Hi readers! What have YOU been up to? ME, you ask? SO much work. But aside from work, untold excitement, including the following highlights:
What have you been up to, dear readers? I wonder if this means I'm back. I think it might.
Hi all! I've been on a wee hiatus from BW, but will be back soon. Meanwhile, enjoy this excellent guest post by my friend Stephanie, who is not only a terrific writer, but an ass-kicking attorney in New York. (I asked if I could also describe her as a "really cute homo," and she said no. But she is. So there.) Enjoy the post. Love, BW
By Stephanie Rudolph
A week before the big Supreme Court decision officially legalizing gay marriage, my 89-year-old grandmother left me the following message on my cell phone:
“Steffi, dear, I just returned from one of the most exciting workshops I have ever attended. It was about sexuality. And there was one section there that was quite meaningful about lesbians. And I don’t mean to intrude on your personal life but …this man was incredible. If you want me to share with you what I’ve learned, we could schedule something private at my house… He made some very stunning distinctions, and sexuality is not just intercourse! There’s a whole range of qualities involved in such a relationship that might interest you.”
Let’s leave aside the fact that a man conducted the most exciting workshop of my grandmother’s long career on the topic of lesbianism. (And rest assured that my grandmother, a Freudian psychotherapist, has attended her fair share of workshops). What bothered me most was that it has apparently only just dawned on Grandma that my sexual orientation might not only be about some primal urge to rub myself up against another woman. Remarkably, my grandmother has spent the better part of a decade believing that I haven’t yet made the “stunning distinction” between sex and love in “such” a relationship. I could see why she urgently felt a private session at her home in New Jersey might be in order.
Seriously, though, one of the toughest parts about coming out—especially to people in older generations—is the focus on sex. For men, the notion that our little Johnny likes butt sex can prove particularly humiliating. For me, as a cis woman, coming out involved avoiding awkward glances or dealing with bizarre questions related to what exactly two women do together.
Unable to picture two women doing anything scandalous, even mildly homophobic or conservative parents seemed unfazed by my presence in their home. Where boyfriends were once relegated to the guest room over the holidays, twin beds were pushed together so that my partner and I could have some private “girl time.”
Presciently and sadly, Grandma’s voice message anticipated something that the rest of the nation was also on the brink of discovering: Identifying oneself as queer does not solely constitute an admission that you like a certain kind of sex. Gay people, like everyone else, fall in love. And some of them want to marry. It’s a simple concept, but it has taken a long time for popular culture to digest it.
As rainbow-painted faces popped up all over Facebook feeds in the days and weeks following the marriage decision, it seemed the world had become obsessed with gay love. Acquaintances who had always a struck me as uncomfortable with queerness busted out in full rainbow attire, marched proudly in Pride, and enthusiastically tagged articles and photos with #lovewins.
But while the world celebrated gay love, I found myself fighting depression, selfishly focusing on open wounds from my last breakup. Despite having been single for more than six months, Pride triggered insecurities about my inability to find my one true love. In the absence of gay love (and lamentably, reliable gay sex), I still felt just as queer. But this Pride, I also felt isolated. Without love, what kind of gay was I?
Each year, Pride is a celebration of queerness in all its forms. It’s Dykes on Bikes. It’s couples. It’s transfolks. It’s kids and families. It’s poly relationships. It’s being single and loving it. It’s gender non-conformity. It’s cross-dressing. It’s guys in leather. It’s dance parties.
As cheesy as it might sound, for the month of June, the queer community creates a space for me where queerness is not only tolerated but celebrated. But this Pride, I didn’t swell with pride. I just kept asking myself: are we prepared to celebrate queerness outside of love? Can people like my grandmother only embrace queerness if it fits neatly into a hetero-normative institution like marriage?
I should pause my diatribe for a moment and say that I am profoundly moved by the decision. I have shed tears watching images of gay couples in the deep South take advantage of the opportunity to share in the dignities (and indignities) of marriage. When traveling, I had always avoided developing relationships with other gay people, knowing I could never seek a fiancé visa for a prospective non-resident partner. And, when I lived with a woman some years ago in a state without gay marriage, she added me to her health insurance, only to find that the state and the federal government considered my coverage imputed income and penalized us to the point where I had to seek my own coverage. For both substantive and symbolic reasons, this decision represents a beautiful development, worthy of excitement, praise, and, of course, pride.
But people still find queerness outside of love a threatening notion. Most jurisdictions confer few protections on queer or trans workers. And even in states or cities that nominally protect queer and trans individuals from discrimination, in practice we face discrimination on a daily basis.
A few months ago, while shopping in an upscale store near Union Square in New York City shortly after buzzing my head, a man followed me around demanding to know whether I was a boy or a girl. But I wouldn’t be surprised if my harrasser jumped on the bandwagon by posting a rainbow-overlaid photo of himself on Facebook.
