Occasionally I get email from other aspiring queer bloggers asking for advice, and I received another one recently, so I thought I'd share some general, hard-won blogging advice. Take it all with a boulder of salt.BW's Tips for Bloggers
I'm sure other bloggers feel differently about lots of this stuff, and I hope they'll weigh in with other thoughts they have. What about you, dear readers? What are your favorite qualities in a blog?
- Assuming you want an audience, your blog should revolve around a theme, not just be a diary. For a following, you need an angle. (Once you have a following, it's okay to deviate sometimes--regular readers are forgiving... As, I hope, you all are right now...)
- Let your personality shine through. Whether it's nerdy, quirky, punny, whatever--it's genuine you, and this is the fun of it.
- Keep a running list of possible topics. Then on the weeks you're running dry, check the list and see what inspires you.
- You don't need to know anything about coding or building websites. Personally I use Weebly, because I like their templates and options and easy-to-view stats. But there's also WordPress and a bunch of others.
- Reach out to more experienced bloggers. After you've got 10-12 good posts, ask if they'll put you on their blog rolls.
- Don't feel obligated to post every day. It's nice if you can, but you don't want the blog to feel like something you have to do.
- Give people an option to subscribe to your blog via email.
- Do it for love, not money. I'm positive I've spent more on BW than I've earned. Would I like to make a living writing BW? You bet. Am I willing to post ads all over my page and pimp products I don't care about? No freakin' way.
- Have patience! It can take a really long time for your audience to grow.
- Some people will hate you, disagree with you, and/or think you're stupid--and won't be afraid to say so. Pay attention to thoughtful critiques; ignore the morons.
- Don't be defensive. You will screw up. When you do, admit it.
- You're going to offend some people, even if you try not to. This is not a nice feeling, but it's a virtually inevitable one.
- Readers love pictures, especially if you take them yourself.
- Have fun! Be silly, be weird, be random. If you're laughing while you're writing, your readers will laugh while reading it.
- Keep a separate email account for blog-related email. This will keep your blog life from leaking into your work life, and vice versa.
- Think carefully about whether to be anonymous. It's a hard choice. I'm still closeted for professional reasons (and deeply ambivalent about it), but plan on coming out in the next couple years. Once you're "out," you can't go un-ring the bell. While being up-front about your real identity will increase your credibility (and get you a bigger following, I bet!), it may limit what you feel comfortable writing about.
- Social media is your friend! Lots of people have stumbled across BW randomly through Twitter and Facebook.
- Don't write about friends/family who read your blog, unless they've told you it's okay, or you specifically let them know ahead of time. Some will get pissed off; it's hard to predict who. Also: use pseudonyms.
- Interact with your readers! Most of them will be awesome, and eventually you'll probably get more emails than you can handle, but if you see blogging more as a conversation than a mouthpiece, readers will be engaged (and they'll share smart, interesting ideas that will teach you cool things and inspire you to write more!).
- You're allowed to vary: sometimes you may be funny, sometimes reflective, sometimes informative. Don't feel like you have to keep up some kind of consistent "persona."
- Don't get too obsessed with your numbers, and certainly don't write in response to them (e.g., "People like posts about fashion so I'd better write about nothing but fashion").
- Don't apologize if you go a while without blogging. (Yeah, I broke my own rule recently. Sue me.) Just roll with it.
- Focus on creating good, interesting content. Rachel Maddow said recently that there are too many great content-container creators and not enough great content creators. Be one of the great ones, and strive to get better. I'm talking about technical stuff (for grammar tips, there's no better source than Strunk and White) and non-technical stuff. Think of the bloggers you admire most. Why do you like their posts? Strive to embody the qualities you admire.
- Good writing takes way more time than you think it will.
- Understand that you have something to say. If you're thinking about blogging, it's because you want to tell something to the masses. Don't second-guess yourself. Everyone's an expert on his or her own corner of the world. A blog is an awesome way to share your point of view!
