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Dear World,

Here's another story that doubles as a vent about heteronormativity.

I remember after she left my father for good, my mother had a string of relationships with men over about five or six years before she met my stepfather. She also had what appeared superficially to have very close friendships with a couple of women, that seemed to sour and end badly.

I wasn't exactly stupid as a kid, I intuitively knew there was more to it, and later it dawned on me that they were sexual relationships and not just intense friendships. My mum has confirmed this at various times, without having to be asked outright. She probably thinks I'm old enough to know now.

But why? Why now? Why was I old enough to know about her boyfriends at the time, but not about her girlfriends until I was much older and had had a few of my own? Why did she keep her girlfriends secret and not her boyfriends? Why was she open about her casual use of marijuana but not her love for other women?

It's not that she never talked about it or made a point of it, it's that she conscientiously hid it. It just deepened that unspoken belief that love between women is abnormal and should be kept secret, and that you can't have people think you are a lesbian (whatever that is).

I don't think she even realises now that she was reinforcing the belief that lesbianism is some kind of indecent secret or whathaveyou. She's always tried quite hard to be right-on and gay-friendly and used to spend a lot of time in and around the gay scene before I was born. She should have known better.

It's almost as if, once I was born, she suddenly believed that children should not see any hint of anything gay except watching pride parades on TV. I was allowed to know that some men like to have boyfriends and some women like to have girlfriends, and that it's ok if I grew up to like to have girlfriends or boyfriends or both. But I must not be in any way exposed to real actual gay. It had to stay on the TV.

Sometimes I feel like saying to her "godamnit woman, you explained to me what it meant to be gay, you taught me to be tolerant, so why did you conceal from me that we had gay friends and you had women lovers?"

Maybe one day I will.
Dear World,

Another random story from the "Why does this still bother me?!" file. Sometimes I look back over it all and I find it so frustrating that it's still so compelling.

When I was 15, within the same year as the major taumatic incident that gave me PTSD (no. Just no. I will not talk about that.) I stayed with my grandfather and his (third) wife for two weeks. My grandfather was a lovely old gent, and his wife seemed a placid, mousey little thing. I don't think I ever really liked her, I was sort of indifferent towards her until this stay.

I was in the process of developing a mental illness that would screw up my entire adult life so far. I think at that time I still could have been successfully treated with minimal lasting impact. I was confused and angry and very, very frightened, and trying my heart out to get on with life. I still remember some of the dreams I had those two weeks; powerful, gratifying dreams of violent revenge, vivid fantastical dreams of different worlds, dark and strange dreams of weird phenomena. One about William Shatner reciting heartbreakingly beautiful poetry.

But I digress. One night, we were watching the news, and some piece ran about HIV or something, I don't even remember exactly what it was about. It's not that important. Then this mousey little woman who married my grandfather, lets out this venemous shout "Good! It serves them right for being queer!" with such violent hatred in her voice that it shocked me. My grandfather died years ago and I never did tell him his wife thought I deserved to get AIDS and die. She's still rattling around with rampant cancer of the something-or-other, but to hell with her.

I was still in many respects quite deeply in denial, I wasn't long away from That School. I was maybe six or seven months past a violent and horrific experience (no. just no. it makes it worse talking about it) that included substantial homophobic abuse and sexual violence. My new school was a lot more tolerant and safe, so I was at least able to feel the dismay that I would never be able to come out to my family while she was a part of it. And I never did.

May. 16th, 2009

Dear World,

Well, that settles that. I'm definitely not showing this journal to anyone yet. I've joined a lot of lj communities, and it's been very helpful just lurking and reading what others have to say. Recently I've plucked up the courage to make a few comments. No posts yet, though one day I'm sure that I'll post.

Anyway, through the course of lurking, I've clicked through to a few people's journals, and I encountered one tonight that belongs to someone currently going through similar stuff to me. I read some of her public posts and found it very reassuring. I typed up a quick reply asking if I could add her, and then I chickened out and didn't post it.

