Stop Killing Fictional Queer Women

Dear Straight Writers,

The title really says it all. Stop. Killing. Female. Queers. In. Your. Stories. It’s lazy and overdone. Women who are attracted to women are extremely tired of seeing the death trope in books, TV shows, and movies. You aren’t allowed to be hailed as “groundbreaking” when you included a lesbian couple to only string people along – only for it to end in death. Killing a queer character isn’t shocking or edgy. It’s boring, contrite, and damaging.

‘The 100’ became a show in which my girlfriend and I became extremely excited to watch. It felt like it was too good to be true- a well thought out sci-fi/ dystopic story where two ladies are in love with each other. The show actually explores the relationship in a deep and meaningful way, and neither character is persecuted for their sexuality. It was fantastic. It was beautiful. It was downright amazing. We finally felt like were getting a taste of what straight people experience on a regular basis: two people in love with each other without judgment or persecution.

Then… this past Thursday’s episode aired. It felt like someone had dangled happiness, hope, and equality in front of our faces for a couple of years… pushing us to support the show and keep the ratings up, just to have it so lazily stripped away. Clark and Lexa were finally able to be together at least for a shot while – then Lexa is killed. Not in a badass warrior way, in a dumb manner that made it obvious that no one on the show thought that there was another way to write out, or temporarily write out, a lesbian character.

It’s irresponsible to create a world where queer girls and women feel like they can dive into happiness and hope, and then crush us inside of it. We don’t get happy stories. I can count on one hand long lasting, positive TV representation in the last few years; two of these shows are cartoons. We rely on positive narratives to validate our identities in a world that usually refuses to see us. It’s awful that we have to hunt for quality, positive material to consume.

I really don’t know what I think is worse – the void where quality lesbian content should reside, or the cesspool where ‘ground-breaking’ writers throw another edgy story about lesbians dying? Do you realize how this narrative is so abhorrently toxic? Queer girls and women have had to grow up watching and reading  people tell us that our kind of love and our kind of story isn’t worth putting thought into. And if some thought has been put into it,they tell us that our identity will almost certainly lead to heartache and/or death.  It’s not that these stories exist, many heart wrenching heterosexual stories get the same treatement. But they also get the thrillers and mysteries, cut romantic comedies, stories where they are accepted and no one questions who they are, what they do, or who they love. If you are having trouble thinking of creative things your lesbian characters can do besides die, check out this article on Autostraddle. It gives you many jumping off points. If people are saying that Ryan Murphy’s representation of lesbians is better than yours I hate to tell you that you are doing something wrong.

I’m simultaneously tired and enraged. The moment people start patting your back for inclusion and equality is the moment you have a responsibility to the queer fandom it supports. You could argue that this isn’t fair. One show has to bear the burden to fairly represent queer ladies without the death trope? In a perfect world where I can ride around on a unicorn there would be plenty of positive queer content for me to choose from. So if a gay lady dies in one show it wouldn’t be soul-crushing. Unfortunately for all of us we don’t to get to live in this world. We live in a world where straight people get to dictate how I’m represented if I’m represented at all.

Straight writers, if you are unable to think outside the lesbian death-trope box, just stop writing about us. You are doing more harm than good. Please take the time to understand that our stories our more than tragic endings. Please give us the chance to be seen for who we are and what we are made of. If you aren’t willing to do that, kindly step aside and let queer writers express themselves in a way that reflects our many multifaceted and diverse narratives. Let us tell stories in which no one is persecuted, killed, or tragically dies of cancer.

We are more that your lazy and short-sighted narratives. It’s time to step out of the heteronormative box and let us tell the stories ourselves.

My Straight Family

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There are times when I wish that someone in my family was gay. I had a great aunt who was a lesbian, but I only found out about her sexuality until after she had died. And when she was alive I was nowhere near being out to myself let alone anyone else.

 

She is the only person in my family that I know for certain was/is gay. And no one really knows anything about that side of her. All I know that she and her ‘friend’ used to go to Atlantic City for the weekend to gamble. That’s it. That’s all I know about that part of her. It feels like a giant part of my history is missing. What was it like for her growing up? How long did she know she was a lesbian? Who was her ‘friend’? Was she at the funeral? Had she died beforehand? And why does no one in my family know?

