We don’t all look gay

My local gym that I attend is undergoing some renovations in the change rooms this week. The “Women’s Plus” change room is off limits, so those of us who use that are now moved to the standard Women’s change room. Not a huge difference and really not that big of an issue except for a couple of things that we have in the “Plus” that there isn’t in the standard. Most notably, the small room in that area that is for stretching and light resistance exercise etc. A room only accessible in the “Plus” change room and one of the draws for women who like to have a separate space for abs and stretching essentially. Having worked for many years in the fitness industry, I have heard many times from women who want to work out in a female only space for a myriad of reasons.

So the conversation I wander into today goes something like what I’ve heard for a lot of years… “I hate having to workout and stretch in front of guys. I’m really missing a safe space to do that in…It’s uncomfortable to have to get into certain positions and to feel objectified and ogled by someone who’s looking at you that way… that’s why I love the women’s only area – there’s no one who is interested in me sexually or thinking thoughts like that!”

I’m smiling to myself and thinking how often I’ve heard some variation of this conversation. I completely see the validity in their statements by the way. Absolutely. I have felt uncomfortable in gyms myself – and I’m someone who is very comfortable in gyms usually. I’ve had encounters of feeling creeped on by someone looking a little too long or a little too closely. I’ve actually confronted someone who was staring. I get it. But to insinuate and believe that a women’s only area means that no one is going to look or have “those thoughts”, wrong.

Here’s a shocking fact… gay and bisexual women use women’s change rooms too. Yup. And you know what? When the woman you are naked next to, in your “safe space”, is gay, you probably have no idea. Why is that? Quite simply, we don’t all “look” gay  – whatever that means. Which is where we come back to that conversation this afternoon that I wandered into.

I usually don’t invite myself into other people’s conversations but when the one woman said to the other that she was a little uncomfortable changing when she saw a lesbian in the room, I couldn’t take it anymore. I excused myself for interrupting and asked her how she could tell when a lesbian was around. She told me, easy, they have “a look”… you know, not like “us” and she made a sweeping gesture with her hand over her friend and herself and to include me. For the first time ever, I told a complete stranger, who had no business knowing, what my sexual orientation is. Why? To make a point that she had – very wrongly – made an assumption of me based solely on my appearance. I don’t look gay according to her narrowly defined guidelines of what that looks like, so I must not be. She was knocked for a loop and apologized if she offended me and I could hear the beeping as she tried to back out of what she had said. I asked her if she was sexually attracted to, and interested in sleeping with every man that she saw, because after all, that’s the same logic she’s applying here to men and gay women. Of course not, she said. Her friend laughed and pointed out that she never thought of it that way. A few smiles exchanged and I was ready to not have this conversation anymore so on my merry way I went, shaking my head and thinking to myself that it feels like nothing ever changes sometimes.

Broken Straight Girl

My sexuality and how it’s expressed has been on my mind a fair bit recently. Discussions with people close to me have brought up a lot of reflection and musing over how I find myself where I am at this point in my life. Along with this has been the hard part of trying to explain to those close to me how I can be something other than what they thought they knew me as. Fair enough. As my partner pointed out to me, I’ve had years to come out to myself, it takes some adjusting for others who didn’t live inside my head all those years.

I came out late in life. It took years for me to figure it out on a personal scale so that’s no surprise. I came into puberty in the mid 1980’s in middle class Canada. An environment that wasn’t exactly open-minded and diverse by any stretch of the imagination. The only gay exposure that I had was through media and culture and that was very linear and bordered by clearly defined “rules”. Gay men were flamboyant and effeminate. Lesbians were androgynous or butch ( a term that I now know but back then just thought them “manly”) and very vocal about hating men for the most part. There were very few examples of gay persons that didn’t fit those stereotypes that I saw. Bisexual wasn’t even a blip in my realm of possibilities. It existed but it was never an option that I was aware of. You were either straight or gay or lesbian.

