Internalized homophobia

Alright, we have to have a conversation about internalized homophobia. The only way I can start this conversation is by talking about my own experience, and it’s going to involve telling you about my sad personal stories and experiences in therapy. Sorry to put you through this, but that’s how best I can explain this topic!

Some of you will recognize my stories if you’ve been reading my blog for a while. I have removed some earlier posts that contained these stories and so I’ll be telling them again. Feel free to skim if you’ve read them before!

The website Cultural Bridges to Justice defines internalized homophobia:

“Internalized homophobia is defined as the involuntary belief by lesbians and gay men that the homophobic lies, stereotypes and myths about them (that are delivered to everyone in a heterosexist / homophobic society) ARE TRUE.”

I will get more specific about what internalized homophobia looks like in this post.

The earliest anecdote I can think of where I denied a same-sex attraction is when I was 9 and I had a crush on a girl at my school. I was fascinated with this girl who I thought was the prettiest girl I had ever seen and I followed her around at recess because I wanted to look at her. I started talking about her at home and my mom casually remarked that I had a crush. This seemed really embarrassing to me and I insisted that I didn’t have a crush. At this point I didn’t consciously think of myself as either gay or bisexual; I didn’t have any concept of sexual orientation and all I knew was that this girl was beautiful. I didn’t draw any conclusions that this feeling said something about me. But I still felt embarrassed when my mom pointed it out. I believe that’s because even at a young age kids learn to view same-sex attraction as something embarrassing, gross, wrong and weird. I never had anyone in my life explicitly say that homosexuality was wrong, but this message is casually inserted into all of our culture, like endless subliminal messaging. Everything in society is geared toward heterosexuality, the way adults talk to kids always assumes their future heterosexuality, every story, movie, and song we consume contains heterosexuality, and we either don’t hear about homosexuality at all or we hear about it in the punch lines of jokes. Characters in films and TV shows make “gay jokes” all the time, they make fun of people by implying they’re gay, they express disgust toward gay people, and they generally act like gay people are weirdos and freaks who are totally different from regular society. Then there’s the talk amongst kids! Every gay kid has had to listen to people calling each other fag or queer or fruit at school and people putting people down by implying they’re less than heterosexual. These messages get stored in the hard drive of the brain and the kid remembers that being gay is weird and gross. When my mom said that I had a crush on a girl, I recoiled in horror at the thought.

When I was fourteen I had a crush on a girl again and there was no way I could hide it. Talking about her made me light up like a lamp, and I couldn’t stop talking about her. I became really goofy around her, it’s like I couldn’t remember how to speak properly when she was around. I admitted this to two friends, one of whom knew long before I told her. When I found out that one of these two friends had told someone else without my permission, I was horrified. I walked around at school wondering if anyone else knew and what would happen to me. I remember in grade ten a boy in my class relentlessly harassed another boy, telling him he was gay over and over until he was fighting back tears. I thought the bully was a total asshole but I was too scared to tell him to knock it off. I didn’t want that sort of thing to happen to me. How I wish I could go back to that day and tell that bully to shut the fuck up! At fourteen I knew that it was taboo that I liked another girl, I was scared of anyone knowing besides my two best friends, and I knew that other people would not be okay with it. This all had an effect on me.

I spent the next few years in denial and tried to be straight, although this didn’t work out. I never loved a man and they couldn’t satisfy me. When I fell in love with a woman at age 20, it broke the denial. I was head over heels for her, acting all goofy and unable to speak again, and writing all sorts of poetry about her. For the purposes of this post I’ll call her “Rosie.” I didn’t notice my attraction to Rosie at first, because I was in denial. What happened was that I started believing I was stupid. I didn’t think that I knew how to even carry on a conversation because I was so stupid. I ended up actually going to therapy because I had gotten depressed to the point where I couldn’t do any schoolwork. My therapist asked me specific questions about my belief that I was stupid. She got me to narrow down the issue for a while until finally what I realized is that I was only stupid when I was around Rosie. I had no idea why this could be. My therapist asked me to describe Rosie and I immediately began to gush about how beautiful, smart, brilliant, and pretty Rosie was. I carried on for a few minutes while my therapist just watched me talk, and then all of a sudden I started to hear myself and I realized what I was saying. I was saying I was attracted to her. I couldn’t look at my therapist anymore. I stared at the wall in shame and wouldn’t look her in the eye.

