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

10398628_1043568377607_599657_n

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 – You’re Hella Gay

17 prom

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

Missing My One Year Anniversary – An Accidental Hiatus

The beginning of this month I celebrated the one year anniversary of this blog. I had grand intentions of writing a very in-depth recap of the blog, and what it has meant to me the past year. Unfortunately life had gotten crazy over the past two months, and I fell out of writing.

First off, I got hired to a full-time position which is great, because money, but it’s not in my field. I know that I’m lucky to have any type of job as a millennial with a liberal arts degree who wants to work in a nonprofit, but nevertheless it has left me with not much to write about. Really, I just haven’t had the motivation to write. I know I’m in a good situation, but I have honestly lost some drive when it comes to finding a non-profit job or funding for my non-profit.

Very long story short – having an infected tooth and having potential employment burn you really puts you off from writing about anything positive.

Which in reality, is exactly what I have needed. Focusing on the positives in my life and the work (non-profit and for profit) I’m doing helps me keep my head in the game and maintain perspective.

My goal for this blog to continue on, and for me to keep writing about the good things about being gay and working in the non-profit world.

If anything has taught be about working in the non-profit sector,  it’s that if you get knocked down eight times, you need to stand up nine. I can’t give up on myself or my writing just because I’m not exactly where I want to be, and just because opportunities don’t work out the way I wanted them to.

So I guess this post will be an homage to the first year of this blog. There were road bumps, but I kept writing. I got busy, and I kept writing. So now after an unintended break, I will keep writing. I will keep trying. I will keep working at making the world a better place.

Finding the Good in Gay

Who is a good person? How do we learn what makes up a good person?

As I was writing last week’s blogI couldn’t help but think about my own Catholic education. I attended Catholic school for 12 years. Now while I’m not a practicing Catholic, there were lessons like “do unto others as you would have done to you…” that have shaped my judgement and ethos. But looking back, all of the role models that were presented to me (i.e. Mother Teresa, St. Francis, etc) were from several hundred years ago and/or very very Catholic.

Which makes sense, I’m aware. Going to a Catholic school would tip the scale in that direction.

But thinking through this, I am finally understanding why I have had a hard time reconciling my lesbian identity with my humanitarian one. I never learned about Harvey Milk or Bayard Rustin. Understanding Stonewall was through own research whilst in college. (I know this history is lacking across the board… but I can only speak to my experience).

My Catholic school experience tended to lean towards gay invisibility instead of prejudice. If no one talked about gays, then gays didn’t have to exist or be dealt with. I know that this policy is definitely a lot better than blatant, constant bullying and homophobic remarks; I wonder what if my the idea of who was good was expanded to LGBT* people?

Would acknowledging gay individuals who reflect Catholic teachings would be detrimental to the church? Why is it so difficult for some people to think that LGBT* and humanitarian identities can coincide?

I know that this isn’t just a Catholic school problem. There are 77 countries in the world that criminalize homosexuality. How can LGBT* feel empowered to do good in their micro and macro communities if there are told that who they are is criminal? How can someone see themselves as good-doer if one of their main identities is ostracized by their government and society?

When coming to terms with my own sexuality, there were times when I tapped into my one latent institutionalized homophobia, doubting that I could make a difference or be a good person because I am attracted to girls. Since I am a lesbian, does that mean even if I do good, being gay cancels it all out?

Obviously no. (Most of my Catholic guilt has been eliminated, thank the universe). But there are many LGBT* people who are told that aren’t good people, and don’t have to support to breakaway from their homophobic surroundings.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where a queer kid could say they wanted to be the next Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, Sally Ride, or any of the amazing *LGBT that have shape history?

Wouldn’t it be better to just teach children that being a good person can mean many things, and that they sexuality doesn’t have to influence their moral compass, but it is a part of them that is good?

The Queer Identity and International Aid Work

When I voiced my concern to a colleague about being gay and traveling abroad, I was basically told I shouldn’t make everything about my sexuality. I really struggled with this… was I applying my international work and travel through an unnecessary queer lens?

Luckily one of my mentors in all things LGBT ( and one of the loveliest woman I know, hands down) guided me to the crux of the issue- it wasn’t about applying my lesbian-ness all over the place; the true issue is that I am afraid of stripping my identity in order to be successful at my job and in my long term career.

When I think about identity, my head honestly starts to spin. I only came out 5 years ago. My queer circle hasn’t expanded much in those years, the large majority of my friends are heterosexual. Do I “act” and “look” more gay than 5 years ago? Probably. Some ‘friends’ have given me crap for it, but I see nothing wrong with buying into different identities and changing how you want to present your identity. If I never changed, I’d still be wearing Hot Topic shirts and thinking that Dashboard Confessional got their lyrics from my diary.

