I watched this on my lunch break at work. Sitting there at my desk, with my headphones on, it was all I could do to keep a neutral face and not break down into tears.
This is what I’m talking about when I talk about acceptance. This. This talk so perfectly deconstructs a concept I’ve been struggling with since I first came out to my parents. After all, my parents love me. They’ve been very clear on this point. But knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better about their views on homosexuality. It doesn’t make me feel like they accept me as I am, that they love the whole of me.
A lot of the time people who have those conditions are very angry, because they feel that they parents don’t love them, when what has actually happened is that their parents don’t accept them… Acceptance is something that takes time. It always takes time.
Sure, my parents love me. But that love seems like lip service to the idea of love, rather than a love of me for the person I am and the identity I express. They love me because I am their child; because it is impossible for them not to love me. But that is a love by default; that’s love at its factory settings.
My parents, I think, didn’t really know how to nurture a child’s identity. It’s possible they didn’t realize I’d have one. I get the impression my parents decided who I would be before I was even born: she’ll be a good Catholic girl, she’ll marry a nice boy, they’ll give us grandchildren, we’ll all live happily ever after. I don’t think they ever considered questions like “What if she wants to be an astronaut?” or “What if she’s just not the marrying kind?”
What if she’s a lesbian?
What if she’s an atheist?
What if she wants to be a movie star?
What if she never wants kids?
What if the person she is doesn’t match up with the picture we’ve painted in our head?
At its heart, that’s what Andrew Solomon’s beautiful talk is about. It’s about all the unexpected things that happen as parents raise their children that shape identities and destinies. It’s about how parents handle those pivotal moments; what traits do they nurture and encourage? Which traits do they try to cure?
My parents tried to cure me of my individualism and self-reliance. Growing up, the most important thing I could do to gain their approval was to Follow The Rules. This was throughout childhood, middle school, and past high school. I had to set an example for my younger sisters. I had to be a good girl, a good daughter. I was not trusted to make my own decisions. I was not trusted to choose my own path. It is difficult to put into words, this enormous pressure to fit in to my own family. This massive weight of expectation to follow the path laid before me. My parents are not the sort of parents who spotted an inherent talent in their child at an early age and did what they could to encourage it; my parents were the ones who placed their desires for my life above my own. Because they just loved me so much, you see; they knew best and they didn’t want me to get hurt.
It makes sense. Parents want to protect their children. But I think at times parents forget that in protecting their children too much, in restricting and limiting their children ‘for their own good,’ they are sending their children a message: You can’t be trusted to do this yourself. We don’t trust you. You shouldn’t trust you.
That’s part of the reason it took me so long to embrace my sexual identity. I’d identified as bisexual since I was 18. To put that into perspective, I became sexually active at 17 – and it wasn’t until then that I thought of myself as a sexual being. So almost immediately after discovering that sexuality existed – and that it existed within me – I already knew I was attracted to women. I’ve known all along.
It took me ten years to admit to it.
That’s ten years of fear and uncertainty. Ten years of trying to squeeze myself into a mold that didn’t fit. Ten years of convincing myself it wasn’t true. Ten years of not trusting my instincts, not listening to myself, not believing in my heart and its desires. Of trying to please my parents… which, to be honest, is what I’ve been after the whole time. I just want them to be proud of me. But in doing the things that made them most proud of me, I am most ashamed of myself. I’ve let myself be hurt and abused in terrible ways, by ignorant and unworthy men, because I thought that was the price you paid to gain love. I thought of love as sacrifice – the more it hurt, the more true and real it was. I’ve made mistakes, and now I’ve broken my best friend’s heart, because I was trying so hard to be what someone else wanted me to be. They didn’t trust me to decide who I was. So neither did I. I’d learned not to.
People engage with the life they have. They don’t want to be cured, or changed, or eliminated. They want to be who it is they’ve come to be.
That’s all I want. To be who it is I’ve come to be. Isn’t that all any of us want?
Solomon talks about three forms of acceptance that need to be in place for an individual to flourish: self acceptance, family acceptance, and social acceptance. I have come to accept myself – indeed, it was the most liberating moment of my life. Society is slowly coming to accept me and people like me – the president has stepped forward in support of gay rights, the Defense Of Marriage Act has been overturned, and slowly the hearts and minds of the nation are shifting toward a wider acceptance of people like me.
And maybe, someday, my family will accept me too. It always takes time.
Alrighty. We’ve had a day to digest the news about DOMA. By now, it seems, the breathless celebrating is mostly over – although I am willing to guess the Pride parade this weekend is going to be super extra glittery and rainbowy and celebratory.
As it happens, it was my husband who first told me. He’d spent the night rather than driving home tired (at my insistence), and had left to go to work earlier that morning. I was doing my best to sleep in when I got a text from him:
Wooo! Supreme court ruled against DOMA! Ruled same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional!
