Saturday, June 13

We're Just Like You

"Lesbians aren't edgy." (I actually heard "lesbians aren't edgy anymore", but that isn't what was said.)

It was said in a moment of jest, a friendly kidding around between friends.   It wasn't meant to be a big deal, nor particularly taken as such.  But several hours later, I am realizing that it was one of the saddest things I've heard in a while.

I mean, who knew?  Here I was thinking that while we aren't exactly on the fringe of the fringe, we're still out there in the fringey little things somewhere.  Apparently not.  That must have been "before". 

Because...well, because I'm me, I've been stewing.  What does it mean?

I'm pretty close to an answer, at least one that feels satisfying.  I'm thinking what it means is that we're assimilated.  So now I just want to scream. 

I am not such a fan of assimilation.  That's an understatement. There is so much lost.  I'm more like "I'll take the old days minus the fear and violence".  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating the good old days of no equal rights and oppression.  This is where it get tricky.   Probably the simplest way to explain my position is that I believe a social transformation was (and is) critical.   Just not this one.

As you may or may not know, I have spent the last six months, and most intensively the last month, planning, coordinating, fundraising, rehearsing, singing about and performing music in celebration of the fifth anniversary of equal marriage in Massachusetts.  Today, I walked nearly an entire parade route singing "Going to the Chapel" amidst enthusiastic applause.  It's been a wild ride (not to mention unbelievable) and one that required me to stand up in front of people and ask them to help us celebrate this historical event.  It's also put me in the unlikely position of cheerleader as, while we were rehearsing, four states joined Massachusetts, and the Supreme Court decision on Prop 8 in California was released. So it was a little odd to walk around all of that time with the voice of one of my friends in my head, asking me "So, why are you against same-sex marriage?".

No, I straightened her out.  I'm not against same-sex marriage.  I think it's a no-brainer.  I think it's just another one of the equal rights that gay and lesbian people should have as a matter of course.  But then again, I thought the equal rights amendment was a no-brainer too, so you probably shouldn't pay any attention to me. 

Imagine--Equal rights for women guaranteed under the constitution.  Just in case you weren't paying attention, it failed.  And just in case you still weren't paying attention, it has been reintroduced every year.  Still nothing.  And in the event that you STILL weren't paying attention, yes, women's rights and gay and lesbian rights are, in fact, related (since the opposition to both has a whole lot to do with misogyny).  I don't know.  Call me crazy.  I'm thinking that maybe, just maybe, full equal rights for half of the country's population might be a good place to start.

Yeah, I'm an old time feminist.  Oh, yeah.  I know.  You're a feminist, too.  Here's a tip.  The feminism of today is unrecognizable by the standards of 70's and even 80's feminism--the stuff I cut  my teeth on.  It's really a whole different animal.

Aha.  Maybe this is the problem.  See, I am the President and a singing member of a women's chorus that was founded upon feminist principles of community, inclusivity, activism, and education. Maybe that's where I got the idea that we were about feminism.  But I forgot to check which version we were using (I'm old, I sometimes don't think of things like that). And I forgot to check whether we actually talk amongst ourselves about exactly what that means, being "founded on feminist principles".  No wonder I so often feel confused.

But back to same-sex marriage. As I said, I think it's a no-brainer.  I'm not against it. On the other hand, I wouldn't exactly say I'm in favor of it either.  I mean, I am in favor of it because I think equal rights should be a given, and equal rights are equal rights.  But I'm not after what it means, how it gets played out, what it "turns us into" (and if you don't believe me on that one, you must not have enough gay or lesbian friends).  And I am most certainly not in favor of the rhetoric it has inspired.  The rhetoric of "legitimacy", of "normalcy", of "we are just like straight people!".  Yick.  It makes my skin crawl  (which I do recognize just might lead someone to conclude that I am "against" it, I do get that).

