I never hated other queer people. But I was scared shitless, and that fear was a mean old voice inside my head.
Work craziness is eating up all my spare time this week. I’ll be back with regular posts next week; in the meantime, here’s something I wrote a couple of years ago, just as I was starting with my LGBT therapist, back when I was scared as could be. Oh my, how things can change!
I go to a party at a ranch out past the orchards. There are lesbians everywhere. The hosts (I don’t know them personally) are a married lesbian couple. Their property is beyond kitsch. It illustrates their love in ways that are almost too obvious. Like the giant iron sculpture, a heart, with “she said yes” etched onto it. There is a DJ. A single beat seems to thread the songs. As darkness falls, people start to dance. I watch them from my seat, hand on my beer, mosquitoes flocking to the meat of my left ankle like it’s Mecca.
I try not to watch the dancers too closely; they unloose a mean old man inside my head. Look at them, he says, look at them happy and laughing and dancing like they don’t have a single care in the world. To see them carrying on like this — it’s showy. It’s waving something personal and private around in our faces.
Something about the whole tableau makes my stomach drop. That calloused old hermit hiding in my brain whispers, they shouldn’t do that. Not here. Not with all of these people watching. They’re just so —
The judgments rise in my throat like bile, followed, always, by the questions. Why do I have that voice? Whose voice is it? Where does it come from? (Do its origins even matter?) How can such a thing even be inside of me? And how do I live with it, somehow in collusion with it (without my consent, my participation, how could it survive), day after day after day?
In college, in classes that addressed race, I accepted it when I was told that, as the Avenue Q song goes, “everyone’s a little bit racist.” I am able, with no great difficulty, to acknowledge and subsequently dismiss the voice in my head that tells me to be careful of the black guy walking down the other side of the street at night. I am able to move on with my life, and I am able to feel like a caring human being, a considerate member of society, who tries as much as she can to be mindful of these kinds of things.
But with this, the barb is curved and vicious. This time, it’s personal. And it feels too ugly to even acknowledge as a presence in my life (if everyone’s a little bit homophobic, I certainly wasn’t told so in college). And yet it’s undeniably there. When I see people who look, or dress, or act a certain way, that part of my brain springs to life. The thoughts come over and over again, a mantra: sure, I may be attracted to people of my own gender, but at least I’m not like them. They’re different. They are somehow lesser-than.
(I find other reasons to pin that feeling on, of course. Even within the privacy of my own head, there are limits to what I can allow myself to think. So instead, I might think, they’re so unstylish. Look at that 1995 backpack purse. Look at those socks with those sandals. Look at that haircut, so short that it bares her thick, masculine looking neck. Look at that cowboy hat.) Surely, that woman out there, so clearly other, so open to public judgment, can’t be me. I’m different than her. I’m just me. Please don’t lump me in with them.
Yikes. That is one ugly bastard living up there in my head. So what does that mean for me, as a person in the world? What does that mean for my capacity for compassion, for empathy? And what does it mean for my personal happiness?
Tell me this: Do I sound like someone who deserves to be happy and in love? Do I, with all of that ugliness inside of me?