Hey all! So I've been in bed with mono for two weeks. I'm definitely starting to feel better, but DANG mono can last a long time. Being sick has gotten downright mono
-tonous. Har, har. I've eaten boatloads of saltines, grown tired of red Gatorade (the original kind--this G2/G3 business is cray cray), and played dozens (hundreds?) of rounds of Gems with Friends.Meanwhile, the out-of-doors has become downright fall-ish in my neck of the woods. Though I've yet to consume my two favorite autumn foods, candy corn and pumpkin pie, I'm in a November mood. Some people are posting one thing for which they're grateful every day this month (thanks for the tipoff, Bee Listy).
But I thought I'd shoot my proverbial gratefulness wad all at once (yes, I really did just write that sentence) and list 30 things here and now. Boom.
What's on your gratefulness list, dear readers? Comment below and list at least three things, large or small.
- The election results! A president who isn't scared to mention The Gays in his acceptance speech! Elizabeth Warren! Maine and Maryland! There is much to celebrate.
- Fiction! The pleasure of reading stories, of turning pages, of becoming subsumed in the printed word. Right now I'm reading Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman and Bolano's The Savage Detectives, and am enjoying both very much.
- My DGF (dear girlfriend)! Her mischievous smile, her dancing, her sense of humor, her curiosity about the world--all of these things make me happy, and I love her more every day.
- A sense of relative security! Sure, I have student loans up the wazoo and earn a rather wee salary, but on a day-to-day basis, I don't wonder if I can afford groceries or heat, and that is an incredibly comforting feeling that many people do not get to have.
- Succulents! Recently my DGF and I have gotten addicted to succulents, and have been having a lot of fun growing them. You can propagate them from leaves! How cool is that? (Answer: very.)
- BW readers! I love that I get to write something a lot of people enjoy reading. I am very grateful that you read this blog.
- Friends! BB, CB, KC, MK, JG, DD, SJB, E&E, MT, LR, TH, and many others. Friends give me perspective and make me feel loved.
- Warm showers!
- Being a butch lesbian! I'm grateful that I can present the way I really am, be out, and be me--fleece vests and all.
- My dog, Scout! Scout is my buddy. Loyal, smart, playful, and absurdly well-behaved. When I go running, she goes with me. When I'm sick, she never leaves my side. Especially if I'm eating something.
- Dr. W! My therapist is amazing. She helps me understand who I am, gain courage, work on my strengths, and be a better person. She also has a fabulous BS-detector (important when working with me).
- Projects! I love having projects going. Research projects, art projects, writing projects. Projects, projects.
- Fruit! Particularly pomegranates and Fuyu persimmons (the flat kind).
- Trail running! I want to work up to doing a lot more of it, because I find it exhilarating and challenging.
- Rainy days!
- Sunny days!
- Music! Music can elevate my mood, stir up memories or make me dance. I am also grateful for the ability to make up my own songs (something which is almost certainly not on my DGF's gratitude list).
- My new shoes! They're making my plantar fasciitis feel a little better. Plus, they are orange, and I love orange.
- My parents! I am absurdly similar to them in some ways and absurdly different in others. My relationship with them has evolved a great deal and their support for me has been unwavering. I love them immensely.
- My friendship with my mom! This deserves its own list item.
- Home! I live in a place I really like--both the house and the region.
- Writing! Of all kinds. Words to paper. Words to screen. Words to napkins in ballpoint pen. Words words words.
- My brother, sister-in-law, and niece (+1 on the way)! They're an awesome family, and I can't wait to hang out with them next month.
- The smells on my drive home! There are all kinds of trees on my way home, and I love how they smell: piney and earthy and dewy.
- Humor! God, I'm grateful for humor. I find many things amusing or silly or ironic, and I love seeing the world this way.
- My DXH! I've written a whole lot about him in the past, but suffice it to say that I have an incredibly loving, supportive ex-husband, and I'm grateful that he's such an important part of my life.
- Second chances! Whether it's a relationship or a writing rejection or a dozen push-ups, second chances are the best.
- Things to look forward to! I love having things to look forward to. Vacations, down time with my DGF, books to read, plans with friends, cool work projects... There was a time in my life when I lost the ability to look forward to things, and I think that makes me especially grateful for it now.
