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Tag Archives: coming out

Um, hi. It’s me, Penny. I’ve been away for a while.

Life got real hard there for a minute, you guys. And then it got easier. And then it got hard again. I assume writing is like riding a bicycle – you never forget how to do it? But… well, I’ve never been great at riding bicycles. And there are a lot of hills around here. And I’m super rusty. And so is my bicycle. Or it would be, if I had a literal bicycle and not a vaguely metaphorical one.

Woof.

Where do I even start?

Sullivan and I are well and truly divorced now. It wasn’t all that hard in the doing-things sense; the paperwork got submitted and looked at by the state, it got reviewed and approved and stamped and signed, sealed, delivered (I’m yours! Ooh baby). There’s a new name on my driver’s license, one I chose that’s all my own. And that feels good. It feels like a concrete step away from some parts of my past I’ve been struggling to leave behind. New name has been my official name for over a year now.

Fun fact: Banks can not EVEN DEAL with it when you change all your names. Last name? Easy. First name? It’s been done, not insurmountable. First, middle, and last? Blank stares…. crickets… ominous clouds gather… a wolf howls mournfully in the distance… a wild wind tosses leaves across a cold pale moon… the pine trees rustle and sway… a raven bursts into flight from the shadows with a raucous cry…  a quiet, soaking rain begins to fall… awkward cough.

It was hard in the emotional sense. In the space of a few months the conversation turned from being best friends, supporting each other, staying in each other’s lives… to jealousy, insecurity on both sides, squabbles about mostly petty things, and what I can only imagine must have felt like a pretty big betrayal.

I, uh… I fell in love. With a dude.

Not like I meant to. I was pretty invested in the image of myself as a lesbian. I was pretty sure of myself for a while there. I had an amazing summer romance with a lady I fell head-over-heels for; a lady I am still fortunate enough to count a dear friend. I knew she was moving away when we started dating, and that was fine. I didn’t want to give her any reason at all to rethink that decision, so I learned how to love deeply and let go freely. All that is to say, if I needed to prove anything to myself about my sexuality, I think I did. I’m definitely not straight.

Sullivan disliked that I was dating women while we lived together, waiting for the lease to run out. Tried to be supportive; but, I think, couldn’t shake the feelings of possessiveness that come with several years of monogamous marriage. Maybe he found it threatening. Maybe he didn’t like confronting such clear evidence that our marriage was ending. I don’t really know; he never told me, it just came up in hurtful ways. It made for some very mixed messages. We had a hard time communicating our needs and boundaries to each other. We argued. The lease ended. We moved out.

This dude, The Dude, was someone I knew through a shared hobby and a mutual ex-girlfriend. He had also been divorced. He was from the same city as me; in fact, he and Sullivan were in the same high-school class. (Sullivan was not impressed by this; I found it fascinating.) After Sullivan and I split, he invited me over for wine and trauma-bonding. We drank and laughed and took long walks and talked about our Feelings, Of Which There Are Many. By the end of the evening it was clear to me that this was a friendship I very much wanted in my life. I became close with The Dude. Trusted him because it was clear he wanted nothing from me but friendship, and that made me feel comfortable and respected.

I don’t really know what happened there, exactly. I mean, I fell for him and we started dating and so on and so forth but… like, how? Why? Wherefore? I dunno. As I suppose most of these things happen, it just happened. I loved spending time with my best buddy, and at some point I realized I loved my best buddy. I wanted things from my best buddy that were more than just best-buddy things.

Awkward cough.

We quietly started dating. I was very confused about what that meant for my newly-formed sexual identity, but pretty quickly decided that the whole point of the exercise was to be less concerned about how anyone anywhere thought I should express my attractions and desires and just kinda threw all the labels out the window. These days I go by queer, or mostly-gay. Or, if I’m in a particularly self-effacing mood, The City’s Least Successful Lesbian.

Sullivan was not thrilled to find out about me and The Dude. There was a confession on my part and some very angry highway driving on his part. By the way, people, for the love of – DON’T CONFESS THINGS IN MOVING CARS. JUST DON’T. DON’T EMOTE AND DRIVE PLEASE. We were fine, nothing happened, he didn’t do anything scary but fuck – come on. Emoting, much like driving, deserves one’s full attention. Never the twain should meet. Leave them twain. The twainest of twains.

Interactions between me and Sullivan got colder after that. More distant. More terse. It all sort of fell apart. I wanted to stay friends but could understand that he needed time to process, to decide if he wanted me in his life, to forgive whatever hurt I’d caused by destroying the illusion that the breakup of our marriage was solely about my sexuality. There are things I feel about a lot of this now, there are lots of things I could say about what went down and how it happened… but I am doing my best, with the benefit of hindsight, to try and see it from his perspective this time around. In the interest of being honest and not hiding things, in the middle of signing paperwork and exchanging stuff and figuring out what our relationship looked like now, I did sort of drop a bomb.

