I wonder if this question says something about how deeply buried our desires are, or how deeply we are imprinted by our shame.
I love loaded questions! I know there isn’t much discussion here yet as I write this, but I am hoping there will be, soon – a virtual rap group if you will. Including those of you who have been flying under the radar till now. I invite you to the conversation.
I have been around for awhile (20-plus years) and it was harder in those early days to be out. It was risky – to our families, to our jobs, to our homes. Back then, there were no good role models – being gay meant you were part of the fringe element.
I’m gratified to see how mainstream all this being-a-lesbian is now. But it isn’t all L-word California-dreamin’ and it won’t be all that right away for all of us – even when marriage equality becomes the law of the land. Coming out will be an iterative process: our comfort zones as well as our self-acceptance will have to grow – right along with everyone else’s. We must get used to seeing ourselves on the streets. In the meantime – there is discomfort, and plenty of it.
A week ago, someone (straight) asked me – do you personally have knowledge that there are women out there who are still afraid (to be out, to come out, to be known)? I replied, of course! I was proud of myself – I was gracious and not indignant. Inside my head: is she for real????
I absolutely know women who just don’t feel safe enough to be out. They are women who pass for straight by choice or effort, look like (really attractive) butch women, or anywhere in between. The reasons are financial, emotional, intellectual, fill-in-your-own-blank. People don’t understand how hard it can be…and we dismiss each other as well as loathe ourselves for being weak.
In a recent conversation with some women I was hanging out with, the topic of discord and internal discrimination came up – a young woman asserted that bi women felt looked down on by lesbians…that they were “less than.” I’ve seen it – women who use the term “gold-star lesbian” deliver judgment with the term – that somehow, you are a better, purer lesbian if you’ve never been with a man.
Do we define lesbianism by degrees?
If we do, then what about my friend Linda, a very VERY butch woman – one who is routinely called “sir” until she turns around and the now-embarrassed sales clerk sees her very large breasts? Linda has four children. Is she less gay than the closeted Macy’s lingerie department manager who has never slept with a man but looks like the word “lesbian” would never fall from her lips, let alone admit where she squarely plants those same lipsticked lips every Friday and Saturday night?
Back in the early days, many of us turned away from those deep tugs in our guts…or the girlfriends…or maids-of-honor, the distractions, the desires we told ourselves we could put aside. I remember thinking “I can do this.” I can live a straight life, be happy, be normal.
Are we “failed” heterosexual women? I’ll bet some of you believe exactly that. Or did we bury our sexuality as we moved about in our straight lives, as we searched for safety…absolution…amnesia?