30 October, 2009

The Elevators

When I was fourteen, on a cold day when I felt full of noise and power and love, I went with my parents to a concert in New York City. It was vocal music, performed in a church, but that's all I remember. After the concert we briefly stopped at the Strand, and I bought the book Foundlings: Lesbian and Gay Historical Emotion Before Stonewall. I was a gay kid--normal people don't have to be gay when they're kids, I think, because the interbrain makes them so aware of the fact that it's stupid and dangerous to think about being gay. But I was gay, and liking girls was just like liking the Animorphs books, and werewolves, and Les Miserables. It didn't occur to me not to tell my parents, or to feel guilty that it bothered my mom, or to not buy books about it. And Foundlings looked like an interesting book.

So now it has been with me a third of my life, but I didn't understand it until I developed common sense at the age of sixteen. Or what I specifically didn't understand was this incredibly convoluted and prissy sentence, which is from a description of a scene in a lesbian pulp novel where the feminine Laura attacks her butch elevator operator girlfriend, Beebo, by telling her she'll never be a man:

By insisting on this terribly narrow story of gender inversion, by taking the elevators out of Beebo's sexuality, Laura returns them both to a brutal ground floor in which desire is always the desire for something real, instead of something living, and every demand is a demand for total validation, or for total destruction--in which there is no distinction between hatred and self-hatred.

"Whaaaaaaat?" I rightly replied as a middle-schooler. Elevators? Ground floors? Something real instead of something living? Frequently during my seven years with Foundlings, I have gone through phases where I've written this paragraph on the inside covers of notebooks so I can laugh whenever I look at it. Or not exactly laugh--marvel. I love rhetoric, even when it seems like it's just for the sake of itself, which is how this paragraph struck me for a long time.

But when I was in my late teens, I started loving inverts. Not because I am an invert, because there's no such thing as inverts anymore, at least in America.* Inversion was a way of making sense of same-sex attraction when being gay did not exist. If women always love men, and you're a woman and you don't, then that means that you have a man's soul. This means you're sort of freakish and tragic, but there's also calmness in it; you just have the wrong kind of soul, but your soul is acting right. If being same-sex-attracted is just a kind of disability, then it's possible to be noble about it. You can feel sad, blunder through all these crushes on straight girls, sometimes collapse under the weight of wanting so much not to be yourself--but you can be a good person, you can be brave.

I miss the medical model of homosexuality. Now that I have more common sense than I did when I was a kid, I'm painfully conscious of all the ways that being gay makes my life more difficult. But the model of homosexuality now is just--well, there isn't even one. You're not supposed to be upset about being gay unless your parents are beating you for it. You're supposed to act like it's this fantastic, jolly thing that makes you more unique, and if other people don't get that, fuck them.

Well, I don't feel that way. I feel impaired by my homosexuality. It's not the most important feeling in my life anymore, thank God, but neither is pride. I used to think that I was some kind of freak and that I just didn't like being gay because I was a maladjusted person, but I've started to think this isn't true. I think it's kind of like how I was the only gay kid at my summer camp. I tend to say things whether or not they're convenient, whether or not they make me feel better. I have watched a lot of gay people act like they don't like being gay; they just don't call it that. It's not part of their narrative like it is part of mine.

I like saying things are hard when they're hard.

I think taking the elevators out of me would be telling me that I must hate myself because I sometimes hate being gay. Or because I talk openly about that fact. Or because I'm interested in the writing of celibate gay Christians, and even identify with it more than the writing of mainstream gay people because they at least seem like they're striving for something instead of pretending that everything is good the way it is. Another way people take the elevators out of me is by telling me that I'm being negative when I try to manage my ASD impairments--for example, telling people before I speak that I'm not a good speaker. Or my parents telling me it's sad that I aspire to a direct support job with intellectually disabled people, which I want to do because it wouldn't make me nervous or tired. But I don't like being tired! How is it being all you can be if you're tired? I aspire to come home from work feeling happy and energetic, how is that not being all I can be?

I like inverts because they admit that things aren't going so well. And that doesn't mean they're always miserable, just because they admit that. I'm not always miserable--quite the contrary. I'm just straightforward.

*Some people would say that inverts exist--they are transgendered people. I don't think they're the same thing. I can see a trans person liking inverts for some of the same reasons I do, but I have never met a trans person who closely resembled an invert.

1 comment:

  1. I love this, wow, and now I'm going to start talking about taking out my elevators and people won't know what I mean.