Ultimately, I did what I could. I told him I hoped to remain friends, but wouldn’t push the issue. He could reach out when he was ready, and I would wish him well in the meantime. I unfriended him on social media, hoping it would give me some freedom from second-guessing everything I posted, fearing he would see it and be upset. Trying to protect him from further hurt. Fearing that just being myself and settling into this new life would seem, to him, like I was rubbing it in his face. That’s part of why I stopped writing here, too. I sent texts for holidays and birthdays – just to say I remember you, you were important to me, the door is open if you want. I’m willing to talk, to listen. If you want. If you want. 

I don’t think he did. The replies came later, got shorter, stopped coming at all. He moved away, spent his birthday with my family, which I found out through Facebook. This still disturbs me; not that my family is close with him, but that they never mention it to me. Like most uncomfortable things, they just pretend it doesn’t exist. Later, they told me he moved again; going back to school in a different state. I hear he’s been seeing someone. (Okay, the few times I’ve ill-advisedly looked him up on Facebook tell me he’s been seeing someone.) I truly wish him all the best. I hope his life now is better than it ever would have been with me still in it.

I’m sometimes sad that we didn’t stay friends. Sometimes I think maybe it’s for the best, that we would have just clashed endlessly as we tried to become the people that we are now. People who are each different from the one the other married, and yet uncannily similar. So much has changed for me that it feels really odd to step this far back, to remember how it was, who I was then. Reading back through the archives here feels like I’m reading about someone else. Someone very familiar to me, but whom I disagree with on some key points. Sometimes it all bubbles to the surface and seems very fresh; sometimes it seems a lifetime ago. Like clothes in the back of the closet that don’t fit anymore and aren’t really my style – is that mine, or did someone else leave it here  at some point and I forgot who it belonged to?

So. I guess I have three years’ worth of posts to catch up on. Sorry I disappeared for so long, guys. Let’s get reacquainted, shall we?

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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.

 


Hullo.

I am Sullivan. Penny’s husband, for the time being. I asked her if I could write a guest post because well… it felt right.

I have loved Penny for a very long time, in the beginning it was a story book romance. I won’t say it was love at first sight, but from the moment I first saw her I knew she was going to be someone very important and I was right. She has been the single most influential force in my life.

I have watched her slowly process and heal from deep wounds, I have held her through long nights of terrors and through crippling sexual anxiety. I have done my best to encourage her growth and self discovery, even though I am often slow in these areas myself. We have had a strong relationship for the last six years.

We have definitely had our rough spots and there have been recurring issues. Through it all our love for one another has always won out.

Six months ago she approached me about looking into the local kink scene and exploring her sexuality. I happily encouraged her to do so, I was tentative as well. I was aware that this could highlight problems in our relationship or possibly create new ones. But what she was looking for was not something that I was capable of giving her. I, after all, do not have a vagina or the ‘feminine experience’ for that matter. It was a part of herself that she needed to learn about. Had I denied her then, it would at best only have postponed what we are going through now. It would certainly have lead to harder times in the future.

For my part, as her partner, all I have wanted was to see her happy. That isn’t entirely true, I wanted to make her happy. That however, isn’t always possible. The best I could do in this was to give her the space to figure herself out, for herself.

Was I afraid of what might come? Of course. I was aroused by the fact that she was bisexual. I was happy that she was exploring her sexuality and finding a sex drive again. I was afraid that she might find someone to replace me, or discover she was in fact not interested in men at all.
But what could I do about it? If she did meet someone to replace me then our relationship wasn’t what I thought it was in the first place. If she discovered she was only interested in women sexually then why try and trap her in a straight marriage?

Little did I know… or did I?

I told her months before she came out to me that “I would always love you, even if you realize that you are gay.”

Of course I didn’t ‘know’ but it wasn’t really out of the blue. I mean I hoped that wouldn’t be the case, I didn’t want to ‘lose her’.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, things have been difficult but my feelings for her haven’t changed much. I still love her, I always will. Ironically we talk more about the things we should have talked about earlier in our relationship. We have cried a lot more lately, this shit ain’t easy. Neither is maintaining the living situation we have but we can’t afford to up and leave.

It has been easier to look back at the relationship without the rosy shades. It is easier to see the little things we overlooked or told ourselves didn’t matter, for the sake of one another’s happiness. It is also easier to see the trend in her sexuality now.

Now that we are on this end of the relationship we are learning what it is like to be friends who used to be lovers. She is still one of the most important people in my life and I love her deeply.
She will always be a close friend, a compatriot, a loved one. She will continue to have my support and encouragement. I believe she will find her place, now, here. I believe she will find a truer and deeper happiness now and that makes it all worthwhile.


I can still feel your hands on my skin.
The electric crackle through my core
leaves a distraction like the scent of ozone
after lightning strikes twice.

I can hear your voice
like a bell that’s already been rung.
The note lingers in the air.

Listen,
I don’t know where I’m headed.
I’m the captain of a ship with no mast.
My sails are filled with dreams,
but there’s nothing to hold them up
and I know there’s a storm brewing.
I can taste the rain
in the ai
and on your tongue.
The warning bell is ringing.
There are clouds on the horizon.

