Unpopular opinion: There are emotions bigger and more complex than the terms “gay”, “lesbian”, “bisexual” and “straight”. The emotions came first, and then came the vocabulary. And since humans are imperfect, the language might not perfectly reflect the emotions. And thus, “lesbian” might just not be the term you want to give to the fact that you’re a woman in love with a woman. Deal with it, or even better, just leave people be and mind your own business.
I’ve discussed it with Chrissi, I’ve discussed it with my girlfriend. Maybe I just shouldn’t make the mistake to read the comments directed at Jodie Foster’s speech at the Golden Globes (you know, the one in which she came out and refused to come out when actually talking about her privacy – media can’t decide, and they obviously didn’t listen to her).
See, I didn’t know much about her, but I know that she was counted among the lesbian icons for ages. She never made a secret out of her long-term relationship with another woman. Now she thanked said woman, said that she came out to the people who are important to her and dared to say that her private life is only her business, and not the world’s.
And people who don’t even know her claim now that she hides her sexual orientation because she doesn’t explicitly said “I’m gay”? What is wrong with people?
This is what I call “reducing people to one word”.
Who knows if this woman is gay? What if she is bisexual? What if she simply loves individual persons? And in this case, why should she give this love a name that she doesn’t find fitting?
Maybe I take this to personal because Jodie Foster actually did what I did for the recent years: Stating queerness without using labels you don’t feel comfortable with. Just because you fall in love with women, it doesn’t mean that you have to label yourself. There are a million reasons why someone might choose to not say “I’m a lesbian”, e.g. that said person might generally not support the categories of homo- and heterosexual, that there are more grey zones between hetero, bi and homo or that one simply might not want to be reduced to one’s sexuality.
So a woman, who fought hard to have a private life at all, says that she lived with another woman for 20 years, called that woman a “love of her life” and “co-parent of her children”, said that she has had her coming out “in the stone age” – and this is not enough? This is not clear enough and was an unfortunate and weak choice of words because the word “gay” or “lesbian” didn’t fall?
Why do people always have to judge?
I don’t know what I’m angrier about: That some people still doubt that she was talking about a love relationship (which I find pretty sexist – if a man had stated these sentences in relation to another man, the public world would have called him homosexual or at least queer without any further questions, and bloody hell, if a straight person had been speaking, nobody would have thought of claiming that this might have been something else than a romantic relationship! But women are not to be taken seriously, riiight? Since we’re so fluid…) or that the LGBT community seems to accept only one way of coming out: In the form of those three words. Because the world needs to know exactly if a person is homo- or bisexual or bisexual but prefers women, since there is no in-between and since there are no people who love persons, regardless of the gender… and of course the journalists need something to feast on as well.
I don’t care about celebrity coming outs, and I’m not a big fan of coming outs (aka as being forced to state that you are different from “normal” people, which, unfortunately, we are when we’re not straight – forced to come out, I mean) in general, but the Jodie Foster case made me furious. People start interpreting it now as if she wasn’t comfortable, as if she pretended it wasn’t okay to be gay. No. She didn’t. This is not a woman who is ashamed of her sexuality and doesn’t dare to stand her ground, this is not a woman who hides and is afraid what the media might think if she said she was gay. If she was, she would have delivered a different speech. She was as clear as you can be if you don’t want to label yourself with the term lesbian (and I’m sure there are more people who don’t give a damn about these labels or simply dislike the categorization). She doesn’t have to say “I’m gay” to let the world know she’s not straight.
In fact, nobody should have to let the world know they’re not straight. Sexual orientation (this lovely, fairly young social and cultural construct that has been made up only in the last few seconds of human history) should not be a matter of discussion anymore, it shouldn’t cause “Whoa, she’s what?” moments anymore. If a woman says “My partner Anne”, if a man says “My husband Carl”, that should be enough. And why should singles state their sexuality in the first place? Straight singles are not expected to claim “I’m heterosexual”, right?
To avoid misunderstandings: I am well aware that coming outs can be a massive relieve. But I’m not talking about people who came out on their own will – if people want to, and if people can safely say “I’m gay/I’m a lesbian” and mean it, that’s great. I’m also not talking about people who are afraid to come out of the closet because they fear what people might say. This is about people who don’t feel the need to put a label on their love life, for whatever reason, but still don’t make a secret out of it. Because it’s possible that you fall in love with people of the same sex and still don’t like to give it a name at all – except for love. Because love shouldn’t need further explanation.
I’m all for being open (aka don’t tell lies, don’t change your partner’s sex when talking about him/her), but I am repulsed by the need for labels, especially if the labels obviously are so tight that you’re out once you don’t fit into them exactly.
Am I crazy that I don’t want sexual orientation to be a matter of discussion anymore – not for silence, but for acceptance?
On Monday in my Swedish class we were supposed to talk about our holidays. I said something vaguely like this (with more mistakes): “Jag hälsar på min flickvän på semestern i Finland” (which roughly translates as: In my holidays I visit my girlfriend in Finland). My teacher corrected the preposition mistakes I had made, thought for a moment and added: “And flickvän is rather for partners, you’d rather say väninna (female friend) here”.
It was halfway funny because she didn’t get that I WAS talking about my partner (she even knows my girlfriend), and halfway sad because she immediately assumed that I must have picked the wrong substantive, like the partner thing was out of question (my Swedish faaar from perfect, but my choice of substantives and verbs usually isn’t that far off).
I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t make a difference if Jodie Foster said “Yep, I’m gay” (like Ellen DeGeneres did). By now, people would probably only roll their eyes and say: “So what?” (except for the haters, of course) or “Why didn’t she say so at the Golden Globes?”. She would be one more person in the cultural field to explicitly say “I’m gay” – in a field where homosexuality is widely accepted anyway. It’s not like when a gay German footballer would show himself with his boyfriend at a press conference – that might make a change. Or destroy his career. Because out society obviously is still far behind, because people who come out are still Othered immediately. Thousands of people in France marching in the cold to deprive same-sex couples of normal rights is very telling.
A change can only come if normal people – the non-celebrities – handle the matter without secrecy. And no, you don’t need to explicitly say the word. You just need to be honest and true to yourself, and yes *shock*, this might include not saying you’re gay/lesbian if you don’t feel like it or if you dislike labels and boxes (how dare you, you disgrace to the LGBT community *rolleyes*).
I hand my last words to a song that explains everything much better than I can:
”I am what I am and what I am needs no excuses.
Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am.”
Have a nice day.