I know that you are a voracious reader. But….doesn’t it get old to be constantly reading about heterosexual love in 99% of all the fiction out there? I know I read the occasional gay love scene with detached fascination, and realized that it must be the same for you, only in EVERY book.

Well spotted, Heather.

The short answer:  Yes, it gets old.  More than that, the lack of authentic GLBT stories in literature, movies, television and pop culture generally make it really difficult for GLBT people to identify with the images of our community.  The vacuum of positive images and role models can make us cling to the caricatures and clichés presented as our lives.

And that can be very defeating when, as a teenager, you are told that you will either be a spinster, a bull-dyke, or die a hideous death.

The long answer:

Earlier this week, a friend of mine posted about a piece of lesbian fiction that will be coming out this month.  In it, she referred back to a book called, “Sweat,” one of the author’s earlier works.  It was like reading about an old friend.  I flashed back to high school when my girlfriend and I would pull the book out from under my bed and read it hungrily, finding in it a sense of belonging.  A sense of understanding that we weren’t alone.  That we weren’t freaks.  That there were others like us:   softball players who liked girls.

There were also the tattered copies of Rita May Brown novels, and Martina Navratilova biographies.  Books that were legitimate enough to buy at second-hand book stores without completely freaking out the people I was shopping with.

I live in Portland now, where I can get my hands on any kind of lesbian-centered literature, history, or humor I want.  But it’s still not mainstream.  I have to look for it.  Like a book on Malaysian cooking.  It’s there, but it’s not something I run across.  It’s rare that I pick up a book from the bestseller rack and find that there’s a lesbian sub-plot.  (Who am I kidding, it’s rare that I pick up a book from the bestseller rack at all.)

And it’s not just in books that this is the case.  In movies, and in television; in any part of pop culture, the existence of a homo plot is out-of-the ordinary.  It’s something to comment on.  Take a look at the reaction to “Brokeback Mountain”.  From protests, to discussions of whether the roles would ruin the careers of the actors who took them, the movie was totally controversial, even though it had more nominations than any other movie at the academy awards that year.  Had it been a movie about a heterosexual relationship, it would have been no big deal.  But it was out-of -the-ordinary, because it was two men.

In the rare instances where gay sub-plots appear, I find myself, and a lot of other queer folks, clinging to them like lifelines.  Take ER.  I didn’t watch ER.  Until Kerry and Lopez got together.  It was tender, and passionate and beautiful.  In the time that they were together on the show, every conversation I had with another lesbian included a discussion of the program.

And how about Ellen?  And Rosie.  Even when they weren’t out, we were watching.  We were supporting.  We were waiting.  Waiting for the funny inside jokes that they might make.  Supporting them so that they might find the courage to give us the out-front role models and popular images that would make our existence more normal.  I still won’t shop at JCPenny, because they pulled their marketing dollars from the Ellen show when she kissed another woman on-air.  I remember the parental warning that flashed on the screen before the show and during every commercial break – a great black screen with stark white lettering, letting the country know that it was okay to protect their kids from the deviancy, the depravity of two women expressing physical love for each other.  From me.

Ellen’s show (the sit-com) didn’t last very long after she came out.  Neither did Rosie’s.  Yes, Rosie has gone off the deep end, and Ellen had that whole unfortunate Anne Heche thing.  But still.  ER went on just fine.  “Brokeback Mountain” was a run-away success.  “Boys Don’t Cry” won the Best Actress Oscar.

Anytime someone tells me about a “great” gay film, I ask them two things:  “Does anyone get brutally murdered?” and “is it a ‘dick saves the day’ movie?”  Because it’s usually one of the two.  I know it’s not terribly politically correct, but it’s the sad pattern that I’ve come to expect.  Either a tomboy is “saved” by a man who is able to see through her rough exterior, or a beautiful relationship between two gays is cut short by some horribly tragic event:  the “God hates fags” scenario.  These plot formulas allow for the mainstream  telling of realistic gay stories, followed by such brutality that it makes clear what happens to those who choose such a lifestyle.