This may be the hurricane
that sweeps me away.
This could be the shipwreck
that lands me in a New World.

So bring on your lightning, your electric hands.
I’ll navigate the cliffs, drenched
in a monsoon of kisses.
Sound the bell until my bones start ringing.

I’ll sail into the black clouds, singing.


So I’ve decided to try and eliminate “I’m afraid” from my vocabulary. As in, “I’m afraid my date will find me unattractive,” “I’m afraid my girlfriend will leave me,” “I’m afraid of the dark.”

Instead, I’m replacing it with the phrase, “I’m aware.” As in, “I’m aware of the possibility my date may find me unattractive,” “I’m aware my girlfriend may someday leave me,” “I’m… aware of the dark.”

This serves two purposes. The first, and most relevant, is that it re-phrases certain fears. “I’m afraid my girlfriend will leave me” is a phrase laden with insecurity and anxiety. It’s ever-present; there is no time frame around her leaving. It could happen at any moment. It connotes a desire to hold on, to prevent the leaving from happening. It connotes a clinginess, a neediness, an ever-tightening grasp.

“I’m aware that my girlfriend may someday leave me” is not only a more accurate phrase, but also a calmer and less insecure one. We’re aware. It could happen. That’s kind of okay. Sure, it would suck if she left – but we were prepared. We knew. She’s free to leave, here. We can let her go. And we’ll survive being left.

Or let’s go with an even more literal version. “I’m aware my girlfriend will leave me.” Here we’ve directly swapped afraid for aware and left everything else the same. While the sentence itself is a bummer – she’s definitely leaving, we already know about it – it’s a much more confident voice that speaks than the one that says, “I’m afraid.” In fact, this sentence almost sounds like the speaker is making a choice. The leaving is a done deal, a foregone conclusion – so no use worrying about it or fearing it.

This highlights another purpose: the groundless fears. “I’m afraid of the dark” vs. “I’m aware of the dark.” The second sounds almost nonsensical – almost everyone is aware of the dark. Or what about “I’m aware that darkness may happen.” Also silly. Using “aware” helps pinpoint fears that are not exactly grounded in reason – fears that needlessly hold us back.

That said, here are some of the fears I’ve been wrestling with lately:

I’m afraid of living on my own and failing to pay the rent.

I’m afraid I’ll end up alone.

I’m afraid of being judged and left out of my community.

I’m afraid no one will believe me.

I’m afraid I don’t deserve to be happy.

I’m afraid I’ve wasted my life.

I’m afraid I’ve made a huge mistake.

I’m afraid of what everyone in my life will think when I tell them I’m gay.

I’m afraid the divorce will be hard.

I’m afraid I’ll lose my friends and end up lonely.

So, to rephrase:

I’m aware that I may fail to pay rent once I’m living on my own. (I will have to budget carefully, work hard, and remember that I have options if I can’t afford to live on my own.)

I’m aware that I may end up alone. (Part of me is almost comfortable with this notion. The other part of me thinks it’s only a very very remote possibility anyway.)

I’m aware that some people in my community may be judgmental and want to exclude me. (That’s life. They’re assholes anyway.)

I’m aware that many people may not believe me. (This is a lot of big heavy news to swallow. It may take some folks time to process. And if strangers don’t believe me, well… they don’t have to.)

I’m aware that I may not deserve to be happy. (Okay, that’s just patently untrue.)

I’m aware that I may have wasted my life. (Also patently untrue. I’m not done living it yet.)

I’m aware I may have made a huge mistake. (Yeah. Wouldn’t be the first.)

I’m aware of what everyone in my life will think when I tell them I’m gay. (Well, no. If I knew what they’d think, I wouldn’t be afraid of it now would I? But I can’t control it anyway, and I don’t know what they’ll think, so why spend the energy?)

I’m aware the divorce will be hard. (Truth. But I can prepare.)

I’m aware I’ll lose all my friends and end up lonely. (Wild hyperbole and also untrue.)

So there it is. I have a lot of big changes ahead of me, but they’re not quite as scary anymore.

And, yes, all of the above is true. About a month ago, I finally came out to my husband as a lesbian. The story behind why and how I know I am is one for a different time, and telling it will probably involve the consent of a few involved parties. Suffice it to say this is a period of massive upheaval for both myself and my husband, and I am currently re-evaluating nearly everything about my life as he and I navigate what will eventually be a separation and divorce. I am posting this publicly not to gather support or sympathy, but merely to give anyone who regularly reads this thing a heads-up. I do my best to post every Friday; there will probably be a period coming up here where I can neither vouch for the regularity or quality of these posts. I am aware that I could burn myself out on this, and I like this blog too much to blow it off and just let it die. I’d rather take it slow for a while.

If any of you writerly types would be interested in doing a guest post and giving me a week off, I am certainly open to the thought. Send me an email at pennypennybobenny [at] gmail [dot] com and let’s bounce some ideas around.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’ll keep you posted.


Okay. I know I’ve been over and over this, but I still feel like I haven’t said it right yet. So I’m going to give it one more try.