As many as you want.
Coming out as a(n obvious) butch dyke when I was previously known as, and basically looked like, a heterosexual woman, was like my very own social experiment about the effects of sexual orientation and gender presentation.I've written previously about happy surprises that coming out brought to my life. I've talked less about the unhappy surprises; I'll hit some of those now.
Here are some ways my interactions with others changed when I came out:
As I said, I'm only listing the negative or neutral things here, and I'm making a lot of generalizations. So please don't take the list too literally.Still, it was incredibly trippy to feel like I had stayed the same, but all these elements of the social world had suddenly changed around me.
- I became less visible to straight men, maybe because I no longer had anything they wanted. A female professor of mine once told me that when she turned 60, men stopped looking at her altogether and that she became invisible. I wondered what that would feel like... I got to find out just a few years later. (BIG generalization here; not always true; some of my best friends in the world are straight men, etc.)
- Straight women still looked at me, but in a different way. Some of them seemed to think: How much of a woman are you, and how much of a man? What does this mean for how I should treat you? Others seemed to think: How can I possibly understand someone who wants out of the game? Some of them began to flirt with me.
- Republican friends/family said things like: I am progressive on social issues, but why does being gay have to be such a big deal? They began using words like "waiting" and "inevitable" to talk about equal rights.
- Assumptions were made about me: I am pro-choice; I love cats; I care about football; I like camping; I find femmes attractive. Want to guess how many of these five things are true? People's assumptions fit me about as well as men's fitted shirts tend to.
- Straight progressive friends began using the word "partner" to refer to their opposite-sex spouse in front of me.
- Couples who were friends with both my ex-husband and I stopped calling either of us--particularly me. Oddly, this seemed to be most true for lesbian couples, some members of which began treating me like a pariah for reasons that remain unclear to me.
- I got stared at sometimes in the market or at the post office or in class or on a hike. I couldn't figure out why. And then I remembered: I look gender-atypical, and some people care about this and/or find it interesting to look at.
- A certain, mercifully rare brand of bitchy gay man hated me upon meeting me--fiercely and without apparent reason.
- I was automatically given some kind of "progressive" cred among hipstery friends who had previously considered me a bit of a traditionalist (albeit a liberal one) before.
- Even when I didn't want to think about my sexuality, which was a lot of the time, my sexuality was made an issue.
- People no longer assumed family-ish things about me, such as: I would have kids someday, I would go home for Christmas.
- Many straight friends rarely asked me if I was seeing anyone (even though relationships had always been a frequent topic of conversation).
- One or two very good friends claimed not to care about my sexual orientation, but were visibly uncomfortable when I came out to them, and then mysteriously stopped being your friends, and I will never be 100% sure if my sexuality was the reason.
- I suddenly noticed the overwhelming presence of heterosexist assumptions basically... everywhere. Movies, books, everything. Supposedly gay people were 5-10% of the population, but it didn't feel like I was represented in 5-10% of media.
- I would try to be friendly to strangers, as was my custom, in the grocery store or whatever, and they were extremely rude to me. I did not know why. Of course, this happens occasionally to everyone, but it started happening more than ever before. I didn't know if people were getting meaner, or if my patently obvious homosexuality was the cause of their rudeness.
Do any of these hit home with you?
