Sunday, March 09, 2008

I am a lesbian

I don't come out and say it much but I am feeling the urge to right now after reading posts by mortar and pestle and mera terrha pakistan. I am a lesbian. I am not completely sure why I am rarely direct about it. I am outspoken about everything else. There aren't even very many signs on this blog.

I know that from a very early age, I questioned gender roles. Strong independent women were my role models. My favorite song was "I am woman hear me roar." In Lebanon, one of my male friends refered to me once as his girlfriend. I ran up the stairs ahead of him and when he made it up to the top, we never talked about it again. I didn't exactly know why, but I had no desire to have a boyfriend and the possessive "his" got to me. In high school in the States, I was in awe of George Sand and the fact that she would dress up like a man so that she could get published and be accepted by male literary society. I also remember a television show set in the "old west" where one woman dressed and passed as a man amongst a group of male postal carriers. I thought she was the coolest. Until she fell in love with a man and came out as a heterosexual woman, that is. Then I was confused and disappointed.

While I was completely attracted to "cross-dressing," I still did not have a clear sense of lesbianism until college. I was a bit like Allison Bechdel's Mo who began her life as a lesbian by reading every book she could by lesbian authors and about lesbians. "The Second Sex" was my initiation. I would read the chapter on women loving women over and over again. I even remember reading it to a male friend of mine that had a crush on me and that I "sort of" had a crush on. One time, I called my father in the middle of the night and asked him if he would still love me if I was a lesbian. He called me back in the morning when he was awake and said, "Of course." I also dragged my straight friends to lesbian bars with me a couple of times but didn't follow through when I was asked on a totally friendly bike ride around town. It wasn't until the tail end of college that I actually dated anyone: a smart and persistent man. We stayed together for way too long and after awhile I thought of him more as a brother than as anything else. Years later my mom made the comment, "I thought that you were both gay and that you were together for convenience."

After that debacle, I stayed away from relationships for awhile. Well, I did develop a crush on a female friend in grad school. After an evening when I realized that the crush was mutual and that I was undeniably more attracted to and fulfilled by women, I went back to not wanting anything but friendships with either gender. This may have been a reluctance with coming out but I think that it was something much deeper that I am not going to share here. Instead of becoming romantically involved, I became very dedicated to social justice issues and developed close friendships. I loved the fact that I was undefinable. No one knew if I was gay or straight and when someone asked, I would say that I did not believe in categories. In fact, I was probably the last to believe in at least one category.

There are many reasons why I took so long to come out and say openly that I am a lesbian. One is that I felt that if I had a relationship with someone, I would be settling down and I was not ready to do that. I had too many places to go, too many degrees to obtain, too many experiences to have. I felt as if a relationship with either a man or a woman would get in the way of living. Of course, in a healthy relationship partners can support and encourage each other to live their lives to their fullest. I was still not ready for that.

Finally returning to Lebanon after 25 years seems to have been my turning point. I was definitely attracted to L. and that was a large part of it but returning to where I grew up was a big influence as well. The two parts of my life that I rarely was able to experience and talk about were in plain view and completely undeniable: I am a lesbian and I grew up in Lebanon. I wanted L. to fit into some picture of relationship perfection that I had which was just plain stupid. However, the whole experience finally woke me up and L. will always be very dear to me.

I have no problem holding hands with or kissing E. in public even in this rather conservative town where we live. For safety reasons, I always ask her first. But I have to say, that I like the fact that my sexual orientation is not obvious and that there are many people both gay and straight that I associate with who do not know. I feel priviledged in this regard. My female friends who feel more comfortable being butch don't have this luxury. I have no fear of traveling to places that are not gay friendly. I can always pass. While I do not wear makeup and high heels and have short hair, I still am very feminine.

If I say that I can pass, I am not saying that I hide my identity. Now that I am out, I am very open when asked. And even before my openess, I never let a derogatory comment towards homosexuality go without a reply. Well, maybe never is too strong. I have been known to stay quiet about the subject with the elderly and when in hyper alert safety mode. I was also nervous about coming out to my Kakchikel Mayan and Catholic friend, M.. But, I did and she was very supportive.

I am finding that this post is rambling and I am not sure where I meant to go with it at this point. E. has to work today and so I got up early with her and am planning on spending the day catching up in my creative writing class. I need to write a nonfiction short and this freewriting will hopefully help me get started. Plus, it has made me be a little more direct about my sexuality. That's a good thing.


traveler one said...

I read every word... and didn't think you were rambling at all. Your journey has a lot to share with all of us. Thank you for taking the time to try to explain your process.

meetmahima said...

sometimes the most surprising things open us up. sharing your journey helps others to understand theirs.

Wendy said...

wonderful post, m. i adore you for you realness.

i'm always astonished that so many struggle with being who they truly are in public...i'm astonished because i don't see people in terms of their sexuality or race, i see each person as a person. i hope my wee son grows to "see" with similar eyes...our humanness not our preferences or color.

you are a beautiful being, m, that is who you are to me. you shine.

be whole always,

Summer's said...

I read every word too. I'm really glad you wrote this. I'm not skure I can articulate why. It's the Lebanon thing, which I'm connecting to Islam regardless of your affiliation. I apologize for the conflation; it's just nice to see queer voices from a middle eastern background. Then theres the idenitification issue. I've never felt a deep desire to identify as anything in particular, or to stick rigidly to any particular identifier. There's a certain irrelevance to that in one's daily life.

And then I recognize the value of it too. Because I read the title and breathed a strange sigh of relief. I don't know why. A sort of "Oh. Good. Another one. Thank God." Does that make sense? I hope so. I'm glad you said it. May it bring good things.

margaret said...

traveler one,
Thanks for reading my post and responding. Hopefully, my post contributed to understanding.

margaret said...

Understanding, compassion, and empathy are charactersitics we all could share more. It is the reason for so much struggle in the world.

margaret said...

I don't really see people in terms of their sexuality either. People are people and I have developed crushes on men just as often as women because of that. I have noticed that since I have decided that I am a lesbian without any doubt, I have begun utilizing the gaydar. Its just nice to know that there may be someone else in a public space that is like you. I also like looking for subtle signs, a look, a brief brush on the shoulder, ...

margaret said...

Yes, homosexuality is not as accepted in the Middle East and its not just a Muslim thing. Christians can be just as bad about it. This is certainly the case in Lebanon.
In terms of the identification, as I said in my response to Wendy, I can totally relate to that. I did it for years. But deep down I was embarrassed when I was dating men. I never wanted anyone to meet them. I am not that way about E. at all. I want everyone to meet her.
The sigh of relief is so true. And this is one of the reasons I think why queer folk sometimes may seem so passionate and vocal about their sexuality. It takes courage. I still calculate when to reveal my sexuality especially due to my line of work. I try to be careful revealing personal information to clients or conservative community members that could use it against me.

Anonymous said...

You too will always be dear to me!

yummylibran said...

AWESOME post and Kudos!!!!!!!
it's soo reassuring to meet other like minded peeps....i recently met with my really cute partner on a free online dating site by chance and life seems like heaven right now. For records sake, I'm more of a hardcore bi lol

Thanks once again for posting such a great blog.