I love this idea of resonance, of not having to constantly out oneself or conform to stereotypical gay appearances to have our sexual orientation read correctly, but live with all parts of the self in alignment and have that resonate to those around us. When a confident person walks into a room or a party, that aura of confidence resonates around the room. Everyone can feel, or sense it, even though that person isn’t going around and declaring in each conversation, “I’m confident!” Why can’t it be the same with other key parts of our selves, like our sexual orientation?
One line I can’t stop thinking about: ” I should avoid acting afraid because of assumed straightness.” This is the ideal I, too, want to press towards. There are real dangers in society if we do not act through a fear of the sexual orientation of those around us who are the socially accepted norm. We are policed through this fear of “assumed straightness,” and we police ourselves, because we do not want to be harmed or put into a stereotypical box and have the lid closed on us to all other possibilities. At the same time, I know I cannot get lost in this fear—it is easily internalized, with crippling results. I am still searching for the right way to deal with all the pressures.
A suggestion - resonance, over visibility.
For most of this tumblr blog, I’ve been trying to think about how to make my being-gay (for the sake of this post, it’s easier to say gay instead of bi), visible. My preoccupations have been with the oppression of having to be in a closet, of the need to have to come out in order to be publicly gay, of having to self and publicly identify as gay (as a stereotype), and about how exactly I can live my life with the fact of being gay being true…and yet to not have my gayness mark me any more differently than any straight person’s orientation does. I’ve been wondering about how to like men, yet not fall into the category/stereotype of ‘gay’ and all the cultural baggage attached from the departure gate.
My problem has largely been about having visibility, and yet not being consumed by this fact of myself being visible; I want to be known as gay, to be able to acknowledge being gay, and to be visible as gay. Yet, this basic visibility immediately opens me up to being just-gay, to being a stereotype, because having to make my gayness visible tends to overwhelm anything else I am. In order to initiate a relationship, to experience this part of myself (which, being an attraction, does dwell with others and not solely myself), I need to be visible as gay in order to make a date possible.
At first, I thought about the idea of being open, not out - basically, of just acknowledging my sexual orientation freely without worrying about coming out of the closet to anybody. But, this is a very limited option: if no one asks, how will they ever know? I’ve only recently begun finding out people’s sexual orientations being similar to mine, around me, but that is because I’ve never thought to ask and it took an accident to prompt questioning at all. Further (but I will post later on this), it is harder to affirm your gayness when you are bisexual, and hence I can join in with my heterosexual friends in appreciating the beauty of women and not face questions or be able to say I like men too.
Last week, I was listening to a lecture by the philosopher Simon Critchley - this man is one of the foremost Levinas scholars, and so I may want to do my doctorate with him some day down the line. He was lecturing about politics, and he was discussing a shift in the focus and goals of public protests. In the 60’s through to the 90’s, the goal of social activism was for protests to be visible. Large crowds would protest and show popular opinion, creating a space to be seen in, so that their voices might be made visible. However, Critchley points out, there has been a shift towards public protests holding resonance (as opposed to visibility). What I have taken this to mean is that we want not to be visible, not to be heard, but to be felt - to resonate our sexualities to those around us. Imagine striking a tuning fork against the side of an empty wine glass, and hearing the sound resonate throughout a table full of empty glasses - my being gay must be felt by those around, not merely seen.
And so, now, a possible tool - resonance. It is not a problem of having to be seen as gay - again, if my being-gay has to be announced, it immediately becomes “the thing” about me, a central and all consuming fact which (remembering Foucault) then filters all other facts about me. Instead, I must strive for a way of my sexual orientation to be one bit of sound, sung amongst multiple infinite others, reverberating off of those with whom I interact, instead of one visible thing protesting for its place in everyone’s view. I know this is convoluted - I can only sketch what I am feeling at the moment, but I hold hope in this idea.
I guess the idea would be to freely integrate my sexual orientation into my daily life, such that whenever I am grabbed by a fancy towards a guy, I should simply act as if he could be gay, that he could be homosexually oriented; the idea being that I should avoid acting afraid because of assumed straightness. Perhaps, if I can cease to worry about my sexual orientation being an important and limiting presence to my mind and heart, if I stop fretting about having to make myself visible as gay, I can allow the simple fact that I like boys as well as (and, for the moment, more so than) girls to resonate with those I meet.
How to make this work, this is the question…
In a humanities class, once upon a time, we were told to write on paper the biggest insults you could possibly call a man.
^ These were among the top 5 responses.
“Now what do these words have in common?” the professor asked of us.
“They pertain to females,” one student answered.
“Very good. And why do you think these very gender-specific names would be so caustic to a man?”
“Because women are considered lesser than men,” the student eventually responds. A part of me wants to vomit, break a wall. Break a face. Set fire to a building.
I feel males (and very easily a LOT of females) have decided women are incapable of being hard. Or not allowed to. Like there has to be some catastrophic event to allow a hard repercussion. Sometimes when a girl/woman/what-have-you is being hard, (this is often the case when I come across hostile female strangers) it’s because she is sick and tired of being bullied. It’s a reaction. A way to get across to someone so people don’t trample her and she can get shit done.
In modern-day American society, women tend to make a choice: cutesy, loveable baby or evil dura mater (Latin “tough mother”), who, well, gets shit done.
Yes, I understand name-calling is an immediate reaction to intimidation. But just because we’re intimidating, you are not suddenly given the authority to demean us based on whether we were born with girl-parts or not.
Don’t call us bitches. It’s wrong.
Me or any other female. And girls, it’s not being sensitive, it’s knowing the difference between right and wrong and standing up for it. Do you honestly know what you’re saying by calling another human being a bitch?: “Not only are you a dog, but you’re a female dog. You are the lowest form of low.”
Nuh-uh. Not on my watch. This is abusive. And ignorant. And shows what a sad, pathetic, diction-less critter you are.
Don’t call us cunts. Don’t call us whores. Don’t call us sluts. Call me Danielle because that is my name, and as your co-worker, you respect me. Give my fellow co-workers the same respect.
And if I ever hear the C-word out of a man’s mouth again, I am walking directly to Human Resources and getting your ass fired. I don’t care if you’re my friend. I don’t care if you’re good at what you do. It’s an immediate threat and I am not going to lower my standards as a human being. That’s just how I roll.
Tell it like it is. And seriously, folks, these are not words to just throw around like they are the equivalent to “sister” or “friend” or “woman” (except in certain bedroom situations where there is consent by all parties involved). They are too heavily laden with misogynistic history to pretend they are easily reclaimed.