*Shudder*

People change, identities change. I really hope that I’m not the same kind of gay 10 years from now. Everyone grows, everyone evolves (cue Pokemon reference..?)

My identity never comes into question in my domestic work, and luckily hasn’t caused conflict or disturbance internationally. I know everyone has their “work” self, their “family” self, etc. But straight people get to be straight in all of these scenarios if they choose to.

I don’t want to tattoo ‘Lesbian’ on my forehead , but at the same time, I don’t want to worry about if my hair looks too gay, if I shouldn’t wear plaid of my marriage equality ring. Or purposely not talk about my amazing girlfriend.

I am a gay woman. Yes I have other identities, but this one is pretty central to who I am. Because I want it be, and at least for now, that works.

International Update (Sorry you’re only getting one…)

The country I have been working in has waxing and waning internet access, so I figured I would dedicate myself to one longer post versus two shorter ones. And I have also, you know been doing work for my non-profit, so I haven’t given myself much time during the day hours to process .

Warning: the following post will be rambly, highly emotional,  and only mildly edited.

I’m not going to give you a play by play of each daily experience, because most of the time throughout each day there wasn’t really an issue 95% of the time. And honestly, I haven’t actively thought about the issue from day to day. Which sounds great yes? This lesbian is definitely not stressed out about being in _____ as a gay women?

Nope.

As many of my gay peers know, it really only takes one incident to rattle you. We were at a local market, and being the good girlfriend that I am, I was looking for something to get her. As we were walking through stalls with one of our hosts (who I am out to), she mentioned (in the language of ____) that it was for my girlfriend, and quickly changed it to ‘friend’. I was not looking at who our host was talking to, but I know a flash of horror passed across my face.

And the moment was gone in an instant. In reality I felt no danger, and mild panic. Nothing out of the ordinary in my daily life honestly. But I just couldn’t settle it… until a colleague of mine had said that in the future I could use the ‘foreign language excuse’  when referring to my girlfriend.

Aaaaand then my righteous anger set in. Not at my colleague, she was right after all. I was angry at everything: the world, this country, my country, social inequality, prejudice… and the list just goes on. Why should I have play silly games of mispronunciation? Why in meetings should I have to feel concerned that I’m giving off to much “gay”?

WHY SHOULD MY SEXUAL ORIENTATION HINDER MY ABILITY TO TRY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE?

I should be leaving this trip feeling accomplished, satisfied, and happy. We have so much to work towards, and I want to focus all of my energy towards the future of my organization. But what does that mean as I continue to stay in the closet for the sake of success and funding?

I guess I’ll have to find out.

The obligatory Introduction…. of sorts….

Normally introductions would involve: “Hi! My name is ——“, and all of the other details like where I live or where I work. Unfortunately I am unable to disclose that information, because I’m gay AND I work in the national non-profit sector. I can tell you that I’m a 20 something lesbian who helped found an international non-profit. Outing myself could lead to denied entrance into countries I work in, my organization could possibly be banned from certain countries… you get the idea- it wouldn’t be good.

I really wanted to find resources on being LGBT and working in the non-profit / international aid realm; how have other people coped with putting themselves back in the closet for the sake of their work?. But I really couldn’t find anything. I know I’m not the only LGBT person working in a non-profit that isn’t LGBT related. Where is everyone at? I figured that starting this blog would help me (and whomever comes across my humble little blog) understand and work through what it means to be queer working in the international arena.

I understand the irony surrounding a blog about struggling with the idea of the closest as a means of protection (for me and my organization)… while keeping myself in the blogger’s closet. I would love to share stories with you about the inspiration and the creation of my non-profit, what it has accomplished. I would love to tell you about my amazing, supportive, and beautiful girlfriend. But at this point in my career, it’s honestly not worth the risk.

I’m going to delve into this more in-depth as time goes on. My goal is to update at least once a week, talking about my international journeys, various themes surrounding identity, worrying, language,etc. and any articles I can find discussing the LGBT experience in the non-profit world.

My goal is to create a space where people can discuss best practices, safe(ish) locations when traveling, and vent frustrations about maneuvering in a sector that defaults to heteronormative.

Fingers crossed, next week I will be traveling to —- for 2 weeks. This is the first time going abroad whilst being out AND in a relationship. I hope that the next couple of updates will focus on my thoughts and adventures in a mildly to moderately discriminating country.

Till next time- best wishes and safe travels!