The reasons for my shame was because of all the years of being in a heteronormative culture and hearing homophobic words used as slurs and even the word “gay” used as a slur and seeing gay people used as punch lines in jokes. What this all adds up to is a belief that gay people are gross and weird. Realizing you have a same-sex attraction means realizing you are one of those “freaks” that you’ve always heard bad things about. Up to this point in your life, you know you aren’t a freak, and you know that gay people are freaks. When you realize you have a same-sex attraction, you can either dismiss it and decide you couldn’t really be gay, or you can sink into despair upon realizing that you are a freak after all! Of course, if you’re lucky, maybe you can skip this process altogether and just accept it immediately, but that’s not what happened to me.

I want to talk about how internalized homophobia can work on a subconscious level. Even that day when I stared at the wall because I was too ashamed to look at my therapist, if you had asked me, “Is it okay to be gay?” I would have said yes. I did not have a conscious belief that there was anything wrong with being gay. I was all progressive and tolerant and I thought it was just fine, as long as it wasn’t me.

I was very lucky I went to a decent therapist who could identify my issue. She kept asking me questions until the real reason for my distress became apparent. She didn’t tell me the reason, she helped me find it for myself. When she saw how ashamed I was about my attraction to my female friend she told me that I didn’t have to be ashamed and she encouraged me to do things for myself that would help, like joining the gay group on campus.

I had another issue to work out too, and that was the issue of female-only space. I didn’t think I belonged in it. I felt like my attraction to women made me like a man, and that I didn’t belong in private spaces with other women because I was attracted to them. Once again, this was a subconscious belief. I wouldn’t have said out loud that lesbians are sex offenders if you had asked me, but I felt like I was doing something wrong by living in close quarters with straight women and sharing bathrooms with them. I felt like I was violating them somehow, just by being there. The only reason I realized I was feeling this way is because my therapist kept asking me questions to get me to dig deeper, and she helped me uncover my underlying attitude that was causing me to feel anxious. We had a whole conversation about it, and I had to tell myself that there was nothing wrong with me being in female-only space—I had no desire to do anything wrong to the women I was sharing a dorm and a bathroom with. I definitely had a desire to have sex with the woman I was in love with, but I did not pay much attention to the others. I didn’t have a sexual attraction to every woman—it was only to certain ones—and I get zero sexual arousal from being in a washroom or locker room.

One more thing I need to discuss, and that’s when I was trying to block my thoughts about women. I don’t know when this started exactly, but I used to prevent myself from having romantic thoughts about women. As soon as I saw a pretty woman or thought about a woman I liked, I would launch into a full-on attack against myself, calling myself names and telling myself to stop, stop, STOP! And then all the other insecurities would pile on top of those—I was also stupid and wrong and awful and would never make it in the world. I had to work hard at identifying these thoughts as incorrect and harmful and then slowly reverse them by teaching myself new thoughts that reflect love and acceptance. And here’s my sparkling snow anecdote which will be the only happy thing in this post! One day I was walking out in the snow, and I thought of a pretty woman I knew, and I realized that I could enjoy this thought. I could allow this attraction to make me feel good and I could enjoy the warm fuzzies, instead of beating myself up over it. So I thought about her and smiled to myself. Because I finally gave myself permission to feel good about it instead of beating myself up over it, everything changed. At that moment, the snow didn’t feel cold or gloomy anymore, it looked sparkly and beautiful. And that’s when I realized that when I stop beating myself up with negativity, I can finally let in what joys there are to find here in this life. Allowing myself to be who I am literally made the snow sparkle.

So to summarize a long bunch of stories, internalized homophobia can look like denial, negative self-talk, and negative beliefs about being gay directed toward the self.

Denial: This can consist of pretending a same-sex attraction doesn’t exist, or conceptualizing it as something else. A woman who is exclusively attracted to women is a lesbian—that’s what the word means. Sometimes women who are attracted to women label themselves by some other name or try to think of themselves in another way. Some of us try to be straight even though that doesn’t work, because we cannot love men. Some of us disguise ourselves as men so that we look straight. Lesbians who are trying to look like heterosexual men are denying their lesbianism.

