’s “assigned gender” (identification by others as male or female based on physical/genetic sex). “Transgender” does not imply any specific form of sexual orientation; transgender people may identify as heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual or asexual. The precise definition for transgender remains in flux, but includes:

  • “Of, relating to, or designating a person whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender, but combines or moves between these.”[1]
  • “People who were assigned a gender, usually at birth and based on their genitals, but who feel that this is a false or incomplete description of themselves.”[2]
  • “Non-identification with, or non-presentation as, the gender one was assigned at birth.”[3]

A transgender individual may have characteristics that are normally associated with a particular gender, identify elsewhere on the traditional gender continuum, or exist outside of it as “other,” “agender,” “intergender,” or “third gender“. Transgender people may also identify as bigender, or along several places on either the traditional transgender continuum, or the more encompassing continuums which have been developed in response to the significantly more detailed studies done in recent years.[4]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transgender)

Note: All of the terms pertaining to transgender, transexual, transvestite, etc can be found when searching transgender, transexual on wikipedia and provides a much better resource than the oxford english dictionary. Wikipedia seems to be much more inclusive and covers the history of terms and the many definitions. Sometimes the OED (Oxford English dictionary) can leave out some meanings or meanings we take on for ourselves in the glbtq community.

11. Genderqueer

” People who identify as genderqueer may think of themselves as being both a man and a woman, as being neither a man nor a woman, or as falling completely outside the gender binary. Some wish to have certain features of the opposite sex and not all characteristics; others want it all.

Some genderqueer people see their identity as one of many possible genders other than man or woman, while others see “genderqueer” as an umbrella term that encompasses all of those possible genders. Still others see “genderqueer” as a third gender to complement the traditional two, while others identify as genderless or a-gender. Genderqueer people are united by their rejection of the notion that there are only two genders.

The term “genderqueer” can also be used as an adjective to refer to any people who transgress gender, regardless of their self-defined gender identity (see Alternate Meanings, below).”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer)

12. Gender identity

“Gender identity (or core gender identity) is a person’s own sense of identification as male or female. The term is intended to distinguish this psychological association, from physiological and sociological aspects of gender.[1] Gender identity was originally a medical term used to explain sex reassignment procedures to the public.[2] The term is also found in psychology, often as core gender identity.[3] Sociology, gender studies and feminism are still inclined to refer to gender identity, gender role and erotic preference under the catch-all term gender.

Gender identity is affected by “genetic, prenatal hormonal, postnatal social, and postpubertal hormonal determinants.”[4] Biological factors include the influence of testosterone and gene regulation in brain cells. Social factors are primarily based on the family, as gender identity is thought to be formed by the third year of life.[3]

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (302.85) has five criteria that must be met before a diagnosis of gender identity disorder (GID) can be made. “In gender identity disorder, there is discordancy between the natal sex of one’s external genitalia and the brain coding of one’s gender as masculine or feminine.”[2]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gender_identity)

13. Sex

“.. is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into male and female types (or sexes). Sexual reproduction involves combining specialized cells (gametes) to form offspring that inherit traits from both parents. Gametes can be identical in form and function (known as isogametes), but in many cases an asymmetry has evolved such that two sex-specific types of gametes (heterogametes) exist: male gametes are small, motile, and optimized to transport their genetic information over a distance, while female gametes are large, non-motile and contain the nutrients necessary for the early development of the young organism.

An organism’s sex is defined by the gametes it produces: males produce male gametes (spermatozoa, or sperm) while females produce female gametes (ova, or egg cells); individual organisms which produce both male and female gametes are termed hermaphroditic. Frequently, physical differences are associated with the different sexes of an organism; these sexual dimorphisms can reflect the different reproductive pressures the sexes experience. In some cases male or (more commonly) female organisms also have the role of caring for offspring through the first part of development.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex)

14. Sexuality

“Generally speaking, human sexuality is how people experience and express themselves as sexual beings.[1] The study of human sexuality encompasses an array of social activities and an abundance of behaviors, actions, and societal topics. Biologically, sexuality can encompass sexual intercourse and sexual contact in all its forms, as well as medical concerns about the physiological or even psychological aspects of sexual behaviour. Sociologically, it can cover the cultural, political, and legal aspects; and philosophically, it can span the moral, ethical, theological, spiritual or religious aspects.