For example:  ER:  After a lovingly treated depiction of a lesbian relationship, Lopez, who is a firefighter, dies on the job.  Boys Don’t Cry:  after I watched the main character raped and beaten to death, I made my mother promise me that she would never watch the movie.  Brokeback Mountain:  a beautiful movie that ends with the not-so-subtle insinuation that, after years of pining away for his one, true love, one of the characters is clubbed to death by his father with a tire iron.  Fried Green Tomatoes:  Marriage interrupts the love of two women, but it’s a violent one, so there’s an excuse for the women to love each other.  Until one of them dies a long, painful death.  Boys on the Side:  Bad relationship results in death of a husband, a beautiful, tortured love between two women, and the AIDS-related death of one of them.  Thelma and Louise (I know this isn’t overtly lesbian, but it’s emotionally lesbian, and follows the pattern):  Bad marriage, rape, revenge, dick saves the day (but it’s Brad Pitt, so it’s almost excusable), betrayal, and a flying leap off of a cliff.

There’s a great movie I’d recommend putting on your NetFlix queue:  The Celluloid Closet.  It’s seriously good and looks at the images of queer people in the movies, since the days of the silent film.

And then there’s Will & Grace.  For a long time I wouldn’t watch this show.  Because, although it showed gay people, front and center, it showed us a caricatures of ourselves.  It was okay to make super-gay jokes, so long as they came from a flaming, queeny man or his chemically-dependent fag hag.  Or in the form of a totally unhealthy co-dependent relationship.  For too long, the only way gay men have been able to be accepted on tv or in the movies is as super-effeminate portrayals of themselves.  They exist as the joke itself, non-threatening and clown-like.  I got over it and watch the show now.  But I still have a really hard time with the movie “The Bird Cage”.

So, yes, it’s frustrating that GLBT life isn’t often portrayed in books and movies and television, and even when it is, it’s not usually my life.  Or anything close to it.  It’s frustrating that, in college, I spent hours and hours looking through the foreign film sections of Blockbuster and Hollywood video trying to figure out if there were lesbian themes in the subtitled movies.  It’s frustrating that, growing up, what I thought it meant to be a lesbian was to be a leather-clad, buzz-cut butch, or a clandestine married woman who would get clubbed to death while suffering from cancer.

It’s hard enough to develop an image of yourself as a powerful, healthy individual.  When surrounded by images that reinforce only the negative, it can be incredibly defeating.

I remember being 16 and  telling my family I wanted to record the 1993 March on Washington because of its cultural and historical significance.  I crouched in front of the tv and marveled, chin in my hands.  They were probably able to write it off as part of my unnatural my love of C-SPAN.  I watched and re-watched that 6 hours of VHS footage, looking for images of myself in the performers and activists that filed across the stage.  Real people who looked nothing like the clichés I’d been clinging to.

Fortunately, we’re moving forward.  Ellen has a new show.  And she’s out all the time.  She makes gay jokes on American Idol.  Good ones.  Funny ones that are smart and challenging.  Adam Lambert got more votes than anyone else on the show.  Country music stars are coming out.  Our stories are being told more fully.  And that’s more than a luxury.  It’s more than nice to have a book to read at the beach.  It’s important if we are going to reverse things like teenage suicide in the gay community – something that’s 5 times more likely than for straight teens.

It’s important that the lifelines we’re clinging to are real.  And that they lead us to a place of empowerment.

June 9, 2010   2 Comments

What about breast play? Are breasts considered erogenous enough to have sex with?

This came from a comment on the what is sex? post.  I think it merits its own topic.

Again, if you can’t handle it, please look away now.

The short answer: I’m a lawyer, so I like tests.  I use this “two part test” to determine whether something is sex:

First:  Based on what you’re doing, is it possible for one of the parties to come?

Second:  Is it the intention of the parties involved for someone to come?

If the answer is “yes” to both, then it’s sex.  Other than that, I’m not sure.

So, is breast play sex?  It depends.

The long answer:

I was considering this question as I headed out on a bike ride this afternoon.  I immediately thought of the time a couple of years ago when I was body surfing in Hawaii.  I saw a hornet drowning out in the water.  So, I scooped it up and brought it back to shore.  On my return to the ocean, one of his brothers, clearly unaware of my recent heroism, swam into my bikini and stung my nipple.  Uncool.

Now I’ve been known to manifest some freaky shit.  And I wondered if it was folly to be thinking about the bees.  But I quickly dismissed any concern and got on with my ride and deeper consideration of the breast play issue.

But Oregon bugs have pride.  Not to be outdone, 1/4 mile from my destination, a flying ant flew into my bra and bit me.  Repeatedly.  He bit my nipple.  He bit my areola.  He bit my breast.

(Now, I know what some of you are thinking.  “Wait!  Maybe it will swell!”  Very funny.  It hurts like hell.)

