Ah, gay men. Often we think of them as having a lot more money, much better porn, and nicer abs than we lesbians do. But how else do we think of them? As our buddies? Our rivals? Our best bet for a Christmas dinner date to Grandma's house? In this post, I introduce something I've been thinking about for a while: the relationship between lesbians and gay men. And I intersperse a couple of polls throughout the article to get your take on the boys. To start with:
Many lesbians and gay men dated each other in high school, but too often we grow apart later in life. I've heard gay men say mean things about lesbians' supposed frumpiness, grumpiness, and penchant for plaids, and I've heard lesbians say mean things about gay men's supposed bitchiness and promiscuity. (For the record, I am against neither plaids nor [consensual] promiscuity, though frumpiness and bitchiness are both no-nos in my book.)
There's something about the gay male ethos that's very appealing to many dykes. Just as some lesbians exude masculine energy from a female body, some gay men exude feminine energy from a male body. Maybe the mix of masculine and feminine energy is one of the reasons that gay men and lesbians sometimes develop crush out on each other. (They can be as mad about Maddow as we are, and goodness knows we were stoked to learn that Quinto's a queer.)
I was reminded of my fondness for gay men after spending much of Thanksgiving chatting with my wonderful gay cuz, R., who is a photographer and a total cutie (and he's single, boys, so get in line!), and the evening before Thanksgiving with some great friends (including K&M, one of my all-time favorite gay couples).
Maybe some of my affinity for certain gay men comes from their reputation (deserved or not) as tidy, dapper, and bookish. There's something about the "dandy" aesthetic that many butches embrace. In defining ourselves and our style, there's often a shortage of female icons to draw on. The gay male aesthetic offers an image of masculinity that doesn't draw on heterosexual machismo as much as many straight male icons do. And for those who see ourselves as oppositional (in one way or another) to heterosexual masculinity, gay male masculinity provides an interesting reference point.
What stereotypes do you hold about gay men? What stereotypes do you think they hold about lesbians? What could a gay man and a lesbian learn from one another?
I realized I don't know how to write this last part of my coming-out-married saga, because in some ways, I'm still going through it. Not that I'm struggling with my sexual identity, or that I wish I still lived with my DXH, or anything like that. But in a way, I think all of us who come out later in life feel as if we've lived a split existence, and I'm not sure this ever disappears completely.
I moved in with the DGF a couple of days ago, and the act of relocating spurred some tough memories for me. There is something about combining households, about figuring out whose toaster to use or whether to mix our books or where to put the spoons, that makes me think of all the moves I've made before, and all the moves I might make in the future.
My DXH and I have a good relationship. We are great friends, we trust one another deeply, and I am certain that we will always be important people in each others' lives. Part of this is because he is generous and forgiving. Part of this is because of our honest communication during my coming out process. And part of this is because we both understand sexual orientation and sexual attraction as things beyond our own willful control.
Even though we are good friends, we spend less time together than I would prefer, and sometimes I still miss him. How can I not? We spent ten years together--the vast majority of our adult lives. We helped shape each other into the people we are now. We learned together, made mistakes together. We navigated car purchases and family holidays. We fought, made up, lived in four different places, adopted a dog. I am thankful that I got to spend the years I did with him, and I am also thankful that I had the courage to be true to myself and come out as a lesbian and live on my own.
To people who meet me now, I'm an out-and-proud butch lesbian with a secure identity and a great DGF whom I love dearly. This is all accurate. But even though no one can see them, the remnants of that other life are still inside me. I still think about them, and they still affect who I am. I don't think this is a bad thing at all.
Since coming out, I've met dozens of other gay people, men and women both, who used to be in heterosexual marriages. Sometimes they treat their prior life as a shameful secret, and this seems to be particularly true of butch women. I don't know why this is. Maybe we're ashamed not to have known something so fundamental about ourselves. Maybe we'd like people to think we've always been as comfortable in our own skin as we are now. I can understand this impulse, but I think it's important that we tell our stories--whatever odd, convoluted tales they may be--so that other people can see them and know that they are not alone.