The butch bridesmaid
post I wrote past week has been getting an ungodly amount of traffic, mostly from Google searches. It seems that bunches of straight people are unclear on certain matters of etiquette when it comes to The Gays. This results in much consternation and awkwardness on their part, most of which could be easily avoided. (Note to straight people: if you're nice and well-meaning and not a homophobe, we probably won't think you're being a jerk. Trust us--we've encountered jerks, and they're not you.)Here's my best advice to straight people in various situations that seem to make everyone feel awkward. Thanks to my excellent BW Facebook fans for lots of these ideas.Situation A
: You know someone's gay and you're curious whether they're dating anyone. You know them well (maybe they're your kid, maybe your gay brother, lesbian sister, whatever). What not to do
: Say, "Do you have any new friends
?" I hate it when people refer euphemistically to my partner/DGF as my "friend," especially when it's preceded by an awkward hesitation. Something else not to do: avoid it like the plague. Act as if conversation about their romantic life is totally off-limits, even though you'd talk about it if they were dating someone of the opposite sex. What to do instead
: Ask the question exactly as you would if they were straight, except switching the pronouns where applicable. "So, are you dating anyone these days?" is totally acceptable. Situation B
: You don't understand why your lesbian friend/daughter/sister/whatever is wearing men's clothes. What not to do
: Say any of the following: (1) "But you'd look so cute
in something pink/frilly/fitted/from the women's department!" (2) "But you have such a great figure!" (3) "But those clothes are so masculine
!" What to do instead
: Respect our choices. We are well aware
that we're wearing gender nonconforming clothing. We're not doing it to hide our figure or because we think we're unattractive or because we want attention or because we don't know how to shop for women's clothing. We doing it because we are much, much more comfortable this way. Many of us actually hate standing out, but we wear gender nonconforming clothing anyway because it feels like "us." Wearing girls' stuff often makes us feel like we're in drag. It's awful. If you want to gift us with clothing, please choose something that goes with our style. If you're confused about our style, inquire further (or do not gift us with clothing). Situation C
: You don't understand how a same-sex relationship works (physically, emotionally, whatever). What not to do
: Ask, "But who's the guy?" or "How do you have sex?" What to do instead
: If you're genuinely curious, there's a plethora of info on the Internet about emotional and physical aspects of LGBT relationships. Don't put us on the spot with such heteronormative silliness. JFGI. Once you've actually made an effort to learn, your questions will be thoughtful and that will be obvious and most of us will be happy to chat about them. Situation D
: You call someone "sir," then you realize the person is female. What not to do
: Freak out. Or be awkwardly silent, as if it never happened. What to do instead
: Don't freak out. It's happened to us before, and it will happen again, and when you're butch it comes with the territory. It's fine to say, "I'm sorry," then move on. Chances are, we feel more awkward than you do. (But comping us a drink or a cup of coffee never hurts.) Situation E
: A lesbian couple announces that they're having a baby. What not to do
: Ask, "Where did you get the sperm?" or other details of how the pregnancy came about. That's on par with asking a straight couple, "Was it an accident?" Unless they offer it or
freakin' good friends, keep your curiosity to yourself. What to do instead
: Say, "congratulations!" Express joy. Attend the shower. Ask if they have a name picked out. The usual stuff. Situation F
: Two women are out to dinner. At least one of them looks like a lesbian. They're not holding hands or anything, though. What not to do
: Assume that they are on a date. What to do instead
: Make no assumptions. If they indicate they're together or hold hands or something, great--then
treat them just like you'd treat a straight couple. But I hate it when I hang out with a female friend and people think we're together just because I look butch. Situation G
: A gay person of your sex compliments what you're wearing. What not to do
: Assume they're hitting on you. Become uncomfortable. Make sure to work in a reference to your own sexual orientation immediately, just to clear up any confusion. What to do instead
: Say thanks. Situation H
: You know someone's gay because a mutual friend or co-worker told you. But then the person himself or herself tells you they're gay. What not to do
: Feign surprise so the person doesn't think they're the subject of gossip. Or worse, say something like, "You don't look gay." What to do instead
: Nod politely or say (calmly) something like, "Cool." Ask about the person's significant other like you'd do if they were straight. Bonus tips
Hope this helps. Straight readers: any other awkward situations you encounter with gay people and don't know how to deal with? Queer readers: any other situations that tend to come up in your lives?
- Don't refer to our boyfriend or girlfriend as our friend. Don't say (of other gay people), "I think she lives with a friend." Unless, of course, she really does live with someone who is just a friend, and not a romantic partner.
- If you think someone might be in the wrong bathroom, don't confidently inform them that they're in the wrong bathroom. Instead, you have two options: (1) Say nothing. (Of course, if you think it's a guy and it's a safety issue, don't go with this option.) (2) Say something like, "Hi there," or, "Isn't this restaurant great?" or, "Do you know where the paper towels are?" to get the person to respond. If it's a guy, he'll realize you're not a guy and that he's in the wrong bathroom. If it's a woman/genderqueer person/other person who is using the correct restroom, they'll respond politely and you can go about your business.