Negative beliefs: Even people who are homosexual can have negative beliefs about homosexuals. We learn terrible things from homophobic people, from religion, from culture, even from our families. We learn that being gay is wrong and bad, gross and embarrassing, an abomination and sometimes an evil force bringing down civilization. We learn that gay people are sex offenders and perverts (which is not true!) and that we should be converted or ostracized or locked up. These beliefs can live in the hard drives of our minds even if we aren’t consciously aware of them.

Negative self-talk: A lesbian with internalized homophobia might tell herself the same things she is hearing from other homophobic people, and direct hatred toward herself. She might refuse to think of her sexual orientation in a positive way and instead tell herself to stop liking women and that her desires are wrong.

All of the above problems can be solved through cognitive therapy. Internalized homophobia has to be identified and unlearned.

These days I’m a happy lesbian who feels very lucky to be one. I am lucky to be able to share my love with another woman. My partner is the most wonderful person in my life. I am proud to be seen with her and to be seen as a lesbian, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not afraid to come out to new people and when people are homophobic I don’t even care anymore. If someone wants to live with hatred in their heart, that’s their problem, not mine.

There is another form of internalized homophobia that I don’t have because I’m a femme lesbian, and that is the belief that one’s lesbian personality makes one “really a man.” It is normal for a lesbian to identify with the stereotypes that society assigns to boys and men, such as enjoying rough-and-tumble play, enjoying wearing baggy clothes and short hair, and seeing oneself in the role of breadwinner, husband, and protector with a lovely woman by her side. This is a normal lesbian personality and no body modification is required in order to express it. Some women with this personality will call themselves “butch.” There is a long history of lesbians with this personality type wearing men’s clothing and disguising themselves as men because that is the only way they are allowed to be themselves in a misogynist and homophobic world. This doesn’t mean they are literally male, it means that they have been labelled “masculine” by a culture that defines everything in terms of masculinity and femininity. Being a masculine woman is a wonderful way to be a woman, it’s not a problem, and it doesn’t need to be fixed. The belief that a lesbian is “doing woman wrong” or “not a proper woman” because her personality is not the one we expect from women is another form of homophobia.

There is nothing wrong or shameful about being a lesbian. Love between women is beautiful and life-affirming. Sex between women is also beautiful and very fulfilling. Women form intense and passionate relationships and we stay with our partners for long periods of time. Some people say that lesbians are sick and twisted or immature or broken, but this is not true. We are normal people who live our lives the same way everyone else does except we partner with our own sex. There is nothing evil or wrong about us loving and caring for each other. Our love is wonderful and we are lucky to have it.

Internalized homophobia is a condition that requires treatment, but being homosexual is not.

On self-hate and becoming someone else

Warning: emo post full of sadness!

I keep reading this post by Crash Chaos Cats. The paragraph I’m particularly interested in is this one, but of course, the entire post is fantastic.

“It is so hard to face trauma that hurt you bad enough it made you want to become another person, that actually did make you into another person, split off and wrapped around the one who got hurt. It is much harder than transitioning. I know because I’ve done both. Transition was hard. Detransitioning has been so much harder. The only thing I can compare it to is working through my mom’s suicide. So when I look at how painful it was, it makes sense to me that some people aren’t going to be able to stand that pain or go into it. Not cuz they’re weak or not as strong or smart as me or other detransitioned women. Not because they’re inferior in any way but because this world is fucking dangerous and facing your trauma opens you up, makes you vulnerable, makes you feel. It can make you feel ripped open and if you’re already protecting yourself from a society that wants to rip you up, you might not be able to go there. You need some degree of safety and security to face trauma and not fall to shit. So if you’re not safe or you’re not feeling safe enough, you can’t afford to let go of your coping mechanism cuz it could literally be your survival that’s at stake.”

I’ve been thinking about that first sentence, the part where trauma makes you become another person in order to protect the person who was hurt. That sort of happened to me one time. I don’t have PTSD, but I did go through a period of severely hating myself and I actually began to grow a new personality during that time. I will talk about that a little further down.