I'll conclude my own little coming out saga with a message to any lesbian or questioning women currently married to a man: If you are true to who you are, things will get better than they are right now. Not in some cheesy, perfect, your-life-will-suddenly-be-awesome way. But in a quieter, more gradual, process of self-definition. It might be a hard road (and I'll offer more advice for navigating that road in a future post). But just because you didn't get it right the first time doesn't mean you don't get another chance to be happy.
Note: This is the fourth installment in my coming out story. If you haven't checked out parts I, II, and III yet, you should read 'em below so that this makes more sense.
In the two months after I got back, my DXH and I talked ceaselessly about our relationship. We wanted to stay together, but we wanted to be honest with ourselves. We mulled over "mixed-orientation" marriages. We pondered polyamory. We read message boards about couples who had gone through this. Eventually, we decided to separate as a trial, and to give me a chance to figure things out. He moved about an hour away, but we kept the separation secret from nearly everyone who knew us (family included). And even the very few who knew we were separated didn't know why. I was deeply ashamed and didn't want anyone to know what we were going through—specifically, what I was going through.
Even now, it is hard to find words to describe how dark that year was. I remember very little of it. I remember endlessly long walks with my dog in the chill of November. I remember being depressed by the emptiness of the house that my DXH and I were supposed to live in together, but in which I now lived alone. I went to work, faked it, came home. I don't know if other people noticed anything different, but anyone who was really looking would have seen that I was just an uptight, anxious shadow of a human being. Every now and then, my DXH would come back and spend a couple of weeks living at home. It was fraught with all kinds of tensions, all forms of guilt and worry. I felt anxious when he was around, and destitute when he was not. Every time he left, I spent several hours crying. Each departure was worse than the one before it. I felt like my insides had been cut out of me.
At my DXH's urging, I started trying to date women. (One of my first relationships was with the wonderful woman who is now my DGF. But ours is another story, and I will tell it another time.) I was struck by how natural dating women felt. I didn't have to think about every little move I made; it just happened. Granted, I was awkward. Granted, I had no idea how to ask a woman out, or how long I was supposed to wait before calling her. Somewhat amazingly, the DXH coached me on these points. He wanted me to figure my sexual orientation out, while I was more reluctant--deeply afraid of what I would learn.
And yet, some things were clear. I was starting to dress in a way that was more natural for me. A few men's shirts and a sweater vest had wormed their way into my wardrobe, and I wore them with great enthusiasm. And kissing a woman to whom I was attracted made fireworks explode in my tiny BW brain. I'd always thought that this was something that only happened in the movies, or to hopeless romantic types--not to pillars of logical thought like yours truly! Uh-oh, I thought again. Uh-oh.
To be continued...
Okay, I'm announcing a bet that I made with the FB fans of this blog today. If the number of people who "like" www.facebook.com/butchwondersblog reaches 3000 by Friday, Nov. 18 at 11:59 pm PST, I'll write a post EVERY day for the rest of 2011. I promise.
Today, I'm taking a brief interlude from my coming out story to write a letter to a new object of my affections.
Dear Wool Tie,
I know we just met last week, but I want to tell you how I'm feeling about you. It was good being around each other all day today, wasn't it? I mean, your slightly-heavy-but-oh-so-soft fabric just feels right, especially for fall. Simultaneously intellectual and badass, just like my platonic conception of myself. See, we complete each other, Wool Tie. Deep down in your plaid, woolen little heart, you know it.
People think we look good together, Wool Tie. They all said so. You could see it in their eyes, Wool Tie. They know that you and I are meant to be together. I might even have some of your friends over. Wouldn't that be fun, Wool Tie? You know you'd love it.
The bottom line, Wool Tie, is this: I don't know how my wardrobe and I survived without you, and I hope we'll never have to again.