- Some of us always knew we were gay. Others of us didn't. No need to do a triple-take when I talk about my ex-husband.
- Don't talk about equal rights as if they're an inevitability and we just have to "wait" or "be patient." In most states, we can legally be fired for being gay. We can't claim our partners on our taxes. We face huge obstacles to things like adopting kids, making a will, or visiting our partners in the hospital. It's absurd and unjust. In many places, we can get harassed--or worse--for being us. If your rights were stripped away, I bet it wouldn't be much comfort to know that things would get better in a generation or two. Don't just excuse our rage; join us in it.
- It's okay to invite us to a party, dinner out, whatever, even if we'll be the only gay couple there. As long as everyone's nice and doesn't have antiquated notions about sex and gender, it'll all be copacetic.
- You don't need to tell me that your uncle/friend/cousin/niece/neighbor is gay. It's 2012, so the fact that you know other gay people isn't a big shocker. Nor does it make me feel more comfortable. You can convince me you're an ally just by being your awesome, well-intentioned self and following the advice above. :)
Holy matrimony, Batman! Lately I've gotten lots of questions from brides in heterosexual weddings asking what to do with a butch lesbian bridesmaid, since many of us would rather pierce our own eyeballs with blunt toothpicks than wear a fetching dress of sea foam green chiffon. Here are some FAQs for traditional or semi-traditional brides-to-be:Q: Should I make my butch lesbian friend wear a dress if she's my bridesmaid?
A: No, no, no
. Give her that option if you want, but don't expect her to take it. You asked a butch dyke to be your bridesmaid, and you should respect who she is. If you had a male best friend and wanted him to be a bridesmaid, would you make him wear a dress? Of course not. Years later, I remain grateful to my friends E&R for inviting me to wear a suit and tie as a bridesmaid at their wedding. Q: Should I wait till she asks me what she should wear, or until she asks if she has to wear a dress?
A: No. I can guarantee you that if you've already asked her to stand by your side, but haven't told her what to wear, the poor dyke is sweating bullets in fear that she will be forced to choose between: (1) wearing a dress and feeling horribly uncomfortable; (2) pissing you off. Let her off the hook ASAP (and ideally as soon as you ask her to be a bridesmaid) by telling her that you won't make her wear anything that will make her uncomfortable.Q: But my Aunt Mildred is a devout Christian and will freak out about a woman in guys' clothes!
A: Having your butch friend wear a tie doesn't mean you're disrespecting A.M.'s religion. Explain to your aunt that you allowed your friends to wear what they're most comfortable in, and that this will help everyone enjoy your wedding. If necessary, remind her that Jesus loves everyone, no matter what they wear. Or: don't tell her in advance at all. People are usually on their best behavior at weddings, even if they're surprised by something. Q: But if my friend doesn't wear a dress, the wedding parties won't be perfectly symmetrical!
A: Oh no! They won't be symmetrical
? Holy crap--why not call the whole wedding off
Come on: When you look back at your wedding photos in 10 or 20 years, you'll think fondly of how much fun everyone had, not admire how well everyone matched. When I married my DXH, I had one of my best friends be the "usher" instead of a bridesmaid simply because he's a guy and I thought I was supposed to have the "sides" look the same. What a stupid choice! What matters is that your closest friends are by your side on your big day. Oh: and that the wedding cake doesn't suck. And that the photographer isn't wasted. And that the music is good. (See how many more interesting things there are to worry about?)Q: Okay, so what should I have my butch bridesmaid wear?
A: [Rubbing hands together] Here's the fun part! You've got a ton of options. I'll throw out a few, but be aware that the possibilities are practically endless:
Email me if you want some more detailed tips. I could even be persuaded to do a little fashion consulting on the side!Q: How do I treat my butch bridesmaid's girlfriend? Does she sit with the wedding party?
- Whatever the groomsmen are wearing.