So, let me say this:  are breasts sensitive enough to have sex with them?  Y-E-S.  The icepack on mine is proof.

Like the “what is sex?” question, though, I’m not sure it’s so straight forward.

Is breast play (fondling, both digitally – that’s hands, people – and orally), by itself, sex?  I think it can be.  Does it matter if it’s clothed or naked?  As Tribe of One so eloquently stated, “If someone comes, it’s sex.  I don’t care how many clothes there are.”  I agree.  And, in my experience, breast play can lead to orgasm.  As can tribbing.

But what if nobody comes?  What if it’s not the intention at all?  It’s certainly sexual.  Foreplay is sexual.  Kissing can be sexual.

I agree with Amanda that orgasm isn’t the magic bullet that will answer the question.  Any of my girlfriends can tell you (and there aren’t that many, so be cool), I’m an endurance sport.  So if I sit on a woman’s face for an hour and don’t get there, it doesn’t mean it’s not sex.

More and more, I’m thinking the answer to these questions really does depend on intention and personal view.  For me, digital sex is sex.  For some of my straight friends, it’s not.  For other of my straight friends, it is.

The takeaway for me is that it’s really important to talk about these things.  Maybe not on a blog that your mom reads, but certainly with a potential partner, a current partner, and with yourself.  Thanks for the questions!  Keep them coming!  (Yeah, I totally said that.)

June 9, 2010   3 Comments

Let’s talk about sex

WARNING:  This post contains explicit language.  If you don’t want to think about me in compromising situations, please go look at pictures of kittens.

Questions about sex are the ones asked most often.  They’re also the questions that don’t get asked.  They linger under the surface in the too-long silence after I tell people I’m willing to answer any questions they have about the gayness.  It’s kind of like in elementary school when we all wanted to ask, “how does an astronaut pee if there’s no gravity?”  Nobody wanted to be the one to put their hand up, but we were all thinking it.

Just last night I was asked, “when does it become sex?”  My answer then was, “don’t worry, honey, we’re not there yet.”   Still, it’s a good question.

Like in the heterosexual world, the answer to this question depends on the person.  Just ask Bill “is” Clinton.  Here’s the answer for me:  Penetration=sex.  Also, oral sex=sex.  Also, direct clitoral stimulation=sex.  Let’s break that down.

Penetration

Penetration with tongue, fingers or toy (dildo, etc) is pretty clearly sex in my book.  (Don’t worry, I know there are all sorts of questions out there about this topic.  I’ll explore this more on its own.)

Oral sex

If your mouth is on my clit, or your tongue is in me, it’s sex.

Direct clitoral stimulation

If your hand, mouth, or anything else is on my clit without something other than a safety material in between, it’s sex.

That’s what it is for me.  Believe me, honey it leaves lots of room for spirited disagreement.  For instance, does orgasm=sex?  Damn good question.  What do you all think?

Also, I want to be sure to say that I don’t want anyone using this post to argue with their significant other that what they did wasn’t cheating.  Cheating and sex are two totally different, if related, things.  One of my friends, when defining sex asked the question, “if your husband was doing that, would you consider it sex?”  Careful there.  If my husband was kissing another person, I’d consider it cheating.  I wouldn’t consider it sex.  Also, if my husband was kissing me, I’d wonder what the hell kind of messed up dream I was having.

June 9, 2010   14 Comments

Hearts and Minds Remix

A few years ago a local paper asked me to write a piece discussing the status of Domestic Partnership legislation in Oregon.  I was super excited by the opportunity.

I’d been working in the field of GLBT politics for a few years through some really tough times.  And I felt like I had a voice – something interesting to say.  I’d been writing on the topic for a political blog, discussing the ins and outs of what was going on with the legislature, the electorate, and the community.  And I’d been asking questions.

Ah, the questions.

It seems that people don’t always like it when you ask questions.  But I’m rather inquisitive.  And sometimes sarcastic.  In truth, I think the paper wanted me to write a piece, because I’d stirred up some stuff with my questions about the importance of language.

What they got instead was a discussion about the importance of humanity.

GLBT people have great love and compassion in our lives, regardless of how you label it. We would have to in order to keep our relationships intact through things like constitutional amendments and second-class citizenship. When we share that love we truly touch the hearts of others, because we share with them something fundamental—our humanity.

So here’s my question:  How do we move forward, in a context where the lives of GLBTQ people are considered political and language around those lives is measured, weighed and analyzed to such a great extent?  Is it more important that we consider our words carefully, or that we share our lives fully?  Or can we do both and remain authentic?

