The poetic, playful and prophetic musings of quintessential voices trying to keep up with life

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The L Word

Views expressed in this blog are solely the author's experience and opinions. They are not intended to speak for other or all queer-identified people.

Two years ago, almost to the day, I came to the beautiful conclusion that I am attracted to women. It was a moment alive with emotion and enlightenment - the dawn of a new day.

Hey, I took this picture!
Others might call it a panic attack (which may or may not have involved my head over my toilet, gasping for air).

It's been quite the journey, and those who know me know that I've changed along the way. I've also changed the language I use to identity myself.

I came out to my parents using not very eloquent language, essentially spitting out that I was "s-s-something other than s-s-straight...even though I might never date a woman."

A couple of years later I comfortably use the term lesbian. Somewhere along the line I claimed words like "bisexual" and "queer" to try to put a name to my...condition.

The summer before I came out, I expressed to my best friend that "uhh...if sexuality really is a spectrum, maybe I'm somewhere on it...?"

Her response? "Well, Kelsey, I guess I am too. I mean, I'm attracted to Angelina Jolie."
The point is that in two years I went from "so maybe I don't just like boys" to easily taking the "lesbian" descriptor.

Why is this?

There are a couple of reasons. First of all, as I will explain to anyone who asks, I've grown comfortable with the thought that chances are that I'll settle down with a woman, not a man. I can't guarantee that I will never date a man again, but listen folks. I dated 13 of them before I turned 22. I tried really hard to be straight. 

The more complicated reason that I've taken the fetching "L Word" title is that it's just freaking easier than trying to explain that I may or may not be somewhere on an imaginary spectrum.

I have a friend who identifies as bisexual, but lesbians always assume she's one of "the gays" and straight people always assume she sticks to dating men.

And the truth is, if you lined up every person in this planet, I would probably pick out many more women than men that I find attractive. But to be fair, I haven't seen every person in the world, so I can't say for sure.

But, if you read between the lines here, what I'm admitting is that I am sometimes attracted to men. (Collective gasp.)

Story time! When my girlfriend was first coming out (before we were dating), she said to me one day, "But Kelsey! What if I come out to all of my family and then I end up marrying a man?" And I said to her, "Lisa, are you attracted to me?" To which the obvious response is "yes." And I said, "Then stop worrying about it."

But it's a legit fear, folks. I've spent the last two years coming out to people. That's a lot of time and effort.

I got drinks with a friend a few weeks ago, and we were talking about my lesbian-ship. (Yeah, that's a word.) And I explained this convoluted I-think-I'll-probably-be-with-a-woman-but-I-can't-guarantee-it business and that's when he said it. "You're not even a real lesbian!"

Well shit.

Is that true?

I'm not going to lie to you friends, I'm attracted to the sexiest man alive (which those closest to me either love or hate about me). I'm attracted to some men, sometimes. It happens occasionally.

So here I was, in the midst of another identity crisis - but I was much more mature about it this time, because this time I had a support system. So I talked to every queer identified person in the world and asked them what they thought. (What? You don't believe me? We have a listserv. There's a club. We talk.) And as I was waiting for all of their responses, I came to my own conclusion.

It's my own freaking identity! If I feel like lesbian is the word that fits me best, then I'm going to own it, damn it!

But it has left me with some questions. Why is it so freaking hard to be somewhere on the middle of a spectrum - whether homosexual or heterosexual, female or male, Democrat or Republican? What's with the black and white? What's with the one word answers to open ended questions?

Back in the day when I was in college, I remember reading an article about a woman who identified as a lesbian and married a man. She continued to identify as a lesbian even after the wedding. At the time, I was puzzled by this, but recently I've come to realize the importance of having an identity to which to cling, regardless of who you marry.

But what’s so wrong with calling yourself bisexual? Unfairly, maybe it’s because of the stigma bisexual identified people have to deal with. Maybe it’s because they are seen as indecisive or promiscuous. Maybe it's because there are assumptions on the part of some queer people and straight people alike that bisexuality doesn't exist. Or maybe, in this woman's case, she just felt her identity was a lesbian.

I’d like to say I live under the title of lesbian because it fits me perfectly, but I don’t think that’s true. I've chosen it because it is probably the word with which I most closely identify, but also because it gives me a group - a community I adore - to belong to. And maybe because it’s easier than other options, easier than the gray, somewhere-on-the-spectrum explanation.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

With love,

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After the Elections: Let's Talk About Love