As Michel Foucault wrote in The History of Sexuality, the concept of what activities and sensations are “sexual” is historically (as well as regionally and culturally) determined, and it is therefore part of a changing “discourse”.[2][3][4][5][6] The sexual meanings (meanings of the erotic dimension of human sexual experience), are social and cultural constructs, they are made subjective only after cultural and social mediation.[7] Being the main force conditioning human relationship, sex is essentially political. In any social context, the construction of a “sexual universe” is fundamentally linked to the structures of power.[7][2][8][9] The construction of sexual meanings, is an instrument by which social institutions (religion, marketing, the educational system, psychiatry, etc.) control and shape human relationships.[4][3]

According to Foucault, sexuality began to be regarded as a concept part of human nature since the 19th century; so sexuality began to be used as a mean to define normality and its boundaries, and to conceive everything outside those boundaries in the realm of psychopathology. In the 20th century, with the theories of Sigmund Freud and of sexology, the “not-normal” was seen more as a “discontent of civilization” [10][3] In a well known passage of his work, Foucault noted that the development of the notion of sexuality organized sex as a “fictitious unity” of “disparate parts, functions, behaviours, and feelings with no natural or necessary relation among them”; therefore the conception of what is “natural” is a social construct.[11][12] To escape this cultural “sexuality” Foucault suggest to focus on “bodies and pleasures”.[13][11]

In many historical eras, recovered art and artifacts help to portray human sexuality of the time period.[14]” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sexuality)

15. Anal Sex

“… most often refers to the sex act involving insertion of the penis into the rectum.[1] The term anal sex can also sometimes include other sexual acts involving the anus, including but not limited to anilingus and fingering.

It is a form of sexual behavior considered to be comparatively high in risk, due to the vulnerability of the tissues and the septic nature of the anus.[2] As the rectal mucosa provides little natural lubrication, a personal lubricant is most often required or preferred when penetrating the anus.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anal_Sex)

16. Oral Sex

Oral sex consists of all sexual activities that involve the use of the mouth, which may include use of the tongue, teeth, and throat, to stimulate genitalia. Cunnilingus refers to oral sex performed on a woman while fellatio and irrumatio refer to oral sex performed on a man. Analingus refers to oral stimulation of a person’s anus. Oral stimulation of other parts of the body is usually not considered oral sex; see kiss and licking.

People may engage in oral sex as part of foreplay before intercourse, or during or following intercourse. It may also be performed for its own sake.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_Sex)

17. Heterosexual

“…is sexual or romantic attraction between opposite sexes, and is the most common sexual orientation among humans. The current use of the term has its roots in the broader 19th century tradition of personality taxonomy. These continue to influence the development of the modern concept of sexual orientation, gaining associations with romantic love and identity in addition to its original, exclusively sexual meaning.

The adjective heterosexual is used for intimate relationships and/or sexual relations between male and female individuals, who may or may not identify themselves as straight. Heterosexuality, as an identifier, is usually contrasted with homosexuality, bisexuality, and asexuality. The term straight is used predominantly to refer to self-identified heterosexuals of either sex. Unlike lesbian, there is no sex-specific term that is only used for self-identified heterosexual females.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heterosexual)

19. Intersex(ed)

“is the state of a living thing of a gonochoristic species whose sex chromosomes, genitalia and/or secondary sex characteristics are determined to be neither exclusively male nor female. An organism with intersex may have biological characteristics of both the male and female sexes. [1]

Intersexuality is the term adopted by medicine during the 20th century applied to human beings who cannot be classified as either male or female [2] [3] [4]

Intersexuality is also the word adopted by the identitary-political movement, surged at nineties, to criticize medical protocols in sex assignment and to claim the right to be heard in the construction of a new ones[5].” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersex)

1 Comment

Filed under Education, Sexuality

My Coming Out

Now

I find myself giving people advice now. Apparently I have “figured out” sexuality, which I think can never really happen. The definition of queer, which I introduced to a friend last night, has been striking me as powerful, though I resist using it.

When I came out to myself I struggled with the terms, wanting to fit in. Last night, I told my friend, who is also struggling with coming out,well, not struggling, more like wanting to get to a conclusion that, which I also resent myself, is that you never come to a conclusion about sexuality. The thing I like about the term queer is that it describes how sexuality changes over time.

She is going through what I went through at the end of middle school/beginning of high school. Questioning, dismantling, and destroying what you thought you were, assumed you were, etc.