It was while reading The Fatal Feminist the other day that I think I truly understood what was at the heart of the letter I wrote to my parents. I have gotten several comments on that post claiming that I was being just as intolerant as my parents by asking them to reconsider their religious beliefs. I’ve been called immature and selfish. I’ve read dozens of comments playing the Devil’s Advocate, asking why it’s fair for me to ask them to reconsider their views on homosexuality but not fair for them to ask me to reconsider my lifestyle. Thanks to this post, I think I can finally articulate an answer.

In her post, Nahida points out that the basis of morality in Islam comes from the concept of inalienable rights vs. civil rights. As she explains it:

The way the two spheres are distinguished is that the first does not require consent, and the second does. In other words, if you need consent to carry out an action, then that action is not an inalienable right. Whether or not you require the consent of another person is determined by whether you must involve them at all. If you wish to believe or not believe in a particular religion, that is an inalienable right, because it involves no one else. If you wish to practice a particular religion, that is not (always) an inalienable right. It often requires the consent of others whom you may affect with your practices.

Those who insist that they are practicing an inalienable right to religion when they refuse a woman contraceptives, for example, are by definition incorrect. They have the inalienable right to belief, not to practice, which is a civil right.

To me, this is at the heart of my conflict with my parents. And I think this is the part of the concept that is getting missed by commenters on my letter.

My parents have commanded me not to act upon my attraction to women. They do so because it is against their religion. Using the model quoted above, they (and several of my commenters) believe they are practicing their inalienable right to religion by policing my sexuality and the resulting expression of that sexuality. They cannot police my sexuality without my consent – meaning that, while they retain their inalienable right to religious belief (which, for the most part, does not affect me), they merely have a civil right to religious practice – one which they cannot enforce upon me without my consent.

Similarly, I have an inalienable right to be queer. My queerness does not affect anyone else. I have a civil right to date in a queer manner – provided those I date consent to being in a queer relationship. I do not require my parents’ consent to date in this way – therefore I am not infringing on their inalienable right to religious belief. Who I date does not directly affect what they believe. Again, they have a civil right to religious practice; that right does not override my inalienable right to be in a consensual queer relationship. In essence, they do not have the right to tell me who I can and cannot date.

By writing my letter, I am exercising a civil right: I am asking for my parents to consent to reconsidering their beliefs. I am asking my parents to consent to opening a dialogue on queerness and homosexuality. They are free to give or not give that consent as they see fit. I have a right to ask; they have a right to refuse. I cannot and will not control what they think about my lifestyle. I can only ask in the hopes that we might come to an understanding.

If my parents do not consent to reconsidering their beliefs – as is their right to do – then I have a right to exclude them from my life in order to protect myself. I am under no obligation to associate with anyone. My parents are a part of my life by my consent, and I have a right to withdraw that consent at any time and for any reason. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries around my interactions with anyone, including my parents; if a person cannot be accepting toward my sexuality, then that person does not need to be included in my life.

This is not coercion, as some have suggested. This is merely cause and effect. If my parents decide that their religious beliefs are more important to them than sharing in the life of their daughter, then I will accept that decision. They are under no obligation to accept me, much as I may wish they would; I am under no obligation to remain closeted around them, much as they may wish I would. Cutting ties with my family is not a threat to get them to do what I want; it is a boundary they must accept as a response to their continued homophobia.

Ultimately, my reasons for asking my parents to open a dialogue about their beliefs on homosexuality are my own. If it is something I feel a need to do, then I am going to do it – regardless of what strangers on the internet may say. My parents’ opinion of me matters, whether it should or not. I have a rosy dream, in my head, of a world where my parents and I talk, and I get to have a voice and be heard and explain to them the life I live. In this dream they realize that the hateful and judgemental things they’ve said about LGBTQIA people over the years were not only hurtful to me personally, but also not actually in keeping with their religion’s teachings of love and acceptance for all walks of life. We come to an understanding, we start to build a trust between us… and when we talk, I no longer have to hide everything I think they won’t approve of. Our conversations will be about more than the weather, my pets, and my husband. We’ll have the kind of friendship I have yearned for ever since I was a child. We’ll have honesty, trust, understanding, and mutual love between us.

I know that dream is, in all probability, just a dream. I know that, in reality, it is likely that I will ask my parents to open a dialogue on this matter and they will either outright refuse, or I will say my piece and they will reject me, or we’ll get into a fight and leave each other worse for wear. I know it’s likely that I will come away from that conversation feeling like I haven’t explained myself well enough – feeling powerless, helpless, unloved by my family and unwanted. But if that were the case… I would be empowered to make sure it was the last time I felt that way at the hands of my family, a group that society tells me is supposed to love me no matter what. At the end of that conversation, painful and heart-rending as it may be, I could at least tell myself that I’d done all I could do. I could give myself permission to let go of that dream. I could create some much-needed distance between my broken heart and the people who don’t even understand how they’ve broken it.

