|July 22, 2013||Posted by DiversifYA under DiversifYA, QUILTBAG|
DiversifYA can only exist by virtue of all of you, stepping up and answering questions. It’s an awesome and brave thing to do, and I know from experience it’s not easy. Sometimes though, circumstances prevent us from attaching our names to these answers. Family, community, job, stigmas. It makes me incredibly proud of this community that we don’t let that stop us and *still* speak up. So today’s interview will be anonymous. And awesome.
1. How do you identify yourself?
Slightly goofy, curious about life, a writer, a reader, an educator, an animal lover, an artist, a partner, a parent, a person with a wicked sweet tooth, someone who appreciates humor and loves to laugh, an observer, a nature lover, and oh yeah, there’s that “from wedded wife to lesbian life” thing. I’m gay. (truly there was a book of this name! I once owned it)
2. What did it feel like growing up gay?
I didn’t know I was gay growing up. Honestly, I didn’t think a lot about relationships. I was never a girl who dreamed about her perfect wedding, about having babies, about dating the star quarterback. I went to high school in the early 80’s and back then there were no portrayals of gays in the media. No Glee, no Brokeback Mountain, no Pretty Little Liars or movies like But I’m a Cheerleader. What I did know is I thought my Gunsmoke lunchbox was way cooler than the lame Holly Hobby lunchboxes the other girls carried. I didn’t care so much about the stuff my friends cared about like makeup and school dances. I was more interested in being outside and riding my horse. In hindsight, I realize I had a few girl crushes during that time, but naming what they were was not even part of my vocabulary.
In college, I started meeting other gay people, guys and girls. I still wasn’t owning this identity though I started trying it on for size. It was thrilling and exciting, but in the core of my deep South self I knew my mama would have my hide. So I shoved it down. I got married, but even that was sort of a farce as I insisted on eloping and didn’t want family there to witness the event. I figured a really, good guy friend was what a husband was supposed to be. We lasted between dating and marriage for seven years. During that time, I met more and more happy gay couples and the world was becoming a better place for two girls or two guys in love. When I took my husband to go see the movie, GO FISH, I knew I loved it for all the wrong (or right :0)) reasons. It was shortly after that I asked for a divorce and shortly after that I met my current partner. This relationship has lasted for going on eighteen years. It took really falling in deep, mad love to come out of the closet.
My family and friends were shocked at first, but over time they’ve grown to accept this part of me, and my partner. Her family’s been incredible.
3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?
The biggest challenge for me is the reason I’m writing this anonymously. (though I imagine some of you will figure me out, I’m more worried about search engines :)) My job. I teach in a conservative school district and all it would take is one kid or one parent with a bug up their butt and they could cause me a whole mess of undeserving trouble. So I have to keep my mouth shut and when people probe with personal questions I have to divert. I’ll even admit to pulling the divorce card a time or two (or three) – it’s been interesting to be on both sides of the aisle. Married straight couples do have it easier. Truly. It’s just so expected, particularly if you’re a feminine woman.
Perks come with things like technically being a single mom (I was the official adopter of our two children) and things like school tuition help. Some of you out there may judge and say “hey that’s cheating” but the thing is, with a state government unwilling to recognize my much-longer-than-your-average-union relationship, with my school system unwilling to give partnership benefits, we have to look for advantages where we can.
Also girly bathrooms. After my partner and I moved in together, I walked into our bathroom and got so excited. It was all make up and bath salts and fun hair products. No shaving cream or foot powder, toilet seats left up or weird little hairs mucking up the shower walls. Heaven!
4. What do you wish people knew about being gay?
That other than gender, a relationship is a relationship. I wish people would think to offer the pronoun option when asking personal questions. I wish if people actually knew through the grapevine about my life, and didn’t care, that they would say “Hey, I know about your partner and I think it’s awesome.” Each person I’m able to come out to is like a tremendous stone lifted off my shoulders. As of right now, there is exactly one person I work with that I know knows all about me and knows my partner. What if my partner gets sick or injured? What do I say? Why can’t I have the option to be happy and in love and plaster her pictures all over Facebook? (I mean, I know I have a choice, but I want a choice and my job. I love my day job and I think I’m good at it but it’s also a tiny bit soul killing.) Straight people, can you imagine not being able to talk about your wife or husband to your co-workers? Imagine all the tiny trickle down effects it would have. Spend a day and note how often you reference that significant other. Now imagine that you couldn’t. (I do have friends that say him instead of her, but my community is so small it wouldn’t work here.)
5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?
- One of us must be the boy. Um, hello, the point is…two girls!
- OMG, you’re so pretty! And you like lipstick? And pedicures? And People magazine? And are you faking it when you talk about that hot guy? (no, I’m not sleeping with him, he’s hot. I’m gay, not blind.)
- That if you’re straight and my friend, it means secretly I want you. (sorry, honey, you’re cute and I love you like a sis, but I am completely in love with my girlfriend.)
- We wear ugly shoes. (What? Keens aren’t ugly!)
- You must hate men. (No. I just prefer relationships with women. I love my dad, my brother, my son, my guy friends, my ex-husband, my male characters, your male characters. I just don’t want to have a life partnership with them.)
BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?
Think it through. Think of the diversity as one aspect of the character’s self. Of course it will inform some of their actions and choices, but you know what? We all get up and go to the bathroom in the morning. Yep, even celebrities. Their stylists can’t do that for them. So whatever diverse characteristic you’re putting on the page make it one facet of your character’s personality. Nobody is a complete stereotype. Everyone is a human being. Write the character real. And ask questions if you need help. This is a generous community and a great blog to find folks to help inform you.
Thanks Marieke for allowing me to play beneath a brown paper bag. One day I hope to either be brave enough, or in a changed situation, where you can stamp my name all over this post. And thanks for this amazing blog.