Also coming out, though…I sort of don’t like that term, but I guess you can use it for anything such as religion, class, race, anything that doesn’t appear on the surface that you can “come out” about.

What influenced my experience and process

What I sometimes forget to note is where, when, what age, and everything else that affected my coming out. I grew up in Palo Alto, California (for the most part) in an affluent area. Palo Alto is suburban, mostly white, and upper-middle class. California is a democratic state (which is definitely of importance when considering yourself to be sexually different). Both of my parents are college educated, work in technological fields, and are “liberal-minded”. Palo Alto is a medium sized city (as of 2000, had a population of 58,598 people) and has probably been built around the private elite school, Stanford.

I do not see my friends around Palo Alto (I went to school in San Jose for high school), rarely bump into people I know at the grocery store (though I don’t really do the shopping), and do not have to worry about a Brendan Teena recurrence everytime I happen to go outside. I do not hear drive-bys where people call out “faggot” or “dyke” though maybe I am just lucky. I have happened to hear shushed whispers about bisexuality when in middle school and giggles when “gay” was mentioned, but have never encountered any violent act against anyone who has considered themselves gay within Palo Alto, though I may be missing something. I live in the rich part of Palo Alto (or rather, my parents do) and have encountered many of which people may consider the bourgeois life style. My childhood was fairly innocent, very actually. I hated when people called me “innocent” because of the sexual connotations behind it, but I now know how little I knew or how lucky I was. I am lucky because I did not have to come out in a place like Jamaica, where Homophobia is fierce, or to parents who are fundamentalist Christians.

I did not grow up in a rural area, in a conservative area, with racial stigma (well, if you consider being Jewish a race then…), or much of any national stigma. My coming out process was not especially difficult or rigorous, although I did encounter a lot of questioning from my mom.

How it started

I remember coming out to myself first, acknowledging in my head that if there was anything that I was, it was anything but straight. I remember first thinking “I like my best friend” and that was all, but then it translated to “I like this girl” and that’s when my brain started to freak out because even when you’re thirteen, you know, somewhere in your head, that you are not of the majority. Even at ten, or eight, which is probably more accurate.

The moment I realized “why yes, I am quite gay” except more like “holy shit I like my best friend…what the hell do I do now?”, was on a car trip traveling to Mammoth with my family. I remember looking over at my friend, who was reading the nanny diaries, and thinking “wow, she’s hot” and that is when my mind froze. The entire week my family stayed in Mammoth, I avoided direct eye contact with my friend when in the bathroom, tried not to sleep too close, and tried never to touch her unless I gave myself away. I thought my mind made a mistake and so put the thought away to simmer.

In middle school, before I realized this about my friend (which I think was post 8th grade summer), one of my other good friends came out to our class of thirty girls with her then girlfriend. I wasn’t surprised, but the surprising thing was that I was not mad at her because of her sexuality, but because she did not tell me and thought I would (possibly) not talk to her again, when the opposite was true. I wanted to share my feelings, that I had barely even started to recognize within myself, with my friend. The strange thing was, that my friend, who went to Mammoth with me, was the person to out my friend to me.

I did not start, what I know think of as a process, coming out with recognition until my freshman year of high school. I found someone, who now I am closer with than I was in high school, who I subconsciously searched out, to be my coming out mentor. My friend who went to Mammoth with me went to my high school and I liked her again during the second semester of my freshman year, realized how I liked her (wild obsession-infatuation), and told my friend (and was convinced to come out to a couple of friends and tell my friend I liked her) I liked her in an online chat room (do not do this at home, or ever). That ended badly, but during my sophomore year, I recognized that I liked girls, talked about it, claiming the word bisexual to refer to myself, but that never fit quite right. I would talk about liking girls, but was never fully comfortable with it in high school. I would curl up into myself when anyone mentioned it, become deathly quiet, and not acknowledge it. It was a paradox, mentionable to my friends and deniable to the aghast. It wasn’t a secret, I wasn’t ashamed, but I was not confident.

