I haven’t exactly known what to say about the shooting in Orlando. I’ve mostly been sharing other people’s words because I think they’ve said it better than I could. Heck, even some allies have said it better than I could, and I’m a card-carrying member of the LGBTQIA community. Maybe being a step closer or a step removed means being able to find one’s words more easily; I don’t know.
Even now, I wasn’t planning on posting. After all, anyone who has cared to follow my blog, my writing career, my Twitter, my Facebook page, or interact with me in person on a level greater than “how’s the weather” pretty much knows where I stand. And then I read this post by the marvelous Hans Hirschi. Go read it. It’s long, but it’s completely worth the time it takes. My thoughts can wait until you’re finished.
Are you back? Okay. So, what really struck me was the part about making heteros feel comfortable. I can’t count the number of times I’ve done that. Or I’ve been embarrassed because the heteros got uncomfortable around me. Like I needed to apologize. I’ve been doing that dance since I was 13.
I used to get teased, back in school, for being a “lesbian.” Never mind the fact that I didn’t even identify as bisexual back then! I didn’t really have a concept of anything but gay and straight, and I knew I liked boys…a lot. Okay, I wasn’t totally boy crazy. But I had plenty of crushes! Even had a boyfriend in ninth grade, and I had a years-long crush on my bestie (er…if he’s reading this, as we’re still friends on Facebook, he now knows this about me…sorry!).
Except really, they weren’t totally wrong. Only I minimized it, hid it, denied it…all to make them more comfortable. To make them believe I wasn’t going to perv on them in the locker room (good grief, none of them were that special) or try to grope them or whatever (yeah, real things they suggested I might do). And naturally, my involvement in a religious community stamped out any sense that it might really be okay to like girls (gentle reminder, I had no concept of other genders back then).
My first real crush on another woman was in college. I won’t embarrass the poor woman (also still a friend) by giving clues about who she is. However, I was still very much keeping tight control on all of my feelings. I was still worried I might make someone “wonder” about me…make them uncomfortable. Funny thing is, of all the people I could have crushed on, I picked a person who is now herself out. Too bad neither of us was ready when we were eighteen.
To this day, I tend to minimize everything. After all, does it matter? I’m married to a man. I don’t want anyone to worry that I’m leaving my spouse or that I might be creeping on them or thinking about them in a decidedly more than friendly way. I can pretend that I’m just your average suburban WifeMommy.
Only I can’t. I have my first genuine lesbian romance coming out (heh) in July. Sure, I’ve dabbled. I’ve written three flash fictions (all under 2k words). I have side characters who are bisexual and lesbian women. But something in me stopped short at anything more because it might make people uncomfortable. It might make people see me differently. It might make people hate and fear me.
If I were in the wrong place at the wrong time, it might make someone take violent action against me.
A man shot up a club full of Latinx LGBTQ+ people reportedly because they made him uncomfortable. Perhaps this was because, as his father suggested, he didn’t like seeing them being publicly affectionate. Perhaps this was because, as other media has suggested, he had internalized homophobia. Since we don’t have him here to ask, we can only speculate. The bottom line, though, is that he was uncomfortable with us enough to want to do lethal harm.
Look, I know that personal safety is a must. You’ll never find me trying to convince anyone they should be public in any way about their identity because it can be deadly. Hell, it can be deadly if the only place you’re out is where you theoretically should have been safe.
But I’m tired of playing that game in my everyday life. I’m tired of locking things away, compartmentalizing them, pretending they don’t matter, all to make heteros feel all right about sharing a room with me. Anyone who is deeply bothered by the fact that I love people who are not men can feel free to find other friends to hang out with. And please don’t worry, if you’re the sort of person who feels weird around me, there’s a better than average chance you’re not a person I would develop romantic feelings for, trust me.
Being part of the writing community, in particular LGBTQIA lit and more specifically m/m romance, I’ve seen a lot of things that make me feel uncomfortable as a non-hetero person. There is a disturbing amount of misogyny, biphobia and sapphobia (fancy word for hating women who love women, in case you wondered). This is not coming from gay men reading m/m romance, for the most part—it’s coming from straight women. While it’s not everyone, it is a sizable chunk of the community. Until now, I’ve catered to that attitude. I’ve tried to make hetero people feel comfortable by not speaking up and by sticking to writing about men.
I’m done. I can’t spend my life making hetero people happy. Not among my real-life friends and not in my reading/writing community. If people are going to get twitchy when I write about queer people who don’t happen to be men, then so be it.
As for the rest of the world, the ones who already hate and fear all LGBTQIA people, I don’t know what to say to that. I know I’m at risk because sometimes people “read” me. I got yelled at from a car window the other day, and not the typical catcalling and “smile for me, baby.” No, the person clearly assumed I was queer and yelled a slur at me while I was walking my dog. On my street. In broad daylight. Because I made him “uncomfortable.”
I don’t really know how to end this, except to say that I’m past caring whether heteros are “uncomfortable.” There is no possible way to satisfy all the conditions which would make them “comfortable” anyway. Instead, I’ll be over here, living my life, writing my words. Maybe I’m finally ready to write the bi/lesbian FF novel that’s been hiding in my story morgue for two years and let it out for the world to see.
Go forth, my out and proud LGBTQIA family, and make the haters uncomfortable.