Straight Fragility

The Black Lives Matter movement has changed me in ways I didn’t know I needed. I am beginning to stand up for myself, not afraid to make waves. I hope that I am a white ally in the best sense of the phrase, but I am not naïve enough to think I won’t stumble along the way. The thing I think I’m doing right is that I absolutely know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am not having the same experience they are, and unless they are a person of color who is also LGBTQ+, they aren’t having the same experience as me, either.

This knowledge has made me less afraid to claim what is mine- to look at what the Black Lives Matter movement is doing, and drawing similarities as to what I can apply to my own life as a minority of a different stripe.

For instance, today it was a Facebook group that asked for a queer roll-call. I got a ton of notifications that said “I’m straight, but I’m an ally.” In what universe is being an ally and being queer equivalent? They may have fought for marriage equality, but they could get married while they were doing it. They’ve never felt the pain of rejection and the internalized homophobia it causes. They’ve never had someone claim that part of their identity is a mental illness. They’ve never had anyone stare in disgust if they gave their spouse a peck on the lips goodbye. They’ve never had to seek out safe space, because being gay in a non-safe space can range from uncomfortable to downright dangerous.

The main difference between the struggle regarding race and sexual orientation is that people can automatically see that I’m white. I haven’t dated anyone for five years and change, so I don’t wear any outward signs that I’m also a minority. Now, because I fit the stereotype of short hair and nails, boys’ clothes, etc. they might have their suspicions, but they can’t say so definitively unless I tell them. Until I was 36, I thought they could, and then I met a straight woman who dressed like me, with roughly the same haircut, and it was a light bulb moment. I wasn’t actually advertising anything. I now know this is true due to the sheer number of men who’ve asked me out on Facebook Dating (man, that algorithm is off).

I also think that straight people wearing the pride flag or associated accessories is problematic. I’m trying to get used to it because it’s popular, but I am, shall we say, old school. Enlightened straight people are over others mistaking them for queer, but for me it is also a matter of cultural appropriation………………. and because I know that my friends mean me no harm, and in fact are cheering me on, I try to let it roll. I know who’s an ally or not among my friend group, but if I meet someone who lights up my world and it turns out they’re straight, my throat tightens. It’s hard putting toothpaste back in the tube, capiche?

The double standard that’s my work to release is that I don’t care if men do it. I’m not interested in them. Whether a man is straight or gay is of no consequence. With women, depending on how much I like them, the effect varies in severity. If I can’t see myself dating them anyway, it’s a simple “nobody’s perfect.” If I can, there may or may not be waterworks I have to pass off as allergies….. because not only am I disappointed, pining for a straight woman is the oldest cliché in the book…. I mean, if Eve had a lesbian friend, I guarantee she was miserable. It makes me feel embarrassed and stupid, and that will last years longer than the actual attraction, because I tend to get stuck in my flaws and failures. If I was weird to you once in 1992, I’m still thinking about it.

The other thing that gets the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up is the community moving toward acceptance of straight people using the word “queer.” I realize that it’s shorthand for all the letters. I get it. The longer the acronym gets, the more comfortable I am with using it, too. At the same time, it feels like being called the f or the n word. I am much more easygoing about queer people reclaiming that word for themselves as opposed to giving straight people license to use it. Not everyone feels the same way I do, and that’s a bitter pill to swallow, because people are increasingly of the “get over it” mindset and I’m just not there- and maybe not ever. Younger people do not have the same word association that I do.

It’s a conundrum, because I feel that the strides younger generations are making are positive. I also feel that if they knew what it was like before they were born, they’d have a different outlook. That’s the other difference that really shines, because unless you are actually the child of a queer person, you don’t inherit our institutionalized pain…. and even though Lindsay (my almost six-years-younger biological sister) didn’t inherit it, she lived through it with me, so we have roughly the same outlook. She uses those lessons every single day in her job (it honors me to no end that I’m part of the reason she took it). She works in government relations for a queer health care outfit in Texas, which in my mind is God’s work. I wouldn’t want to meet with Texas Republicans on issues like trans health care. I would vomit before work out of nerves every single day. She’s just far enough removed from those specific fears to be effective.

It is again why straight allies are so important. I am not interested in denying their contribution. I only get wigged when I feel they are trying to say “we’re in this together.” No the hell we are not. You can run your mouth all day long about gay rights, and other straight people will hear it better from you. But you’re not going to think before going into an unfamiliar situation that it’s possible everyone will hate you when they know. Moreover, that fear is tripled going into an unfamiliar church. The Religious Right is the source of most of the things that cause me pain, because their bile is still infecting millions. You are not in danger if a trans person uses the same bathroom as you. You are not in danger if I’m in the locker room with you.