June 9, 2010   3 Comments

Do you view men as competition for the women in your life?

Reason I ask….no matter how much I try to be nice, I just view other women as enemies that must be dominated, belittled and outdone in all circumstances.  And I never put anything past other women when it comes to my husband.  Do gay women have to deal with competition from men?  So curious if this is even an issue, or if by definition gay women are completely immune to their charms.

With most questions about gay relationships, I find myself answering that the experience is much the same as straight relationships.  Yes, we bicker about money.  Yes, we like to hold each other and watch tv.  Yes, we get nervous when we meet the in-laws.  But this question has had me thinking for a couple of weeks about how different the experience of being a woman dating women is.

NOTE: As always, I’m answering this question from my personal perspective.  I’m not speaking for all of the gays – just one of the gays.  And this is something I’ve had experience with lately.

Dating. First of all, it seems to be a common issue for women who are dating women to be unclear whether and who they are actually dating.  Is a coffee date a date date, or just coffee? If you’re not kissing, but want to be, is that a date?  What if you haven’t communicated that desire to the other person?  Date?  For two single women to go out to coffee, or even dinner and a movie, isn’t necessarily a date.  For two single lesbians, however, it can be unclear.  Seriously unclear.

Maybe it’s the same for straight people, I’m not sure.  But I’m learning that, in order to make sure everyone is on the same page, it’s a good idea to be very clear up front about whether you are on a date, or hanging out as friends.

Men. As for men as competition, the women that I date or am interested in dating are lesbians.  Which means that, by and large, they aren’t attracted to men.  So, when it comes to seeing men as competition, no, I don’t see them that way.

However…

Competition. And this is where it gets interesting – I can see a lesbian as either a potential date, or as potential competition.  The same woman.  Which brings me back to the issue of knowing whether you are dating someone.  Because, if you are interacting with a woman based on an assumption that she’s a potential date, and it turns out she’s actually competition, it can seriously change the dynamic.  A woman can be one moment someone I might be on a date with, and the next moment someone who is dating someone I’d like to be dating.  It’s even possible that she can be both – at the same time.  Which makes my head and heart explode a little.

For example:  Recently, I found myself in separate, undefined dating-type situations with a couple of fantastic women.  We’d meet for coffee, or bike to pie, or just hang out and watch tv.  A couple of times a week.  I liked them both, found them attractive, and enjoyed spending time with each of them.  They knew that I was spending time with other women, and I knew the same about them.  I saw each of them as potential dates, and interacted with them as though I might like to date them.  But, as we started to define what it was we were doing (whether it was actually dating), we discovered that the three of us were, in fact, dating each other.  Yikes.  Unexpected.  Very quickly, I found that my interactions and feelings about these lovely women shifted and twisted.  I saw one of them as a date and one of them as competition.

And yes, I realize that seeing women as either quarry or competition is seriously limiting, but I think it’s something interesting to consider, nonetheless.  Especially given my reaction.  Yes, it’s time for me to examine the way I view women.  But it also illustrates a dynamic that I hadn’t noticed before.

And I think it’s very different from straight relationships.

So the short answer is, no, I don’t see men as competition.  I kind of think that would be easier.  Right now I feel like every coffee is a scene out of James Bond where I’m trying to figure out whether the beautiful woman across the table from me is a foreign agent about to trade my secrets for a chance at a new life.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Should we really define our friends by gender or even accept those that do?

The questions surrounding gender identity and gender expression are fascinating, and ever-shifting.  I am by no means an expert on the subject, but it’s something I consider on a regular basis.  Usually when I get called “sir.”

I’m going to take the question as it’s presented.  There are other issues that come up when we’re looking for a partner – a mate.  Gender identification and roles can prove helpful for some of us in those situations.

So, should we define our friends in terms of gender?  I think it depends.

I define myself as a woman.  It’s an important part of my experience and the story line that is my life.  But whether I have a penis or breasts or both isn’t the essence of who I am.  It does, however serve as a short-hand, signaling to other women that, without a word, we have a shared language.  A shared set of experiences.  We both probably know what it’s like to buy tampons, for example.  In a world where resonance, community and commonality are important, I think there is value in using gender as a way to acknowledge similarities.  That said, using any one factor as a singular definition of a person is dangerous.  And limiting.