None of this is up for anyone’s review. I deeply appreciate the support my original post has garnered, and I thank each and every one of you for your positive comments. And looking at it objectively, I have received far more support for my letter than criticism. However, the handful of negative comments I have received – some of which were hateful enough that I chose not to allow them to be published – have hit me hard and left me feeling powerless and inadequate. This is a difficult crossroads to face, and the last thing I need right now is to doubt and second-guess myself. As of today, I am closing comments on my letter and moving on in my writing. I ask that you, as my community, move on with me.


First of all, if you’re wandering in from Freshly Pressed, welcome and thanks for stopping by! Come in, have a cup of tea, and try not to pee on the carpet. No, really.

This is post is in response to a few commenters on last week’s post, who seemed to think that my disagreement with my parents’ beliefs  – and subsequent plea for acceptance – was equally as intolerant as their rejection of my sexuality. Some of those comments were mean and hurtful, and got deleted. It’s my blog. I don’t have to read angry stuff on my blog. (Plus, I looked, and youreanidiot@atleastyourdadisalive.com is not a real email address. You get a cookie for using the correct form of “you’re,” though.)

Some others I responded to, but not as in-depth as I would have liked. So here is the whole enchilada, as it were.

Lacey wrote:

I appreciate your honesty. I guess I’m wondering what tolerance looks like to you in the broader sense? Does it mean that people can no longer disagree without being ‘hateful?’ You say, “I will not accept mere tolerance” and I realize you are writing to a family member…but what about the bigger picture. Where is the line? By this logic, you are being intolerant of your Dad’s opinions. I do not mean to be offensive- its an issue I’ve been giving a lot of thought.

This is something that hits a personal spot for me. And I can totally see your point. If I had to boil my moral code down to a single sentence, it would probably be something along the lines of “No one should ever be forced to live according to beliefs they don’t agree with.”

Obviously, speaking in absolutes can get you into trouble – there’s always the devil’s advocate out there with the “Well, what if someone disagrees with the belief that bombing an orphanage full of handicapped children is wrong? According to your logic, that means they should be allowed to do it.” (No. Wrong. According to my logic, they are allowed to believe whatever they want to believe, but their right to bomb the orphanage does not overrule the children’s right live out the rest of their lives as in-one-piece and bombing-free as possible. Your rights end where another person’s begins.)

So I want to clarify something that seemed to cause confusion for a handful of folks, not all of whom were as polite and respectful as Lacey was: Never did I say I wanted my parents to stop being religious. Never did I say I would not love and accept my parents if they continued to live a religious lifestyle. In fact, I know full well that my parents will continue to live their lives they way they have for the past half a century or so. That is not the issue here.

It’s not the disagreement that is hateful. If my parents were to say, “We don’t understand what it’s like to be queer, we’re straight and that’s what makes us happy,” then that is a conflicting worldview with my own, which is roughly: “Living as a queer person makes me happy and brings me more fulfillment than living as a straight person does.” Those two ideas are in disagreement; however, neither one is hateful toward the other.

If my parents were to say, “We don’t understand what it’s like to be queer, because being queer is wrong and those feelings are sent from Satan, and everyone who is queer is disgusting and a bad person,” then not only is that a worldview that conflicts with my own, but is also actively hateful and discriminatory toward me.

Conversely, if I say, “I don’t get any enjoyment or fulfillment out of being religious, I’m atheist and that’s what makes me happy,” that may be in disagreement with my parents’ religious lifestyle, but it isn’t hateful. If I say, “I don’t get any enjoyment or fulfillment out of being religious, and people who do are crazy zealots and bad people,” then that is hateful and discriminatory toward them.

My parents’ faith brings them happiness. It brings them joy and fulfillment. It gives them a steady rock, a foundation on which to build their marriage. Why would I want to take that away from them? To say that, by asking them to reconsider their views on homosexuality, I am somehow forcing them to give up their entire faith life and religious identity… well, the term “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” comes to mind. If it makes them happy, then I am happy that they have it. I would never tell my parents – or anyone, for that matter – that it’s wrong to have religious views and they have to stop being religious.

But their rights end where mine begin, too. I have a right to live my life in the open. I have a right to make the decisions that are best for me, that make me happiest and bring me fulfillment. I have a right to protect myself from those that do me harm.

Even if it’s my parents.

At the heart of the matter is this: my parents and I, we don’t talk. I mean, we chat, but we don’t have meaningful conversations about the important stuff. And this journey I’m on, this path of self-discovery I’m walking down, is incredibly important to me. The fact that they don’t even want to talk about it – that they’d rather just pretend it didn’t exist so they can say they love me anyway – is fucking painful. I honestly think it’d be easier to deal with it if they hated me. Then, at least, I could convince myself that it wasn’t worth the effort. But I wrote last week’s letter because a part of me yearns to open up that dialogue, to state my case and make them see that it isn’t what they thought it was. To ask if they could ever love a daughter that was openly queer. To see if they’d come around.

And, if not, to walk away. Not because I immediately shut out everyone who disagrees with me, but because there comes a point where a relationship causes more pain than you can bear. Because loving myself means being strong enough to sever ties in order to stop hurting.