Listen up.  About the legitimacy thing.  We don't need to be "legitimized" by anyone.  Let's put that concept in the same trash heap as the archaic and insulting (and gratefully, nearly obsolete) concept of "illegitimate" children.  That term has, for the most part, died a blessed death, because, of course, every child is legitimate.  Every one of our relationships is legitimate too, with or without state sanction.  So let's just get rid of that one.  We've insulted ourselves for too long already.

And then there's the "normal" thing.   I'm with Jodie Foster here (not that there's anything wrong with that).  She apparently is credited with saying "normal is not something to aspire to.  It's something to get away from."  Enough said.  Amen, sister.

So we're left with the "We're just like you" argument.  Hand me one of those bowls over there, wouldja?  I think I'm gonna puke.

This is why people think I'm against same-sex marriage.  Because I not only do not seek to be "just like them", but I don't want to be a part of a community that holds that as an aspiration, or worse yet, says it out loud (and proud).  It's probably that whole Groucho Marx thing, not wanting to be a member of any club that would have me as a member.  Be just like them?  Ew.

No offense to my heterosexual friends and readers out there.  Really. This is not a throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater (what a horrible turn of phrase) kind of thing. No, I don't think there's anything wrong with your lives (I don't mind straight people, as long as they act gay).  Like anything else, it's not about individuals.  It's about a generalization.  My guess is that pretty much any of my straight friends (yes, I do have them) would agree that, as a group, heterosexual marriages, not to mention dating rituals, are not exactly something to emulate or envy.  That's what I'm saying.

See, here's the thing.  I'm not one of those who "knew" when I was five. Or ten.  Or twenty.  I know they exist, I don't doubt their legitimacy (there's that word again), but it's not my story.  I have always hated the nature/nurture debate regarding the "why", most vehemently the "why would anyone choose this?" (or its more fervent cousin "no one would make this choice!").  Just for the record, I'm quite clear I chose it.  I feel no shame in that.  Not in the least.

I chose it because I love the company of women.  I love living and working and laughing and being in a community of women.  I love the energy and power of women.  I love the electricity that flows between women.  I love the connections between women.  And perhaps more than anything, I love and believe deeply in the tenets of the feminism of the late 70's and early 80's (when I came out).  And believe it or not, at that time, for some women, becoming a lesbian was one among many possible manifestations or outgrowths of adherence to that philosophy (which had as its core a rejection of patriarchy, by the way, a seemingly novel concept in today's world).  For some, it was almost a natural evolution, a logical conclusion.  I am one of those.  

(Whoa.  This is like a whole 'nother coming out.  I don't think I've ever said these things before, at least not "publicly".) 

Anyway, I'm quite certain that my chorus sister who informed me today that "lesbians 
aren't edgy" didn't intend to produce this level of introspection, bordering on identity crisis.  Poor woman.

Here's the deal.

If I had wanted to be like them, I would have been like them.  I didn't.  I'm not.

If I had wanted my life to be just like everyone else's,  I would have made some really different choices.  I never have wanted that.  I don't want that now.

It's a hell of a trade-off for equal rights.  It is politically intruiging, since it seems likely that the acquisition of equal rights is tied into a tacit agreement to be more "mainstream", more assimilated, less "in your face", less counterculture, less...well...less "gay".  

You know, less edgy.  


Julie R. Enszer said...

I was nodding and smiling all the way through. . . . Julie

Aludra said...

It's possible your acquaintance meant that phrase in the way a lot of conservatives *really* mean it.

"not edgy" = "not: satanic/ baby eaters / anti-bathing-drug-addicted-psycho"

And also, I'm glad to know there are still true feminists out there. We need you. Stay loud!
I was watching the news yesterday AM, and their discussion panel was all female which of course meant there had to be a 'reason' for that. Such idiocy. We have so far yet to go.

Camlin said...

I get what you mean about choosing - I could have chosen to continue living in what I call the "mainstream" world. I had all the trappings - I had everything except love and acceptance. It was materially full and emotionally empty place to be. But to choose that would be to deny myself. And, like you, I am at my best when I am around women.

Thank you so much for crawling around inside my head and pulling things out. I love it when writers can do that!