I knew that there was something “wrong” with me early. My first consensual sexual experience was with another little girl and that interest never wavered for me as I grew. By the time I was in my mid-teens I was confused by my sexual arousal for the same-sex. I began to think of myself as a broken straight girl. I was indifferent to boys as far as sexual attraction was concerned. I was drawn to and sought out images in pornography of women. I chalked it up to the fact that a woman’s body is beautiful and I was just simply able to appreciate that. Nothing gay about that, right? Nope, not at all. After all, I wasn’t like the lesbians that I saw and was exposed to. I didn’t hate men, I just was ambivalent about them. I liked being “pretty” and looking feminine from time to time. I tended to be more tomboy and one of the guys but was never androgynous or butch. I wore makeup and loved dressing up to go out. Not very lesbian as far as I could tell. I wanted children and a family and you did that by marrying a man and having that life. There wasn’t any other option to achieve that on my radar.  

So why was it that it was playboy and the like that I turned to for sexual stimulation? Why did I discreetly look at other girls and wonder how it would feel to touch them or have sex with them? I knew I wasn’t gay because I didn’t look or act like the lesbians I saw. So, broken straight girl it was. Keep my deviant thoughts to myself and find a man and get married and just accept that I was somehow wired wrong. Something inside of me was off kilter when it came to what turned me on. Simple.

So, I got married, had babies and life was busy and full and not quite right in a lot of ways. The wife of a friend of my husband’s was always where my eyes would wander when we were together as couples. Nude beaches and camping and I found myself drawn to catching glimpses of her rather than her husband or mine. It came clear to me that the odd feelings I had tried to ignore were not gone. Still though, I was even more confused by this point in my life. By now, I had even more reasons why I couldn’t be gay. I was married to a man. Lesbians didn’t marry men. They certainly didn’t have sex with a man and have children with that man. So, I must just be a straight woman who maybe has some sort of weird yearning for a fling with a woman.

A divorce brought to me the opportunity to explore options in my sexuality that I hadn’t had before. For the first time I started dating and being sexually active with women. I discovered that bisexual term that was elusive to me and figured that that had to be what I was. I had been married to a man so I couldn’t be an actual lesbian – even though at that point I couldn’t have cared less if I was ever with a man again. When a man did seriously pursue me though I went on a date, then another, and another and soon it was a relationship. Living in a suburban, conservative area I thought long and hard about how I wanted my life to be. I had three small kids and had just watched a fellow parent at school be swiftly ostracized after leaving his spouse for a male partner. Who was I kidding, I had had my fun and it was time to settle down and raise my kids in a strong and solid home. With a husband. Because that’s what you do when you’re a woman.

I had, in my brief foray into being socially involved with the gay community, been made brutally aware that I didn’t fit there either. I wasn’t gay enough. I had been married to a man. I identified as bisexual and the “real lesbians” didn’t want to date or have sex with me (with the exception of one). Other bisexual or “curious” women were who I had had experience with and they mostly had male primary partners as the “real” partners. So, back to a man I went.

Fast forward a few years and another divorce and some maturity that came with those years and we come to now. Better late than never. Happily now able to say that I know who I am and that that is a woman who is gay. The freedom and relief that comes with that is indescribable really. No, there’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not the broken straight girl I thought I was. I was just unable to see that “lesbian” doesn’t have to look a certain way. Femme, butch, neither, both, something in the middle… we all look how we look. It’s corny, but it’s what’s inside that makes you what you are, not what the packaging is.

 

Yes, it IS my mid-life crisis, thank you very much

Overheard at work today

“So she comes out as a lesbian, then a legal name change, now she’s moving. All she needs is a sports car and it’s a complete mid-life crisis!”

Followed by laughter and more talk that I didn’t hear because I walked away. Yes, it was me that was being discussed. While my initial thoughts strayed somewhere in the realm of daydreaming about buying a sports car and using it to run over the person who said those comments, that was short-lived.

The fact is that all those things said about me are true. It’s not like she was spreading lies or saying hurtful things about me. While I have known about, accepted, and expressed my sexuality for many years, I haven’t been very open about it publicly until last year. While I have been open that I went by a name other than my one given at birth, I didn’t legally change it till last year. Yes, I did find out yesterday that I am moving – again. So, all true. Not at all hurtful. I am not only comfortable with my sexuality and with being gay, I’m happy that I’m finally living openly how I choose to. I’m thrilled to have finally changed my name legally and have my paperwork match who I feel I am inside. Excited and happy about moving to a place that feels good to me. As for the sports car, if I do feel the desire to trade in my trusty four door sedan, I’ll do it if I want. Cause yes, I am mid-life and it’s not a crisis to realize that I can live how I want.

