Saturday, October 13, 2007

Which L-Word?

I am a 30-something year-old woman. I pay my taxes; I tend to my roses; I am loyal, I am successful, I love to make people laugh; I’m a snob when it comes to loo paper (double ply, please!); I am old enough to remember the collapse of the Berlin Wall but young enough to know what the Rainbow Nation is. I see the glass as half-full; I own my own home; I can never remember the punch line; I am a coffee drinker and I am a lesbian. Actually, make that ‘a gay woman’. Not because I’m part of some tambourine-jangling fraternity but because – when coming out - it’s always been far easier to utter the three-letter description over its multi-syllabled partner: ‘les-b-ian’.

I have decided to share my story because I can – and because I get tired of paging through magazines or flipping through channels trying to find my story.

The crux of the matter is that despite more constitutional freedom and protection than ever before, it’s still pretty difficult being a lesbian. Hatred and discrimination are difficult to shove back in the closet.

Clothes fill mine, by the way. Although from time to time I get waay back in there (to do a little dusting, mind you!) – but also to reflect on how far I’ve come and how far I’ve yet to go. I’ve always believed in being straight-to-the-point about my multi-syllabled sexuality - with anyone who’s anything to me. I’m delighted to say, most have been very accepting and, as the years have crept by, I’ve become more adept at spitting it out. I’ve also noticed that the thirties have produced in me a new, quiet inner confidence. I am less worried about what people think on the one hand and more resigned that, on the other, I will always care to some degree.

But it worries me that popular culture is turning ‘being gay’ into a trend; a fashion accessory – something to try on for size. It worries me that ill-informed journalists writing one-sided accounts of attempts to legalise gay ‘marriage’ – are feeding fears that the overall plot is to take over society and impose ‘our will’. It worries me that many, many men – including some of my friends – still fantasise about two women getting it off or, better still, coming to their rescue and showing them ‘the way’. It worries me more that countless black lesbians – in townships around South Africa – are being ‘shown the way’ more forcibly; are being beaten and raped and punished for loving women.

Because, here’s the deal. It’s not about hating men. It’s about loving women more. For most of the gays and lesbians I know (I’ve polled it, honest!) – it’s not about waking up one day and deciding ‘Hey, to hell with tradition, I want to be different!’ It is an agonising, protracted process which, for many – involves much denial, a great deal of confusion and self-doubt, the overwhelming desire to conform, the rejection of oneself and many other hideous things – before there is realisation that there must either be self acceptance or self denial and lies. And try being a gay teen. Nothing could be more alienating. When I was fifteen and trying to get my tongue around those three-syllables, I honestly thought I was the only person in the world like me. So much for our supposed built-in ‘Gay-dar’. This was either malfunctioning spectacularly or mine had been substituted with a ‘shit-detector’. Because while I couldn’t tell who else was gay, I sure could smell insincerity from a hundred paces off.

I believe that every parent needs to ask themselves how they would react if their child came to them and confided that they thought they were gay. Or if their child came home and said they’d met someone at school who was gay; or had gay parents. Your reaction will have immeasurable impact. Consider it carefully please – and rather cry silently than compare being gay to shop-lifting or worse. Sometimes giving a child wings to fly is the most important thing you’ll do as a parent – even if they happen to be fairy wings.


Jay Emm said...

I've never read or seen anything that helped me understand lesbians more.
Your stuff came right from the hip and heart. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

You write so well. I can truly relate to what you're saying. Fairy wings don't operate any different to normal wings. In fact, if anything, they're far more beautiful to behold but one should never be fooled by their apparent delicacy and fragility because they are strong enough to carry the makers of dreams and of all things magical and fantastical and beautiful and innocent in a child's world. And what would a child's world be without magic and dreams and the unfailing belief that, just as fairies exist, so too,will those who love them, never make them feel that they, as gay people, don't have the right to.