So there’s the heart of the matter. I can’t accept tolerance, because tolerance means We Don’t Talk About It. Tolerance means “Penny has a dirty little secret the family doesn’t talk about.” Tolerance means “Poor Penny is so misguided and such a sinner, too bad she’s going to hell, it makes me so sad because I love her so much.” Tolerance is “Penny posted on Facebook today about how much she loves her lady friend, and I felt it was my duty to tell her how wrong she is to be living like that and how I disapprove of it.*”

Meanwhile… acceptance means We’ve Talked About It, And We Don’t Agree, But We Respect Each Other. Acceptance means “I don’t understand why Penny lives the way she does, but we’re talking about it so I can try to see her side of it.” Acceptance means “This life makes Penny happy, and I trust that she is smart enough to make the choices that are right for her, and I will love her and be there for her in whatever way she needs me to be.” Acceptance would be “Penny posted on Facebook today about how much she loves her lady friend, and it’s kind of weird for me to read that but she’s an adult and I respect her.”

I don’t think that’s asking too much from a parent. I don’t think that’s asking too much from anyone who claims to love me. I am the only one who can decide what I need from the people in my life in order to feel loved – and I have the right to ask for that.

Whether or not I get it is an entirely different question.

 

*Expected results; mileage may vary


Dad:

I’ve had some time to think about the things you said to me, the day I told you I was bisexual. I’ve thought about what it means, and what you believe, and where I fit into that picture. I’ve come to a decision.

I assume by now you’ve shared the news with Mom, if not my sisters. (One already knows, I talked to her privately.) I don’t mind if you have, or if you choose to in the future. It’s not something I particularly need kept secret. In fact, that’s kind of the point.

I’m not writing this to disprove your religious beliefs, nor to tell you you’re wrong for believing them. My intent is not to break your faith in any way. However, in order to state my message clearly, there is something I need you to understand: I do not believe in your God. I do not share your faith.

Because of this, I cannot agree with statements made on the basis of faith alone. Telling me “It’s wrong because God says so” is not a valid argument to me, any more than “It’s wrong because I say so” – which, to be honest, is all I’m hearing in those statements. I am a grown adult, and I have the freedom and the right to make my own life choices.

I am choosing to live my life out of the closet. I am not ashamed of my sexuality.

I am choosing to explore my sexuality. I am not ashamed of my desires.

I do this with the full consent and blessing of my current partner, who understands there are certain things in life he simply cannot provide for me. He and I are communicating better than we ever have before, we are more respectful of each other than we ever have been, and embarking on this journey has done wonderful things to strengthen our marital bond. I do this not to escape my marriage, but to enrich it. I do this not to tear down our bond, but to build it up.

Ultimately, who I build relationships with and how my husband and I manage our marriage is none of your business. I am not interested in hearing how you think I am Doing Marriage Wrong.

But there is something I need you to understand: I will not accept mere tolerance. I am tired of hearing the message “Well, it’s not what we would choose for you, but it’s your life to live.” That statement tells me that you’re not going to stop me if you think I’m making a mistake, and you won’t try to have an open and honest conversation about it, but in your heart of hearts you will always carry condemnation and judgment toward me. You will always be waiting to say “I told you so.”

I have yearned my whole life for approval from you. I have yearned my whole life for acceptance. I have made myself miserable to the point of desperation, trying to squeeze myself into the rigid role of model child, trying to be this mysterious perfect daughter that you could love without reservation. But I have always failed – maybe not in your eyes, but certainly in mine. I feel I have not gained your acceptance or your understanding. I do not have your support in being myself and following my heart: merely your tolerance.

The time has come for me to ask for your acceptance. I realize, given your faith, what a monumental thing it is I ask of you. I am asking you to consider that the Church may have it wrong on this one. I am asking you to re-examine your beliefs.

I would not ask this of you if it did not matter. If I was comfortable believing that my feelings were wrong, I would not ask it. If I was comfortable lying to you about this part of my life, I would not ask it. If I was comfortable with discrimination dressed up as loving tolerance, I would not ask it.

But I am not comfortable with those things.

You were right when you said it was not wrong to be attracted to members of the same sex. I believe that. But I cannot accept that it is wrong to be in a relationship with someone of the same sex. To accept that would be to turn my back on a wide community of wonderful, loving people; a community of which I am a part. I cannot accept that falling in love can ever be a sin – and I cannot accept that expressing that love, exploring that love, could ever be sinful, either. There may be times when it can hurt, yes – people are imperfect and as such can hurt each other – but that does not make it morally wrong. The full experience of love, in its myriad of forms, is an inalienable human right.

So here it is: the crucial decision.

I respect your right to religious freedom. I respect your faith and your beliefs, though I do not agree with all of them. Because of this respect, I will not demand your acceptance – even if I could demand such a thing.

However, I also respect myself. I respect my right to choose how I live my life, and with whom. Because of this respect, I will not subject myself to the pain of discrimination and intolerance, even from those who love me. Because of this respect, I will choose to lead a life that brings me joy and fulfillment, and choose the friends and lovers and partners that support me on this path.

