When People Don’t Want You to Live, Existence Becomes a Revolutionary Act

People want to kill me.

Sorry, that was too deliciously melodramatic not to open with. Now that it’s out of my system, let me back up.

I’m currently conscious that people want to kill me. It’s probably the first time that it’s been a conscious, active awareness.

I’ve known that people think I should die for being under the Queer umbrella—that they might passively pray for it, preach about it, maybe even deign to say it to my face.

But the Orlando shooting was the first time I had the icy realization that there are people who would actively take measures to end my life.

Some say it’s my generation—that we Millennials have been spared the active, moving-beyond-dislike-into-murder kind of hatred that other LGBT faced several generations ago.

To some extent that is true. It’s a testament to how far we’ve come that law enforcement will help hold space for a Pride parade instead of hauling people out of bars and beating the shit out of them for being gay.

It’s a testament to how far we’ve come that many teens and young adults can attend safe spaces on school campuses.

It’s a testament to how far we’ve come that religious institutions have begun the slow paradigm shift towards acceptance.

Yet, we haven’t come so far that Orlando is the first time that Queer people (especially Queer people of color or Queer people raised in fundamentalist homes) of my generation or younger have faced life-threatening prejudice. People are still beaten up, kicked out on the street, or murdered for their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Orlando is just the first time that many in my generation have seen that hatred directed at so many people in a single incident.

Then again, it’s the largest mass shooting for our nation in a long time, so millennials aren’t the only ones having a “first” in this sense (Contrary to popular opinion, it isn’t the largest in the history of the nation as this article points out).

Being forced to confront how deep someone’s hatred of you runs is a daunting feeling, but once the initial shock of it wore off, it reminded me of an idea that took root reading Shiri Eisner’s book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution.

My very existence is a revolutionary act that undermines a prejudicial society.

Simply by living and refusing to be erased or cowed into submission, my life becomes a big “fuck you” to everyone who would try to control me. People can do a lot of things, but they can’t take away my self-awareness or my pride. They can try to oppress me or destroy me, but they cannot change who I am.

Ultimately, it’s the fact they can’t prevent my existence that makes them truly angry and bound for failure no matter how they might want to end my existence.

There’s something powerful and elegant in that realization.

What’s my gay—ahem—bi agenda?

To live my life like a declaration of independence, not like an apology.

To not let fear dictate who I love—or who I hate.

To live my life authentically and do all I can to support others doing the same.

P.S. As a political side-note, right now people want my “agenda” to be trying to strip people of their fifth amendment rights, but I refuse to let my radical existence be hijacked so that others can be oppressed. We’ve come a long way as a Queer community. We’ve made a lot of progress. But we’re not done. The fight for recognition of civil rights (for everyone, not just ourselves) and the protection of rights already recognized is an ever-present struggle. 

 

I’d Rather Be a Unicorn Than Exist On Your Terms

While I’ve heard some cheering about how bisexuality is no longer being erased, I’m not celebrating the recent study that articles are brazenly proclaiming proves that “women are never straight.” This is not a halt to bi-erasure; it’s just another form of it. We’ve gone from declaring that bisexuality is not an identity to making it ubiquitous.

Moreover, it carries forward the biggest problem with sexuality research in academia. This study is not interviewing women to find out how they identify. Nor is it seeking to understand their subjective experiences around attraction and arousal.

Just like the previous studies that “proved” bisexuality “doesn’t exist,” this one relies on the manipulation of people’s states of arousal…which is then interpreted by a stranger to determine their identity. The audacity of power and privilege that assumes that a person’s individual experience of themselves in relation to others isn’t as important as whether or not you, as a researcher, can get them off is quite impressive.

Unfortunately the flaws in logic that jump from “they are/are not getting aroused” to “they must be/must not be straight/bi/gay” should be obvious. There are lots of reasons why hooking someone’s genitals up to some sort of equipment would give less than accurate readings on their sexual orientation.

If achieving arousal with pornographic material can determine sexual orientation, then what does that say about lesbians who enjoy gay male porn? Are we going to declare that they’re really gay men now? What about if a gay man watches lesbian porn?

People find all kinds of porn enjoyable without actually wanting to go out and do those things themselves. Sometimes, yes, people get ideas of things to try. But sometimes they just want to explore something that feels different and out of character. That doesn’t determine their identity, certainly not better than their lived experience of who they find attractive and with whom they would build a relationship.