Now, I would settle for a gay cousin to side eye when someone refers to my girlfriend as my ‘friend’. (I’m also tired of my aunt calling my girlfriend ‘my friend’). Don’t get me wrong, most of my family is very forward thinking and progressive. But even the most open minded of them walk on eggs shells around me when they talk about anything LGBT related. Especially marriage. I know every family can be annoying when it comes to asking intrusive questions about when their children or nieces or nephews are getting married. They’re straight. Just very straight. If I had a dollar for every time one of my family members asked me who would propose I would probably have a lot of cash for a strip club.  You can almost see the wheels turning in their heads- “There’s no guy in the relationship, so who’s going to get the ring?”

I’m not surprised- all of my family grew up in the same heternormative environment that I did. They never had to question how to do the marriage thing because it has been laid out for them by generations and generations of people. Sure, it has evolved, but there is still a basic formula for when a man and a woman get married. Everyone knows the equation and to solve for x.

I don’t begrudge any of my family for being straight, even if I did it wouldn’t change anything. But it would be nice to have someone on ‘my team’ that I could relate to and commiserate with. Having a male cousin who wanted to go out to a bar to find girls is great (and also hilarious), but it’s not the same. I want to relate to someone in my family on a queer level.

There are times when I feel like my queer identity and family identity are completely separate parts of me. I wish there was a gay Ancestry.com that could help me link together previous generations with my queerness. Even if I feel like an anomaly, I know my gayness didn’t come from a vacuum. But the clues about my gay family history died with my great aunt. Maybe some day I’ll be lucky to find a piece of the puzzle, but for now I have to start from scratch.

I’m queering my family’s story just by living my life openly and happily. And hopefully in the future someone can look back and see their gay roots in their family tree.

 

 

Being Out and Staying Out

When I started coming out seven years ago it was terrifying. How would people react? Would I lose friends and family over it? I obviously survived all of those encounters. The awkwardness and fear felt so strong back then- I’m glad that I have put most of that behind me.

I know its cliché, but I just stopped caring. Obviously having the love and support of friends and family was extremely important, but after that I realized that I didn’t need to have an emotional investment in the insurance guy’s or my dentist’s opinion.

Now, I just want people to assume that I’m hella gay. I get annoyed when people think straight until proven gay. Like, I have an undercut, and wear plaid and beanies… do I need to be making out with my girlfriend all of the time for people to get my queerness?

For being out all of the time isn’t telling one that I’m a lesbian. It doesn’t come up in most day-to-day conversation. Being out is about my state of mind. I used to put on my ‘straight’ mask whenever I had to interact with a new person or go to a new place. That shit is exhausting. I realized that I didn’t need to ‘act’ to make my way through social unknowns. I know that in certain places that I’m probably not going to bring up my girlfriend unprompted, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less out. I’m still going to have my undercut, my plaid, and my girlfriend. The gayness is still being projected, even if I’m not hitting people upside the head with it.

Everyone’s journey is different, but it’s absolutely fantastic when you get to an emotional and physical place where you can just be gay all of time.

It’s absolutely freeing.

Dear 17 Year Old Self: Take Care of Yourself

Dear 17 Year Old Self,

Please take care of yourself. And please give yourself a break. You work too hard, and you put the weight of the world on your shoulders. Life is starting to suck a little less for you, but you’re still not convinced that everything will be okay. Home will get better, I promise. I know you don’t want to believe me, and really why should you? The past couple of years have been horrific, and nothing gold can stay, right? Whenever something good has happened to you, it’s like you get smacked down twice as hard.

This probably isn’t comforting, but life sucks sometimes. Then it doesn’t suck as much, and if you’re lucky good things stick around for more than a fleeting moment. These moments should be savored, not diluted by the challenges, struggles, and disappointments. There are going to be plenty of those over the next 10 years, but remember that no one is out to get you. Everyone goes through rough and smooth patches alike – it’s all about your attitude.

