On good Friday, my spouse and my parents came to hear me sing in the UU church choir. As far as I can tell, everyone except for me and the director, an old friend, are straight.
After the service, one of the other first altos swept up to us, asking me brightly, “Oh, is this your husband?”
“My spouse,” I corrected her, and she and Tex shook hands. This happens all the time, and it was by no means the first time my dear butch husband had been mistaken for a man at that particular church, even though I’m certainly not in the closet. Did my choir-mate forget? Did she think I’d reverted? Who knows!
Yesterday morning just before the 8am call for Easter service, yet another first alto came up to me, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and said, “I have a suggestion!”
Don’t forget to go to the D sharp? Remember we don’t sing on page 2? I was all ears.
“If your spouse identifies as female…”
Shocked and irritated by this sudden foray into my personal life, I said, rather loudly, “Yes, she does – I’m queer!”
Undaunted, First Alto 2, carried on, “Yes, I know, so when you introduce her – because it’s confusing, it’s hard to tell — I suggest that you introduce her as your wife!”
All I could do was say, extremely loudly, “No!”
“No?” she was confused.
“I’m the wife! And it’s way too early for this!” I spun on my heel – I really did! the cliché is true! – and walked off. Trying not to cry. Bang goes my concentration for singing “I Was Glad,” Handel’s insane wall o’ sound we were going to be performing.
By the way, this church is supposed to be a “Welcoming Congregation” and there is, prominently displayed in the main hallway, a bulletin board of advice about how to be good allies to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.
The regular reader of this column ( and you know who you are) is probably beginning to wonder just about now why it is that I keep going back to UU churches, and you know, RR, I think I’ve just about had it. The hand that reaches out in fellowship and turns out to have a buzzer permanently embedded in the palm is truly not the hand for me. Despite how much I adore my queeny friend the choir director, it may be time for me do some serious research into how I can combine my love of singing with the lifesaving balm of queer love so that I don’t constantly get torn down in my attempt to be lifted up.
After the service yesterday – neither I nor interfering First Alto 2 sang at all well – I tore out of there like my damn Easter bonnet was on fire. The only person home was Seth, and I told him all about it. We shook our heads at the permanently clueless UUs. Will they ever learn?
“Mom, it would have been good if that was a joke,” he opined. We agreed, though, that you can only make jokes about that stuff if you have some kind of respect and understanding for the queer person’s life. Seth, for example, often tells us that we’re “gay” and all members of the company fall about laughing.
I know First Alto 2 was utterly shocked by my reaction to her friendly suggestion. I didn’t have any shields up at all – it was 8am on Sunday morning! – and I know my face revealed everything. I am 53 years old and have been in a relationship with my butch for over 10 years; did she really think I hadn’t pondered how to introduce her to straight people until just now? Of course, the bottom line is that she wasn’t thinking. She wasn’t thinking of anyone but herself and other straight people. And, one of her many mistakes was thinking that one of my priorities is making straight people feel comfortable.
After Seth went off to Easter dinner with my ex, his other mom, Tex and I hied us to downtown Boston to take in the Queer Women of Color shorts, part of the Boston LGBT Film Festival. We just fucking needed to get out of the house, out of the burb, and into an 100% queer environment. The shorts were awesome. Life giving. My soul unshrivelled just a bit.
The last film of the batch was about vocal activist, Melanie DeMore, the most amazing person. Watching her talk about leading a choir of hundreds of elementary school kids, how she writes a song for them, how over and over she offers her unbelievable talent to help heal the world, made me weep. As the film went on, however, I got more and more uncomfortable. Afterwards, Tex and I agreed that it was one of those “queers as magical creatures” pieces, because nowhere did it discuss Melanie’s personal life, despite her having said that she believes there is no separation between one’s work, one’s art, and one’s life.
I don’t even know if she prefers the pronoun “she”. I don’t know if I should say that she’s one insanely hot butch, or if she prefers to be called “stud” or something else. Because that part of her life was left out. Completely. If the film is to believed, all she has in her life are students and colleagues and a birth family. Guaranteed to make straight people feel great about how much they adore their special friend. For us other queers? Empty of what I, in particular, needed so badly that day: in-depth representations of my queer people in all their complexity and wonder.
The thing about magical creatures straight folks should know is that they can turn on you. Look at Pokemon. One minute, they’re cute and fluffy, the next, they’ve grown fangs and have an extremely evil look in their eye. There’s just so very much you didn’t know about them, especially if you never made any kind of effort to find out. And it’s coming after you now.
Shove your suggestion that dehumanizes and infantilizes me in order to make you feel good. Reach out that hand in false fellowship again and I WILL CUT IT OFF (as the choir director often threatens to do in his dramatic way if we don’t get things right).
And oh, my queer people. Let us find each other, open our hearts, and sing together!