I don't even know why.

Right now, though, part of what has made this space safe is the percieved solitude. The illusion of invisibility, that no one is looking. I can't bring myself to give that up just yet. It's only because I think you're not looking, World, that I can be honest with you.

As soon as I start adding people there'll be all sorts of relationships and dynamics to work around, and all kinds of expectations, real and/or percieved, and I just can't take that right now. This little bubble is just a bit too fragile. I need to be selfish, self-absorbed like this for a while yet.

Strange how the only way I can be open is to close off.

May. 13th, 2009

Dear World,

When I was in early highschool, in fact at the same highschool where being gay (or seeming gay, or being called gay) was downright deadly, we had an English assignment to write and tape a fictitious radio program. We had to include a couple of songs and a talkback segment. In my talkback segment, a nervous listener (voiced by me) called in for advice thinking she might be gay, and was insulted by a DJ (voiced by me) until she hung up, preciptating an argument between the DJ and the guest therapist (also voiced by me) about some ill-defined need for sensitivity towards others.

It probably would have been a garbled mess if it had recorded properly, but I never listened back to it before I handed it in and the teacher told me she couldn't hear anything on the tape. I vaguely wonder if it actually came out sounding like some kind of mental health incident and she just didn't want to mark me on it. Pure paranoia, really.

The memory resurfaced recently and I realised it for what it had been. At the time I would have emphatically, indeed viciously, denied any suggestion that it was a cry for help or suchlike. It was so important to appear straight that I could only even begin to express myself in the third person, under the guise of a fictitious character; and even then I hurt and condemned that creation under the guise of another fictitious character.

The three characters I played for that assignment were based on pre-existing thought patterns and they never really went anywhere. Those three voices still argue; the frightened voice wanting to come to terms with my sexuality, the cruel voice of other people's hatred absorbed as my own, the reasoned but slightly impotent voice of compassion and self-respect.

If I could just get rid of that arsehole radio DJ... and of course, that's why we're here, World. I finally have a show where the caller and the guest can talk without that arsehole DJ. With time I hope I can get that fucker off the air for good.

I'm starting now to dissect the homophobia I've internalised. I don't know if I'll ever get through it all. Maybe dissect is the wrong word. I don't want to understand it, I want to get rid of it. I want to be able to look at myself in a mirror and say the L-word without flinching. I can't even bring myself to try yet because I'm so scared.

Words like gay and lesbian have been used so many times to attack and hurt me, and never directed at me in a positive or even neutral way. It makes it so hard to call myself a lesbian because every time I try I get all these negative associations coming up. The fact that so many people around me use "gay" in a casual derogatory context simply adds to the heavy load of unpleasant connotations. Part of the difficulty of saying "I'm gay" is that the word has been used so much towards and around me to mean unpleasant things. And there's no suitable alternative term that hasn't been used perjoratively to such an extent that I struggle to identify myself by any of them.

There's so much negativity attached to the words through perjorative usage, so I don't want to attach them to something that I know should be positive. It's a visceral thing, and hard to articulate. It makes the whole coming out thing harder, because not only is there all the fear of how others will react, there's also an unwillingness to use a label that has seen no positive usage in my history. I suppose I could try to counteract it with things like replacing "cool" with "gay" or saying "that's so gay" about stuff I like, but even that would be a struggle.
Dear World,

I've been logging in to this journal a lot without posting. I find it comforting, in a way. It's like I have managed finally to create one little space in the universe, even if it's just online, where I can finally be honest with myself and be as gay as I please without any of those reactive thoughts I've carried around so long. Other people's voices saying there's something wrong with me or demanding that I conform to some kind of heteronormative whatever.

It's strange, because I have so much to say, but often I find I just prefer to be in this little safe space. It's enough to just be truthful with myself sometimes, without having to broadcast it.

