14 October, 2010

some complaints about being same-sex-attracted and not adapting well

(totally switched into my old anti-"queer culture" whining mode while writing this, and I apologize tenfold, I really am better now in this area at least. But I'm just posting this without reading it over because if I don't I will never post anything like it at all.)

I guess this is probably bad, but I'm not making an It Gets Better video because I'm not better.

I was working on a long post about this, since August, but it never really solidified.

When I was in high school, someone who wasn't my friend said this to my (secret, closeted) friend, who then told me: "Everyone could see there was something different about Amanda, and then when they found out she was gay, they had an answer."

When I was in high school, the word dyke or lesbian was a way to easily quantify all the things about me that didn't seem right. When I was in high school I felt very alone.

When I was in ninth and tenth grade, I actually brought all this on myself by not denying that I was gay or bisexual, and presenting in a masculine way. I felt that this was an important thing to do because other kids needed to see that queer people were just regular people. The problem with this idea is, in hindsight, obvious: I am not a regular person. Being openly queer in a heteronormative environment is a noble thing to do, but maybe not if you have anxiety about pretty much everything and have trouble talking to people.

A lot of my coming-out process happened when I was on a lot of medication and overwhelmed by the relationships I was in. By the time I was in eleventh grade, I was more able to clearly see what was going on, and I knew that I'd made a mistake by not being closeted. My school was very small, some people were genuinely afraid to be friends with me in case someone said they were having sex with me, and I wasn't a person who could charm my way out of this stigma. But my school wasn't violently homophobic and I feel like a more normal person could have made a difference. It would have to be a person who fit in every way, except one.

I think this is something that's always been hard for me to conceptualize--I've been in situations that other people would have been able to handle, but I haven't been. I feel like there's an attitude of, "It's not that bad for queer people to be under a little more pressure, if it's an amount of pressure that a normal person can handle, if they have nothing else on their plate."

At my college being same-sex-attracted is a non-issue; I remember the first time I told someone at college I was gay, and how hard that was for me. When I was in high school, I had huge problems saying the word and wouldn't be able to finish sentences if they contained it. In the first semester or two of college, I felt afraid of hugging my female friends or even sitting close to them while watching TV. I don't feel that way anymore. I don't feel separate from my friends because I am not straight. And that is a really big thing that means a lot to me, but it's all I'd be able to say in an "it gets better" video, and on paper, it doesn't sound that great.

I'm incel (don't know this word very well, and if it's associated with a subculture of assholes I take back my identification). I've never had a serious relationship with anyone.

[Edit from 2018: Even though someone tried to explain to me in the comments, I did not understand the depths of the "incel" community at the time I wrote this post and would NEVER use that word to describe myself now. I don't know if "ace spectrum" would be a better word to use, but it was and is the case that I'm rarely attracted to people, and my needs in a relationship are somewhat unusual; so it's not very common for me to be attracted to someone who's both attracted to me and compatible with me. I think a lot of my early-20s complaints about lesbians not being up to my standards were really a way to avoid admitting that relationships and dating don't usually work for me because of how I am.]

I have always wanted to get married and have a big family (big by liberal not conservative standards, so 3-5 kids). But I have never really thought this will happen. For a while I used to think that I might end up marrying one of my male friends and raising kids together, but I'm no longer okay with that prospect; it would just make me too depressed.

Even though my school is ssa-positive, most of the people at my school are straight just like most of the people in the world. I have enough friends that I never feel lonely, but I don't belong to a group of friends (partly because I don't like groups), and I know very few ssa people because I don't have stereotypical queer interests.

A few years ago I posted on a lesbian advice forum saying I was depressed and stressed because I wanted to believe I would someday get married and have kids, but that I had never been in a relationship and didn't think I ever would be. People responded telling me that if I was on a date with a girl, I shouldn't tell her I wanted to have kids, because she would think I was creepy. One person went to my livejournal, saw where I went to school, and told me that my school wasn't any place to complain about and that I should "stop whining." She provided a list of various social groups and activities that would help me to meet "dykes," including eating in a co-op (which would mean being organized enough to eat at the same time every day, taking up a lot of executive function cooking and cleaning, and constantly interacting with a large group of people I didn't know).

I try not to think about any of this.

I used to have a political problem with the way other ssa people behaved. Whenever I thought about it I got so upset that I didn't know what to do. The way I saw it, there were two kinds of ssa people:

1. "gay" people (such as people involved in the HRC) who were very normal and wanted to have normal jobs and normal families. They didn't think much about trans people, non-homosexual sexual minorities, or anyone who wasn't normal.

2. "queer" people (such as a lot of people at my school) who were very into not being normal, playing rugby, performance art, co-ops, and so on. Many of them identified as trans but didn't seem to understand that some trans people actually take hormones and get surgery and are poor, and are not students at a liberal arts college who change their pronouns every week.

