By my standards this weekend was pretty significant: a personal crisis later, a revelation or two, the love and care of a great friend, a bit of lesbian musical chairs and the closure of an iconic social establishment. I find myself almost deflated at the conclusion of this somewhat epic journey.
What happens now, how can I possibly attempt to beat that? In a small way I long for the day when I didn’t even try, where life involved a crime novel and a cup of tea, a somewhat desperate attempt to avoid thinking about what was really going on. It didn’t really work and in fact I can honestly say that this year has been the most challenging, confusing and surprising year of my life so far. After years of hidden glances, secret fantasies and sheer ignorance I realised that I needed to come out of my carefully constructed closet, the alternative of purely being indifferent about relationships, sex and intimacy suddenly seemed so much worse. I still remember the day I finally admitted to myself what I had known since I was 15. I was at the January NZUSA conference and surrounded by a room of amazing women, many of whom identified as queer. I heard a now close friend speak about Matthew Shepherd – the young gay man brutally murdered in Wyoming in 1998 and realised that I was the main source of oppression in my life, and committed to changing this. So I did, I slowly came out to my friends, work colleagues and family, I have generally received support and understanding from the people I initially chose to tell. In fact I have made some great friends and formed some relationships I hope to continue throughout my life. It has been since I started to widen my involvement in the queer community that I have encountered a range of responses to my experience. Most haven’t been negative, but many have made me question how I have chosen to live my life to this point and how I now choose to express this part of my identity.
A few selected highlights-
“You don’t look gay”, closely related to,
“You are too cute to be gay.”
“What do you like best about being a lesbian?”
“So have you actually had a relationship with a woman?”
“It’s just a phase, you are young, radical and a feminist.”
“Are you sure?”
This weekend it all became a bit too much, with the Lesbian Olympics, the last night ever at Pound and the sad reality that wedge boots do hurt my feet after wearing them for 12 hours! I also found myself doubting the validity of my identity as a ‘real lesbian’. One of the most significant relationships in my life was scrutinised by a group of somewhat formidable lesbians as being exclusive, slightly frightening and the reason why her and I are finding it difficult to meet other women. A sudden and slightly scary set of thoughts began running through my head. Can you be a ‘real lesbian’ if you seek emotional, life and moral support exclusively from women and want to form life long relationships with women, but not actually sleep with them? Are you really gay if you formed your identity as a heterosexual woman and then realised your undeniable attractionto woman at a later stage? Is my idea of relationships and friendships that different to the women we are mixing with in the lesbian community? What if I don’t want to meet one woman, civilly unite, buy a house and live my life in an exclusive lesbian relationship? Are there other women like us, who don’t want to conform to a certain stereotype, who wear dresses one day and turned up jeans the next?
A sleepless night later, Caroline and I met for dinner; both in desperate need to feel supported and understood by at least one other person. Our usual banter followed, we talked about the women we both liked, the week ahead and the way we both felt like our own little entity. This is not to say that being part of the lesbian community is without its rewards. I love the way you know where you stand with lesbians, with no time wasted with idle chatter and inconsequential babbling. Another fundamental problem therefore arises, my slight downfall is to over-analyse, over-discuss and over-think everything! This comes from my sudden fascination my postmodernism and the realisation that there is no central truth, way or rule. What is left is up for discussion, construction and debate! As one woman put it, I need to stop talking and doing! As I begin to digest this weekend I am left with few concluding thoughts. How can I express my identity without altering my personality, wardrobe, hair or attitude? Am I just a bit of a joke in the lesbian community and a source of confusion to the rest of the world? Any thoughts, advice or a reality check would be greatly appreciated…