I mean, I’m not even going to hit on you unless you’re wearing a pride flag.

There’s a Crazy World of E-mails in This Crazy World

I have loved e-mail since I first used it in the mid-’90s. Typing was so much easier than handwriting, and to me it had the same heft. It allowed me to “think in longhand” because e-mails felt like actual letters as opposed to text messages. I was not particularly fond of my handwriting (still not, really), and because I was also on IRC, I had to learn to type very, very fast to keep up with the conversation. Hunt and peck was so slow that by the time I hit Enter, what I was responding to was already five minutes gone. DeletedI started touch typing by watching my friend Luke. It was basically osmosis. Now I’m so fast that I can literally type an entire paragraph with my eyes closed, as long as there aren’t too many numbers. My fastest typing test was 100wpm with six errors.

Now, I hover around 74 perfectly. It’s the entire reason I carry a Bluetooth keyboard around with me everywhere. I can’t text for shit. As I was telling my Facebook friends the other day, if I don’t have a keyboard with me, you’ll be watching those three little bubbles for a half hour (and you better not be surprised if you only get back “k,” because most likely I’ve typed a paragraph and then hit something with my hand and accidentally erased it, too enraged to do it again). So, of all ways to communicate, I love the blank screen in front of me. I use Gmail exclusively, with occasional ventures into Hotmail to retrieve ancient messages. 21st century archaeology at its finest….. Hotmail is old school, but I still feel infinitely superior to those who use AOL. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. There isn’t much in this world that makes me feel superior. Let me have this one. I do, however, like the Hotmail interface, because it reminds me of old-school Outlook (before the ribbon).

I switched to the Gmail suite when I learned that ads were few and function was overwhelmingly good, even with a basic web interface. Most of the time, though, I set it up in Evolution or Thunderbird with Lightning and Provider for Google Calendar so that it catches all of my appointments, as well. However, Thunderbird does not have pop-up notifications unless it’s running, so I don’t use it for anything, but I also plug my e-mail account into Mail for Windows 10 so that Gmail is integrated into system notifications. When they go off, I then open my client of choice.

This tiny dissertation on e-mail is brought to you by the movie Love, Simon. Basically, I spent most of it saying to myself, see! E-mail does create real emotion! It was fascinating to watch feelings evolve the longer the e-mails went back and forth.

It was horrifying to see that homophobia still exists… but it’s become nicer, I suppose. For instance, coming out is still a big damn deal. Straight people don’t have to come out. Straight just is. In an ideal world, gay would be the same. But parents cry. I have no doubt that some parents wonder where they went wrong, as if it’s somehow their fault for not being harder on their sons to gravitate toward boy things and their girls to gravitate toward girl things.

It doesn’t work that way. I have plenty of lesbian friends who played with dolls, still wear a face full of makeup, and spend an hour on their hair. I have plenty of gay friends who played football and joined the military.

As a sidenote, I also know straight girls that have turned out every bit as military jackass brotard and straight men who love Broadway and tote bags. In the end, we’re all just people, and the spectrum is large.

I think, though, that gay men have it harder than lesbians, and that’s because in this society, it’s not cool to be feminine, because you’re seen as a man submitting yourself to another man. We really have to examine that prejudice, as if seeming feminine is the worst thing in the world. I think that some people are homophobic because they’re misogynistic. I could be wrong, but it’s probably a fair assumption.

I also think that since more and more people are coming out every day, straight people have this idea that you can catch homosexuality like a cold. It’s not the number of gay people that’s changed. It’s the number of people that are willing to tell you they’re gay, because they’re not afraid of you turning them in to the police anymore.

It is also my opinion that gay and straight are subsets of bisexuality, and bisexuals are mostly invisible, even though they’re the majority. People tend to base their identity on what kind of couple they’re in, but wouldn’t seem gay or straight if you looked at their behavior over multiple years. Even I, someone who looks like a 15-year-old boy, would never be uncomfortable identifying as bisexual, because I never want to make it seem as if only the women in my life matter. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that I am still mother-lion fiercely protective of my first boyfriend, and that feeling will never go away. We were the cutest couple in the history of the world, and that is a stone cold fact.