Having a positive attitude isn’t for everyone else, it’s for you. You don’t want to experience years of self-degrading and negative thoughts. It literally changes your brain. I’ve spent the last two and a half years trying to undo years of damage. While I’ve made amazing progress I still have far to go.

Speaking of recovery, go to therapy and get on some medication. Now. I know how adamantly resistant you are to this idea. You think you don’t need you any help and that your issues aren’t as bad as other people. You don’t want anyone to have to worry about you and be a burden to your family.

You aren’t broken. I know it feels like you are. That you’re brain and your emotions are completely unpredictable. You think that keeping it all inside your head will make it less real, and that you have control over everything.

I’m going to save you years of trouble, so hopefully you can avoid some of my mistakes. You have severe anxiety and you’re depressed. The sooner you admit that to yourself and to other people you can start on the road to recovery, and you can take care of yourself.

It’s not weakness if you fight the battle with armor fully equipped. It’s brave and it’s strong. Sometimes it’s easy, other times… not so much. But you have to keep fighting.

It doesn’t go all away at once, but I promise you will be start to see the forest through the trees.

You’re worth it.

Dear 17 Year-Old Self – You’re Hella Gay

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Dear 17 year old self,

It’s been 10 years, and I’m feeling a tad retrospective. I definitely don’t miss that period in my life, but I figured you could use some advice and insight. I want to write you a couple of letters to make things a tad easier for you in these next 10 years. I’m going to start off with one of the most important parts of your life. Honestly if I had known this at 17, life through college (we’ll get to college) would be a whole lot less complicated and dramatic.

You’re gay. Like, super super gay.  You are sexually attracted to women. You know those dreams you had a couple years ago about one of your good friends from grade school? Yep that means you’re gay. You almost figured it out then, but there was a lot of other stuff going on at the time. Trust me, I totally understand.

It’s not like you need to come out in high school. Actually, I would recommend not doing that. Coming out to yourself is way more important that coming out to anyone else. High school is not a safe place for you to be out, so don’t worry about it right now. Just be really gay in college. And don’t end up kissing the boys you took to prom. I felt nothing after kissing them, and really it didn’t make you happy, just more drama. And if you decide to tell the boy you went to senior prom that you’re a lesbian, please expect major ‘religious’ backlash. He is a terrible person, really. You know how everyone around you thinks he’s a douchbag? It’s because he’s a douchbag. So just find a cute girl in your freshman year to make out with. And don’t drunkenly sloppily make out with boys, it’s not that great.

Do come out to Mom and Dad, in your own time. I know that there is a lot of stuff going on, but they’ll make time for you. I know that it seems super scary, seeing how Catholic they are, but you know how rebellious Mom is when it comes to institutionalized religion telling her what to do.  If I’m remembering correctly this is around the time Dad is either considering or he has started to train to become a Deacon. I spent a long time thinking that a convert evolved into a Deacon could not be opened minded. That he couldn’t accept me for who I was because he was so cemented in his beliefs.

I know you’ll be surprised to learn that that line of thinking is totally wrong. Having that douche bag boy throw Bible quotes at you has turned you off from the idea of religious people being tolerant and accepting. Dad is clueless about anything LGBT, but he does love you, all of you. It’s going to be kind of awkward at first, but Mom and Dad get used to the idea and it just becomes a normal part of life.

You’re probably wondering about the romantic side of things. You’re awkward and shy and anxious, and I know that you have absolutely zero confidence. You struck out with guys because you weren’t interested at all, not because you’re not attractive or loveable. Online dating is a thing, and trust me, it’s still awkward. So is trying to date in college. Really dating is just awkward until you find the right person.

You are NOT incapable of being loved, and you are not broken. You probably don’t believe me, but you do find the right person, and she is absolutely amazing. You love her so much, and she loves you back for who you are, not just the shiny parts. Trust me it’s one of the most amazing feelings in the world. And it keeps getting better and better. Better than you could ever image. Better than I could even imagine.

You’re gay, and it’s fucking awesome.

