Monday, 16 May 2016

My gay agenda

So this is what the closet looks like!?
It’s blog time again. Time to reflect as well as ponder the next part of my journey to becoming a published author. I’ve written far too much about dating recently and, as much as it is an enjoyable subject, I don’t really feel qualified enough to be passing comments or giving advice on the subject. It’s a bit like Donald Trump running for president… Oh, wait.

Anyway, April has by far been my favourite month of the last couple of years… I felt like I was swept away and didn’t want the month to end. There was so much adventure, so much smiling and so much of feeling lucky with the people in my life. In fact, it was so good I almost forgot I was trying to get my book published! Dating was a natural thing for me to focus on over the last few months because I was trying to convince myself it was a good idea. Obviously for creative effect I drew upon a couple of bad experiences as well as some stories my friends told me, I have also met some lovely people along the way but there just wasn’t that elusive ‘spark’ prior to April.
I have literally dated five people in two years… and I started to think that was a bad thing but I’ve stopped giving myself a hard time over it; I guess I just wasn’t built to ‘play the field’ – and that’s ok, I’m not going to force myself to change. It comes back to doing what is right for you, I agree that for most people you should see what’s out there to identify what you really like but for me, personally, I can’t multi-task and like to get to know someone properly. That was why April was so great, because I stayed true to me and it may have taken two years to get some good traction but it was a way I was comfortable with and I felt happy with. I think that’s the best advice you can give anyone, do what feels right for you (while also being honest) so whatever the outcome there will be no regret.

I did my usual ‘why did I bow to peer pressure?’ analysis and reflection, then I realised something I shared with you a few months ago: I felt most comfortable during my last relationship because it normalised a part of me which, to be honest, is such a small part of who I am. Since it ended I’ve felt like part of my identity has gone – at least, the part of me that normalised my ‘gayness’ and made me feel proud that I was in a monogamous, long-term same-sex relationship. For some reason, not being in a relationship makes that part of me feel abnormal again because of the assumptions people make when you talk about being single. However, I have resolved this with some wonderful gay friends who have thoroughly made me feel ‘normal’ again.
It got me thinking that I have a gay agenda, and not one that involves door knocking and recruiting because that’s impossible and I also don’t believe in forcing my lifestyle choices on others. My gay agenda is that no individual – whether gay, bisexual, transgender, asexual or any other sexuality-defining ‘category’ that I might have missed here – should ever have to suffer with self-loathing or any other mental health issue as a result of not being classed as ‘normal’… In fact, let’s stop using this terminology altogether because, let’s face it, heterosexuality isn’t normal – it’s just common. So here’s what’s on my gay agenda this month:

The phrase: That’s so gay
Before anybody jumps down my throat with the argument that ‘that’s so gay’ is just a flippant phrase, please – may I just point out how frequently I have to bite my tongue for the appearance of social normality to make you not feel awkward about taking the word ‘gay’ and turning it into something derogatory. Then I get angry at myself for being embarrassed to call you on it. I don’t want to upset you… Well, it hasn’t only hurt my feelings but also those of any person within earshot who perhaps is coming to terms with their sexuality and overhearing this has sent them crashing back into their closet. It’s not that I’m oversensitive and can’t take a joke; it’s that as I’ve got older I have become more aware of the harm these insensitive comments can wreak… So maybe you can take a little more care and coach yourself out of using it as a daily phrase. Please.

The questions: So which one of you is the man?
Mmm, what you are really asking here is, ‘which one of you wears the strap on?’* I don’t mind my closest friends asking this question because, let’s face it, I’m not a prude and love a good chat about sex… Except when it comes to a conversation about my partner and me: that stuff is ultra-private and between us. When I have just met you and we’ve been talking for an hour, I am sorry but this is not acceptable. I don’t open a conversation with, ‘so you and your wife: does she sometimes like to dominate in the bedroom?’ (I’m being very polite here; I could say far worse). I understand you’re inquisitive if this is the first time you’ve met a lesbian, but we have the same old relationships as everyone else, standard day to day arguments and a very normal sex life. The logistics of that sex life are none of your business. And yes, I may sound like someone with a chip on her shoulder, but it’s something to have a shoulder-chip about. In public I simply reply, ‘Google it’.

