Anger: a couple of people have pointed out to me that sometimes my tone comes across as, well, hostile. I admit it – I get indignant sometimes, when I read things like Bonnie Kaye’s statement in her recently published book called The Gay Husband Checklist for Women Who Wonder (in the chapter titled “BISEXUALITY—ILLUSION AND DELUSION”, typography hers) that “Bisexuality is an excuse. For gay men it is an illusion, creating a picture that allows them to fit into the straight world. For their straight wives it is a delusion, creating a justification for keeping the marriage together.”
Now if that isn’t one of the biggest steaming piles of biphobic horsehockey that I’ve ever seen, I’ll eat an actual pile of horsehockey. Steaming, even.
So, yes, about half the time when I’m writing these articles, I am seething, chewing on my lips, twitching madly. Sometimes, even when I am trying to keep my tone cool and reasonable, memories of incidents and words said to me (or more frequently typed in my general direction) creep in and come out as a snarky or downright angry phrase. Anger is a motivator for change, and I can’t harness it for positive uses without sometimes showing it.
So when I address a bit of snark or venom towards straight people, or people in the GL communities, please keep in mind that I am not directing it at everyone – just the ones who are part of the problem. I assume that most of the people who read these articles are probably part of the solution. So if you feel that you’ve been burned by fire lashing from my eyes, take a look inside and ask if the shoe fits. If it doesn’t, it’s not you I’m going after (rather, I am hoping to give you ammunition and resources and perspectives to use and share), but if it does? Own it, and then fix it.
There’s a particular incident that I’ve been thinking about. I had entered a discussion where a young woman was wondering if she was asexual. Another person in the discussion was hammering at her that she needed to see a doctor and see if there was a medical cause for her lack of sexual desire. I jumped in and reasonably gently indicated that perhaps immediately pathologizing this person was not exactly the most supportive thing that could have been done, and that it was entirely possible that there was nothing medically wrong.
I then got jumped on, so I lashed out. With furious anger.
Later, in a more private space while trying to sort out the conversation, I was told by the person who chose to pathologize someone who was asking questions about their sexual orientation that “Straight people don’t like being told they don’t get it.”
The arrogance of that derailing statement floored me (and led directly to my leaving the venue in recognition that this person and I would never, ever be able to get along there). First and foremost, if you ask any marginalized person, they will be able to tell you that they are experts on the dominant culture – because we have to be. Survival requires it. We don’t have the luxury of being oblivious, because it’s in our face. Every. Single. Day.
If you’re queer, and you’re in the closet, you are such an expert on Straight that you can pass as one. I did it for almost 30 years. Telling me what straight people like or don’t like? For one thing, this person was not speaking for all straight people, even though they claimed to be when they made their appallingly condescending statement.
Atheists tend to know a lot more about religion than the average lay believer. This is why, if you are a garden-variety evangelist, telling an atheist they’d believe in the truth of your religion if they just understood it better is a statement borne of ignorance. Are there atheists in America who don’t know anything about at least the broad strokes of the prevailing religious beliefs, and in many cases probably know more theology than you?
Considering that they have lived their entire lives in a culture steeped in Christianity of one sort or another, it’s unlikely. Just as, growing up queer (closeted or otherwise) in a profoundly heteronormative society, and being bisexual in a mononormative society, you cannot escape the attitudes and opinions and normatives of the dominant culture – and you are pretty certain to know more about it, and about sexuality in general, than people who just accept straight as “normal”.
It’s a simple matter of survival that people in minorities understand the majority far better than the majority understands them. Because we have to. If I were to start spouting off about the Black experience, or the Female experience, or the Transgender experience, acting as if I lived it rather than just heard about it, then I deserve to be called on it – as one commenter pointed out that a use of a racial experience as an analogy in one of my articles could have been problematic, even though I labeled it as a loose analogy and a very imperfect parallel. If I had said “the queer experience is just like the Black experience” I would be justifiably shouted down as someone with White privilege trying to co-opt someone else’s reality.
A huge issue in the queer community is the marginalization of Queer People of Color – the “mainstream queers” don’t always understand that the intersection of identities causes extra issues in all of the communities in which people live. Since a big part of the Model of Queer that’s current in post-Stonewall America is very individualistic, the very real conflict between that and a more communitarian culture gets ignored. For a lot of people, breaking with the family and asserting your autonomy simply is not on the table, and if Being Out requires that… then coming out becomes harder to do.
I do not have this as part of my experience. I never felt the family and culture of my birth was a truly integral part of who I am (as opposed to simply being where I came from), in part because I’m not only a Suburban Middle-Class White Cismale, but I’m adopted. So being independent (in the psychological sense) did not require me to turn my entire world-view upside down and cut myself off from the ground I stand on. Most of my life has been a search for a family that will accept me unconditionally (and yes, I do have some family members who fit that criteria – but the matriarch who raised me was not one of them), and I feel like this is a very different kind of dynamic than the family systems matrix often found in the cultural backgrounds of many people who have an ethnic heritage to claim other than some sanitized Little Boxes Made Out Of Ticky-Tacky Hyper-assimilationism.
So, yes, I am angry. I’m, to use the word I first saw in Shiri Eisner’s new graphic, Bifurious.