How I survived

I remember that I had this sense, or that’s what it felt like, for the people who projected anything, sort of like an attitude, about their sexuality. I found all of the bi people, the questioning, the lesbians, at my all girls catholic high school. Once you admit it to yourself that you are a sexual being and that you are attracted to people, whatever sex or gender, its like puberty. It is not limited to age. I know some people in college still going on with their coming out puberty who talk about boys and/or girls incessantly. I remember in high school I found my comrades, my coming out puberty compatriots, and talked about sex until my throat was dry. We covered fetishes, songs, romantic jargon, the cute girl, the boyfriend, girlfriend, drama, etc. Also, we bonded on what shows had the scenes with the lesbian or gay couple. We tried to sense if our crushes weren’t straight and we fawned over the older girls who seemed to flirt with us. It was a good time because I knew where to look. I didn’t have glbtq youth centers or a gsa until my junior year of high school, but I had my non-hetero friends.

In high school I was more in the closet to my peers, than to myself. I told select friends about my crushes and was careful who I told because in high school the influence of parents is the highest. Two of my best friends were bi and came out to me, the first two who confessed to me besides family members. We were like a love triangle, all of us having crushes on the other two, or a harboring confusion about close friendship and sexual attraction. My two friends dated, which ended in disaster, and one of the friends going back to her boyfriend who she has been with ever since.

How I told my parents…the journey

I told my mom one night, before I went to bed, that I liked girls. It didnt seem like much at the time and the next morning it was quite the surprise  what her retort was. I never told my Dad I liked girls, though I assumed that my mom told him of my “alternative” desire.

Although my Mom seemed accepting at first as did my sister, there was constant questioning (especially on my mom’s part). My mom said it was a phase, said I shouldn’t label myself yet, and the silence around asking about girls. My mom didn’t ask much about who I liked in general so we didn’t talk about much. It didn’t seem like there was much of a concern, at least, not that she voiced.

I had boyfriends in highschool, two to be exact. My parents were nice about my boyfriends, my mom wanted to know if we had sex (and voiced her encouragement at getting birth control), and asked about the sex. She did not ask about the relationship, at least, not that I remember.

It wasn’t until the summer before my sophomore year of college that my mom said, while I was single, that I hope you find some boy or girl that will make you happy. Then she started only saying significant other. That’s when she started thinking I was a lesbian and asked me over facebook  if I was in denial because I had been going to all of these glbtq meetings, pride, and a gay club. What my mother does not know, is that my articulation (finally) about doing these things does not make me a lesbian (which she probably does know), but I was convinced at the time that the only gender I could fall in love with, was girls. Though I do, more likely and more often, fall easily in love with girls, that does not make me a lesbian (though I do fit into that label).

After having a girlfriend, I came out to my parents again. “Hey mom and dad, guess what? I am in a relationship with a girl”. My mom now actively asks me questions about my girlfriend, though my dad stays silent. When my sister had a girlfriend, he called my sister’s girlfriend “her girlfriend” only when my sister and her had broken up. I am hoping that my dad will some day ask me about my girlfriend, though I am not sure when that will be.

I am very lucky to have the parents I do. Though I don’t really talk to them about my relationships, I am glad that they support me and are there for me. I am lucky that they have not kicked me out or denied my attraction, even though at one point my mom thought it was a phase.

Other helpful things

Some of the most comforting things to me during my coming out process was knowing I wasn’t alone. I remember being immensely close and attached to all of my friends who were girls. I think now I know why. With any best friend there sometimes is sexual tension no matter their gender, I just didn’t understand why I was so attached and why detachment from any friend who was a girl was so harmful. I did not understand my feelings and did not have the language or the rational to explain them.

Books, movies, and any form of media has always been a comfort to me because of the stories and meanings behind them. My friend, who I found as a mentor during my freshman year of high school , let me borrow a book about a love story between two girls. After that I began searching in libraries for girl-on-girl love stories, music, movies, and tv shows. I found multiple books (including one of them below), lipkandy, the L word, the Logo Channel, Queer as Folk, Bound, Bend it like Beckham, etc, etc.

Media was one of the most helpful things to me during my exploration and contemplation of sexuality. It helped me feel as if I wasn’t alone and that is one of the most important things.

College

I realized that as I was looking for colleges, something I really needed was a glbtq community (which if you don’t know the acronym stands for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transexual/transgender, queer…its longer and includes questioning, intersexed, etc…the acronym is sort of ridiculous, I think and should be anything but straight). In looking for it, I kept in my mind a school that I had toured while in the northwest of the US with my mom. Safe space stickers were everywhere and I kept that in mind for a reason for the school to be my first choice. Luckily, by my decent grades and test scores, I ended up there.