I identify as lesbian because I want a woman to be my life partner, because I can’t imagine spending my life with a man. I gave up on heterosexuality when I realized how I could utterly destroy a man’s heart with my inability to look into the future and assure myself I could still feel an attraction. It wasn’t because I didn’t care about them as a person. I just didn’t want us both to be stuck in an unhappy relationship, which I can see much more easily.

All of this is to say that there’s really no difference between being gay and straight, because we all go through the same stages in life. All couples talk about the same issues behind closed doors, with the exception of procreation. That is a separate and expensive process. But then everything returns to being the same after the children arrive, because all parents speak the language of Cheerios and bath time.

Love, Simon bothered me…. that coming out still rattles people’s cages. Simon doesn’t want to at first and still views it as a secret. Once Simon does come out, his parents take it well, but still cry and feel like it’s A CONVERSATION. He’s still bullied at school. The movie is tempered with a lot of love and support for him as well, but the problems I experienced from 1992-1996 are all still there…. although I didn’t have a girlfriend willing to come out, so in a lot of ways, my experience was similar and different. I was this blabbermouth activist with a girlfriend who treated me….. Ummm, badly is not quite the right word, but I did feel hidden like a cheap mistress. I put up with it because it wasn’t like anyone else was out and proud. I was it.

That slowly changed once we graduated, but by then the relationship was mostly over, anyway…. like most high school relationships…. earth to straight people.

Just like Simon, though, I was outed to my entire school at once when someone taped a flyer to my locker talking about “scary lesbians” my freshman year. I was mortified because it was the only time my ex-boyfriend and I went to the same school, and I wish I’d been given the opportunity to talk about it privately with him before the rest of the world knew. I think we maybe had one conversation in which I told him I thought I could be in love with one woman, but it wasn’t THE TALK that said this is who I am now. I don’t have one isolated crush. I was embarrassed to talk to him because we’d just broken up about six months earlier, and he was embarrassed to talk to me for completely unrelated reasons. So this boy that I loved more than life was suddenly not my friend anymore. It took a few years, but now it’s on like Donkey Kong, and he only lives about three and a half hours away.

The opportunity to come out to my parents was also taken away by my high school counselor, and I didn’t learn this until I sat down to have THE CONVERSATION with them and they told me they already knew. I can’t decide whether it was a relief or not, and it’s over 20 years later…. Additionally, this same counselor did nothing to punish the kids who bullied me or prevent it from happening again by saying, well, what did you do to provoke them? Ummm, I just exist?

I was bullied way more at HSPVA than I was at Clements, which was also a shock to my system because HSPVA is located in the most liberal part of Houston and Clements one of the most conservative. Maybe there was a lot more going on behind my back in which I just wasn’t aware, but for the most part, I was just seen as eccentric, which is definitely not an untrue statement regardless of orientation. My favorite conversation of the whole year was, do you wear that rainbow necklace because you’re gay or because you’re an idiot? Being outed at HSPVA and the homophobic kids being merciless in their hatred of me was much, much worse. I wrote about my experiences at HSPVA in Creative Writing at Clements (see last link), and my teacher said that it was too private to share with the class…. which also made me feel different, even though I wasn’t.

E-mail was a way for me to connect in the air with people who weren’t out on the ground. In recent years, it’s been a safe place to be who I am with people I truly adore, even though e-mail is the only chord that runs between us… because now, being who I am does not include sexual orientation as this wholly other thing. Straight or gay, we all just love writing letters, and that’s the thing. It’s a stranger on a train, often easier than talking to people in real life. Letters to people who don’t know the people in my life mean much because they’re not trying to be friends with my friends, so they’re solidly on my side. It creates real emotion because of that very fact. They see everything through my lens, because they’re only getting my side of the story. Therefore, they’re rooting for me even when I’m clearly wrong.

The best part is having a long-term pen pal. I’ve been writing to some of them since my college years.

I would have liked to see Simon and his pen pal remain anonymous, or maybe a different movie altogether that is only about writing to people you don’t know. There’s a ton out there on catfishing, but few pieces of media that focus on real relationships created “in the air.” I am certain that movies and books on catfishing are more popular because they’re dark. News and art tend to run that way…. whereas lots of relationships created on the Internet are deep and lasting. They’re cherished friendships precisely because they’re not on the ground and not in spite of it.

For instance, it’s great to be able to talk to someone who doesn’t know your high school bullies, but has a lot of ideas on how to get back at them.

Love,
Leslie