I read the above paragraph by Crash to my partner, and she nodded in agreement all the way through. We started talking about what little girls learn that makes them upset about being girls and scared of growing into women. Girls are told “You can’t do that because you’re a girl” on a regular basis. Girls also see how their mothers are treated—how they have to do twice as much work as men and yet still earn less money than they do.

My partner remembers being a little tomboy and wearing just shorts with no shirt in the summer. The boys told her she couldn’t do that because she was a girl. She tried to go swimming at the community pool with no top, and she was told to wear a girl’s bathing suit with a top next time. She remembers feeling upset about it—the boys got to do things that girls didn’t get to do. She learned that she had to modify her behavior to avoid harassment from boys. She also recalls generally feel ostracized and alienated from her peers, including lots of the girls. She started falling in love with girls as a kid, and she started thinking that she was really a boy. She wanted to take drama class in high school but didn’t because she couldn’t play a female role in a play and she didn’t think she’d be allowed to play a male role. She says it took until her mid-twenties to embrace her identity as a butch lesbian.

There is a reason why my partner totally gets what Crash was saying even though she’s never transitioned. That’s because Crash is describing being a butch or nonconforming lesbian in a patriarchy. Whether or not someone transitions will depend on her circumstances and how alienated she feels from her body. My partner grew up before the Internet, so she wasn’t indoctrinated into the religion of gender identity. She came out into a thriving lesbian community that embraced her as a lesbian. Every generation of lesbians needs and deserves a thriving lesbian community. Not a “queer” community that is inclusive of straight people and men with sexual fetishes, and that teaches lesbians that they’re not women, but a lesbian community. My partner would have met the criteria for gender identity disorder when she was a kid, but look what happened—she survived girlhood and grew into a lesbian. Not without any struggling of course.

I have written about being ostracized as a kid in this post. I was a typical girl in many ways (I wasn’t a butch or a tomboy) but my peers consistently found something wrong with me—I never could understand why. It felt very much like the kids at school had all gotten together and voted on what kinds of behaviors and clothes were “cool” and then not sent me the memo. I constantly felt like I was breaking rules that I had never actually been told existed. I didn’t understand their arbitrary social rules and I failed at them constantly. I learned early on that I was some sort of weirdo.

So getting back to that point about forming a new personality because of self-hate. (Time for a Sad Story!) Once upon a time, I was a 21-year-old working abroad for a summer and living with a large group of young adults. I’m not going to say exactly what the job was due to the need to stay anonymous. For two months I was in an insulated environment staying with the same people. Of course, we were segregated by sex for sleeping arrangements and washrooms and I was with the other women. I was just in the process of coming out, and I was scared of the feelings I could no longer deny. I felt like there was something wrong with me and I felt like I didn’t belong with the other women. I believed that the reason the men were separate from the women was because they’re attracted to women, and since I was attracted to women, that made me like the men. My thinking was that if the men didn’t belong in women’s spaces then neither did I.

So I had internalized homophobia, and then I developed a second problem. After a few days of being there, the lesbians in the group all found each other. There were about a half a dozen of us. All of them except me were extroverts and really fun people who were always acting like they were comics on a stage, saying hilarious stuff and getting laughs from people. I’m an introvert and a thinker and a dreamer—I can’t think of witty comments on the spot, and I can’t entertain people (unless they’re people who like to read feminist blogs.) When I feel uncomfortable in a group I get even quieter and even more awkward. I didn’t get along with any other lesbians at that job. I felt alienated from the straight people and like I didn’t belong with them, and then I was alienated from the lesbians too. They only paid attention to me when they thought I had done something dorky, and they pointed and laughed. When I wasn’t serving as a joke in their comedy routine, they ignored me. Not only was this painful, but it brought back all the feelings from my childhood, of being rejected and hated for no apparent reason. It was even more confirmation that I was some sort of weirdo. I completely internalized this—I wasn’t mature enough to realize that I was a worthy person regardless of what other people think and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, only something wrong with the way people were treating me. At age 21 I still thought like an adolescent and adolescents crave approval from their peers and they have a hard time when they don’t fit in. For several weeks, I was going around constantly fighting back tears. I was living on the verge of a crying fit 24/7 and just trying to hold myself together.