Not only is determining someone’s orientation from their arousal to porn a ridiculous way of studying bisexuality, studying someone’s arousal in the lab is problematic as well. It’s an artificial environment, presumably where people know they are being studied, even if they don’t know their arousal is being studied…but who couldn’t figure that out with the measurement methods? Seriously. It’s pretty safe to assume that there would be some differences in how they respond to stimuli on their own.

The biggest flaw, though, is the failure to take into account the importance of mirror neurons and empathy. Someone who becomes aroused at certain stimuli may be aroused because they find the material hot and would want to participate. Or perhaps they just recognize that the person in the picture or video is receiving pleasure and have a sympathetic response to that. Or maybe they’re thinking about how nice it would be for their partner to do that to them.

There’s also the binary flaw of failing to take into account anyone outside of cis people. Once again, bisexuality is being reduced to a binary attraction, despite the repeatedly vocal ways that bisexual people have said that it’s not binary. Moreover, the study is trying to categorize types of arousal or behavior as “masculine” or “feminine,” with lesbians, of course, being described as more “masculine” in their arousal. Apparently sexism goes hand in hand with heterosexism and cissexism. But I didn’t need a research study to tell me that.

I don’t doubt that bisexuality is far more common than we assume, but saying “all women are” or “no men are” in direct contradiction to their stated experience simply because of a badly designed study is something that science really needs to stop doing. It’s an abuse of power and bad research. If someone really wants to study bisexuality, start with a phenomenological study, interviewing individuals about their identity and their experience with their identity. Build from there. Don’t further steal their voices and contribute to prejudice. Use science to highlight and empower who they are. Better yet, have bisexual people conduct their own research on bisexuality. Then you won’t get people who mistakenly think that genital engorgement is the end all be all of sexual orientation.

Allies are People Too

Did you hear? Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro Baptist Church, died this week.

And, of course, all of social media lit up with everyone’s opinion about the significance of his death and the “appropriate” response.

I’m not interested in adding to that dialogue. We each need to figure out how to respond to the social blight that was Westboro’s founder, and we’re all going to have different responses. I have chosen to not allow it to disrupt my life, just as I didn’t allow his fucked-up opinions to upset me all that much when he was living. I have plenty of other people in my life to be angry at and to hate for the harm they have caused me directly and don’t have the energy to waste on someone who merely hated the idea of me without really knowing me. Others feel differently, and that’s fine.

What I do want to talk about is how we’re approaching the opinion of others, especially of those who are “different” from us.

Right now, the debate is over whether it’s appropriate to revel in the death of Phelps and to protest his funeral. The LGBT community is pretty split. Some think it’s a good idea. Other’s think a compassionate approach is stronger.

When my partner chose to voice his support for the compassionate response, he was dismissed by an acquaintance for being a straight, white male who wasn’t in the military—the implication that he didn’t have any right to add to the commentary about this public figure.

It was the tipping point in the frustration I have had recently with regard to the treatment of allies. As a bisexual and as a feminist (aka, as a bifeminist), I’ve had my fair share of frustration towards allies who claim to “want to help” but who royally fuck up because they simply aren’t willing to listen to how they might be hurting another or perpetuating something negative.

I get it.

We want our allies to be willing to listen to us. We need them to attempt to see from our perspective rather than just from the perspective of privilege.

However, I’m also really uncomfortable with the way allies are treated in feminist or queer groups. For over a year now I’ve watched as men are insulted and harassed because they dared to try to protest the objectification of women in the media in a way that didn’t match up perfectly with some feminists’ ideals or as straight people (or at least people who are assumed to be straight) have been told to shut up simply because they are straight.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t confront someone if we feel they are being insensitive or prejudiced (after all, even the most well-meaning person has internalized prejudice to confront), but I’m concerned that I don’t see people engaging with allies in beneficial ways as a whole. I don’t see understanding and patience towards them as they try to navigate the layers of their privilege. I don’t see any sort of compassion towards them as human beings who are struggling to understand some complex and difficult issues.

I don’t see any room for them to have their own journey and identity development as an ally.

Rather, I see people telling them to shut up, stop thinking, and accept what they are being told by (usually) one person in an oppressed group.

