Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The beginning of a long story (and hopefully, dialogue)


Preface I: Yeah, yeah, so I said I wouldn't post for a while. But, I'm still home, and some thoughts have been spinning around in my head for weeks that I need to start putting words to, slowly, and with difficulty.

Preface II: These forthcoming posts will not be PG, and may be offensive to some. Shall I put up a warning? This is the warning for this post. In future, I'll come up with something, perhaps the mark of shame: "XXX"

Preface III: Perhaps this is only this; my life story, the personal, hidden part.

Preface IV: Something has happened. I'm tired of keeping quiet about anything. Life is too short.

Years back, the first time Maine rubbed up against the ridiculous notion of allowing people to vote to decide whether some people had the same rights as others, as if anyone has the right to do so, one activist said to me in passing "I just don't understand what we're doing wrong." She wasn't asking me, I knew nothing, but in that moment I understood something true - the only people who spoke about "gay sex" in public were those who despised it, at least among the gay people I knew at the time up here in Maine. I said to my friend, "We've got to start talking about sex." She looked aghast. Truth is, I doubt this person was having sex. Her identity was that of a lesbian, but she wasn't a person who had sex with women. She was attracted to women, not attracted to men (I presume), and sex wasn't the issue. Identity was all. She wanted her identity to be accepted, as we all do, I suppose.

Yet, though lesbian sex is not as despised a gay male sex (indeed, hetereo men seem to adore it), how many times have any of us heard the comment "ewww!" when the subject of non-heterosexual sex acts arise? Identity? Fine. Sex. Yuch.* Let's not talk about it.

But I did. When in the laundromat, I overheard a woman I know talking about the "unnaturalness" of gay male sex. She worried that her children, exposed to teachers who performed such loathsome acts, might come to think that they were okay. I knew her well enough, so I asked her if she ever gave her husband a blowjob. She was the kind of woman who wouldn't have minded me asking; it wasn't done for effect. Her answer, "Yeah, sure. He loves it." "You ever take it up the ass?", I asked as a follow-up. She giggled, looked down at her feet. "Well, a few times."

"Y'know", I said to her, "You're having gay sex. Can't make babies that way."

Later that day, she came up to me and said she was thinking of talking to her pastor. Seriously. She suddenly woke up to reality. This didn't make her any more accepting of gay people, oh no, she was now worried about her own sinfulness. Perfect. Get people thinking of what they're doing. We are all not so different.

But, I'm about to contradict that statement.

The thing that's been bugging me for years is that the acceptance of "non-normative" identities are based on the idea that regardless of the identity, we're all the same; we're all "normal." We all want the same things. The truth is, we're not, and we don't. What the hell is "normal" anyway? Normal is this: family, children, 9-5 jobs, "The American Way of Life." Be sexy, hate sex, feel shame, act like a lady, a real man, assimilate, act white but have pride in your heritage, don't be too smart, be well, act respectable, and keep your unrespectable acts a secret.

So, what about me? What's my gripe? I'm not normal. That's not my identity, but it's true. Those sweet ads for gay marriage here in Maine rankled me. Happy families with kids, picnics in the park, parents who are accepting, the wholesomeness of it all. It's fine to be wholesome, but it bothers me - you're okay as long as you are normal. You are fine and you will be accepted as long as you are wholesome. I'm sorry Mainers didn't think gay people who are super-duper wholesome aren't wholesome enough, but folks, straight people are as "unwholesome" as anyone else.

I just lost my train of thought, inserted a sentence. I know this post is all over the map. I'm not going to do a damned thing about it. Here's the thing: I don't fit into a box, have looked around for one but never found one with my name on it. That's fine by me, but as the years of my life pile up behind me, just as society seems more accepting, it also seems more repressive to everyone with it's insane and seemingly endless obsessions regarding sin, redemption, the falling of heroes found out to be revelers in shameful indulgences (hedonism, oh my!), their apologies, our judgments. And still, folks who aren't accepted want in. Why in hell would anyone want in on this mess?

Yes, we all deserve equal rights. Let's just get that said and over and done with. Now, let's move on.