- Pants the same color as whatever the groomsmen are wearing, with a shirt the color of the bridesmaids' dresses.
- A plain suit (men's or women's, her choice) with a plain white shirt or light grey shirt and a tie that you (or you and she) pick out to match the bridesmaids' dresses.
- The same thing the groomsmen are wearing, except with a suit vest instead of a jacket.
- Any configuration of the possibilities listed above.
A: Do whatever you're doing with your other bridesmaids' significant others. Which I hope is seating them with the wedding party, but if there's not room, people will understand--you just need to treat everyone the same.Q: If I'm giving all my bridesmaids the traditional gift you give people in your wedding party... what do I give the butch one?
A: If it's a "girly" gift that she'll hate, get her something else. (What is your hubby-to-be getting his groomsmen? That's one option.) Other ideas: a pocket knife (I'd suggest either a cool folding knife like this one
or a multitool type like this one
) , a Bespoke box of awesome
, or a set of cuff links (I love these
, and these
). Q: What about the bachelorette party and stuff? Will she feel totally comfortable there?
A: This is a hard one, because she might not, especially if she doesn't know all the other bridesmaids. But you should still invite her. If you want to do girly things, emphasize that you'd love to have her there and give her options that might make her comfortable. For example, if you're all going for manicures, tell her she's welcome to get a men's pedicure or a foot massage instead. Or, say she can come be the official photographer whenever she doesn't feel like participating (butches love having duties). If she expresses discomfort about parts of it, tell her to come to whatever parts she wants to. And no, you aren't obligated to invite her girlfriend to the bachelorette party. See? With a few small tweaks, you too can have an awesome butch bridesmaid who's stoked about her duties.How about you butches out there who have been bridesmaids at het weddings? Any tips? Happy anecdotes? Horror stories?
Hiya friends: I know a lot of you are headed to Pride in the next few weeks. If you've been to a few Prides before, you know that there are certain things you'll see over and over... chaps, free condoms, exes...
With this in mind I re-tooled a classic game for your enjoyment at Pride. Gay Pride Bingo! First one to get five in a row in any direction wins. I made two game cards, so you can play with a friend:
Game card #1 (click on picture to enlarge)
Game card #2 (click on picture to enlarge)
If you actually want to *play* Gay Pride Bingo
, here are printable black-and-white versions of the game cards: Card #1
; Card #2
. I'll give out multiple PRIZES (one each month) to someone who sends me photographic evidence of a Gay Pride Bingo win (i.e. all five squares in a row).
Does anything on these cards sound familiar to you? Is there anything else you feel like you always see at Pride?
Here are three excerpts from reader emails and comments this month:"I wish I was born a man, but I don't want to be trans. What gives?""I don't want to be a guy, I am a woman, but I want top surgery, or at least smaller breasts. I guess I might be genderqueer?""I don't get why all butch lesbians aren't trans. Why not go all the way?"One underlying commonality is that all three readers are trying to reconcile a female body with the desire to have "masculine" attributes.
They all seem to assume that if a ciswoman (someone who was born biologically female and identifies as female) wants attributes that we associate with maleness, she secretly, somewhere deep down, wants to be a man. Or at least, they suggest that being a woman with certain male attributes undercuts a self-identification as female.As a butch who has great respect for trans men but no desire to be one, I have a few answers to the "why aren't all butches trans" question.
At the risk of sounding trite ("we're-all-beautiful-and-unique-and-special-like-freaking-snowflakes-kum-bah-yah"), I hope you'll embrace your woman-ness or man-ness or genderqueer-ness or whatever-you-are-ness without regard to culturally imposed ideas of what a man or a woman is. That doesn't just include mainstream culture, but queer culture as well:
- First, gender is culturally imposed. The idea that men should wear ties and women should wear dresses is not biologically embedded in our brains. If a woman wants to sample/use/enjoy "male" culture, why would this necessarily indicate that she would also want facial hair and a penis? To me, the two feel totally separate.
- "Genderqueer" means different things to different people. But I most often hear it defined as existing outside the gender binary--someone who sees themselves as neither male, nor female.