I think I just stared blankly at the screen for a minute. Then I started to cry. Which is a little weird, to be honest.
After all, I am already married. And, yes, planning to get divorced somewhere down the road. At this point I have my doubts about getting married again in the future. I’ve learned a lot about what a marriage is, how it works, what really makes it function. I’ve learned how far love can take you in a marriage… and I’ve learned the places love alone can’t carry you. If love was all it took to make a marriage work, I wouldn’t be separated from my husband. So I wasn’t crying because I could finally get married.
I’m sure there are many couples out there who have been waiting for this decision. Who have wanted legal recognition and protection of the relationship they already share. As a fledgling baby lez, a neurotic proto-queer, I don’t have that. There was not some woman for me to turn to and say, “Finally. Marry me.” If there is a wife in the cards for me, she is little more than a concept right now, a nebulous and far-off future. So I wasn’t crying because the love I felt for someone else was finally recognized by the government.
I have lived my entire life with a sense of otherness. Always on the edge, the fringe, different without really knowing why. Never really fitting neatly into any given category. Not terribly easy to define, or even to sum up. Set aside, set apart, something different, a mismatched piece of the puzzle.
But yesterday… yesterday I stepped into the bigger picture. Yesterday I was included. Along with millions of other Americans, I was recognized as fully equal and deserving of the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else. It’s not really about getting married, not for me. It’s about the fact that the government has recognized that they have no right to dictate who I should want to marry. It’s about the fact that this decision is a step towards ending discrimination, a step toward erasing the attitude that anything other than straight is wrong and shameful and must be kept hidden. It’s a step toward recognizing and celebrating love in its many and myriad forms. It’s a step toward understanding, a step toward acceptance.
I cried because, yesterday, I was recognized by the United States government as a human being.
Posted by pennyposh in Happy Things, Sex and Sexuality, Social Justice Tags: acceptance, being gay, change, equality, happy things, Seriously dating girls is awesome, sexuality, social justice, suck it DOMA
Talking about privilege is a tough thing, guys. It’s hard not to be angry at the folks who have it if you don’t, and it’s hard to understand those who don’t have it if you do. There’s a gap in lived experience that causes a gulf in communication, and it can be really difficult to even realize either the gap or the gulf even exists.
So when I see folks that are genuinely making an effort to understand an experience outside their own, I personally prefer to give them the benefit of the doubt. If there’s someone who is genuinely trying to be a good ally, I personally feel it’s important to recognize that and support it. I fully believe that it is not the responsibility of the oppressed to educate their oppressors… but can we make a distinction between oppressors, and those who are simply part of the oppressive class?
For instance, there’s this article on why the queer community doesn’t need Macklemore’s validation. And, y’know, if this was the only socio-politically conscious song the group did, I might be inclined to agree. But to me, “Same Love” isn’t patronizing. It’s not a political statement, necessarily. It’s certainly not a gimmick. The songs that I’ve heard by Macklemore (and, to be fair, I’ve only heard a few) simply point to a piece of our culture and go, “What’s that? Why is it like that?”
In “Thrift Shop,” he points out that our own drive for status fuels this ridiculous consumer economy that inflates the prices of average goods beyond the point of reason – yo, that’s $50 for a T-shirt – and the culture of excess and waste it creates. In “White Privilege” he examines the fact that hip-hop culture has been appropriated by people who have never experienced the struggles that birthed the movement, and wrestles with the question of whether or not he can, in good conscience, participate in it. And in “Same Love” he points out that we are all human, and we all deserve the same respect, dignity, and legal standing.
Queers, this song wasn’t written to us. About us, yes – for us, sure. But we’re not the intended audience here. Macklemore is talking to the folks out there who have never had to think about what it means to be called “faggot” in any real sense of the word. He’s talking to the people who don’t see queer people as real people. He’s talking to the people who live in comfortable ignorance, unaware of the implications of their intellectual laziness. He’s challenging them to think about the people they pass judgment on, the human element behind the political decisions. He is using his voice to amplify the message that others have put forth. Are we really doing so well on our own in the fight for equal rights that we don’t need celebrities and people in positions of power to stand beside us?
Maybe it’s all in how you read it. The author states,
“…Ben’s gay (mis)identification is constructed as the source of his own preconceived notions—his stereotypical views—about what constitutes gayness: an aptitude for art (“‘cause I could draw”), a genetic predisposition (“my uncle was”), and a precocious anality (“I kept my room straight”). Just as his mama corrects him and draws attention to the stereotypes animating the proclivities that might lead him astray to being gay, he is corralled back to fulfill his destiny of becoming a straight-but-not-narrow male ally for people like his gay uncle who are targets of the religious right’s scrutiny and hypocrisy”
Ok, sure. If you’re assuming that this Ben is just a character (Macklemore’s actual name is Ben Haggerty), then I could see where this looks like an oversimplification of the equal-rights struggle through the lens of heteronormativity. But if you instead take it as one man telling a story that is actually true, and did actually happen, then it takes on a different meaning.