I’ve played softball with a number of trans folks, both those transitioning from male to female and from female to male.  There have been times when I haven’t been sure how someone identifies.  So I ask.  I’ve found it incredibly humbling for me, and empowering for them, to ask the simple question, “what pronoun do you prefer?”  (I didn’t come up with that on my own.  I learned the question at a training somewhere.)  Just asking puts me in a vulnerable place, where I show my desire to define.  But it also shows my respect in allowing the other person to define for themselves how they will be seen in the world.

So, I think the answer is that self-identification is incredibly important.

If someone wants to identify themselves as a man, a woman, neither or both, the best I can do is to allow room for that, acknowledge it, and accept the story-line they express for their life’s experience, whether that’s their gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, or reality TV affiliation.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Why do lesbians like softball so much?

Ah, softball.  The great lesbian cliché, stereotype, and cultural experience.

Not all lesbians play softball.  Not all lesbians like softball.  But most lesbians have either played, watched from the stands, or been enticed to keep score for their girlfriend’s team.  Whether it’s cliché or not, softball is where a lot of lesbians find community.  It’s where I looked when I was feeling isolated, and where I’ve found an amazing family and support system.

Portland has a gay league.  55 teams of queers playing their hearts out every weekend for girls in bikinis and bears with travel trailers.  But even outside the gay leagues, softball plays an important part in lesbian culture.

It’s true that softball isn’t the only sport out there.  But it (aside from maybe rugby) holds the top spot as sports associated with lesbians.  Why is that?

Here’s what I think.  Boys like baseball.  It’s the great American pastime, after all.  They play it growing up, they watch it after they’re too old to play it.  It’s part of their psyche.  It’s part of the American psyche.  Until pretty recently, girls weren’t included in that culture.  The first opportunity we had to play something that looked like baseball was in Junior High or High School, when we signed up in droves for the softball team, eschewing the gender norms that pigeonholed many of us as “freaks” and “she-men,” to put on socks and stirrups like the boys.  No briefs like volleyball, or skirts like field hockey.

When you line up the traditional Title 9 sports, softball and baseball are the most similar team sports for men and women.  Through college, softball allows women to compete in a sport that is as understood and important to our society as baseball.   And it’s empowering to know that you can compete physically with top athletes of any gender.

Outside of the women’s studies, gender role stuff, in the recreational arena, softball is fun, and it’s inclusive.

While it requires a certain level of hand-eye coordination, and certainly rewards those who are physically fit, softball accommodates all sizes and shapes of players.  Whether you’re a super-fit sporty dyke, or a fluffier lady, there’s a place for you on the field.  There aren’t a lot of sports that have room for 250 pound women as starting athletes.

Softball is a team sport.  It’s a place where people can come together to play, to compete, and to socialize.  Unlike say basketball or volleyball, a lot of socializing happens DURING the game of softball.  Most of the team is in the dugout together for extended periods of time each inning while the team is batting.  That provides for great camaraderie around the game, as well as time to chat about what people did over the weekend, and how cute the shortstop on the other team is.

So there you have it.  Softball allows us to participate, to compete, and to socialize meaningfully in the context of athletics.  It allows for exhibitionists to perform for their ladies and for voyeurs to watch women of all physicalities giving their best.

And it allows us to dress up in uniforms.  Uniforms.  Let’s be honest.  That’s what it’s really all about.

FOR THE GAYS

Softball is so much a part of lesbian culture, that “softball lesbian” is a known shorthand for a certain type of lesbian.  It describes much more than the fact that she plays softball.  Are you an aspiring softball lesbian?  Here are some things to consider:

Dating team members – If you are going to play softball in order to find a girlfriend, think carefully.  I have a rule that I don’t play on the same team as someone I’m dating.  That also means I don’t date someone on my team.  I learned that the hard way after dating a teammate on my rugby team.  When we broke up I lost my girlfriend, and my team.

Softball girlfriend – If your girlfriend isn’t a softball player, she may or may not be interested in watching your games.  Find out up front.  If she doesn’t know the difference between practice and scrimmage, it’s likely she’s not going to understand why you want her to come to your games.  It’s best to manage your expectations early, or it’s going to be a rough season.

Drama free team – Many softball teams will advertise themselves as “drama free.”  Don’t’ be fooled!  This is the first clue that there have been many drama-filled incidents occurring on the team.  Likely, half of the team has dated each other and the other half is new players (read: “fresh meat”).  If the team has a new coach, and last year’s coach is now just a player on the team, or a player on another team, the team is not drama free.