I would like to share my life of joy with you. In order to share it fully, I need to know that you accept the life I live, without judgment. Tolerance (“It’s ok to feel that way, but not to act on it”) is not acceptance. If you cannot offer acceptance, then I cannot continue to share my life with you. I will not edit and hide parts of my life to show you a face you approve of.

You must either love all of me, or none.


I absolutely love Jamie Noguchi’s webcomic Yellow Peril. It’s smart, funny, damn good art, and unlike nearly every other webcomic I follow, doesn’t ever make me go “Oh. Ick. That’s not really funny if you’re a girl.” (Looking at you, LICD.) Seriously, go into the archives and start this one from the beginning. You won’t regret it.

I love this February’s story arc especially much because, well, girls. Kissing. What’s not to love?

I really should know better than to read the comments. I don’t know how this happens, but every time Noguchi posts a strip that I am particularly happy about, some asshole in the comments shits all over it. For instance, this strip about telling your boss to fuck off drew out a particularly creepy dude who figured it was totally okay to stalk your boss, learn where he (obviously he, no women ever run companies or oversee employees) lives and works, and then subtly drop threatening hints about his wife and family. I’m not kidding.

So why, then, should I be surprised that a commenter on the girls-kissing story arc had this to say?

I’ll be annoyed if she cheats + becomes bisexual because of this incident. If she’s not happy she should break up and I’ve already been through a few webcomics where a character becomes gay/bisexual almost out of nowhere enough times to be nervous about how this will play out. Hoping the next comic is a rebuff.

Right. Sooo annoying when characters that have clearly had a thing for each other for quite some time end up being the same gender. Or, uh, wait. I guess it’s more annoying when you miss the clues and are blindsided by this development because you’re hell-bent on assuming everyone’s straight?

(And, yes, she may be cheating on her boyfriend – does that make her a completely bad and unsalvageable character who we now must hate? Or would you rather the comic just be cleansed of everything that makes you uncomfortable?)

… It is not unreasonable to assume, until stated otherwise, that characters are straight. It’s not Disregarding bisexuals or homosexuals, it’s simply that typically characters are straight until it’s said so in a story. If she was bisexual the whole time and it was stated at some point before hand and was just monogamous and dating a man I wouldn’t have had any problem with this scene at all…

Actually, yes, it is unreasonable. The reasons here are twofold:

1) It is unreasonable to assume that everybody is just like you. That is, in fact, disregarding everybody who is not like you. It is assuming that there is a “default state” to being a human being, and that it is safe to expect that everybody, real or fictional, adheres to the default unless they specifically tell you they do not.

2) It is unreasonable to expect an artist or storyteller to hold your hand and gently lead you through exactly what her or his intentions are for his or her artwork. In this case, you are asking the artist to explicitly state to the audience, at some point, “Hey, folks! This here character is bisexual, and even though she’s dating a guy she could just as easily be dating a girl! In fact, I plan to do a story arc that covers exactly that scenario. Stay tuned!” That would make for some really shitty art. It is up to you, as the reader, to pick up on what the artist is putting down. And, as I pointed out with the linkspam above, it wasn’t exactly a subtle story thread. If you missed the fact that this girl was into that girl, it’s because you’re overlaying your own heteronormative narrative on top of the one the artist has actually written.

Why are characters “typically straight until it’s said so” in any media? What gives you the right to make that statement? How do you look at any given character and know 100% for sure that they’re straight, and not just currently in a hetero relationship?

Also, why the hell isn’t there more queerness in the media? (Because, Penny, it gets attacked the way Yellow Peril did. Oh, right. Good point, Anonymous Imaginary Reader.)

Unless it’s a “special interests” movie like Kissing Jessica Stein or Brokeback Mountain, LGBTQIA people barely get a nod in mainstream media; I was thrilled when the tech girl who was onscreen for five minutes in Mr. And Mrs. Smith mentioned her girlfriend. Media enforces heteronormativity in society, and in return society enforces it in the media. It’s this ridiculous self-supporting cycle that totally erases the experience of “non-normative” people in every quarter.

If am reading Harry Potter would it be considered odd for me to assume that Harry won’t be asking out Ron or Seamus or that Hermione won’t be asking Luna Lovegood out until something in the novels indicates it’s a possibility? I am taking the stance of assuming, until proven otherwise, that a person is the most common sexual preference (straight).

Um, yes, to me that’s odd. Maybe not from the standpoint that, I assume, many artists default to heteronormativity because they know what’ll happen to their sales if they don’t… but I still think it’s odd, yes. It’s the same weird “default state” assumption that leads people to thinking that being straight is normal, but being gay is a choice. And since when is “the most common sexual preference” straight? And if it really is the most common preference, why did you have to immediately qualify that statement with “(straight)” ? Why wouldn’t Hermione be interested in Luna? What’s stopping Harry from being into Ron? Did you know Dumbledore’s gay?

I’ve lived in Chicago all my life and met many gay people, but I’ve met a lot more straight people. That and most films and novels and games having a majority of straight people makes me expect to see more straight people in a story. Is this also odd?