So go ahead and chit-chat behind a not-quite closed door. I’m the one smiling and walking away thinking how proud of myself I am that I chose this path. Sure it took me till midway through my life, but it’s better late than never.

Beauty of it all

Talking today with someone who is in the process of getting her permanent resident card. She’s lived in Canada since she was an infant and she’s turning 50 this month and this is her birthday present to herself. It’s something that she has wanted to do for many years but just never gotten around to. She is almost giddy with how excited she is. She said today to me “do you know what it’s like to finally be doing something that you’ve wanted to for so long? Something you didn’t even know how badly you wanted it until you started the change?” She grinned and answered her own question when she saw my face. Yes, I know. Smiles. She grinned in return and said “Of course you do”. She’s right. She’s seen me these past few years.

 

It’s an amazing feeling to know that you are doing something that you want, that you need, to do. Even more amazing when it sinks in how you didn’t know how much it was needed. It took me a long time to embrace and be open about who I am and how I need to live my life to be able to be happy. Starting with barely admitting it to myself, little bit by little bit, it’s good to be where I am now. Comfortable now. Open. Finally feeling the sense of freedom that comes with living my truth and not hiding it, even from myself – especially from myself.

 

No more shoulds or expectations based on norms that just never fit or felt right anyways. It took a lot of years for me to shine that light inside of myself and see what was there to find all along. Even more years to bring it all forward and accept myself and give myself the nudge to show other people who I am once I finally stopped feeling “wrong”.

 

To expose myself to not only myself but to others. To reach and connect… to finally start to draw closer instead of holding at arms length. Still a struggle but moving forward. To have people in my life who now help make up the beauty of my life. The beauty that is having people that know me. People that see me. The beauty that is having people in my life, some who I love intimately and some I am just getting to know more deeply, who live with the same authenticity and openness. The beauty of being able to see that I’m blessed more than I can see sometimes. 

 

it’s about f*&#ing time

I’m tired of living limited and inhibited. Sick of letting fear control me and stop me from doing what I want. Fed up with not making the choices that I want to make.

 

I have let fear dictate my life is how it feels. From those first moments of feeling like I was somehow broken and wrong because of what made me feel, what made me yearn and hunger for touch. Wrong. Scared and sure that I couldn’t have the life I wanted if I choose what I really wanted in a partner. So I made the choice to go the path of “normal”, resting assured that I would stop having those feelings, stop wanting what wouldn’t get me the family and children that I knew I wanted. Women who loved women didn’t have that. Not in my world. So I married men. I tried not to let on that I was drawn to, thirsted for, desired, the wives of my husband’s friends. Years down the road and a couple of divorces and some life lessons and that choice is now comfortably made – the way it should have been 30 years ago. A lesson hard learned.

 

Fears holding me back all of my life. Fear of failure, fear of what if I make the wrong decisions. Voices in my mind from so many years warning me that I’m not smart enough, strong enough or knowledgeable about myself enough to ever make the right choice. All at the same time wearing a mask that I was all those things. Inside though, not at all. The truth is though that I am those things. I’ve found that truth about 10 years ago. Briefly. I started to not doubt that I DO know myself, that I do know what I want, what will be the right choice. A sideways bump the last few years as I’ve fought back through grief and learned to live with that has started to come around again.

 

Starting to fight out of the fog that grief brought down. The fog that made me second guess myself.

 

Seeing now the far reaching impact that loss and grief can wreak. Seeing that some parts of my life need a shake up. I miss my confidence – even in my disastrous attempts at something new – there were times of laughter and “oh well, that was a fun try!” and I didn’t have the grounded sense of fear that permeates me now. I feel it and it makes me angry and sad and frustrated.

 

Now with a partner that I have none of the old fears with. I know, without a doubt, that she loves me – not a version of me. I know that I have a relationship with her that supports me, the same way I support her. The freedom that comes with that is something I had no idea existed to be honest. Feels good, and right, and the way it should be.