College is where I “figured out” my sexuality I guess. When I entered college, I had a boyfriend and he and I stayed together until the thanksgiving break of my freshman year, when I broke up with him due to complications with an open relationship. While at school I joined both the anonymous glbtq club and the Coalition Against Homophobia, which I became the president of during my sophomore year. In those clubs I was able to talk about sex, meet other people who identified as being anything other than straight, and potential dates. In that group I met one of my good friends who I hung out with for most of my freshman year and people who were just coming out. In those two groups I developed confidence about talking even to strangers about my sexuality. I never felt so confident in my life.

During my freshman year, I had a fling with a girl that went on and off a few times and ended. Eventually we became close friends, but it took a few awkward moments (a lot, actually). Through that relationship, though it wasn’t ever really a relationship, I realized what I wanted and needed from a person. I also realized my sexual feelings towards the female body were much stronger than towards the masculine body. I began to think and be convinced that I was a lesbian.

After I had “figured” it all out, I put sexuality on the back burner until my sophomore year. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year I wasn’t attracted to anybody and it was such a relief. When I returned to school, I was happy, carefree. Mid-semester freshman year CAH, the coalition against homophobia, holds a queer prom. During that weekend, I remember having three crushes and then I started questioning my sexuality all over again. All of them were different ages and for the first time in my life, crushes weren’t just unrequited, I was friends or had some relationship which each one of them. One of them lived on the same floor I did, another I barely saw except when passing to a class, and the third was my climbing instructor. As it turned out, I had many conversations with my climbing instructor, told her I liked her, and then that fell flat because she graduated this year. The one who lived on the same floor barely talks to me, and the one who I barely saw is now within my major and I had two classes with her during the spring semester. During my getting to know all of them I realized something.

Talking to my climbing instructor, I realized the most crucial thing. Sexuality is not a label, which I also learned while taking a class, Gender and Society. I told her I just like people. “I’m a rainbow” I told her. During my winter break of sophomore year I read a book:

Same Sex in the City: So Your Prince Charming Is Really a Cinderella

“At last, a relationship book for lesbians that tells it like it is . . . The journey from sexual curiosity to finally coming out can be confusing without proper guidance and empowering role models. In Same Sex in the City, Lauren Levin and Lauren Blitzer provide women — gay, straight, and bi-curious alike — with firsthand insight into the advantages and challenges of being a lesbian.” (http://www.diesel-ebooks.com/cgi-bin/item/parent-
9781416916321/Same-Sex-in-the-City-So-Your-Prince-Charming
-Is-Really-a-Cinderella-eBook.html)
This book introduced me to the term pansexual, which seemed familiar.
Conclusion…except, not quite

This is the term that I most identify with, but what I have figured out from day one about sexuality is that people want a simple answer when they ask: “so who turns you on?” or “what’s your sexuality?” and its not that simple. Sexuality is complicated and influenced by many factors such as race, religion, culture, nationality, gender, class etc. Yes, biologists can study it, sociologists can analyze it, and gender studies majors (like myself) can try and figure it out, but I don’t think the human race can ever pin it down, just like anything else. The labels are an example of people trying to pin sexuality down, try and put it in a box to keep it manageable within in our analytical brains because as Descartes says “I think therefore I am”, but in this generation we need to change that idea because sexuality is not a thinking behavior (though it can be). Sexuality is feeling and it will never be understood if people don’t experience it for themselves.

I have a problem with labels now, but once, they were comforting. Its nice, comforting, easy to stick to a label because within labels you find communities, people who are like you, and society understands you a little better. Even within labels, there is space to move. Even if we do label ourselves, we are not the labels, though we may fit into them. I am not my sexuality, though it is an important aspect of who I am. When I was first coming out, labels were the most helpful because they left me with a beginning, with a language, with something that I desperately needed. I needed a name for my feelings, validation, recognition. I found recognition in a label, which may or may not be good, but sometimes labels are needed to understand the world around us as well as ourselves.

Coming out would not be such a big deal and the glbtq labels would not be so important to the community if heterosexuality was so revered. Coming out would not be a term if people didn’t have to feel as if they had to hide their sexuality, as if heterosexuality was the norm and homosexuality is not (though reports have said that homosexual behavior only exists in 10% of the population). Coming out may dissapear as a phenomena in a century when maybe having sex with the same gender or sex wouldn’t be something shameful or something to whisper about. If we all “come out” of our shells, whatever minority status they may have (as everyone does have one), the world may slowly become more understanding.

4 Comments

Filed under personal, Sexuality