I've been very sad lately, the kind of crushing, liquid sadness that makes every breath feel like drowning. Part of the cause is my continued fear and inability to be authentic. I am making small steps but they are too small and too few, and I feel that for every step forward I take two back. I still can't summon the courage to go to a lesbian social event of any kind, but I can sometimes read the local lesbian free street press in public without trying to hide it. I quite like that there is a lesbian free street press publication where I live.

I feel like people around me who know are skeptical and even outright disbelieving, because I haven't been doing any gay stuff. I'm not sure what that would be, entirely, but I'm sure I'm not doing it. Actually I've been acting very not-gay lately, and spending all my time with a boy, which makes me doubt myself, so I assume everyone else is doubting me with equal or greater vigour. I am too damn scared to let go of the safety of the appearance of heternormative conformity, and it's thus far impossible to convince myself that it's ok to let it go and I'm not going to end up bleeding in a gutter somewhere again.

I'm divided at the moment about whether to show this journal to a few people I trust. It would be good in that I would be able to be honest with those people. On the other hand, I think that it would compromise my feeling of freedom to be honest, without worrying about what anyone thinks. At the moment, I just assume no one is reading this, and I have the privacy to say exactly what I want. Maybe when I feel a little stronger I will add a few people, but not yet.

At times I feel like I'm being a little bit pathetic about this, and I should just suck it up and... something or other. I'm not clear on what it is I think I should do. Be bolder, in some way. Maybe start wandering about in a t-shirt that says "LESBIAN!" on it. Start introducing myself by saying "Hi, I'm a lesbian."

I want to take a huge leonine leap into spectacular gayness. It would be wonderful. At the moment though I feel like every tiny incremental scrape forwards is a tremendous challenge. It's so hard to imagine that I will ever be free and strong enough to make that leap, but I know that if I stop making those tiny scrapes along, the sadness will overwhelm me for good and I will drown. Even if I can never leap, I don't want to drown.
Dear World,

Yes, I am a survivor of homophobic abuse. If surviving is what you call it. Bruises heal faster, World. Bones heal, scars fade. Trauma though... that can last a lifetime.

When I was in my 14th year, I went to a state high school where there were between 800-1,000 students, and none of them were gay.

Of course, some of us were, even if we hadn't had the chance to learn that about ourselves yet, but the homophobia of the school culture was so severe that no one dared appear gay.

The worst insult available was "mofradite," a corruption of hermaphrodite, and used flexibly to mean gay, bi, intersexed, and trans. "Lemon" (meaning lesbian) and (perhaps obviously) "Faggot" were also at once attacks, and accusations that sufficed as grounds for beatings. Girls were often called faggots, even, as little distinction was made.

Every day, words like homo, gaybo, faggot, lemon, dyke, and the damning mofradite, were bandied about with malicious generousity. Even when not being aimed at someone in particular, the words were used as generic derogatory terms, constantly reinforcing their negative meaning.

Even if I wasn't gay (and I have no doubt that many people singled out as I was for excesses of abuse were hetero) I was being told daily, through both homphobic argot and various social and physical cruelties, that there was something wrong with me. Furthermore (I was made to believe) it was my own fault. I had brought ostracism and violence on myself--it was never made entirely clear how but that didn't matter.

I still flinch when people say "that's so gay" even jokingly. At once time in my life it meant a beating, now it merely means there's still something wrong with me. After all these years, hearing "gay" used derogatively at all, even without malice, just reminds me that I deserve to be hurt and ignored and negated and abused.

I have no doubt that many other people, of all sexualities, who attended that school at that time were as deeply traumatised as I was. Some moreso, perhaps.

I sometimes wonder if any other queer survivors of that school or similar environments have managed to come to terms with their sexuality. I wonder how many, if any, were able to leave it behind relatively soon after leaving school; I wonder how many will carry it with them always, and stay in their closets their whole lives.

I can tell you, closets are uncomfortable places to be, even if they are metaphors.