 

The rest of the work is for me to stop listening to the voices in my head that tell me the fears. The ones that tell me to not dance like I want, swear like I do (ladies don’t use language like THAT), to not wear that piece of clothing that makes me feel awesome. to not do those things that I want to, but am scared to do. Time for me to silence that. Time for me to stop being the harshest judge and critic and censor on myself.

 

It’s about fucking time.

 

“When is men’s day?”

It’s International Women’s Day today. There have been lots of posts on social media today about educating ourselves about the women in history who have helped to shape and create our lives and what we have, as a whole, in society and in our cultures. Great posts about celebrating women and their contributions. Lots of articles and blogs about potential realized…and much more about the plight of women throughout the world that still will live and die with their potential unrealized.

All great posts and insightful. I even mentioned one to my son. His remark… “When is International Men’s Day?”.

Now of course, the appropriate female response would be one that points out the many years, centuries even, of mistreatment and discrimination and maltreatment of women for nothing more than being women. The argument is that “everyday is men’s day” (overheard recently) and that men have never had to fight to be treated as respected as equals. That, even today, women earn less than men do for the exact same job – for no other reason than that they don’t have a penis. That, even today, female infants are less valued and that gender selection is still a booming industry in some areas of the world. So many reasons why we have a day to acknowledge and celebrate women.

I recently read a book that was about female empowerment and about owning our power and strength as women and taking back our right to be safe and about being more in touch with our feminine selves in order to achieve all this. Great I thought. Until about halfway through the book when I actually did something I haven’t done in a long time; I stopped reading it and got rid of it. Why? Simply because I couldn’t agree with the increasingly vehemently stated views that men – all men – were potential rapists and essentially one bad beard away from caveman like behaviour. So was I to believe that my sons are nothing more than misogynistic rape machines in the waiting?

I don’t buy it. I don’t believe that every man is inherently “bad” any more than I believe that a woman has a “right” to a faster queue or a different set of standards to achieve for no other reason than having been born with an innie instead of an outie.

Women have fought to be equal. Excellent. I can get behind that. But for us to be better than men…for us to say that a man can’t march with us at a rally for our equality…for us to say that men can’t support us by being there in an event for women-centered issues (or that they have to be “vouched for” to do so)…how is that right? Now seeing my “sisters” demand to be treated as “better than”… how does that make it any different that when men treated us as less than? How do I explain to my sons that they are not eligible for the special treatment that their female classmates are because they were born male? When my son asks why men don’t have a day and the only answer is that – essentially – they don’t deserve one because of the way society wronged women in the past…does that make us strong and empowered and equal? Sure doesn’t feel like it to me.

Neon Trees

A song today that brought back so many memories. It’s amazing how a few seconds of a song can take you away to another time so fully and swiftly.

A song that was playing during a wild and fun sexual romp with my boyfriend at the time. Almost 5 years ago and with just a few seconds of that song, I was right back there. All of the feelings and emotions and images flooding my mind made me smile. Then they made me sad. In a quick turnaround, I am left with a sadness, not over the loss of that relationship or missing that person , but a sadness over the difference in ME now.

That was a time when I was finally living my truths. Life had taken yet another massive turn for me and I was separated and raising my boys as a single parent again. I had just sat the boys down and had the talk with them about how things were changing. I was sick of working too much and not having enough smiles and fun in our lives. It was time to not only lighten the schedules, but to make joy a priority. Part of that, for me, was living a healthy expression of my sexuality and relationship choices.

I was finally openly (to myself, others would come later) bisexual and happily open with my sexuality and how I explored that. That meant being openly poly in my relationship choices. The people I was involved with were all aware that there were “others” in my life that I shared time and connections with. For the first time in a very long time, I was happy and comfortable with my Self and how I was living my life.

That song this morning… boom… right back there. And like a jolt, it magnified for me how far grieving and living with depression has taken me from my truth, my freedom, my joys.

I miss the lightness of being. The ease of knowing that even though things were sometimes hard, I was happy with my choices. I miss the ability to connect and enjoy experiences with people. That’s been lost for too long.

I think back to the song playing, 5 years ago, and I close my eyes and make a promise to my Self that I’ll find that feeling again.