Sincerely,

27 year old me

You’re Not Welcome Here

I’ve been trying to write this post for the better part of the month, but every time I tried I felt like I was being over sensitive and mean. I’m always grateful for the help that our allies have given in the fight for marriage equality and equal rights. But, when straight people start to complain about not being welcome in queer spaces, I wish that they would all go away.

Let me back up a bit. A month ago I was at a party hosted by a former professor and her wife. A lot of former students go, and not coincidentally these students are mostly part of the LGBT community. Naturally all of us migrated toward each other and hung out on the porch.

Afterwards, a straight colleague of mine mentioned that one of the lesbians in the circle joked that her and her new husband weren’t welcome in the group. She was very offended by this, and I really didn’t know how to respond so I kind of shrugged it off and said she was probably kidding. Which she most likely was, but my colleague was having none of my reasoning.

I just didn’t feel bad for her at all. She was jokingly ‘kicked out’ of a space full of queers, when the LGBT community is regularly pushed out of homes, jobs, and businesses. Not being welcome in places and getting pushed out of heterosexual spaces is a common event for queer people.

Also, the LGBT community needs queer only spaces. “Straight only” spaces are everywhere. You can see it walking down the street with a couple holding hands, or at a restaurant exchanging kisses. I don’t get to feel comfortable in public showing any signs of affection toward my girlfriend.  I don’t get the privilege of people assuming that my girlfriend and I are a couple. I don’t know when it’s safe to introduce my girlfriend as my girlfriend, but she has the opportunity to introduce people to her husband all of the time.

So, I honestly don’t care if straight people don’t feel welcome in queer spaces. Because they shouldn’t have to, and I don’t want them too. This is where I start feeling like an asshole. I preach inclusion but at the same time want to kick people out. But in reality straight people don’t need to be included in queer specific spaces, they’re included everywhere else. It’s like asking why there isn’t a straight pride parade. There are straight pride parades every day, just look around you. Straight people get to live open without assumptions or fear because of their sexuality.

Like I said, I’m grateful for the true allies that continue to fight for equal rights for the LGBT community. But that doesn’t give you a free pass into queer spaces, and you don’t get to complain when you aren’t welcome.

The War isn’t Over, but Let’s Celebrate this Marriage Victory

Forty six years ago the Stonewall Riots kick started the LGBT rights movement in the United States. This week, the Supreme Court stated that marriage equality was a constitutional right.

A lot of people have suffered and died in the United States fighting for queer rights and true equality. Obviously there are many things to still fight for to achieve equality and justice. But we need to celebrate this stepping stone. This needs to be celebrated, because now we know we can fight and win. It seemed almost strange, like a fluke in 2004 when marriage equality first passed in Massachusetts. There had decades of fighting and only one success in Massachusetts. I couldn’t image that in less than 15 years the Supreme Court would rule in favor of marriage equality. That the White House would shine rainbow colors in celebration and the Vice President of the United States would be running around with a rainbow flag.

It’s important to not be complacent in victory, but fueled and empowered to continue to fight for the rights of queer homeless youth and immigrants, trans rights, and anti discriminatory laws. We shouldn’t be cynical towards the marriage ruling because of the other issues, but we should use the force of the marriage equality movement to make our voices louder and to continue to push for queer rights.

Have a glass of wine, a cake, a parade. Let’s keep going.

My Dad’s Boxes

As I have gotten older I realized how much my dad and I are alike. And how painfully different we are. Through these similarities and differences we have grown and evolved our relationship into something I feel very lucky to have. Not all people have great relationships with their dad, and for LGBT people the tension and strain on the relationship with their fathers can be a lot worse.

It wasn’t always like that for us. My dad converted to from Judaism to Catholicism when I was 8. As time went on his faith grew, and mine began to wither. When I was a teenager he became a deacon. I had pretty much given up on my Catholic roots, but we were able to agree to disagree on topics concerning the church. We knew we weren’t going to change each other’s minds so having debates and discussions stayed interesting and respectful.

When I finally fully came out to myself in the winter of 2009 I was absolutely terrified to tell my parents, especially my dad. He’s an active member of the Church and I didn’t know how he would react to me being a lesbian.