My internalized homophobia started snowballing. I hated that I was attracted to women, and I hated that the other lesbians hated me. That made it so much worse—being a “weirdo” and being hated even by the other “weirdos.” I hated that I wanted them so badly—wanted their approval and inclusion, and wanted the sexual pleasure they could have given me if they had wanted to. I hated the fact that I needed them. I didn’t want to need people who hated me. I had absolutely no one to talk to about this.

I had a previous history of depression and I had been taught meditation. I understood that I needed to sit quietly and pay attention to my feelings and try to find some self-acceptance. But when I tried to listen to my Inner Self, my Inner Self said “Fuck off, I’m not talking to you because you hate me.” I couldn’t get in touch. And my self-hate seemed to solidify, and I stopped being me. I’m not sure exactly how it happened but my personality started to shift. I started to become the person I thought other people wanted of me. I became a fake extrovert. I started acting all wild and crazy. People noticed a change in me and generally they preferred the fake me to the real me. By the end of my time there I was a different person, and I stayed that different person for a while. I went back to university that fall still living in my fake personality. That was fun for a while but I was one setback away from a mental breakdown. The mental breakdown occurred in the form of another lesbian rejection. I completely lost it and the floodgate opened. My distress was so obvious that one of my university professors took me aside and told me I needed to get help. I found myself sitting and staring at a bottle of pills one night wondering if I should take them all. I finally did get help.

There were so many terrible beliefs about myself living in my head. I believed that being a lesbian in a women’s dorm automatically made me a sex offender, even though I had no desire to assault or harm anyone, and I believed I was stupid on many levels and basically worthless. If that’s the way I felt, I can’t imagine how it feels when on top of all that you’ve been told your whole life that you aren’t a real woman because of your personality and appearance. And when everyone is promoting the idea that there is a simple fix—you were meant to be a man all along—that will feel like exactly the solution.

But building a fake persona in order to escape from pain doesn’t work. Sure, it might work as a coping mechanism in the sense that it allows you to get through another day, but it doesn’t take the pain away. Underneath the performance of mannerisms and appearance that make the people around you happy is still the traumatized woman who still has never been told that she’s okay the way she is. She still needs to know that she’s okay. She’s not wrong or bad, she’s perfect and whole and beautiful. There is nothing wrong with her, there is only something wrong with the way people have treated her.

Some women will never be able to deal with their trauma, because they are never in a position of safety, and opening the floodgates will release more than they can handle dealing with. Some women will need their coping mechanisms forever. One of the ways that women can find safety is in women-only feminist political spaces. Many lesbians report being saved by Michfest. The people who work to destroy female-only political spaces are doing the work of anti-feminism and they are hurting women, whether they know it or not.

I can’t tell anyone how to deal with body dysphoria, because I don’t have it. But I do know how to deal with general self-hate. The only way to deal with self-hate is to learn to love and appreciate yourself as you are. Becoming someone else won’t work.

Freaks and Weirdos

I’ve been thinking about Freaks and Weirdos since commenter arainandagale made a comment about Freaks/Weirdos solidarity on this post. I happen to be a Freak and a Weirdo and they also happen to be my favourite people. In fact, they’re really the only people I can stand to be around. I’m going to write a little bit about growing up as an outcast and then ask whether being LBG has an impact as to whether one is labelled as a Weirdo. Depressing childhood stories coming up! And if you are a Freak and a Weirdo, feel free to tell me your story in the comments.

