Content Warning: Weird stuff. You've been warned.

Tag Archives: sexuality

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?


http://www.upworthy.com/video-how-did-these-parents-raise-with-their-son-they-loved-him-thats-all-3?c=ufb1

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.


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 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.


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.


My sister posted this on the faceyspaces today. Yeah, the one who’s becoming a nun. I was all excited for a second, and then I was just sad.

Sure, dude, you don’t want to teach your children to eat sand. But if you’re a grown adult who likes to eat sand and doesn’t cause anyone harm by doing it… why not eat sand? There shouldn’t be a rule against eating sand just because not everybody wants to eat it and it doesn’t provide nutrition in any way. Do you really want the church to treat you like you’re perpetually a child who doesn’t know any better and can’t care for himself or make his own decisions?
You know what else isn’t nutritious? A lot of the foods we eat. You know what else isn’t healthy? A lot of the “traditional” marriages I’ve seen in the world. Why does the church prioritize the marriage between an abusive alcoholic and the wife who’s too afraid to leave him? In fact, the church stigmatizes the battered woman who divorces her husband in order to survive… but refuses to recognize the long standing, deep, abiding commitment and love between two wives. Or two husbands. Or two anybody-the-church-thinks-is-icky.
 
You don’t want to eat sand? Don’t. You don’t want to have sex? Don’t. But you can’t make laws telling me not to eat sand or have sex just because you don’t want to. That’s not how this works. I get to make my own choices, and my choice to eat sand is just as valid as your choice not to.
Apologies for the short post this week. Life happened. More on that later. :p

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.



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