When Edie Weinstein is mistaken for a butch lesbian, it leads her to question the internalized homophobia we may all carry regardless of our sexual orientation.
As open and as sexuality/gender positive as I am; as a minister I gladly marry same sex couples, even I have my challenges. I had an experience last year in which my buttons got pushed around someone’s perception of me, based on appearance. I was co-facilitating a workshop called Cuddle Party which is about communication, boundary setting and safe, nurturing non-sexual touch.
I strive for a balance, what I think of as being ‘fluid’; not pinned down to any particular polarity.
One of the participants who was in a relationship with another woman wrote a blog entry about her experience. She described my co-facilitator as something like a ‘tantra pinup girl’ and me as ‘a butch lady.’ Gulp! Yes, Monique was dressed in pink pj’s and wore a bit more make up than I happened to have on that day. She has long hair and mine is cropped short. I was wearing a dark blue t-shirt with a flowing tressed, rather exotic looking faerie on it.
Never have I thought of myself as butch. That evoked an immediate image of a woman who thought she had to be like a man to be with another woman; someone who was tough and gritty. I have met women who proudly wear that identity, so I am not judging them for it. It just didn’t feel like a fit for me. After collecting my composure, I contacted the writer of the blog and told her how I felt about it. Her response was that it was her perception based on her view of her partner being butch which to her meant protective. Hmmm… never thought of it that way.
I then queried a few friends and some replied they would never in a million years consider me butch while others paused and said that I sometimes was more yang than yin, more go-getter than receptive, more masculine in my approach to life than feminine. These are traits that I have developed over the years as a means of rebounding after a series of losses and challenges. I tell myself that wearing what my husband used to call ‘girl clothes’ and makeup allows me to come across as being feminine. I strive for a balance, what I think of as being ‘fluid’; not pinned down to any particular polarity.
Recently I was listening to an NPR interview with Wade Davis, former NFL player and now outspoken advocate who was on the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks’ rosters over the years. He is also the founder of the You Can Play Project. Davis was a guest on the show in light of Michael Sam’s revelation that he is Gay. The term ‘the first openly Gay professional football player’ has been tossed around like the pigskin on the field, only the goal isn’t to make a touch down. It is an odd identification as if someone who shares with people outside his or her closest circles that they love those of their own gender, has a sign streaming behind an airplane or has posted it on a billboard “Hey! I’m I’m Gay!”
That is one of the worst taunts a young boy can receive, that he ‘throws like a girl’, ‘cries like a girl’ or ‘acts like a pussy.’
In a culture that takes heterosexual privilege for granted, it is big news when someone comes out of the closet, or in this case, the locker room. Whenever I am faced with someone who makes even minimally hetero-normative statements, I ask them to imagine living in a world in which being with someone of the opposite sex was at least frowned upon and at worst, treated with bigotry and violence.
What if only same-sex couples could marry, adopt children, share each other’s insurance benefits or be each other’s Power of Attorney? What would it be like if only LGBTQ folks were seen as credible characters on tv and in movies and ‘straights’ were viewed as objects of derision and made the butt of jokes? How about if only same-sex lovers could show affection publically?
Could there actually be a God who created you that way and then tell you that you were sinful because you loved someone with different ‘plumbing’ than that with which you are equipped? Davis spoke about his own experience of coming out and that he experienced a sense of ‘internalized homophobia’. It is what most cultures teach, either directly or subtly. He had not come out himself until leaving professional football. He admits to not having had a great deal of cultural competence at the time, around what it meant to be Gay in a sport that takes the idea of being a ‘manly man’ to an extreme.
As I listened, some random thoughts came to me. Does being a Gay man inherently mean being any less male or masculine? Some Gay men I know are quite stereotypically masculine and some more ‘gender-neutral’, while others are more of what our culture considers effeminate. Then there is the mindset that being called feminine is pejorative as if being a woman is somehow an inferior state or defect. That is one of the worst taunts a young boy can receive, that he ‘throws like a girl’, ‘cries like a girl’ or ‘acts like a pussy.’
Does being a heterosexual man carry with it being immune to a full range of human emotions or somehow being a Marlboro Man? If a man is Gay or a woman Lesbian, does that imply that he or she has the hots for any one of their own gender who happens to cross their paths so those who share a locker room need to watch their backs or any other assorted body parts? Anyone who believes that needs to get over themselves. Does a straight man lust over every woman he sees? Does a hetero woman crave every man she encounters?
If we as a society can embrace diversity; cultural and sexual and recognize that love is love is love and that there are so many variations on the ways in which we express it, then announcements like Michael Sam’s will be a non event and no one need fear repercussions of claiming who they are, whether by birth or choice. Photo: Flickr/exfordy
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Edie Weinstein is one of a kind, and having been to several of her Cuddle Parties, seen the minister, social worker, trauma expert, goddess woman, inspired soul (and SO much more) flow effortlessly through her, archetypes blending so sweetly, meeting each participant right where they are, no missed notes, no boundary crossed, love in action…. It annoys me that someone would take that, add their tainted judgement of Edie and think she fits in a neat box. Hello? Edie is fairy dust AND fangs, though I suspect the later she reserves for the most deserving. Before judging someone so carelessly,… Read more »
Thank you for seeing me as I want to be seen, in the divine and decadent, the messy and marvelous. May we all be seen through the eyes of love. We are all so much grander than labels would have us believe we are.
a thought provoking article, edie. putting ourselves in another’s shoes, looking at life from the other side are things that make the world a better place. some of us do it naturally, some have to work at it. to me it always feels like the obvious thing to do, often times done without any conscious effort, and yet i find myself incapable of putting myself incapable of wearing shoes of those who have no compassion and empathy. however, i do feel feel pity for them. their world and their lives are so much smaller for it. another public figure coming… Read more »
Thank you, Patti for your feedback. Sometimes it feels like a no-brainer to walk a mile in someone else’s moccasins, sometimes they don’t quite fit and they feel wiggly and uncomfortable. These were those shoes.
This article was very insightful and I am going to give a very mundane simple response: I don’t really like to wear makeup and I often wear t-shirt and jeans BUT when I wear my hair up and in a tight bun many people assume I am a lesbian, when my hair is down and flowing people assume Im a heterosexual stay at home mom. Its all about the hair, which cracks me up! How can anyone judge the many dimensions of my personality based on my stupid hair. I wonder if the Rev. would have long hair if anyone… Read more »
Thank you for your take on the hair thing(: For many years, my hair WAS long and flowing down to my waist in my 20’s. I am 55 now and it just feels simpler to keep it short. I wear moderate makeup when I go to work, a bit more when I am in ‘socializing mode’. I have a friend who encourages the ‘girl clothes’ and makeup and a softening of my appearance. I agree that people leap to all kinds of conclusions about who we are based on appearance. People see things through their own filters. Why are we… Read more »
One aspect of the entertainment industry that I think has been gradually having a positive effect on people’s views of same-sex couples is HGTV. Over the past decade, I noticed them quietly start to show happy same-sex couples doing normal things like buying a home or redecorating, mixed in between episodes of straight couples doing the same things.
I’ve noticed that too and have felt that it really is a step in ‘normalizing’ same sex relationships. I have been glad to see that as well. I also watched an episode of the values clarification show “What Would You Do?” which took place in a bridal shop. The ‘saleswoman’ and ‘bride’ were actors and the others in the shop were actual customers. The ‘bride’ was trying on gowns and when the ‘saleswoman’ heard that she was marrying another woman, she refused to sell her a wedding dress. The other women were indignant and some even left the store as… Read more »