I still don’t know why it was decided that I was a Freak and a Weirdo by the kids at my school. They seemed to just make a collective decision at some point that something was really wrong with me and then they made sure to remind me of it constantly. My clothes were wrong, the food I brought for lunch was wrong, the music I liked was wrong, and the things I said were wrong. I can sort of see why my clothes were wrong. I usually wore clothes from thrift stores or cheap store brands, and the other kids usually wore new, name-brand clothes. I never understood fashion at all, and always got it wrong. So kids would come up to me and ask “Where did you get those jeans” because they knew I had bought them second-hand. It was a statement, not a question. Or they would say about my shoes “Those aren’t real Docs.” I fucking knew they weren’t real Docs. They were cheap store brand imitation Docs, and they only had one line of stitching, not two. The point of these comments was, of course, to shame me because my parents hadn’t spent top dollar on fashion. I still don’t know why they wanted to shame me for that—how shallow and stupid! I can sort of see the classism going on and the sense of superiority they were getting out of that. But I can’t understand why they also needed to make fun of my food. Anything I brought for lunch was the wrong food, too. I still remember in grade six when someone pointed at my sandwich and announced loudly to the class that I had Really Gross Cheese and Eeeeeww, How Could She Eat That! And everyone in the classroom loudly agreed that that was really gross cheese. It was fucking cheddar cheese. I can’t even imagine how it even occurred to anyone to think that perfectly normal cheddar cheese was gross, and it seems to me that they were just looking for things to find wrong about me. Anything would do. There was only one kind of music we were allowed to listen to on one radio station. I didn’t like it, so I was wrong about that, too. And even sometimes when I spoke, people would point and laugh because for some reason there was something wrong with the way my sentence was worded. (I didn’t have any speech problems. This was completely arbitrary.) That, along with everything else, made me really afraid to speak when I was at school. Eventually I was withdrawn and sad and convinced no one would ever like me. One time a kid actually spoke to me sincerely, without mocking me, and I was so amazed, I attempted to answer, but got really nervous, and I actually got so nervous I stopped speaking mid-sentence. I finally had enough social anxiety that I could not speak an entire sentence to another person. After that I didn’t even bother trying anymore. I had my headphones on all the time and tried not to be near any other kids. I did my best to act like I was invisible, and sometimes I thought that maybe I wasn’t even there.

In middle school there was one other girl in my class who was also an Outcast. For some random reason, the kids who assigned me to the status of Freak also assigned her. They had an issue with everything she wore and everything she did, just like they did with me. I remember her having a nice new jacket and the girls at school made a big point of calling it tacky and then she was embarrassed to wear it again. She also wore old clothes like I did, not bought at thrift stores but found in her grandparents’ attic. She liked to wear the clothes that her uncles wore when they were kids. I thought she looked pretty cool, but of course the Middle School Fashion Police did not approve. I remember her explaining to me what clique everyone belonged to, and she said matter-of-factly that she and I were Outsiders. I agreed with that assessment. I knew I had always been an Outsider, and had no hope of ever being Cool. Both she and I ended up with depression, and both of us identified as bisexual in high school.

I sometimes hear from FtM transitioners that they don’t understand girls at all, they don’t understand the way girls talk to each other or treat each other, and they only like to hang out with guys because they behave the way guys behave. Well, I don’t understand girls either. Most of the kids who bullied me were girls. They seemed to have arbitrary rules for what was “cool” and what was not and these rules were a total mystery to me. I never knew how they came up with this stuff. I sometimes imagined them at a meeting where they decided what was cool or not and then, I don’t know, passed a motion on it or something and decided to torture anyone who didn’t comply with the unknown rules. I actually liked the movie Mean Girls when it came out. A lot of feminists hate that film, and I understand why, but it made fun of the type of girls who bullied me and that was refreshing. There is a moment when the bully Regina announces loudly that she LOVES THAT SKIRT SO MUCH and then as soon as the girl with the skirt walks away she says I HATE THAT SKIRT. This is the sort of girl behavior I don’t fucking understand at all.

My friend who wore her uncles’ old clothes and told me that we were Outsiders, she turned out not to be straight and same with me. The rest of the kids in our class turned out straight. (I know this because of the magic of Facebook.) And this makes me wonder, were we actually different in some way? Were we targeted randomly, or were we targeted because they could sense we were different? I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not. But I do know that lots of gay kids cannot fit into their gender roles and feel like they don’t fit in.

Sometimes I would try to fit in. I remember one year it was a fad for all the girls to write the initials of the boy they had a crush on on their desk. This seemed like an easy way for me to try to fit in. I selected a boy completely at random, (I didn’t have any interest in any of them), and I wrote his initials. As soon as someone saw it the girls started squealing and gossiping about it and making a big deal out of it. I never once talked to this boy and I didn’t give a shit about him. I was just trying to be normal. But hearing the girls squealing about this just made me want to hide. I had tried to participate in this particular social ritual but it still didn’t really make sense to me, and I didn’t understand all the squealing.

