Penis Lite and Alphabet Soup and National Coming Out Day

My spouse, Tex, is in grad school. It is not the easiest prospect for her, for me, for our whole family. She’s tired and always needing to study, always feeling behind, either in her school work or her work work, or, usually, in both. It’s hard! And I need to take up even more slack than usual around the house, keeping things relatively clean, making sure meals are on the table, children have done homework and chores and gotten to soccerpractice-orthodonticappointmentsschoolchoirpracticechurchyouthgroup on time. I’m also supposed to be concentrating at least a bit of time on my writing (look, I’m writing!) and taking care of myself so I don’t pop off my head, as a wee Seth used to say about feeling frustrated. All this to say that yesterday I had a pedicure.

I thought maybe this new manicurist had a queer vibe last time I saw her, and sure enough, it came out as we were chatting yesterday that she is indeed queer. Bi, to be exact. I had said something about my spouse, and soon thereafter, the manicurist, who I will call Roxanne, encouraged me to come in next time with my “wife” for a double treatment. I laughed and said my spouse was much too butch for that, and Roxanne scrunched up her nose and said something about how she never understood butch, how she herself just wasn’t interested in penis lite. Penis lite? I was so astonished that I could do nothing other than mumble that butch certainly works for me, and the conversation moved on, with Roxanne continuing to refer to Tex as my “wife” despite me always saying, “my spouse”.

Currently, as far as I can tell, there are perhaps as many as 8 letters in the string of letters attempting to define we non-straight folks:  LGBTQQIT-S. (That’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex and Two-Spirit.) There may well be more, it’s hard to keep track. As much as I appreciate the attempt to define as many varieties of non-straight as possible and give us an arena in which we can perhaps group together, have strength in numbers, and effect positive change, the thing is, we aren’t really all that alike. (And some folks in there might actually identify as straight, to boot). Our concerns and issues, apart from those having to do with basic human rights, just aren’t always that similar, and truthfully, there can be quite a divide between us.

If a straight person referred to my relationship with my butch Husband as having anything to do with penis lite, I would have to deck them. But perhaps it’s a little more excusable – they are straight, after all, and presumably just ignorant. There’s a very weird disconnect that happens when another queer completely disappears me like that, though. At first I tried to excuse Roxanne in my mind, just made all these contortions, like, ok, did she really say that? Maybe I heard her wrong. Maybe that’s not what she meant. Like that. And to her credit, she sort of came back around to it, didn’t exactly apologize, but made some effort to explain herself a little. I think she did get some inkling of how much it shocked me for her to have said that.

She gave me a great pedicure and my toes look extremely cute and sexy. But my feelings are still bruised. So today, on National Coming Out Day 2012, I want to remember that it’s not enough to come out to straight people; we queers also have to work on coming out to each other. In hindsight, I wish I had said to Roxanne, “Tex is my spouse, not my wife. I’m the wife and I’m the girl! Also, we identify as femme and butch, and I’m not sure what you meant by mentioning penis lite, but it kind of hurt my feelings, because it felt dismissive of our identities and not very respectful. Probably you didn’t mean it that way, so can I answer any questions you have about femme and butch so you feel like you understand us a bit better? And while we’re at it, maybe you can talk a little about your identity as a bi?” Obviously, I wasn’t that swift on my feet, but there’s always next time. With identity shit this complicated, you can be sure that there will always be a next time!

I will close by wishing a Happy National Coming Out Day to us all, however we identify, and here’s to continuing to reach out to each other as we splash around in that rich, savory, complex and delicious alphabet soup we call home.

Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 2:27 PM  Comments (2)  
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