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.
As you all know, the Supreme Court decided a little under a week ago that all states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. I was really moved by the decision, which was more inclusive than I expected it to be, and it's been so interesting watching people's responses to it. I learned about it when my partner woke me and said, "Hey! We can get married anywhere now. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage." I'm butch enough to admit that this brought tears to my eyes.
Though there's plenty to say about the decision itself, what it does and doesn't do, and what this means for the future of LGBTQ people in America and beyond, today I just wanted to share a collection of responses I've gathered from LGBTQ Americans in response to the decision. Some are from social media, some from face-to-face conversations. But I thought the breadth of them might interest my beloved BW readers.
It was a joy, indescribable... To see years of activism, its fruition, and then to see many who have been dreaming, hoping, and thinking the day would never arrive within their lifetime, folks in their 60's, even 70's. That made those countless marching in the suffocating heat, sleepless nights planning , organizing... Someday, when I meet the right one, my soulmate, I can get on my knee, with the certainty that wherever I am, we can plan our wedding, our marriage... not just a bunch of legalities and notarized paperwork...
I'm happy about the decision, but now my mom and stepdad will be on me more than ever to get married and have kids like my siblings, and that is not the life I necessarily want! I love my partner and maybe will marry her eventually, but I am just a different kind of person and don't want the same life. The marriage decision doesn't prevent me from feeling less valid in their eyes.
This means everything to me, as my wife and I are expecting our first baby in December. We are in California (married 2 years ago yesterday). Her entire family is in Texas, so whenever we've visited Texas since we've been married, I've reminded myself "we're not actually married when we're here." Because of the Supreme Court decision, we can travel to Texas with our child and be recognized as a family just as we are in California, and our child will never live in a world where their moms' marriage only exists in some states.
I'm still getting all teary-eyed thinking about all this... I mean, I know we have a LONG way to go before we have achieved true equality across-the-board... but still, this is so much farther than I ever dreamed we would get when 30 yrs ago this-here spikey-haired dykey 19-yr-old gave a ring to my then-girlfriend, and wished like hell that such a thing as marrying her was even possible.
So there you have it, dear readers--a sampling of the breadth of the LGBTQ response to the ruling. Thanks to everyone who wrote to me with their thoughts. I hope that regardless of your take on it, you're getting a chance to bask in this victory a little, in whatever way is meaningful to you.
Last month, I posted a list of things that well-meaning-but-misguided people tend to say to childless lesbians. On my Facebook page, a few readers mentioned that people say equally irritating and/or idiotic things to lesbians who have kids. Here are some of their least favorites:
Seriously, people. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're beside yourself with joy and curiosity about a child or a pregnancy that is not your own. It is very, very rude to ask someone you barely know about the biological details of how his or her children came to be, or to offer your unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinion about how the family arrangement is likely to affect the child.
Q: But what if I really want to know?
A: That's what the Internet is for.
Q: But I'm a total supporter of gay rights! So it's okay if I ask, right?
Q: What if the person I want to ask is a friend or family member?
A: Possibly fine. But this varies based on the person. Some folks will talk your ear off about IVF; others will want to smack you for asking. If the person is a friend, you probably already know the deets or would feel comfortable saying something like, "Hey, I had a few questions about the biological aspects of your pregnancy. Would it be okay if I asked you about it? If not, I certainly understand."
Q: Oh, good! I can ask my lesbian co-worker how she got pregnant!
A: NO. When I say "friend," I'm talking about someone with whom you hang out socially, on a voluntary basis. Just seeing someone at work functions, PTA meetings, or the post office doesn't count.
Q: Oh, good--so I can tell my lesbian daughter that her son needs a male influence?
A: NO. The aforementioned ban on unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinions about someone's child-rearing decisions applies to friends and family members as well.
Any queer parents out there want to add something I missed? Drop me a line or post a comment below!
I once asked my friend Erica what it felt like to want a kid. She said that when she saw other people's babies, she just wanted to steal them and have them for her very own.
I have never felt this way.
Although, admittedly, I want to steal other people's dogs and take them home and have them for my very own. When I confided this to Erica, she was not especially impressed by my puppy-mothering instincts.
"But doesn't that mean something?" I asked, forcing my mouth into what I hoped was a beatific maternal smile.
"It might, um, mean that you should have dogs instead of children," she said.
Of course, she is right. Baby dogs are cute to me in a way that baby children have never been. People say that babies are cute and smell wonderful. I maintain that even though babies *can* be cute, this is not always the case, and that they typically smell like poo.
My lack of desire to procreate is something I've been thinking about lately, as I am solidly in my mid-30s, and it's now-or-never time if I want a tiny human to spring from my loins. Originally, my mother didn't want kids, but changed her mind and decided she was okay with it, and then she loved having them (and, truth be told, was the best, most engaged mom ever). So I have kind of assumed for most of my life that although I never wanted children at the moment, there would come a time when having children would go from seeming wretchedly inconvenient to seeming kind of fun.
But this time has not come.
If I had a partner who (1) was dying to have kids and (2) was willing to do four-fifths of the work, having kids might sound fun. But my DGF feels the same way I do, meaning that in tandem, we would still be sixty percent short of a parent.
Don't get me wrong--I like kids, particularly after the age of fiveish. I've done a lot of teaching and coaching of various types and at various levels, and I think kids are awesome (my favorite being high schoolers). And if someone gifted me a baby, or something happened to a friend and he or she left me with custody of their kids, I guarantee I'd throw my whole heart and soul into parenting--I really would--and I'd probably love parenting, too. I can guarantee I'd be both open-minded and overprotective.
And yet, I have no special desire to proactively become a parent. Not only does this make me feel like kind of a bad person, but it's also a little odd. After all, tons of babies need good parents and are up for adoption. Why don't I just adopt one? Is it really all that different from a friend leaving me their kid? Somehow, it feels that way.
I also keep feeling as if, one of these days, the desire to have a kid is going to grab onto me, and then I'll "get it." But for now... I don't get it.
Can anyone else relate to how I feel about all this?
Next post: Well-Meaning-But-Obnoxious Things People Tell Lesbians Who Don't Have Kids. (Anything I should be sure to add to this list? Tell me!)
As you know, I enjoy wearing queer themed t-shirts. And I'm not the only one! Two awesome BW fans in SF (who contributed to this entry, btw) have created this "JUDGE ME" T-shirt to help keep the DOMA and Prop 8 Marriage Equality debates centered on the LGBTQ community and our allies.
They're donating all proceeds to a combo of important charities: the Human Rights Campaign, SF's LGBTQ Community Center, and Lyric, a Queer youth empowerment program. (Check out the video.) There are only TWO DAYS left in their campaign and, with your help, I think we can push them over their goal. Whaddaya say?