Where do we, as people who have experienced oppression, get off thinking that we can discount someone else’s thoughts because of an aspect of their identity?

We should know better.

Allies need to listen in order to be good allies, but listening doesn’t mean that their perspective and thoughts are automatically devalued.

Dialogue is how social change happens—passionate discussion, sometimes even passionate disagreement.

We don’t need more people who follow group pressure blindly. We need people who are willing to question the social constructs around them and to dare to disagree with the status quo. Shutting down someone because they have questions—or even because they disagree with you—doesn’t encourage critical thinking. At best, it subdues a person’s willingness to engage. At worse, it alienates them completely.

I don’t think every person in an oppressed group should make themselves available to be the source of information from which the privileged can learn, but I do think that we need to at least develop the ability to turn discussion down kindly, admitting that we don’t feel like engaging with them rather than blaming their privilege (note, if they are asking questions, they’re wrestling with their privilege, not ignoring it).

We also need to be willing to accept where there might be room for genuine disagreement without someone being a bigot, as in this case, with one person choosing to respond to Phelps’ death with love while another wanted to experience the depths of her hatred. If the LGBT community is filled with a diversity of responses to Phelps, how can we disdain a straight person for having as diverse of a reaction to his death?

For the most part, allies are well-meaning and are going through some pretty tough work to confront privilege. There’s no reason to treat them with hostility because they have to go through that process. It’s one thing to get pissed off at someone for being a deliberate asshole; it’s quite another to castigate someone because they don’t see exactly as we do.

I think in our attempts to have our voices heard, we may have forgotten that one of the tenets of both feminism and queer activism is that no one should be treated with disrespect and contempt, no matter what group they’re from. The idea that someone’s voice and thoughts aren’t valid because of their genitals or sexual orientation is the exact same kind of prejudice that we’ve been fighting. We need to treat our allies with the courtesy that we believe should be afforded to all human beings, even if we think they are misguided.

5 Reasons I Love Being Bisexual

It’s been a rough week, and I don’t have the energy to delve into anything heavy. I wanted to find something to make me smile, so I decided to try to “count my blessings” in a way. Below is a list of reasons why I’m happy to be bisexual. I’m not saying these are universal for all bisexual people or that they are exclusive to bisexual people. These are just some of the ways that I feel my bisexuality enriches my own personal life.

1. Beauty

Although I’m not sexually attracted to everyone who crosses my path, I think every person has a unique beauty which I can see and appreciate even when I don’t like them “in that way.”  A genuine smile is gorgeous to me; a great personality can turn anyone into the most mesmerizing person. I like to think that since I’m not distracted or concerned so much with the outward expression of a person’s gender, I’m able to see their soul.

2. Body Image

Being attracted to multiple gender expressions means that I don’t have to rely on the feedback of others to figure out whether I think I’m attractive. All I have to do is look in the mirror and let my own heart decide…and I think I would probably date myself if I met me at a bar.

I don’t like everything about myself. Some days I don’t like anything about myself. But when I can take my own body image out of the male gaze and the self-hatred it perpetuates, I find that I’m able to acknowledge qualities I would find attractive in another person.

Being able to judge my body based on my own internal preferences rather than the ever-changing, impossible “ideal” of society is incredibly empowering. It highlights just how ridiculous the expectations I put on myself can be. If I wouldn’t want another girl I was dating to go through that, why would I do it to myself?

3. Spirituality.

In many ways, I see my bisexuality as just another expression of my zodiac sign—that living duality, walking-in-both-worlds Gemini.

But in other ways, I also feel I owe my spirituality to my bisexuality. Perhaps one of the reasons why I never saw spirituality and agnosticism as mutually exclusive is because I am already accustomed to the way that socially constructed dichotomies don’t prove true for me.

Even before I was able to name my sexual orientation, I subconsciously knew that I didn’t fit into the monosexist paradigm that one is attracted either to men or to women. When I began questioning my religion and felt that pressure of “either you remain Christian or you become atheist,” I knew that didn’t fit either.

It’s probably impossible to determine whether my bisexuality influenced my soul or whether my soul influenced my bisexuality, but I do know that my bisexuality enhances my spiritual life because it reminds me that I don’t like to color within the lines of convention or social constructs.

4. Entertainment

Two words: character crushes.

