Remember the questions I posed to you a few months ago? Here are three interesting answers to one of the toughest ones:
"Describe how some other identity you have (race, religion, social class, whatever) interacts with your sexual orientation."
Response #1 (From Kyle at Butchtastic):
The intersections of my ethnicity, class, educational background, age with my gender identity and butchness is an area of great fascination for me. I’ve really been looking at these intersections in earnest in the past couple of years. I know that I receive privilege in some circumstances because of my age, because I’m white, and sometimes because of my masculinity, even if people don’t perceive me to be male. So how have those elements of my identity interacted with my sexual orientation?
First off, it’s queer--my orientation, that is. I use "queer" because listing all the aspects of orientation for my male and female sides takes several words: bisexual, lesbian, faggot, even straight... well ok, never "straight." Even if my female side hooked up with a cis man... it would still be queer sex. I haven’t examined these intersectionalities really at all.
My socioeconomic class has definitely had an impact on where I live, the people I meet through work, shopping, activities, and walking around the neighborhood. I more easily relate to people who have backgrounds similar to mine in terms of class, education, religion, race. But none of that is really about my sexual orientation.
I guess I’ll have to think about that more. It's a good question. I gave up religion when I was 13, before coming out as a lesbian, so that didn’t end up having much impact. Growing up in an aspiring middle class family meant I was given a lot of freedom of expression and association, even though my parents were not happy when I came out to them at 17. They didn’t limit me to only befriending particular classes or categories, nor did they try to hook me up with boys.
Response #2 (From "BT"):
Being a Christian is by far the identity that interacts most with my sexual orientation and until very recently my Christian identity was a big, mean, nasty bully to my butch lesbian identity. I have known in some form or another that I am a lesbian since I was four-years-old and I also have been a Christian since around that time. The two identities were at war within me from the time I was 4 until I was 27.
When I was 17, I let my lesbian self have the upper hand for a little while but all that did was spiral me into a deeper depression and greater self-loathing for the next ten years. The guilt and shame almost took me to my grave. I was at the point where it finally clicked that if I didn’t accept every bit of who I am I would be miserable for the rest of my life.
But how could I be a Christian and a lesbian? I basically had tried everything I possibly could to change my sexual orientation, even my own version of the dreaded conversion therapy. Nothing worked. It was clear to me that I must have been born this way. If it had just been childhood trauma or whatever else I was telling myself then the therapy would have changed my homosexual tendencies. So now I have finally accepted the grace that Jesus has extended to me. I have given grace to myself. I am accepted and loved no matter what. I can’t say that the two identities are in perfect balance now, I still have a ways to go but the battle has finally ended. After 23 years, my Christian and lesbian identities have embraced and I am no longer a person torn in two.
Response #3 (From "KH"):
I am a seminarian working on my Masters of Divinity hoping to become an Episcopal priest when I graduate from seminary. The identity of being an Episcopal seminarian plays a major role in my life. While the Episcopal church is very accepting of LGBT folks, ordaining gays, performing same-sex blessings and marriages, etc., I am still faced everyday with the question of how out can I be/do I want to be to my classmates and Bishop. I am from a Midwestern state, so my bishop and my diocese isn't necessarily as liberal as in other parts of the country.
It seems like when you are out in seminary you become that "token lesbian" who can or is expected to answer theological questions for the entire community. Also, attending seminary in southern Tennessee, I was the first out lesbian that several of my classmates had met. Everyone had met a gay man before, but not a lesbian. One of my classmates said to me the first couple of weeks we were here, "To southerners, gay men aren't scary. But lesbians, they scare us. We don't know or understand how they work, dress, have sex, etc."
It has been interesting to see how people interact with me because I break a lot of the labels that are given to lesbians in the south and break what they have heard about us and believe. But I love that my classmates are so open minded and give me a chance to be who I am without putting a label on me.
I also feel like a lot of the time the lesbian community isn't sure how to react to me/handle me either. It isn't every day that you meet a lesbian who is a soft butch that wants to become a priest. The LGBT community also doesn't always feel the love from the religious community. Many churches treat our community horribly. But it should teach us that we don't always like the labels that come with being a lesbian, so we shouldn't label a church without knowing something about them first either.
I am proud of who I am and the identity I have as a lesbian and as a seminarian.
3/16/2013 07:11:48 am
Wow! KH, as a lesbian who grew up in the little strip of Delta that stretches upward into west TN, the daughter of an Episcopal priest, and once upon a time a child who spent so much time at Sewanee that I could surely still trace the old paths around Running Knob Hollow if they still exist ... all I can say is thank you for responding to this prompt!!! My word, how I wish I could reach a hand through the computer screen to offer a heartfelt greeting more directly!
3/17/2013 03:28:07 pm
Thanks! I can assure you that many of those trails are still running around Running Knob Hollow. I dont think much changes around here. I really appreciate the heartfelt greeting. Maybe one day we will actually get to meet in person. :-)
3/16/2013 07:56:33 am
It would be nice to see responses to this in which 2/3 of them didn't deal with Judeo-Christian religious traditions. Fascinating, yes! Heartwarming, also yes. Representative of the diversity of our world, religious and otherwise? No. Ah, well.
3/16/2013 08:22:42 am
Yes! I hope more readers respond and answer. Perhaps because this was such a difficult question it was the least popular--these were the only three responses I received. Send more in, people! I'd love to publish 'em! :)
3/17/2013 03:32:13 pm
I can attest to the fact that this prompt was hard to write about. But somehow it was rewarding to write about. I really do hope others decide to write on this one so that we can see them and read more.
3/16/2013 07:57:23 am
Also, wow, would I love to see a book come out of this conversation! :) So much potential there. Just sayin'.
I'm a "latebian" (perhaps the term's been around a while, but I bumped into it at comingoutatmidlife.com), so it's been my identity as a mother to two teenage sons that has had the most significant intersection with my sexual orientation. Acceptance came easily for my older son who is also gay, and my younger son has done amazingly well embracing what could seem to a thirteen-year-old an abrupt shift. But through the lens and language of a thirteen-year-old, I'm coming to understand the power of mainstream status. He once said to me after inquiring about a weekend with my significant other, "Wow, Mom. It's like you're really in love," and I realized that the message he'd received from the world was that gay love could only ever be like love--not the real thing. He's a sensitive soul who meant no harm, but it was telling.
4/15/2013 12:58:57 am
my perceived race - white - renders my orientation privileged. my religion - reform judaism - renders my orientation privileged. my social class - middle, multiple college degreed, professional worker - renders my orientation privileged.
4/15/2013 01:09:37 am
i didn't make it clear that it's my butch identity that makes my dyke orientation visible. my [admittedly mostly stereotypical ] appearance upsets the Deaf patriarchy. many Deaf dress casually, but i wear no makeup, very short hair, no purse, men's clothes & shoes. the women tend to be more ok with me. but the men have visibly struggled at times.
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