Ye – oh, no. Actually no, that’s not odd at all. Of course you see heteronormative stories in the heteronormative media of a heteronormative society. What’s odd is that you look at those stories and assume that they’re all real and true to life.

I see superheroes all the time in the movies. Does that mean I can expect to move to Gotham and meet Batman? Should I try to get a job as a writer at The Daily Planet? Or maybe apply to work at Stark Industries so I can sue Tony for sexual harassment and comfortably retire on my millions?

Oh, and hey – have you actually met a lot more straight people? Or did you meet a lot of people you assumed were straight because they didn’t explicitly tell you they weren’t?

Obviously, this is just one commenter – who has already been roundly debunked by several others – but I am tired of this circular-logic merry-go-round. “This is normal because the media depicts it this way” + “The media depicts it this way because that’s what’s normal” is bullshit. So is “I’m annoyed with this story line because it doesn’t reinforce my narrow view of the world! The artist should change it!”

And the worst part of it all is that artists with integrity and vision, like Jamie Noguchi, are not only caught in the crossfire but are actively discouraged from making art. Actively shamed for not reinforcing the kyriarchy. Dude, he’s not making them gay AT you; he’s writing the storyline he wants to write. One that’s clearly been planned for several months, and is not an “ass-pull” or a “sexual deus ex machina.”

(Although, good job on the use of “deus ex machina.” Seriously. You even spelled it right.)

We need Yellow Peril. We need Annie kissing Ally, precisely because it surprises us out of the “everybody is straight” narrative. (Well, some of us.) Let the dude make some friggin’ art already.

 

As an afterthought: Who cares if she is a spontaneous bisexual? Does discovering your sexuality post-puberty somehow make it less valid? Because if so, I’m a big ol’ spontaneous queer, myself. Shame on me for… uh… stuff.


I am a bisexual woman. And that’s okay.

I look like a straight woman. I wear my hair long and conventional, in a natural color. I wear feminine clothes, high heels, makeup, lingerie. I’m femme. I have a husband (who fully supports this journey I’m on). And that’s okay.

I want to meet a girl. I want to look up and see her across the room, and feel like maybe I’ve been struck by lightning because suddenly my limbs don’t work properly and I’m all shaky and oh jeez am I making a weird face? I want that nervous crush, the excitement of awkwardly flirting, of testing the waters and navigating slowly from the safe bay of mutual acquaintance out into the open waters of friendship and the possibility of more. And that’s okay.

I want to have a girlfriend. I want to go on dates, go see movies together, go out to cafes and restaurants and bars and karaoke maybe. I want to snuggle and watch tv on the couch. I want to play games together, and take her on creative dates, and surprise her on anniversaries and birthdays. I want to introduce her to my husband and hope they get along. I want to introduce her to my friends and integrate her into my social circle. I want to be the shy new girlfriend at the parties she brings me to; I want to meet the people that are important in her life and gain their approval. I want to walk down the streets holding hands and not care if people are staring or not. I want to open my heart to her, and invite her in to snuggle up and get comfortable. I want to be steady and dependable for her, and know that she can be there for me, too. And that’s okay.

I want to explore a sexual relationship with a girl. I want that first kiss, the first time we get frisky, the nervousness and excitement of new lovemaking. I want to break all the rules and make our own. I want to create a relationship from scratch, one that fits the two of us perfectly because it’s custom-made. I want to try new things, new toys, new positions. I want to take my time discovering what she likes. I want to watch her lovely face as she responds to my touch, my body, my words, my kiss. I want to surrender myself to her, too, and know she’s watching. And that’s okay.

I want the fights, too. I want the disagreements, the days when we seem to be at odds, the nights when we’re just not feeling it and we end up talking for hours about what’s not working instead of sleeping. I want to work through problems, to step carefully through the landmines and pitfalls, to draw back the veil and see the parts of our hearts that are ugly, bruised, hurt, and tender. I want to put my trust in her, tell her about the pain in my past, hear about the pain in hers and hold each other through the darkness that comes with it. I want the deepening connection that can only come when we’re fully honest with each other – even if it risks hurting or disappointing our partner. And that’s okay.

I know that it doesn’t come that easy. I know that attraction is unfair, and finding someone is hard, and takes time, and that this perfect girl I have in my head may not actually exist at all. I know that I will have to date, and be heartbroken, and love and lose, and take risks that don’t pan out. I know that the more pressure I put on myself to find someone, the harder it is and the less likely it’ll happen. I know that I need to make friends and let it develop naturally, the way any other relationship does. And that’s okay.

I want to tell the world, to put my intentions out in the universe: I may not be fully prepared, but I’m ready to make a start. I’m open and looking. I’ve been longing for this for some time, and I’m doing my best to put myself in a position where it’s possible and simultaneously stay out of my own way. There is a guilt, a voice inside me that says it’s selfish, it won’t work, it’s not right, no one will want you anyway, what you’re looking for can’t be found.

But I want it anyway. And that’s okay.



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