(Part of the focus of #2 arose because my only good lesbian friend, and one of my only non-straight-and-cis friends, was a person who was transitioning in college and had before transitioning fit squarely into the category of "very serious person who likes obscure music, old movies, and complaining." This was not such a bad personality for a straight guy, but it just added to the awkwardness she already felt whenever she tried to go to any kind of trans-related group or event at school, since most of the people were female-assigned and also just acted super "queer"--i.e. running around being spontaneous and talking about how we just need to break down all the labels and categories and let people be themselves, man! [Seriously, once I asked a very annoying queer-identified guy, who had previously been a pretty cool gay-identified guy who hated queers, but I think they stole his brain or something, "Well, what do you actually think we should be doing if everything 'gay' people are doing is so racist and classist and normative?" to which he replied that "trans issues are important, like we shouldn't have male and female bathrooms," at which point I couldn't take it anymore and said "Well what about fucking HEALTH CARE COVERAGE FOR TRANSITION" and he said he didn't really know what he thought we should be doing but we'd discuss it later and I should read Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore.]

Anyway, it was just pretty annoying for my friend and me, and we used to kind of feed into each other, and one time a queer feminist girl called out my friend in a filmmaking class for making a film about a female character when [the queer feminist thought] my friend wasn't a woman. [The person wasn't intentionally being transphobic--my friend was still using her birth name at the time and maybe still looked ambiguous--but I still think it's not okay to say something as harsh as what she said to my friend, on the basis of the assumption that someone isn't a woman.])

I just got really upset because I still felt alone/depressed about my future as an ssa person, and I also could see that trans people were in genuine financial/physical danger, but I felt like no one cared about just Making Things Better For Everyone. They wanted to either make things better for a small group of normal people, or go totally abstract and just "queer everything" and "break down all the categories and walls," which meant fuck all in the short term for real people.

I felt weird because I wanted to get married but I wasn't normal and I felt like "gay" people wanted to help normal people get married and "queer" people were anti-marriage so neither one included me.

For quite a while when I was nineteen and twenty I insisted on being referred to only as "homosexual" and "same-sex-attracted" because I didn't want to be associated with any cultural groups. A straight friend-of-a-friend referred to me as queer, and was a bit surprised when I spat out, "I'm not queer, I'm gay." In the past year I have started calling myself queer just because I like the word and I don't really give a fuck about how alienated I feel from most people who identify with it.

The only reason I stopped being so upset about being ssa was just because in the last year I started getting into Autistic/disabled stuff and I actually feel like I share the values and am included and not ignored because I'm too weird or not radical enough. So now I feel like I can actually work on stuff that's important, by working on disability stuff, and not feel like I'm alone in what I care about.

But when I go back to thinking about being ssa, I never feel better.


  1. *comfort*

    Strangely I relate to a lot of that, despite being bi[1] and not gay. Anyway, I often thought that I could never be gay simply because I didn't feel like I could fit into gay culture, and that I didn't especially *want* to fit into gay culture.

    I think it's pretty brave that you were out in your high school despite your social challenges. When I was in high school I was just getting over having what I now realize were panic attacks over the idea of being anything but straight.

    [1] You might think that makes it easier, and I suppose in some ways it does, but the truth is more problematic than that. I'm very rarely attracted to anyone, male or female, so it makes it extremely hard to find anyone to date simply because it's so hard to find anyone *I'm* interested in, besides the fact that I'm in a very hermity phase of my life right now.

    All the guys that are interested in me (not many of them), I don't want, and I have no idea how to approach girls.

  2. I guess I'm inclined to imagine that I like queer people and have a lot in common with them, but I actually don't know very many. I'm friends with a few gay and bisexual-but-mostly-gay guys who I really really like, but I met them all in the same place, so it's probably not very realistic to say that I'd feel that way about other queer people (or even just gay guys in particular).

    But I can still relate somewhat to sometimes feeling less close to my straight friends than if I were straight too, and then feeling bad because I don't have gay friends to sort of make up for or replace that. That's not because I don't get along with gay people, although I suppose I might not, but just because I'm really bad at making friends by myself and basically only know the people I met when I started college.

    I mean, I probably shouldn't complain, though. Being (mostly)* gay is just inconvenient for me rather than terrible.

    *I should probably just start saying bi, but it seems weird to say that when there's practically no chance I'll ever date a guy, even if I ever date anyone. I'm rarely attracted to guys to begin with, and when I am they're almost invariably gay. And it's usually just this intense infatuation that I like to pretend would eventually turn into sexual attraction, but who knows.

  3. I've had some of these experiences but not others --- for me, the biggest problem was never being able to find other lesbian or bisexual women (and thus, never having been in a same-sex relationship, or even having a same-sex kiss/makeout session/whatever).

    For the same reasons you mention here ---

    "She provided a list of various social groups and activities that would help me to meet 'dykes', including eating in a co-op (which would mean being organized enough to eat at the same time every day, taking up a lot of executive function cooking and cleaning, and constantly interacting with a large group of people I didn't know)."

    --- I was never part of any "queer culture" at my college, even though there *were* a lot of LGBT students and lots of clubs, organizations and events catering to them, and the people I tended to meet in contexts where I was comfortable --- and would see often enough to become friends --- were mostly straight men.

    Also, my social agnosia and inability to "read" faces, body language etc. ensures that I don't have a working gaydar, so I can't know if a woman is lesbian or bi unless she tells me. (And I won't express attraction to a woman unless I know she won't be scared or disgusted if I tell her).

    So, yes, it's a whole 'nother level of lonely for those of us who are queer and also different in some other way that prevents us from assimilating into "Queer Culture"...

  4. FYI, 'incel' is generally associated with misogynistic PUA 'women are aliens I want to stick my dick into' assholes. I'm not saying you shouldn't use it, but just as a heads-up.