In reality I had nothing to worry about, but when it was time to tell him I had to do it through a full blown panic attack. How could someone so deeply cemented in his faith, a faith that actively preaches against my existence, accept his daughter for who she was?

As a child one of the things that has constantly annoyed me about my dad was that he is able to achieve almost perfect cognitive dissonance. He’s able to hold onto two completely opposing beliefs without having one contradict the other. I couldn’t believe at the time that he would be able to do the same again, putting his daughter in a separate box away from his beliefs?

I realized that the part of my dad that had annoyed me for most of my childhood was one of his most endearing qualities. It’s admirable that he has the ability to love his children the way that they are without it challenging or shaking his faith. In a world where everything feels like an inseparable tangled web he has been able to divide perfectly into his boxes – making sense and order out of chaos.

In his world his faith compliments and strengthens his love for his children, and vice versa. I may never understand how he does it, but I’m lucky to have him.

Caitlyn Jenner and the Water Cooler

The news and social media have been inundated with Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out and transition, so obviously it has become the hot topic around the water cooler at work.

If I had a dollar every time I walked by and overhead someone talk about her with the wrong pronouns, or something generally stupid, I could probably take a nice vacation. But I really don’t know people in other departments so I really didn’t feel like it was my place to speak up. This is frustrating in itself. Just because I’m a lesbian doesn’t mean I’m the pronoun, gender, and sexuality police.

Then it came up in my department. I was preparing for it, but hoping I didn’t need to interject. It’s not like most people were saying things purposely wrong or ignorant but it made me cringe nonetheless. My brain really started to race. Do I say something, and if I do speak up how do I not sound like a condescending asshole. Teaching moments are fast and fleeting, and a hard tone or a judgmental look could ruin the entire moment.

I really have a hard time finding the right time and the right place to speak up. When I’m with people I know and I’m comfortable with I’ll tell them they’re wrong in less than a heartbeat. Coworkers or strangers – am I being too aggressive? What is my tone like? Do I really need to speak up now? Surely someone else will speak up?

Eventually I put on my big girl pants and jumped into the conversation, not correcting their language, but just using the correct pronouns. And then something fantastic happened – they self-corrected their language. It’s like I had magical queer powers.

I do believe that most people want to be truly opened minded and understand. That if they say something wrong it’s out of ignorance and not maliciousness.  I’m not entirely naïve, I know that sometimes people are just bigoted and downright terrible. That sometimes you do have to hit people over the head with how wrong they are. Other times, luckily, you can guide the conversation in a way that lets people figure it out for themselves.

I’m proud of Caitlyn and her journey – that she (like many other LGBT celebrities) is empowering so many people to learn and grow into truly open-minded and understanding people.

Moving Forward, Moving On

This past weekend my girlfriend and I moved into a larger, much better place.

All of this moving has got me thinking about all of the movement in my life. Physically, psychologically, emotionally. It’s funny how the word ‘moving’ can have different connotations. Moving forward, backward, or in one place. I’ve need to move forward and move past people and decisions and disappointments.
I’m almost a professional at physically moving. This is the fourth time I’ve moved in about 4 years. Moving past disappointment has been the hardest for me. Getting close to getting a job, and then having to move past the rejection, frustration, and sadness of not getting an offer.
It’s strange feeling like parts of your life are moving in the correct direction while other parts are stuck in place. My organization is going steady. Moving to a nicer place with my girlfriend of 2+ years is definitely forward progression. Having a steady job for almost a year and contributing to bills and paying off loans is positive. Being two years into my recovery and working towards bettering myself is forward momentum.
But for some reason I’m feeling stuck in place. Big parts of me are moving forward but I can’t get unstuck from the disappointment of not getting a position in the non-profit world.
I guess I didn’t realize just how terrible I was at focusing on the many positive parts of my life. I didn’t want to become a person whose job defined who they are, but here I am being all mopey about a job that in reality isn’t all that bad.
It’s time for an attitude adjustment. I need to train myself to not dwell on the negatives and to solely focus on the plethora of good that it’s in my life.
I’m doing well. And that is good.