I used to love gay culture. Now, it's not something I understand, if there's a "gay culture" at all (but I live in the hinterlands, so what do I know?). Coming of age, I hung out in the sleaziest bars. It was only in the company of drag queens, bald-headed butch women, men who had sex with men, and the perverse of all stripes that I felt "normal." What was I? Beats me. At school, I was called a dyke, a queer, a weirdo. I had no idea why. I wasn't a tomboy. I loved playing with Barbies, clothes, makeup, all that "girly stuff", but in retrospect, I didn't like it the way girls did. In high heels, make-up, and a skirt, I was in drag. I played a role, had a laugh. The next day I'd be wearing the usual; boots, jeans, leather jacket. But, it was only clothing. Only clothing. So what?

My identity made no sense to me but I didn't think anything of it. Since I could remember, all my friends were gay. I wondered if I was, didn't seem to be. But I knew how to flirt with girls and not boys, the girls liked me, the boys were scared. I got beat up on the street by men a few times. I didn't even live in Nebraska. I lived in New York City. Walking down a street one night with my arm tattoo showing (yes, once it was unacceptable), some tough boys in a car barked insults at me. The next thing I knew I was waking up from unconsciousness right there on 6th avenue, a few blocks from where the more female than me tranny whores plied their trade at night. My companion, a self-professed sissy-boy, said he was relieved they hadn't popped him in the face. I looked so harmless. It was completely bewildering.

I've been gay-bashed a few other times, other reasons, other places. I've been mistaken for being a boy, by gay men and young girls alike, and one time while mowing my lawn in a tight white t-shirt (what guy has 36D boobs?). I've been yelled at by lesbians for being a cunt tease. I was once accosted in a bathroom stall by an actual supermodel (yeah, I'm crowing) and I've been called ugly by men supposedly near and dear to me (and plenty of hetero men who are neither). I've been shamed for being perverse, tried to embrace the identity of "perv", shoved it aside. I'm been asked, over and over, what my identity is. I used to think I was a gay man trapped in a woman's body; that seemed to fit. Recently, when asked, I said "I've just sexual, or not, depending on what's going on in my life." That's not the answer that was wanted. This person wanted to know how to fix me, identify me, quickly sum me up, understand me without knowing me. Hey, that's okay. This is a fast society, and if one doesn't get over the feeling that "no one understands me" by one's late 20's, one is doomed (but in truth, don't we all wish it were so?).

I'm starting to think that the truth is that most people, of all identities, want this about sex (and any other messy things that involve actual body parts): "don't ask and don't tell." Yes, the dreaded ask and don't tell is really okay with everyone when it comes to what people actually do, and not only how they present themselves to others. You shalt not gross out other people with reality! Identity? Fine and dandy. If we claim the mantle of normalcy, of good ol' polite society, we can be free, come out, be accepted. Otherwise, shut up.

To be continued (and, oh my, that's what I leave you all with for Christmas). . .

Image notes: The argument boiled down to media acceptability. "Queer as Folk" vs "The Other" And no, I've never seen "Queer As Folk", so please don't nitpick my choice of television show. The point is simply the imagery.

*And how is it that all of us, when first taught how babies are really made, exclaim disgust, count up how many kids ours parents had, and figure that's how many times they did it? Is this a "natural reaction?" I think not. Our society is sex-negative, and shaming in the extreme, and we are versed in this way before we even have a clue about anything. Children, in our society, are shamed quickly as to what's "down there."

Addendum: I think it's useful to understand that some of these thoughts have been prompted by the fact that for the last couple of years, as I've come to be seen by others as a "quiet middle-aged woman" and not the gender-fluid, heavily tattooed oddball who everyone wonders about (the role I seemed to play in small-town Maine for nearly fifteen years), I realized I felt uncomfortable. So, does that mean I have an identity? But if identity is unshackled from the sexual, and is what or whom one loves, then right now, I guess I'm just a fiber-queer. Is that acceptable? Shall I get start a lobby group? Sorry, I can't help digressing into silliness. It is the season to make merry, isn't it?

1 comment:

BitterGrace said...

I guess this is a cynical response on my part, but my first thought is, "It was ever thus." Social control through shunning and shaming is as old as humanity. Actually, other animals do it, too. I don't think we'll ever outgrow it, though of course its form and focus morph over time.

All of which is not to dispute your point--it's disgusting that we are so attached to the false values of "normality." I have managed to avoid paying the price for my beliefs, simply because I look so utterly conventional. On my old blog--no longer up--I posted a story about how the people at my husband's church couldn't seem to understand that I am a witch. One of them could not let go of the idea that I was Jewish, just because that was the only "exotic" category she could put me in that jibed with my apparent normalcy. In her mind, a witch had to be visibly weird.