Postcards of Grief

Mourning is a process.

Comments on breast cancer by proxy, written by a woman coping with the loss of her mother.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Ms. Understood

You know that feeling that no one understands you? You had it when you were 15, even if you were popular. Everyone feels like that at 15. At some point, most of us realize that everyone feels that way. We know that everyone, whether they understand us or not, feels misunderstood. We accept this. We feel less misunderstood.

I am a lesbian. I am not exaggerating when I say that I am regularly misunderstood by the people who love and support me. LGBT allies say insensitive things. Some of them snap to attention. Many of them don’t.

I can’t turn off being a lesbian. I can think about life and the world and humanity without separating myself from them, but I cannot stop being who I am. I cannot stop looking out for myself. When I speak up, I am asking you to listen. I spend a lot of time assuming the best intentions from others, more than you think I do. You have privileges. You expect me to speak out against homophobia and heterosexism, but you aren’t willing to look at your own behavior to realize that you are doing it, too.

You’re asserting your privilege when...
· I speak up and you think I’m overreacting.
· You refuse to take the initiative to find out what went wrong.
· You ignore my comments because you know that you are not a bigot, even though you know that I am addressing you.
· I speak up and you say, “But what about me?”
· You say, “I’m already a supporter. What else do you want me to do?”
· You use your gay/lesbian/bisexual friend/sibling/cousin/neighbor as evidence of your nonbigotedness.
· You conflate gay issues with lesbian issues with bisexual issues.
· You refuse to acknowledge that you can take a break from fighting homophobia.
· You pat yourself on the back for writing to congress and voting against anti-gay legislation.
· You assume that I understand as little about heterosexuality as you do about homosexuality.
· A discussion about the presence of heterosexism gives you something to think about.

My family structure is constantly being undermined by people who don't have anything against lesbians and gays. Everywhere I look, life is about being heterosexual. Life is not about me. It's about you. Your children are probably produced through an act of sexual congress with your spouse. Your doctors and nurses affirm your family structure throughout pregnancy and childbirth. You and your spouse are both legal parents of your child. You don't risk having that child taken away from you because you are heterosexual. Other children won't tell yours that her/his very existence is a sin and a crime against nature. You don't fear for your child's life just because you're in a heterosexual marriage. Both you and your spouse can enroll your children in school or seek medical care for them. The forms at the doctor's office fit your family just fine. You never need to have the birth certificate reissued. No one wants to make it illegal for you to be a parent.

The voters of my state have made it perfectly clear that I'm not welcome here. My country is trying to do the same thing. I consider myself incredibly fortunate that my employer offers health insurance for my partner, even though I have to pay taxes on my employer's costs for insuring her. Those taxes come out of my pay, and at the end of the year, I come home with almost $1000 less than I would if I were married to a man. Because we're both women, that $1000 means a lot.

I am constantly fighting stereotypes and being asked insensitive questions. Which one of us is "the man"? Which is going to be the mom? Do I do the girly stuff, or does she? Where do you get sperm? Why don't you just adopt? Don't you think it'll be really hard to raise a kid without a dad?

When I die, the newspaper may charge extra for including my partner's name in my obituary because she's not my "family."


At 2:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"When I die, the newspaper may charge extra for including my partner's name in my obituary because she's not my 'family.'"

Wow. I didn't know that.

I should also mention, Emilin, that you are how I first learned (I think this was a few years ago, now) that DP benefits are taxable as additional income.

"My family structure is constantly being undermined by people who don't have anything against lesbians and gays."

:( Yeah.

I heard something on the radio this weekend (it was about Iraq as a US political issue, but applies to the anti-SSM amendment issue, too, I think) that cast a spotlight on the bigger problem, for me: People, specifically Americans, are now more than ever not only being actively discouraged from recognizing how their way of life affects people Who Are Not Like Them, but are seemingly thrilled to have that free pass. Not recognizing that the mere fact of your life has a negative affect on people who are not in your circumstances means you owe them nothing. And increasingly, the fact that they're Not Like You means they're faceless, anonymous, worthless, disposable.

Therefore being an American against American imperialism, or a heterosexual against anti-SSM amendments is not to acknowledge the bare fact of your place in the world and tread as lightly as possible, but can be "charity," a *benefit,* an above-and-beyond action that can be revoked at any time, like when you come up short that month or when the objects of your generosity don't play along like you want them to.

Sorry for rambling, just thoughts I've been having.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger quiet pond said...

"I speak up and you think I’m overreacting."

I'm going to remember that. It applies to a lot of conversations about a lot of different things.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger LB said...



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