I absolutely love being bisexual when I’m watching a movie or reading a book. I can’t lose on the loveable character front. I can fall as much in love with Rose as with the Doctor, with Legolas as with Arwen…and don’t even get me started on Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swan!

5. Flexibility

When you’re bisexual and you have double jointed arms, at some point you have to make the joke:  “I can go both ways.”

This point is more about humor than about actual flexibility, obviously. I don’t think it’s possible to be bisexual without developing some sort of sense of humor. Otherwise the mix of homophobia and biphobia and the erasure of your orientation by the Queer and straight communities alike would just drive you absolutely insane.

Or at least they would me.

Bisexuality has taught me how to laugh—about little things, like a pun about my inordinate physical flexibility or the awkward silence that follows me blurting out “Catherine Zeta Jones!” in a discussion about celebrity crushes, as well as about big things like …I don’t need to name the big things though. If you’re bi, you know what they’re like. Why ruin the fun we’re having by naming them?

I know! I know! This doesn’t do anything to end biphobia, but sometimes I think it’s good for people to take a break from the activism. The cause will still be there tomorrow. There will still be plenty of prejudice and discrimination to call out, lament, and fight about tomorrow. 

But today, let’s just celebrate being who we are. I’ve given you five reasons why I’m happy to be bisexual. What are your reasons?

 

 

The Different Shades of Rebellion

Who is more rebellious? The girl wearing makeup, a skirt, and high heels? Or the girl with baggy pants, a shaved head, and a dozen piercings?

Stereotype would say the latter is far more rebellious, and not too long ago, I would have agreed.

Not anymore.

I’ve been reading Shiri Eisner’s Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution, and it’s completely shaken my assumptions of what makes up a rebel. (Yes, it’s the same book that I was reading when I wrote this post, and yes, it’s my first reading still. I’m slow with nonfiction books. Don’t judge me!)

I never considered my sexual orientation as an asset to rebellion. As a bisexual female married to a guy, I often feel like I’m the most benign version of “queer” out there. There’s no way to avoid passing as straight unless I stand up and wave a flag in people’s faces (which I’ve enjoyed doing at Pride parades). However, Eisner has helped me see that it’s that very facet of my identity that makes it so much more subversive because it challenges what people think about relationships, sexuality, and identity in general.

Whether I fit into or challenge the stereotypes about bisexuality, either way I challenge stereotypes about what it means to be straight or queer. My very existence undermines the invisible certainty of monosexuality.

In other words, me being a bisexual woman can be seen as an act of rebellion. Yay me!

It was a subtle shift in perspective that had enormous consequences on the way I viewed the rest of the world and my place in the world. Suddenly even mundane activities seemed potentially radical. With the example given at the beginning of the post, both girls could potentially be making a radical feminist statement . . . or a statement about gender . . . or a statement about freedom . . . or a statement about sexual orientation.

I guess it really comes down to two basic ways of rebelling. The first is by abstaining from certain looks, behaviors, or associations. The second is by embracing them.

I’d been taught to view the abstemious method as rebellion, but only because I saw embracing such behavior or associations the same as embracing the norms that society attached to them. How could that be rebellious?

I was faced with that question when I found out about Abercrombie and Fitch’s ridiculous status obsession, from not wanting the homeless to wear their brand to refusing to supply clothes to women larger than they deemed attractive.

I never actually purchased anything from Abercrombie, but I did have a shirt with their brand on it that my partner had found in a thrift store. Normally I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about brands, but I did get a small thrill whenever I wore Abercrombie. It was the only brand that was outright forbidden in the IFB because, as the Bob Jones University student handbook from 2011 states, “Abercrombie & Fitch and its subsidiary Hollister have shown an unusual degree of antagonism to biblical morality (page 32).”

I was more than a little miffed when the CEO turned into the king of snobs. Most of the people I knew wanted to boycott the company (abstinence rebellion). For a while, I felt pressured to stop wearing my thrift-store purchased shirt in solidarity.

Then this guy starts a movement of giving Abercrombie shirts to the homeless to “taint” the brand’s “pristine” reputation. An exploitative move on the part of privilege by using the homeless in status wars? Perhaps. Charitable activist choosing to make a political statement while helping those in need? Perhaps.