- "Genderqueer" is a fashionable thing to be right now. But you need not identify as genderqueer just because you are a butchy dyke, or a cross-dressing man, or a transwoman, or anything else. You can be a man in a dress who completely identifies as a man, or a woman in a tie who completely identifies as a woman. Personally, I am not genderqueer. I look rather butch/androgynous, but I completely identify as female. Just because a woman has short hair, or binds her breasts, or wears a tie, does not mean she is automatically "genderqueer."
- There is a big difference between being a woman in "men's" clothing and being a man in "men's" clothing. I feel at home thinking of myself as the former, but not as the latter. I want a cufflinks and big watch and boots and a button-up shirt. But I don't want the chest hair or Adam's apple or anything else that supposedly "goes with" being male. Assuming that a butch "really" wants to be a man embraces the false idea that gender and sex are one and the same--that a person's body and mannerisms and shoe choices should all align.
- If you are a woman-identified butch lesbian, becoming a trans man is not "going all the way." Being butch does not set you on some path to "full" masculinity. A butch woman's masculinity is not different in degree from that of a butch man or FTM; it is different in kind.
our music, magazines, friends, and community. Question people who think inside the box. But also question those who claim to think outside it. Because in the end, your
wild and precious identity* is yours alone.* Apologies to Mary Oliver
I recently read this story
in the New York Times
about a photographer who takes pictures of old animals. I find the pictures beautiful
, and they made me think about aging. I've long thought societies that revere and cherish older people have gotten it right. I live in the U.S., where people start saying they're "getting old" in their thirties or forties, where people love
getting carded, and where it's considered insulting for someone to guess that a person (especially a woman) is older than she really is.
I'd like to think that the lesbian community is different, and that we have tons of respect for the older (by "older," I mean 60s or 70s plus) dykes among us. But I'm not sure this is true. More than once, I've heard people my own age (30s) talk disparagingly about older lesbians, saying that they don't "get it" with regards to boi culture, or trans culture, or some other aspect of contemporary queer life. (And, to be fair, I've occasionally heard older lesbians say disparaging things about queer youth culture, too.)Why does this age divide exist? Maybe because LGBTQ history and culture have evolved so rapidly in the last 50 years. Maybe those who came of age in the Stonewall era share less with their younger
counterparts than is true for straight people. I don't think so, though; I suspect it's a manifestation of a broader tendency to dismiss older people rather than integrating them into society and seeking their wisdom. And why does this tendency exist? Are we obsessed with "progress," which we conflate with youth and newness? Does hanging out with old people scare us because we don't understand it? Does it force us to confront our own mortality?
It's especially important for the LGBTQ community to take care of its older members, because in many ways, it's harder to be an old dyke than it is to be an old straight woman. Here are a few reasons why:
- Lesbians have more health problems than straight women do. (This stems in part from higher rates of obesity, smoking, and alcohol abuse among lesbians than among straight women.) Heath problems become more severe with age.
- While many lesbians have kids, we are less likely to have them than straight women are. Old people are often taken care of by their kids; a lot of lesbians lack this resource.
- Lesbians are more likely than straight women to be alienated from their families. This means fewer financial resources, but also fewer social ones--leading to increased rates of depression.
- Lesbians often have few legal resources if their partner dies. The deceased partner's family may challenge the living partner's legal standing to keep property or other assets that previously belonged to the couple.
I'm curious to know what you all think about this. In general, do you think the queer community takes care of older dykes? Should
Do you ever hang out with older lesbians? What's it like? Tell us about your experiences: positive, negative, whatever. And if you're a 60+ lesbian reading this blog, I'd love to hear your perspective about younger queers.
If you grew up celebrating Christmas, the holiday that used to bring you unbridled joy may now bring a big ol' dollop of mixed emotions. When we were kids, Christmas was less complicated. After all, what can top the idea of a benevolent, costumed, bearded man leaving gifts while you sleep? (Hmm, come to think of it, that sounds like something a gay man dreamed up.) But if you're like me, somewhere along the way, Christmas stopped being so easy. Note: if you're totally stoked about the holidays this year, this entry doesn't apply to you: go have a cup of eggnog or something.