There was only one thing that got me through this period of time, which was a certain after-school Hobby I had, which I won’t name just because I worry about outing myself if I am too specific. At my after-school Hobby, I got to hang out with the other Weirdos and Freaks from other classes and other schools. I finally fit in. Even though at school I was completely mute and withdrawn, in my Hobby I became happy and outgoing, because I was around other kids who actually made sense to me. They didn’t give a shit about conformity either, they cared about stuff that was actually worth caring about. I happen to know, due to the power of Facebook, that this same Hobby was helpful to a number of other Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual youth from my area.

There was this girl we used to call Crazy Kim. That was just her name, and everyone called her that all the time, whether to her face or behind her back. We’d say stuff like, “Hey, is Crazy Kim coming tonight?” like it was totally normal. Years later I found out she is a lesbian. I realized with shock that the only out lesbian in that high school was being called Crazy as an official part of her name. I wondered if that was the reason for the label.

I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of random whining. I’m trying to show how LGB youth may not fit in, may not understand the social rules that are set up that are based on a heteronormative dominant culture, and may get bullied for being different. I’ve read enough coming out stories to know that gay boys are sometimes labelled as “faggot” before they’ve even had a chance to realize they are attracted to other boys, just because they can’t really be a boy the way the other boys are, and that young lesbian girls sometimes identify with the boys and don’t understand the girls. Of course, now, if this happens to someone, they are labelled as trans instead. They are given a cure for their problem. It’s like, Don’t Want to Be a Freak or a Weirdo Anymore? Try this Magic Potion Called Testosterone, it Will Make You Seem Normal To Other People. Of course, there are straight kids who are Freaks and Weirdos too, but I feel like if you’re gay there’s an increased chance you’re going to get the Freak treatment.

I don’t like that Freaks and Weirdos are trying to cure themselves by looking like a normal member of the opposite sex. Living in the in-between area is fantastic and awesome. We should continue to defy expectations and challenge the social rules by NOT conforming to what men and women are expected to be. Girls who don’t understand the social rules expected of girls are perfect the way they are and there is no reason for them to think they aren’t girls. The rules and expectations truly are stupid and if you don’t conform that’s not because you aren’t really a girl, it’s because you are Awesome and possibly Lesbian (which is also Awesome). Freaks and Weirdos are the best fucking people ever, and we should all continue being Freakish and Weird. It’s the conventional conformists that have it wrong. Conforming to a shitty culture is not a worthwhile goal.

Solidarity to all Freaks and Weirdos!

A story of street harassment

A few years ago, my sweetie and I were taking a transit bus home from somewhere in the evening when two teenaged girls jumped onto the bus, frightened. They told the driver there was a scary man harassing them in the street and so they jumped onto the bus for safety. They looked about fifteen and they had no money or bus tokens. The bus driver was a total asshole. He didn’t give a shit that these two underage girls were being harassed by an adult man and he just barked at them for not having bus fare. He ended up allowing them to stay on the bus anyway, but not without making them feel like jumping onto a bus had been the wrong choice. The two girls sat on the bus not really knowing where they were going or what they were going to do next, and also feeling guilty for getting onto a bus without fare. The bus driver drove all the way to the end of the bus route, which was our stop, and then said everyone had to get off because this was the last stop and the bus was now going into the station for the night. We all got off. These two fifteen year old girls were dumped off at the last stop at night with no money and no phone and they were already terrified. The bus driver drove away. So my sweetie called a taxi for them and gave the driver money to take the girls home. While we were waiting for the taxi, I wanted to tell them so many things. I wanted to tell them that they did the right thing jumping onto a bus to get away from the harasser, and that the bus driver was an asshole and shouldn’t have treated them this way. I wanted them to know they made the right decision and that they had good instincts and should trust them. But I was so upset I could barely get any words out. I think my sweetie explained some of this to them but I don’t remember exactly what she said. The girls talked about how terrifying the city was and how they just wanted to go home. We hardly had any money ourselves, and we would have never spent money on a taxi for ourselves since the bus is cheaper. But we had to do something for these girls, who were stranded and scared in a strange part of the city at night and had no way to get home. This was a long time ago but I still think about these two girls. I hope they made it home alright, and I hope they didn’t get in trouble. It wasn’t their fault. And I shudder to think of what would have happened to them if there hadn’t been a pair of lesbian feminist guardian angels on the bus with them that night, to make sure they had some help. We were the only people who cared.