Regardless of whether his move was particularly wise or not, the larger idea—claiming something “forbidden”—is a valid though often overlooked form of rebellion. He wasn’t the only one doing the whole “you can’t stop me” act with Abercrombie, but he was the only one I saw that actually got attention. Such a form of rebellion raises a valid question. Would a rebellion be more successful by people boycotting Abercrombie (fiscal punishment) or by “unacceptable” people wearing their brand (reclamation of the forbidden)?

Several years ago, I saw rebellion as an action against an authority or a system of rule. It was a choice akin to standing up when you’ve already been sitting down. It was the radical, in-your-face moments of movies and books. And I’ve had my fair share of those and am proud of them.

But that’s not where rebellion has to end.

Now I’m starting to see that rebellion can be more “passive” than that. It can be as simple as refusing to submit to a false dilemma—refusing to box in your identity.

In this way, my agnostic spiritual life becomes a form of rebellion against fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist atheists alike who want the world to be a choice between each other. My nudity-affirming feminism becomes a form of rebellion against both modesty culture and objectification culture that wants women’s bodies to be all about male arousal.

There is a time and place for marches, protests, petitions, and attention-grabbing speech. By all means we should be making use of those to effect change in society. But in the times when those are not appropriate or simply not feasible, it’s the quiet rebellion, the passive rebellion, that erodes the lines of societal norms. It’s the every-day, mundane kind of rebellion that shifts paradigms.

So, join me this week by going out there and living a rebellious life—a life that says that you can challenge or embrace stereotypes and still be kicking ass and taking names.

 

What about the “B” in “LGBT”?!

As a bisexual, I’m pretty used to being erased in the queer movement, and to some extent I think I’ve felt I almost deserve to be because I am in a hetero-passing relationship. However, the erasure has been vexing me more and more recently, peaking last week during the Exodus fiasco when bisexuality never came up in the whole discussion of ex-gay reparative therapy.

That’s a big gap to miss when trying to discuss whether someone’s orientation can change. A bisexual person can be easily convinced that they did change if they happen to fall happily in love with someone of the opposite sex. I grew up thinking I had narrowly escaped the whole “gay” thing. I had never heard of bisexuality and thought my attractions to women and men were an indication of how close I had come to being a reprobate—“but for the grace of God.” Outside of the very obvious ways that mindset could hurt lesbians and gays (and did when I used my own experiences as evidence that being gay was a “choice”), it can cause pretty significant problems for bisexuals as they struggle with their attractions, which I discovered aren’t going to go away any more than gay or lesbian attractions will.

don't assume straight or gay

Enter Shiri Eisner’s book Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution

I hadn’t realized how erased I felt until I experienced what it was like to be recognized. Here was a book that didn’t deal with bisexuality as a subsection. My identity wasn’t a footnote or an endnote. I wasn’t a passing term. I started crying before I was even through the introduction. I was holding in my hands over three hundred pages dedicated to my sexual orientation.

More importantly, there were terms to describe how others react to me.

I’ve never felt comfortable describing the little snide remarks or actions that I experience as “homophobia.” What’s to be homophobic about? There’s nothing in my relationship to raise ire. For all intents and purposes, people feel pretty comfortable assuming I’m straight even when I tell them I’m bi.

But biphobia and monosexism—“the social system according to which everyone is, or should be, [attracted to one gender]” (Eisner, p. 321) —yeah, those I’ve experienced.

exterminate-mono1

No one ever walks up to me and says, “You’re just going through a phase.” But I’ve had both straight and gay friends tell me to just get it out of my system by finding a girl to ______ (fill in the blank because the suggestions range as far as you can imagine). Perhaps they think they’re being supportive; nevertheless, the implication is that if I can just have an experience with a girl, I’ll suddenly realize that I’m content with my male partner. It’s almost as if having capability to be attracted to multiple genders must mean that everyone is the same; therefore, when I experience one, I experience them all.

Others have suggested that I might be happier with a girl because I’m so attracted to them—that maybe I don’t really want to be with my male partner, which is really just a way to say that I’m a lesbian in denial even if they deny that they’re trying to say that.

Then there’s the “concerned” ones who grill me about how many sexual partners I have and, on the flip side, the ones who give me flak for being married.

Still others have dared to challenge my coming out, asking me what I hope to gain from it since I’m already married.