My interpretation of the above verses is “When I was young, I thought I was gay because these things were true of me, and also of gay people. It took my mom to remind me that I was forgetting the crucial piece: who I was attracted to.” I don’t see it as “a white dude who phobically disavows his own fleeting homosexual identification as just another instance of “buying into stereotypes”’… I see it as someone saying, “Hey, I’ve questioned my sexuality a time or two. Turns out I’m straight. But it shouldn’t matter if I am or not. It shouldn’t matter if anyone is or not.”
“Turns out I’m straight” is not a homophobic statement. Just because you’ve questioned your sexuality doesn’t mean you’re gay. Hell, just because you’ve slept with someone of the same sex doesn’t mean you’re gay. Sexuality is a continuum, a spectrum, and there are a myriad ways of expressing it. It changes from person to person, day to day, minute to minute. And it seems a bit gauche to look so disdainfully and distrustfully at a hand extended in friendship and solidarity, just because there happens to be a straight white dude behind it. (Some of my best friends are straight white dudes.)
At the end of the day, the equal rights campaign is not about marriage. Putting marriage on a pedestal as the be-all end-all of human relationships and experience is deeply problematic, and adding queers to the mix won’t change that. But recognizing that love is love, no matter who it’s between, is vital to the progress of free society. So at the end of the day, the equal rights campaign is about recognition. It’s about lifting the taboo. It’s about realizing that, yes, it is all the same love.
And a certificate on paper
Isn’t gonna solve it all
But it’s a damn good place to start.
I was chatting with a friend the other day about the situation my husband and I suddenly find ourselves in and how we’re dealing with it. I mentioned that I’m stressed about finding a place to live on my own, and that I’m even more stressed about moving day and splitting up all our stuff. He said, “Oh, so you’re getting divorced?” and I said, “Well, not right away. In fact, it’s possible we’ll just stay legally married until one of us finds someone we’d like to settle down with.” This surprised him. Why wouldn’t we get divorced and just get it over with?
Well, for one thing, divorce seems to be a costly and difficult thing. It’s something I know almost nothing about – for instance, do we file for divorce in the state where we got married, or where we’re currently living? Do we have to hire a lawyer or is it possible to do without, assuming the split is amicable enough? How does one get started? How much does it cost? Are there laws that require us to, say, separate for a certain amount of time before filing or jump through other legal hoops? These are all big scary questions that I know I’ll have to answer someday… but I don’t want to answer them right now.
There’s also the issue of lost benefits once we split. We enjoy a better tax rate because we’re married. We share car and health insurance. We are currently able to care for each other and act on each other’s behalf if catastrophe strikes. I hope it doesn’t – but it is reassuring to know that, in this new city where I have no family and only a few close friends, there is someone who is willing and legally able to handle my affairs if something terrible should happen. It’s a safety net that, frankly, makes this transition less terrifying. I don’t want to give up that safety net – and I don’t want him to have to give it up, either.
In my case, there’s also the very real possibility that once I give up these benefits I won’t get them back – whether or not I ever meet someone else I’d like to marry. We are making great strides toward equal marriage opportunities, but we are not nearly there yet. Even if I live in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, it’s still unrecognized at the federal level and is likely to stay that way for some time. So as soon as the divorce goes through, I am at the mercy of institutionalized discrimination. I find myself wanting to delay that inevitability as long as possible. Is that a selfish line of thinking? Not really. It would be selfish if my husband wanted a divorce, and I was refusing him one based on those reasons. As long as he’s ok with staying married on paper, so am I; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.
I still love my husband. I always will. In fact, it’s because I love him that I think it’s best for us to separate. We have discussed the option of staying in an open marriage, where we still treat each other like spouses and keep our legal benefits but are free to date and find certain kinds of fulfillment in other people. But I know he wants children. I know he dreams of having a wife who loves him and wants him, who wants to build a family and a future with him. He deserves that dream. He deserves to be married to a woman who desires him. He deserves the children he’s always wanted. I can’t give him that, and it would be cruel to trap him in a relationship where those things were either impossible or complicated to achieve. Eventually, I will be in the way. I don’t want that for him or for me.
But there’s no reason to send ourselves through that difficult and costly journey just yet. There’s no reason to take this leap alone, without the safety net a marriage implies. For now, we care about each other and have the means to take care of each other. Our marriage is – and always has been – what we make it.