Tokens – Not all softball players are gay.  Even in the gay leagues, we have straight players sprinkled in.  Whether they’re looking for a cultural experience, or playing with their lesbian sister, it’s important not to assume that they’re lesbians.  Because things that would indicate lesbianism in the outside world (like ass grabbing) don’t necessarily work the same on the field, it’s always safest to ask.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Why is it that every lesbian I know has at least one gay boyfriend? And, since a gay man and a lesbian make up a “one man- one woman” relationship, should they just get married and start a whole new brand of gay marriage?

Thanks for the question Heather!

There is a simple answer:  fashion.  And safety.  Perhaps you ‘ve noticed the lack of fashion savvy many of my lesbian sisters possess.  It’s like the lesbian gene is completely lacking fashion sense.  As though we collectively donated it to our homosexual brothers, and kept the home run derby genes for ourselves.

Why do we have gay boyfriends?  We have to keep our gayboys close to us so that we’re not gunned down in the street for our poor fashion choices.  It’s really that simple.

Why don’t we get married?  Believe me, honey, I’ve thought about this.  I LOVE my gayboy Jeffrey.  I could probably live the rest of my life with him.  Except that I don’t want to do the nasty with him.  Not even a teeny little bit.  (Jeffrey, I’m not saying you have a teeny little bit, so don’t come flying at me with that queeny rage of yours.)  I want to go shopping with him and talk horrible trash about people when I know I shouldn’t.  I don’t want to go to sleep next to him and wake up in his arms.

So, if I should ever be in the hospital and need someone to make a decision, or hold my hand as I go into surgery, I want it to be my partner – the woman I do sleep next to every night, and wake up with.  And I want the government, and my community, to acknowledge that my relationship with the woman I choose to spend my life with is every bit as valid, important, and worthy of protection, as anybody else’s.

Fabulous question, darling.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Why is my cat so obsessed with my lady friend? She says the cat is jealous. I say I’m jealous. And if I only have one cat, am I really a lesbian?

Thank you, LeAnna for those insightful, and related questions.  Let’s take them one at a time:

1.  Your cat is obsessed with your lady friend, because you are obsessed with your lady friend.  Either that, or your lady friend really does not like your cat.  Cats can sense these things, and like to be disagreeable.

2.  It is a common misconception that all lesbians have cats.  In fact, not all lesbians like cats, though all lesbians like pussy.  So, I think the better question is:  “is your lady friend really a lesbian if she doesn’t like your pussy?”

Thank you again for that question.

June 9, 2010   No Comments

Do you prefer the terms– gay or lesbian? And is that an okay question to ask “da gay” person?

Thanks Nat!  Any question is an okay question to ask.

Language can be a big roadblock to even beginning discussion about these issues.  And, because definitional terms like “gay” and “lesbian” can be so very personal, this is a perfect way to start the discussion.  Let’s take a minute to define some terms:

GLBT:  This stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender.  It can also be expressed LGBT.

Homosexual:  someone who is sexually attracted to people of the same gender.

Gay man:  homosexual man.

Lesbian:  homosexual woman.

Bi-sexual: someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women.

Transgender person: generally someone who identifies as a different gender than the gender assigned to them at birth.

It’s important to know that, while there are some terms that have specific definitions, the language around GLBT issues is constantly changing and evolving.  Especially the language around transgender and gender-identity issues.

For me, “gay” is a general term.  Sure, it can be used in a more male centered manner, but I use it often to describe all homosexual people.  Much the way it’s used in the term “gay marriage.”  We know gay marriage also includes lesbians, and it’s an easy shorthand.

I will say, however, that I was schooled one evening by a room of older activists who had cut their teeth in the women’s rights movement, when I referred to them as “gay.”  They didn’t like it.  It wasn’t comfortable for them, and wasn’t the term they chose to use to define themselves.    Which was funny, because I didn’t like the word “lesbian” for a long time.  It made me feel uncomfortable.  Even though it was a proper term for what I was, I didn’t use it to describe myself.  And that’s really what it’s about.  Self-definition.

For now, I prefer the word, “queer” to define myself and my community.  Which makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  For me, it’s the most inclusive word we can use to describe a very diverse community.  And it reclaims a word that has been used for a long time as a marginalizer.

So while there are some words that mean really specific things, the best rule is to ask.  If you want to know how someone defines themselves, just ask.  It’s a great place to start a conversation.

June 9, 2010   No Comments