*FYI not all lesbians use these.

Shouting LESBIAN at me in the street
Oh my goodness! Did you just yell out part of my identity in the street for all to hear? Would you shout ‘SUPERMAN’ to Clark Kent? Because, let’s face it, lesbianism is my super power*. Who let that cat out of the bag?! My usual response is to shout ‘HETEROSEXUAL’ back… Mainly because it just shows how stupid the other person is being. Yes, thank you, I am more than aware of the category society wants to put me in to and, yes, I am comfortable with this because by embracing my innate sexuality I get to experience love. So I will take this one on the chin. (No lesbian jokes in response to that, please.) It also usually makes me die a little inside; when you do stuff like this it just reminds me of how out and proud I am not, because I still have moments where I am ashamed and I question if there is a way I can be ‘straight’… Not because I am attracted to men, but because it would be easier day-to-day.

*Note to self: Buy cape on weekend.
It doesn’t define me

Newsflash, lesbianism does not define me. Know what else I am? Kind, considerate, professional, awesome at karaoke, hardworking, crossfit (kind of – I’m injured) and pretty damn good at telling really bad jokes. I don’t ask 782 questions when you tell me you’re married or you have kids… It’s just a segment of who you are. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not being deliberately obstructive – I understand that to eradicate ignorance questions have to be asked and answered. But please just wait until you know me well before you start asking some very personal questions, the first hour of knowing someone is not appropriate. Please also note that I have had to adapt and keep schtum about my sexuality within the first hour of meeting people to try and prevent this too! I believe in teamwork.

Look up the definition of bisexual
Before I get started on this part, please find a dictionary and turn to page… Actually, sorry it’s 2016, jump on Wikipedia and look up ‘bisexual’. Ok, please bear this in mind when you meet a bisexual who is now married to someone of the opposite sex, because a really, really ‘special’ question in this scenario is:

Frank: Oh, so you’re not bisexual anymore?
Hilda: Mmm, no I am bisexual
Frank: Yeah, but you’re with a man now?
Hilda: Yeah, still bisexual
Frank: But you’re married to a man?
Hilda: Yeah, this is getting boring now.

I really don’t understand what is so complicated.

This is someone who feels tortured inside as they have been born in the wrong body. They are not an ‘it’. A lot of people feel this way from a very young age; in fact, the same goes with everything we have covered so far: you do not become, you are. You always know from a young age, the difference is that at a young age most are not equipped with the understanding of what it means because of all of the perceived ‘normality’ around you, which can lead to a lot of self-torture and depression. So often the reason these people struggle with their identity – and can suffer with terrible self-loathing – is owing to the promotion of what is ‘common’ and a lack of understanding for the ‘less common’. (As mentioned above, we’re putting a stop to using the word ‘normal’ to refer to heterosexuality and biological gender assignment. It’s damaging to those of us that don’t fit this comfort of the society norm.)

Giving advice: It’s just a phase
Let’s get rid of this phrase too. ‘It’s just a phase’ should never be said to a young person. So what if it is? Let them explore it – it’s not harming anyone. Be supportive instead of dismissive: ‘ok darling, whatever makes you happy’. The only time you should be concerned or get involved is if someone is hurting them or treating them badly – then of course you intervene for their protection.

I went through a horrible time coming out and it shouldn’t have been that hard. I naturally fell for a woman and it scared me to death – I literally felt like I would lose everyone close to me and live my life in fear. Thankfully things have progressed since 1996 and people are far more aware and accepting these days. So I am not talking to the majority of people in my blog here, but there are still simple phrases and behaviours that we need to stop saying and doing to really drive us towards becoming all-inclusive society.

Written by Corina Hawkins, soon to be author, and edited by Sophie McClelland.

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