Growing up in a rural community made my life very interesting. There was no discussion of feminism, unless you counted the one class set aside senior year, “Participation in Government,” no discussion of “rape culture,” no discussion of “slut-shaming,” and certainly no discussion of homosexuality. Closet cases abounded. The one openly gay male I’d known growing up was practically tortured at the hands of classmates who feared what they did not understand. He was the stereotypical flamboyant, colorful gay, like we see on television, and he’s since become incredibly successful.
But, there were no success stories for homosexual females. I had known no true “out and proud” lesbians growing up. There was simply speculation that the band instructor was a lesbian, and no one was even certain of that. Simply put, this town is conservative. It has an aging population and an economy that basically thrives off of dairy farming. In my early college days, it was even hard for me to discuss the “Klaine” situation with my father, when Glee was still an integral part of my Tuesday night activities.
As witnessed by my classmates, peers, and friends, I have flowed down the sexuality river. My freshman year of college, I dated men—exclusively. I never truly enjoyed heterosexual sex. When I did enjoy it, my senses had been altered, usually by alcohol.
Sophomore year, a year and a half ago, I discovered that my feelings for women were acceptable. I had homosexual friends. I had understanding friends. I came into my own. I became comfortable with the possibility that I may like women. I had a group of people around me that would understand and still love me whether I was straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, purple, green, polkadotted… The list goes on. I was loved.
One disastrous relationship later, I started to identify myself as purely lesbian. Out and proud at school, around my friends. I had gone from being the “frisky straight girl” to the stereotypical plaid-sporting, pierced, and tattooed lesbian—complete with an Ellen DeGeneres style pixie cut.
At home, despite these “radical” appearance differences, I have yet to come out to my father. I have ten aunts and uncles that do not know. My grandparents on both sides, may they all rest in peace, believed in having large families, and I was graced with more cousins than I am able to count. None of them know.
There was one incident, in particular, that hinted at me that I shouldn’t come out to my parents yet. Coming home from the train station for a weekend home, I asked my mother a simple question. “Have you watched Glee recently?” I hadn’t. I haven’t watched Glee all season. My father interjects that since “Klaine” happened (not in those words) he hasn’t watched it. He says that he just isn’t entertained by watching two boys make out on television. “That’s not entertaining, that’s gross.” All I say is that “I have an issue with you having an issue with that,” and we spend the rest of the drive home in absolute stunned silence.
We arrive at the house, after a very awkward seven minutes in the car. I counted them painfully. My mother, as she and I are sitting together on the couch, tells me not to have an issue with my father having an issue with homosexuals. She says that he’s come a long way. I tell her that I understand, but then I ask her: “Well, how would he react if [my brother] and I were gay or bisexual?” She stares at me as I begin to cry. She tells me that she’s read my blog and she knows. She says that he wouldn’t love you any less, but I can’t help but be upset. I want him to be able to accept the fact that I am who I am and I’m not going to change.
I have become more confident in myself and my identity as a homosexual female. I don’t have the confidence yet to be completely “out,” but I am much farther along than I was even two months ago. Many heterosexual men that I have come in contact with since I began to identify as homosexual have been intrigued by, and interested in my sexual activities. I am more than just a sexual object. Lesbian relationships, in my hometown at least, are seen as masturbation fodder. Straight men look at two feminine lesbians making out and they are instantly turned on. Two “butch” lesbians making out does not do anything for them. I have been asked for threesomes including men, which I refuse to oblige. Nothing a man can do will make me enjoy heterosexual sex. I am a woman. I like women. I can be a lesbian, I can be a woman, and not have a desire to fulfill the sexual desires of men.
I only want to be respected for who I love. I’m not saying that you have to completely agree with who I love, or my decision to acknowledge my feelings towards women, but just let me live in peace. Do not shame me for being who I am. In certain places, in a certain life, I can be who I want. In other places, in other lives, I can only be a specific piece of me. I want to be all of me, all of the time.
With the Supreme Court deliberating about the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, the day where all of my lives and all of my attributes will be able to come together may be approaching. I may be able to marry a woman I love. I may be able to enjoy the freedoms that heterosexual couples do. I could be in love and be proud. I could have a happy life.
So where does feminism fit in this equation? Exactly where it began. I have a dream, to become the successful out and proud lesbian from my hometown. I want to blaze that trail. I know of other LGBT youth in my hometown that are also forced into the closet simply by traditional values. I want to show them there is an alternative; that you can be out, proud, and successful. I want to be happy and I want to be accepted like the lovely gay couple that runs the local liquor store. I want to be more than a sexual object. Most of all, I want to be happy.
Jess is a gay college senior at UAlbany who wants to save the world.