It makes sense that the world is excited about gay marriage. Who doesn’t love a big gay wedding? This pride though, I kept feeling like the world could only share in my “pride” in the context of a certain form of relationship. I kept watching the news, and obsessively refreshing Facebook seeking reassurance that even if I never march down the aisle of some Secular Humanist Church in a dapper white tux, the world would still swell with pride for me. This year, I didn’t get that assurance.
Remember that post I wrote two days ago about Sunnie Kahle, the eight-year-old-girl who was kicked out of her Christian school for "looking like a boy?" My MOM was the one who told me about the story; I think she saw a little of her daughter in Sunnie. And my mom took ACTION! She wrote a letter to Sunnie's principal, and gave me permission to share it with you all:
Dear Ms. Bowman,
Two days ago I read the Yahoo article about Sunnie Kahle, the 8-year old who was, until recently, a student in your school and who was, in essence, asked to behave more like a girl. That article hasn’t left my mind, so I decided to write to you. I can’t begin to tell you how appalled and saddened I am by your position on this. As a mother, grandmother, teacher, and most importantly, a Christian, I am surprised that you actually believe this is a Christian stand or that Christ would approve of such actions and comments. It is this kind of thinking that contributes to both non-Christians and Christians from staying away from the church – they don’t want to be a part of a religious community that is so arrogant and judgmental.
My understanding of Christ’s teaching is that, rather than judging others, we should be trying to live our own lives as Christ lived. Do you really think He would turn this young girl away because of her clothing or because her hair was too short or because she wasn’t feminine enough? If you really believe that, then you and I pray to a different God.
So what is it that concerns you, really? Are you simply afraid she might be “gay?” I understand your worry – the very thought makes us “old- school” Christians quite uncomfortable. My daughter was a tomboy as a young girl, much like Sunnie. She donned short hair and jeans and played on various sports teams. Now a woman in her 30’s, my daughter is one of the kindest, most caring, gentle spirits I have ever known. She is bright and courageous. She holds steadfast to a strong moral foundation and her faith in God.
And, it turns out, she’s gay. Trust me when I say, it wasn’t easy for any of us, and especially not for her. It didn’t change her love for God, nor God’s love for her. But it certainly gave God a chance to teach me a thing or two about His love. It required us to really trust that God doesn’t make mistakes, and that he has a purpose for everyone’s life, and that He loves everyone. I suspect God needed me to learn that the outside of a person – that is, their clothes, their hair, their sexual preference - was the wrapping to his gift. The gift, the real blessing, is to be found in each individual’s soul. The soul HE created.
I hope you come to see that this young lady, Sunnie Kahle, is just as special and unique, as much a blessing in our lives, as any other child, because she is God’s child. To try to change her spirit, to “fix” God’s perfection – my heart breaks for you. I hope you reconsider your stand and find peace in a new decision.
An eight-year-old girl named Sunnie Kahle was recently informed that she was no longer welcome at a Baptist elementary school in Virginia via a letter that informed her grandparents (who are her guardians) that her gender nonconformity is out of line with God's plan. One particularly scintillating excerpt reads, "God has made her female and her dress and behavior need to follow suit with her God-ordained identity."
Let's leave aside, for the moment, the possibility that Sunnie is trans*. Let's assume (as her interviews seem to suggest) that she sees herself as female. This means the school administrators at Timberlake Christian have taken it upon themselves to decide what female "dress and behavior" look like. Unless the exactitudes of gendered fashion are spelled out in the Bible (and I don't remember reading that--do you?), this argument is absurd even on its own terms. God has "ordained" that this kid has to wear the kinds of clothing and play with the kind of toys that the execs at Disney and Walmart have decided is most effectively marketed toward her gender? Got it.
As a former little girl who was occasionally mistaken for a little boy, I know first-hand that it's not always fun. Kids have hundreds of ways, subtle and not, to single out their norm-defying peers. Expressing gender nonconformity, especially as a kid, is hard. Sunnie Kahle should be lauded for using her God-given guts, not bullied by her school's administration for not fitting into their idea of what girls are "supposed" to be.
I'm glad Sunnie has loving grandparents who stand by her just the way she is. If all kids were so lucky, I bet teen suicide rate would be a lot lower. In one interview, Sunnie's grandmother said that if Sunnie grows up to be a member of the LGBTQ crowd, she will "love her that much more." Unconditional love, total acceptance... sounds awfully Biblical. Maybe Timberlake Christian should take a page from grandma's playbook.
After reading my Guide to Having Your Lesbian Daughter Home for the Holidays, my mom (whom I did not realize reads my blog pretty regularly --how rad is that?) mentioned that having one's dyke progeny home is not always a walk in the park, either. Even if they want to be fully accepting and supportive, our families don't always know how. So my mom and I have collaborated on this list of how we lesbian daughters can do our part to make family time as joyous (or tolerable, depending on your family) as possible.