In a closet, you always feel unfulfilled, empty, fake. You always feel unloved. You always feel sad. In a closet, depression is always hanging about like an old scarf, waiting to slip over your face and suffocate you. You always feel alone, somewhat apart from everyone around you. You always feel sort of like nothing really good can happen to you, and slightly doomed to an unknown calamity or a lifetime of gnawing sadness.

In a closet you feel like everyone else gets to stick their hand in the lolly jar, and you have to sit in the corner alone and suck a wormwood twig. You feel like you probably deserve that anyway. You feel like no one knows you and no one can. You feel doubt, always doubt, about everything you do and think and feel and want and say, about everything you are and can ever be.

At least, that's how I feel and have felt, World. I don't know, whatever. Maybe it's just me, and no one else feels or has ever felt this way, and I'm not even really in a closet and I'm just shit & probably crazy to boot.

That's how you feel in a closet.
Dear World,

Well, my old hetero lie marriage is over. It wasn't because I came out either.

I kind of have a little, to a few people. Casually, for the most part; no big announcements or parties or anything. Just glib remarks like "we broke up, I'm gay, he's emo." In some ways it's been easier than I thought. In others it's been horrid.

One male friend said he thinks lesbians are "a waste of a good vagina." The first time he said it, I said "permit me to disagree" and laughed it off. Later he said it again and, you know, I'm trying to not be all uptight and defensive about this whole thing but I really couldn't make myself feel that it was anything less than completely inappropriate. I've been a bit distant from that person ever since, because I have no reason to think he wants my friendship for its own sake, rather than as a platform for sex. And I'm not really interested in friendship with anyone who has such an ugly attitude, not just towards lesbians but towards women entire.

I suppose I should have seen it coming. Specifically from him, but also in general. I have to accept that I will lose friends. That doesn't help the process at all.

It would be lovely, in a perfect world, if men friends didn't automatically lose interest when they find out they can't bed you, and women friends didn't start avoiding you in an erroneous assumption that you automatically want to bed them. That would make it a lot easier, I think, to just up and accept yourself.

Most people I've told so far have been a lot more supportive than that guy. Thankfully. This process is hard enough on its own without friends making it harder. Small amounts of misguided yet benign ignorance are easy enough to deal with, but still kind of tiresome. Stuff like "waste of a good vagina" is just hurtful. Thankfully as yet I haven't encountered outright rejection or hatred, though I know there will be some at some point.

Lately I've had comfort from a sweet boy who likes to cuddle and doesn't make demands. No, really. It's astounded me, but he's real. It complicates things tremendously, but it's safe and warm and healing. It's also very reassuring, in some ways. He's wonderful and gentle and kind, and I'm still gay. It's not too many hurtful experiences with men. It's not a learned aversion brought about by years of bad relationships, it's not something I'll get over when I meet a man who isn't a jerk.

That's good to know. It was among the many doubts that have disempowered me and kept me from leading a life that I find authentic and fulfilling.

I haven't shown this to anyone yet. I don't know if I will. I doubt it.
Dear world,

Even though I haven't been able to write here often, I think this is helping. In some way it helps to have admitted it, even just to myself, silently and anonymously. I'm still where I was when I started, in a lot of ways. I don't feel as sad. I think if I just write more it might get easier to know what I need to do.

I'm a bit intimidated by lesbian culture. The whole "scene" thing is a bit daunting. I'm not comfortable with the apparent requirement that if I am to be a lesbian, I must like crewcuts or waistcoats or KD Lang or something. I'm sure that's not how it is, but that's how it seems sometimes. I like to think that who I prefer to make love to and what I prefer to listen to have very little bearing on each other.

I just want to be able to be a lesbian and have that mean that I love women, without it also meaning that I wear corduroy on Thursdays and listen to yak-yodelling. I might want to wear tulle on a Thursday. I might think that yaks are better at throat singing. Whatever.

