bethofalltrades: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] bethofalltrades at 10:36pm on 27/04/2009 under
In Boston, walking home from the Mac store and tea with a friend. Three young black men passed me on Mass Ave and I heard one say, "And it doesn't matter if they call you a faggot. Let them. Keep your head down."

I walked a little faster so I could eavesdrop on their conversation. Nothing in their manner of dress screamed "gay," but there were the slightest societal indicators in their mannerisms. Gestures that said, yes, the one with the braids who was speaking was, and the tall, slightly chubby one he was speaking to certainly was, as was the tough, quiet one who walked just behind them as they argued. They were younger than I was, early college. Maybe high school. Kids.

"No, if they call me a faggot I'm gonna walk with my head up and say, 'So what? I AM gay!'"

"Then they'll jump you."

"Let them jump me! I'm gay, I'm not going to apologize for being gay!"

"Lower your voice."

"No! Look, if they called you a nigger, would you keep your head down?"

There was a long pause. The kid with the braids had no response.

"That's right," the tall one said, adjusting his backpack with a slight swagger of triumph. "No way am I gonna keep my head down."

"But they'll jump you---" the one with the braids began to argue, before the quiet one interrupted, speaking for the first time.

"And if they jump you, they jump a proud gay man. Even if they beat you, you win."

The three of them walked in silence for a moment. I thought about speaking to them, to tell them that I understood, but as we reached the corner the quiet one felt my eyes on him and turned and looked at me.

We stared at each other for a moment, then I ducked my head to him. He smiled and nodded back at me. In that moment, we both understood.

Someone asked me recently why I insist on labels. Why not just love, she said, without regard to the gender of the person? Why be so loud about it? I didn't have an answer until yesterday, in the car with Sean, when I was finally able to articulate that the reason it is important to me to use the label is that people have been fighting, sometimes even dying for it since before I was born.

I give it a name because there are still men who keep their heads down when someone calls them a faggot for fear of violence.

I give it a name because women are being raped and murdered in South Africa for being lesbians.

I give it a name because fifty years ago, no one could.

"And if they jump you, they jump a proud gay man."

Yes. This.

bethofalltrades: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] bethofalltrades at 02:05pm on 28/12/2008 under , , ,
Please Don't Divorce

I have a lot to say about this, but it's mired in a larger discussion of rights and family and love. I don't know that I have the energy for it right now.

I don't. But I'll come back to this.

In the meantime...

bethofalltrades: (Default)
Dear Anon.-

A friend of yours anonymously commented on my blog with a link to your anonymous blog. I read the letter you wrote me about how I've helped you with your struggle with coming out.

You say thank you but I should be the one expressing my gratitude. I worked for years at non-profits hoping to Make A Difference. It felt futile after a while. I take photos and I write and I try to fold as many people as I can into my life. Sometimes that feels like Making A Difference.

Reading your letter today reminded me that I am not shouting into the abyss. It matters to you. That connection--- even if I don't know who you are-- is invaluable to me.

Can I veer off topic for a moment to talk about being gay?

Being gay is kind of hard.

It is less hard for me because I inhabit a community of people who don't care who I fall in love with. But Prop 8 in California hurts. Teenage boys calling me a dyke hurts, because it's not that they KNOW I like girls; they're using that slur because it's the worst one they can come up with.

But more than the reality of prejudice, there's something more nebulous. Being gay automatically makes you Different, and it's not always fun or comfortable to be different. Especially when you're a teenager and conforming is the way, the truth and the light.

I came out at fifteen.

There is a wonderful woman who lives in Montreal who helped me realize I was gay. We met through a mailing list. I have never seen her face or hugged her, but she is one of my closest friends.

She was a little older than me (I think all of NINETEEN when we met, which seemed ancient) and gay. I was fascinated by her. I talked to her every day. Then one day, I was describing a female friend to her, and telling her how I thought this girl was AMAZING and sweet and funny and all good things.

"Dude," she said. "Do you think you might be gay?"

"No," I said. Everyone feels like that about their friends. But the seed was planted and I started to look around and I realized that NOT EVERYONE has crushes on their female friends.

I came out to myself that December. It was March before I was able to come out to my mother, whose reaction was, "Yes, dear. Do you want to stop at Taco Bell for lunch?"

That was eleven years ago, but it's only in the past year or two that sexuality has stopped being a struggle for me. It is, thank god, now just something that IS.

In the dressing room at the Vermillion Lies show, there was a pause in my conversation with one just in time for me to hear the other one telling their tour manager, "Beth's gay too!" She apologized for outing me, but I found it... delightful. That this is something that a girl I don't know much at all knows (speaking of... how DID she know? Did Amanda say something? Was it excellent gaydar? Was I wearing my "Yes, I am" t-shirt?) is actually very comforting to me. If everybody KNOWS then I can stop SAYING.

SAYING is hard because people assume the opposite. I'm constantly told that I don't LOOK gay. Because we're all supposed to have crew cuts and wear non-ironic flannel?

This is what a lesbian looks like:

No shaved head, no dreadlocks, no crew cut, no flat top, no mullet, no flannel, no wife beaters, no cigarette pack rolled up in the sleeve of my white t-shirt all James Dean, no tie dye, no men's ties, no menswear, no combat boots, no rainbows, no getting called "sir." I don't work construction, I don't drive a truck, I don't play field hockey. I don't spell women with a "y," I don't rail against the patriarchy, I don't work vaginal motifs into my art (at least not consciously). I don't reserve a U-haul every time I have a blind date.

I do, however, eat tofu, have tattoos, do yoga and have a cat.

Oh, and I LOVE AND HAVE RELATIONSHIPS WITH WOMEN, which is really the only criteria for lesbianism that's even the least bit valid.

Stereotypes exist for a reason, but the vast majority of lesbians aren't truck-driving, mulletted, vegan, field-hockey-playing womyn.

Some of my best friends are lesbians and I bet if you put them in a room with an equal number of straight people, the majority of y'all--- straight, gay, bi, however you identify--- would fail to 100% spot the homo.

This has evolved into a tangent.

Blame Anonymous Gay Teenager.

Speaking of... I hope that, with time, you can be un-anonymous and we can spend an evening talking about Being Gay (one of my favorite topics of discussion, actually) and checking out chicks.

Until then, thank you for the letter. It all gets easier. I promise.


ps - Queer readers... send me a photo of yourself with a "this is what a ___________" caption and I will post it to my blog. Or post it to your own blog. Or leave it in the comments. Be proud, my peeps.



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