It’s the day after the elections, and my Facebook and Twitter have been bombarded by statuses and Tweets exclaiming either exhilaration or bone-deep disappointment.  Sitting in class this morning, I listened as people either aired their angsts or sat in glee of their perceived victory.  While a part of me is relieved that the whole mess of an election is over for now, mostly all I feel is frustration so intense it almost brings me to tears.  I feel this way not because my candidate won or lost, or because my ideals were upheld or dismissed.  No, I feel this way because all of those Tweets, statuses, and conversations are showing me exactly what our country is still missing.  In the wake of some of the most vicious, bloodthirsty campaigns I have ever seen, I think we as a people need to take a good long look at ourselves and really see what it is we have become, and what we need to do to change it.  You’ve heard it before, and I’m saying it again.  Our society is broken, and it’s going to take a lot more than politics to fix it.
Remember him?  Nice guy.
To that end, I want to talk about love.  I don’t mean “Romeo and Juliet” love, or I’m-on-fire-for-you love.  I want to talk about good old-fashioned, all-inclusive, unconditional, world-changing, fire-in-my-heart, Jesus-kind-of-love.  Yeah, I’m going to talk about Jesus.  If you’re reading this and thinking “Oh great, a Bible-thumper” or “No! Not Jesus” let me just stop your train of thought right there.  First off, you obviously need to read most posts in this blog.  Secondly, even if you don’t believe that Jesus is God Incarnate and the Savior of the World, I think we can all agree he was a pretty decent guy with a really good message.  And since so many people during this election process have been throwing around Christian “ideals”, I think it would be a good idea to look at the man himself.  What Jesus says about Love in the Gospels is a message I think our country really needs right now, whether or not you won last night.                                                
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (NASB John 13:34)
            What kind of love are we talking about, exactly?  It’s not an easy kind of love, but it is an all-consuming one.  It’s the kind of love that keeps you from judging someone based on what they look like, or where they stand in society.  It might not lead you to the most popular choice, but it is the kind of love that makes you listen to someone and get to know them before you come to a conclusion about their character.  This is the kind of love that keeps you from turning your back on someone in need.  The kind of love that causes your heart to ache when you hear of a grave injustice in the world, and then that ache drives you to do something about it.  It’s the kind of love that doesn’t shut out people who have been deemed “undesirable”, but rather seeks those people out because you recognize their importance.  This is the kind of love that demands you respect someone not because of what political party or ideology they hold on to, or if you agree with them about certain issues, but because they are human and you are human. 
Jesus healed the lame and the sick, gave sight to the blind, dined with tax-collectors, and let the little children come to him.  He reached out to the marginalized, the “undesired”, the people society pretended didn’t matter.  Was Jesus wealthy and influential?  No.  Was he a great political leader that everyone rallied around?  Not really.  Jesus was simple, a poor carpenter who caught the attention of a few people in his society, but he saw that the world was broken and change needed to happen.  He believed everyone deserved love and respect, and specifically paid attention to the people in his world that needed it most.  In the end, his beliefs and his teachings about love and acceptance got him killed…but we are still talking about him to this day.  What if our society was like that?  What if we actually gave a damn about the people around us, even the ones we sometimes wish would just go away?  What if we weren’t so focused on being right all the time, or being in charge, and instead focused on the members of our society who need our help the most?  What if we didn’t think about what political parties people aligned themselves with, but instead helped those in need and accepted people’s differences simply because it is the right thing to do?  What if, just for a moment, we didn’t think about ourselves?    
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”  Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NASB Mark 12: 28-31)
            Jesus holds up “love your neighbor as yourself” as one of the most important commandments, second only to the commandment that there is one God and you should love God with everything you have.  The commandment “love your neighbor as yourself” even beats out murder and honoring your father and mother!  In this passage, Jesus is relaying to his listeners that, next to God, love is the end all be all.  It’s not “love your neighbor as yourself if…” or “love your neighbor as yourself unless…”  No.  The message is “love your neighbor as yourself” no matter what.  The end.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Well, in the past few years our country has been doing a shit job of this.  Even Christians, who are supposed to adhere to what Jesus has to say, have allowed themselves to be swept up in the negativity and brokenness of a two-party system that only pits people against each other.  What if we did listen to this message, though?  Or one like it?  What if we, as a people, adhered to a message of compromise, compassion, and understanding instead of the currently popular one of “us versus them”?  What if, instead of thinking of the other party as the enemy, we thought of them as a partner?  What if (and this one is really crazy so brace yourselves) we treated everyone with the respect and dignity we would want to be given in return?  Did I blow your mind with that one?  It’s okay…take a moment to collect yourself before you read on.
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (NASB Luke 6: 27-28)
            Why did we let it get this bad?  During the entire campaign process, I was disgusted by the low-blows and out-and-out attacks the candidates threw at each other (you should read my post about political ads to get the full extent of how awful I thought all that was).  What disturbed me more, however, was how the American people treated each other.  Neither side is guilt-free for stereotyping, name-calling, finger-pointing, or just plain ignorance when it came to the people of the opposing party.  I have no doubt that feelings were hurt, and friendships were fractured if not completely broken.  And for what?  To elect someone they don’t have a personal relationship with into a seat of power from which he most likely CAN’T fulfill everything he promised because too many factors go into the governing of this country.  
This video kind of sums up the whole campaign.
Yes, people want change and people want equality for all, which are very good things to want to work for.  This is all well and good (I’m not going to lie, I was really hoping certain people wouldn’t get into power after several very inappropriate and idiotic comments about rape), but it is not worth destroying relationships and people over!  Change can happen without being nasty about it.  Debates and campaigns can happen in a respectable manner that doesn’t attack a candidate on a personal level, merely a political one.  And they don’t even have to attack!  There is a saying, “Kill them with kindness”.  If a candidate presented themselves in a way in which they treated their opposition with respect and civility, I would be much more inclined to choose that person because they didn’t feel the need to publicly humiliate their opponent.  But that just doesn’t happen anymore.  The American people feed into the attack ads and low-blow campaigns because we respond to them.  We eat them up like they’re the truth, but they’re really more like shit-popsicles, filling at first but they leave you with a bad taste in your mouth and a nasty gut-ache later.  People are divided and just refuse to work together if they are not one the same side, and the whole nation suffers for it.                
            I have presented a lot of questions in this post, and not a lot of answers, but that’s because I don’t have them.  As much as I hope and pray that things will get better, I don’t know what is going to happen in the next four years.  I do know that change needs to happen, and a little love would go a long way in this country.  We have an opportunity to steer the country in a better direction, but we have to stop fighting and actually work together.  As I finish this post, I can’t help but wonder “what would Jesus do” if he was here now?  Most likely, he would curse a whole lot of fig trees and start flipping tables left and right before settling down and telling us we are all idiots who need to get over ourselves and work through our shit.  And he would be right.


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