I don't want to have to learn my way around a whole new subculture and its rules so that I can find peace with my sexuality. I'm not interested in developing a sexual-subcultural identity or being part of a subculture of sexuality. I'm not moved by Ani DiFranco's music. I never want to own a denim work shirt with the sleeves ripped off. I don't like mullets, and having had an actual mohawk for the best part of ten years I think fauxhawks are ridiculous. I'm indifferent towards KD Lang, crewcuts and waistcoats.

Is lesbianism a package identity? Can I not just take the girl-love and leave the rest? Do I need a labrys? I don't feel like I do. I don't think that my look would be enhanced by rainbow flags. I mean, sure, other lesbians need to be able to tell that I'm a lesbian somehow, but I'm confident that I can convey that information without the assistance of an Indigo Girls CD.

I don't particularly like Indigo Girls' music. I think that sums it up.
Dear World,

The Catholic Pope and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can line up to suck my arse. Merry Christmas.

I've still been having difficulty getting the space I need to clearly think and write. Maybe I should just announce "I'm gay, now can I have some privacy to blog about it?"

I've tried to talk to real actual people about it, discuss it with trusted friends. It didn't work out so well.

First I tried to discuss it with my partner. His response, in a nutshell, was that if I'm a lesbian I'll never see him again in any context. We would not be able to even be internet friends ever again.

Next I tried to talk to a close woman friend (who happens to be bi). She more or less told me that I'm not a lesbian, I'm bi, and that was the end of the discussion.

I tried to speak to one lesbian friend about it and got horribly confused and tangled in coathangers or something. I didn't manage to express myself clearly at all, and I'm not at all sure what kind of garbled impression she got.

I tried to talk to another close woman friend (who also happens to be bi). She more or less told me that I'm not a lesbian, I'm bi, and that was the end of the discussion.

So that was around when I gave up. Treading water, with no friend willing to show me support, or even just take me seriously. Adrift in confusion, completely alone. It's hard to believe that my friends will support me and stick by me no matter what when they're already showing they won't.

Sometimes, I feel like I could sink without a trace. Just disappear and turn into someone else. Slip away when no one's looking and leave all the mess and baggage of my li(f)e behind, start completely anew somewhere else. Wake up one day in Camden or San Fransisco and realise I'm not hiding who I am anymore. Wake up one day in Sydney or Austin and realise there are people who care about me enough to be there when I need them. Wake up one day in Portland or Manchester and realise I'm not alone anymore. Wake up one day in Berlin or Los Angeles and realise I feel fine.
Dear World,

This hasn't been as easy as I hoped. It's been hard to find the time to post, and when I do, I find it hard to articulate the things I need to express. I guess I can only hope this gets easier with time.

There was a girl who I was crazy about. I will call her Air. In retrospect, she was (to put it delicately) not my intellectual equal. I loved her just the same, though these days I have trouble understanding why; it was one of those inexplicable attractions that you get sometimes. She apparently saw me as a stepping stone to my male partner of the time. That's something that has happened to me a lot over the years.

Air announced that she was a lesbian, and I reacted as I always do; a public show of support and a private wish for the courage to do the same. Her "lesbianism" lasted about a month, it wasn't long before she was on a rampant tour of Dickville.

I worry sometimes that if/when I come out, I might do the same. Or I worry that everyone will expect me to do the same. I worry that I'll be like her, or I'll be seen as being like her. I worry that, if nothing else, the memory of Air's short-lived alleged lesbianism will dilute the seriousness of my coming out to our mutual friends.

I worry that I might muster up the courage to make my big public coming out thing, and then get frightened back into my closet and a tour of Dickville, and look enough like I was one of those pretend-lesbians to inspire ostracism or something.

Ok so a lot of the fears don't always make sense. That doesn't stop them wrecking my life.

I think sometimes maybe I don't have to make a big announcement, maybe I can just get on with life and sort of segue from here to there. I'm sure it works for some people. But that's too soothing, too comforting, too safe, and it makes me feel ok about not changing anything. It validates my cowardice.