Note: This essay contains talks of sexual situations and mild homophobia.
When I was little… I chased the boys. My need to fit in was so strong I had myself convinced that I needed to have a crush on Jesse with his bright blue eyes and blonde hair. But there is a difference between falling in love with someone’s eye color or falling in love with a person. It never really occurred to me I could be looking at the wrong gender, but looking back I remember thinking all boys looked the same and every girl was different; each one more unique and beautiful than the last.
As an adult, I can look back and realize the traditional ideals were also perpetuated by my mother; who, despite having said she would support me and my sister no matter what made it hard to want to be anything but a “perfect young lady.” She would like us to “cross our legs, sit up straight, and not swear… or the boys would run away.” I was also told boys had cooties.
Now, I do not want you to get me wrong. I am very close with my mom and she tried her best to raise me and my sister, but she raised me in the way she knew how… i.e. the way my grandparents raised her, just maybe not as rigidly Christian. However, there were some things that encouraged us the other way: When we were babies to save money, she put us in boy’s clothes, she would not let us wear makeup until we were sixteen and even then it had to be light, and she always encouraged us to go outside and get muddy… It worked on my sixteen-year-old sister who turned out to be a full-fledged tomboy, pansexual, meaning she picks her partners without regard to their gender, and genderfluid, meaning some days she feels like a boy somedays she feels like a girl. To clarify my sister likes her female pronouns because for the most part they don’t bother her and it’s easier for my family situation if she keeps them that way.
Now you can judge whether Mum’s tactics worked on me. I am a cisgender woman, I was born a woman and I identify as one. I am a lesbian, I like girls romantically and sexually, in fact, I’m engaged to one. No, my mother does not know. I am a lipstick lesbian, I like wearing skirts and dresses and makeup I am a girly girl. I’m panromantic, meaning I can have romantic feelings for someone no matter what their gender, this is different than sexual feelings of which I only have for girls. I am polysexual, I am open to having a sexual relationship with more than one person at once, but not romantic.
Now that I have briefly defined the terms for you I will tell you I do not always fit into those boxes. You find out very quickly being queer that there will never be enough labels and you just have to find the “best fit” and hope for the best.
Now before it would have been unheard of to tell you such things about myself. To talk in such plain terms about my sexuality, and about my body. Before, as a woman, I was just an object for men to own, either my father or my husband. But before I also could not be a writer and as Cixous says in her essay “Laugh of the Medusa”:
By writing herself, woman will return to the body which has been confiscated from her, which has been turned into the uncanny stranger on display—the ailing or dead figure, which so often turns out to be the nasty companion, the cause and location of inhibitions. Censor the body and you censor breath and speech at the same time .Cixous
It is one of the many standards society has for queer women, specifically. To put yourself into a box, to fit a butch stereotype, or to be entertainment for men. Often when I come out to people they tell me “You’re too pretty to be gay!” referring to the fact that I’m more girly and less butch. Or especially from men I get “You just haven’t had dick right!” or “Can I watch?” Like I’m a sexual object to them. They’re entitled to tell me which of their boxes I fit into. Because I serve no use to them as a woman they need to find a use for me and that is as sexual entertainment. If I do not fit myself into a box first and stand my ground and fight back, they will choose their own labels for me and decided what I am good for.
I write about this in my slam poetry a lot:
Where does it say “short hair with vest, cuffed sleeves, button down, and a bow tie”? Because last time I checked we came in different flavors just like the rest of society, and my favorite is pussy… with curves and sass.
“But you’re too pretty to be gay!”
Homosexual wasn’t a contract where I sign over my curls, skirts, and heels for the right to kiss the woman I love.
Furthermore, no a man hasn’t wronged me, no it isn’t a phase, and no you can’t watch!
My life is not your fetish nor a form of sick entertainment for you!
I was not placed on this war-torn planet to please you with my body, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or what I chose to do with any of them.Downey
I have not seen my girlfriend in two years. We have been long-distance for four and a half years. Her name is Josie and she fights with me. We imagine our kids one day dressed in rainbow tutus and bowties in carriages with us at pride parades. When someday our marriage will not be a “gay marriage” but just a “marriage.” When I can walk hand in hand with her in the grocery store without stares is the day I will be happy.
The main argument is that it is not natural. But the last time she came to visit me from Wisconsin she made love to me on a motel bed. The curves of her waist to her hips, the way she held me, the way our bodies moved together was the most natural thing in the world. Soft fingers moving up my thighs and taking care of me sexually, emotionally, and physically. For the first time in my life, I felt truly beautiful. I do not believe in virginity and staying pure as that is another way of putting women in an emotional bottle, but I do believe in an emotional rite of passage. I am glad mine was with her.
Cixous writes: “We’ve been turned away from our bodies, shamefully taught to ignore them to strike them with that stupid sexual modesty” (Cixous), and yet Josie was the one to open up my body. I started writing more when I met her and writing with her when we missed each other. Our writing has connected us over thousands of miles and four and a half years of long-distance. We write romance mostly, fluffy things to the more intimate. The hot and heavy scenes are my favorite to write because when the characters get intimate I feel closer to her. Cixous was on to something about the way writing is connected to the body.
This came from a poem I wrote for her last Fall:
Soft fingers, exploring soft skin-
My nerves reach for your touch
Your passion sweet as forbidden fruit.Downey
She is my muse and gets me out of my comfort zone with writing. She makes me feel beautiful in my own body and somehow that makes my writing better.
We need to preserve these moments, these little sacred feelings, and normalize them. Normalize the right of women to be gay, straight, bi, trans, pan, poly, and everything in between. Because if curled into Josie’s chest naked under the covers is not the safest place in the world I do not know what is. And when she puts her hand on the sensitive small of my back, kisses my forehead, and tangles our legs, if that is not as close to true love as mortals can get I do not know what is. And if I do not have a right to come home to that every day if I chose to… I do not know what humanity is. If I do not have a right to love, a basic human emotion, what do I have a right to?