I see so many women struggling with sexual transitions – writings and conversations about the journey: tortured, confused, full of defensiveness and justification. Can we ever leave our men? What do we call ourselves? Do we believe in labels? Do we reject them out of hand?
It’s like writing poetry – I think the best poetry is born out of intense angst and pain. Think about it – you know it’s true. The most memorable poetry is full of tension and discomfort. But language is beautiful and there is a lot of pain.
Do we revel in the drama of it all? Is that how we convince ourselves that we feel? That we are not invisible and our lives are not unimportant?
One of the most profound moments of awakening in my life occurred when I internalized the notion that because this was what I wanted…was reason enough. I had no need to convince anyone, make my case, or gain consensus. Liberating!
We are not so very different from other women – straight women. There is a point where our lives intersect – in the past, for the time being, or the rest of our lives. For a long time we lived in the straight world. We are not “other.” I traveled that road, too. I didn’t identify as a lesbian for a long time – way before I married my ex-husband, I always had boyfriends…even while I was having sex with women.
I think about some of the women I know now, and I believe their sexuality isn’t what it appears – gay, straight or in between. I believe they have simply landed somewhere comfortable and will remain there until it is no longer comfortable…or something better presents itself.
Take Pat: she’s been in a relationship with Becca for three years now. Pat is motherly…in fact, she is a mother of three adult children. Pat can tell you about a string of exes she cared for in some motherly way or another, until she could no longer stand being taken for granted. Becca has told me that she and Pat don’t have sex…and that it’s okay with both of them.
If I’m feeling particularly provocative (or militant, or judgmental) I will contend that someone like Pat is not “really” a lesbian. C’mon! She’s had three children: I can understand one…but three? Seriously, though, because I know that Pat has a history of abusive marriages to men, I believe that she has landed in the lesbian world by default…to escape…to hide.
In the lesbian world we have plenty of women who are mannish enough to be familiar to straight women, yet feminine enough to feel safe – no onslaught to our heterosexuality, especially if we don’t examine it closely. If “I’m gay” needs the baptism of having sex with a woman…someone like Pat can rest there as long as she likes. Dysfunctional? You bet. But purposeful? Absolutely.
There are many stories like this in my world, in yours, and in the place where those worlds intersect. Most of these stories are hidden, but they are there and they are not unimportant. There is struggle and there is pain. And while we have come a long way, many of us are only just setting out on the journey.
Back then, in the early days when I read the broadsides and frequented the outsider bookstores, read the literature of those women on the forefront of lesbian emergence, we did what we needed to do in order to survive in a man’s world. There are more of us than you know…and many of us are still afraid.