My own mixed feelings about Christmas have to do with divorce, with people I miss, and with various types of guilt. For others of you, it has to do with a falling out with your parents, or with the death of someone you love, or with the frustration of having to pretend to be someone you're not. These aren't exactly thoughts you can bring up at the office holiday party. Instead, they're the kind of things that hit you when you're in line at the drugstore at 9:30 pm with a box of Red Vines in one hand and a bottle of zin in the other (just hypothetically
, of course), and "The Little Drummer Boy" starts blaring from the store speakers, and--BOOM--a wave of Holiday Depression.
The first thing to know about Holiday Depression is that you're not alone. Lots of people deal with it; they just don't talk about it. The second thing to know about Holiday Depression is that it passes. Don't let yourself think that your unhappiness during the holidays is somehow symbolic of the shortcomings of your life more generally. Because this is not true. Holidays are the time of year when the highest number of people report feeling depressed. You will feel a hell of a lot better in January. I promise. A few quick fixes for dealing with a sudden wallop of Holiday Depression:-
Lay on the couch. Put your headphones on and listen to the least holiday-ish music you can think of. Angry, not sad. I recommend Tool, Rage Against the Machine, or whatever the current equivalent of that stuff is.-
Open up Pandora and create a "Suzanne Westenhoefer" station. Listen.-
Start planning a trip for somewhere you're going to go in 2012.-
Write to me
. Ask me anything. Or tell me something you don't feel like telling anyone else.-
Do a project that involves plants or animals. Personally, I love paperwhites, and they're only about $1 each for the bulbs. You can grow them in anything
and it's mesmerizing. -
Buy yourself a new watch
, or some other stylish thing that you will look awesome in. My DGF (and others) call this "shopping therapy." -
Clean your whole house. Rearrange stuff that's been bothering you. It will distract you, let your mind wander, and make you feel like you accomplished something.-
Go for a walk or a run--anything that gets you outdoors. Don't come back until you're exhausted. Then take a nice hot shower.
These are only temporary fixes, but sometimes a quick fix is all we need to get us over the hump. So let's hear from you:
Do you ever get hit with Holiday Depression? And what do you do about it?
I have a pet peeve: straight people who are married but nonetheless use the word "partner" rather than "husband," "wife," or "spouse." I'm not talking about the abstract sense, in which one says, "People should support their partners." I appreciate this looser, gender-inspecific term. Nor am I talking about people or couples with whom I am close friends and know that they use "partner" in all circumstances as a symbol of their commitment to marriage and/or gender equality. I'm talking about people I meet at a conference or know through work, and we are merely acquaintances and I'd have no idea if said person and his or her "partner" are legally married.Reasons this bothers me:
- "Partner" with convoluted sentences to avoid pronouns makes me think you're gay. Are you doing this on purpose? Then when I use the wrong pronoun for your partner, I feel like the idiot. If you use "partner," follow it with a pronoun to clue me in.
- You took advantage of the privileges of marriage at a time when gay people can't marry. Fine. I understand that. It's your choice, and I won't judge it. In fact, I did the same thing back when I was a wee straight lass. But OWN it.
I especially hate when people use "partner" in front of gay people, but "wife" or "husband" when they're with family or straight friends, it bugs me. If you want to adopt the term "partner" full-time, awesome. But you do not, I feel, get to have it both ways: happily traditional at Thanksgiving dinner with grandma but tolerant and sensitive around the lesbo at work. Yes, it's all a little irrational of me. But when I get to know a straight couple, and they use the term "partner"
all the time, and then later I find out that they're actually married, it bugs me. It's as if they were hiding their traditional selves to spare my feelings or pretend to be politically correct.I feel an asshole for writing this post, because:
I guess "partner" bothers me because it can seem so inauthentic sometimes. Am I the only one who feels this way?
- I know a lot of people who use "partner" have good intentions. They read me as a lesbian, and they're trying to be gay-friendly.
- People can call their spouses whatever they want to, whenever they want to. Who made me the label police?
What do you
think, dear readers?