When I get these reactions, they bother me, but I’ve never been very good at pinpointing why. Usually I end up giving the pat explanation, “Being bi doesn’t mean I’m promiscuous. I am happy in my relationship and am not looking for anything else. It’s just really important to identify this part of myself right now.”

Sometimes I launch into it before anyone asks a question, which is an indication that I have some internalized biphobia myself.

Reading the beginning of Shiri’s book I began to realize how these prejudices play out. These aren’t necessarily the same prejudices that gay or lesbian people experience. Perhaps I would get some of that if I had a female partner, but for the most part I don’t find too many negative reactions when people mistakenly assume “partner” means “girl.”

But the prejudice is there.

It’s there when I need to explain why I’m marching in a gay pride parade with my husband or when I have to correct someone who assumes that because I’m married I have no vested interest in queer activism and gay rights. It’s there when someone tells me I “already have the right to marriage.” It’s there when people think they can define my identity and my relationships based on expectations of how I should or shouldn’t behave. It’s there when people assume they can ask any question they want about my love life simply because I told them I’m bi.

identity redefine

I wasn’t aware of them because bi-erasure was just part of the way things were. It took a book to tell me it shouldn’t have to be that way. From now on, rather than trying to convince people that I’m not promiscuous or unsure of what I want, I’m going to own the right that I am allowed to live my life on my terms. My identity doesn’t get to be defined by someone else’s prejudice or stereotypes.

Back when I started my blog, I described myself as a bi-feminist. Up until now, I’ve couched my bisexual activism in a broader activism for lgbt. Today, I’m giving myself permission to emphasize the bi part of my feminism. I’m no longer content to be railroaded and erased. I might make people uncomfortable, but it’s time to challenge the cultural lens. It’s time to make the “b” in “lgbt” visible.

Tales from the Lesloom Episode Four: Labels and Love

If you’re following The Adventures of the Lesbian Futon, you’ll remember that last week, Emma had her first kiss and was beginning to understand that she wasn’t like all the other girls in her class, who had begun to have crushes on boys. Join me this week as Emma navigates this new love of hers.

If you’re new to the Tales of the Lesloom, find out how it all began here!

Episode 4

Emma and Rebecca didn’t really notice a change in their friendship after that night—at least not right away. When they woke up in the morning, they each gave each other a shy look and a small smile. It was tense, but it was an amicable intensity.

When Rebecca’s mom came to pick her up, Emma offered an awkward hug goodbye.

“See ya,” Rebecca mumbled as they released each other. Trotting out the door, she jumped in the car and gave a final wave from the window.

Emma felt a tiny little jump in her stomach as she watched her friend’s car disappear. The world seemed to be sparkling with happiness. The colors were brighter, the song of the birds louder. Emma herself felt like she was walking on clouds.

She spent the weekend daydreaming about the future she hadn’t really dared hope for before—a future where she and Rebecca grow up, growing closer to each other rather than apart, making a home together, living out their dreams together.

Come Monday, even school didn’t seem like such a bad idea. Emma danced around the futon as she got ready, singing to herself.

“I get to see her today!” she cooed to her little wooden friend, falling back against the mattress, the pillows popping with the force of her faux faint. “I think I’m worried . . . or maybe excited. My stomach is all jumpy!” She gripped her middle and rolled into a ball.

Maybe both, the futon offered with a laugh, pushing slightly against her limp form. It took a little more coaxing than usual to get her ready and on her way on time, but somehow it managed to get the love-sick teen heading towards the bus at a quick trot with a few minutes to spare.

The poor futon had to wait all day in torturous apprehension for what its sweet friend might encounter that Monday, but thankfully, we don’t have to wait with it. Abandoning the futon to its worried daydreams and imperfect predictions, we follow Emma to school . . .

Emma didn’t feel nearly so alone as she walked to her locker, and it added an extra bounce to her step. When she saw Janie, the friend she’d bailed on that weekend, instead of shrinking back from the interaction, she waved enthusiastically. She barely remembered to keep pretending that she had been sick during their short conversation, but Janie seemed more relieved than anything that Emma was so . . . there really wasn’t a correct word for what Emma seemed to be.

Emma jogged over to Rebecca as soon as she saw her arrive at her locker. The reunion wasn’t quite as romantic as Emma had imagined, but then again, it would be hard for them to have the kind of movie-moment Emma had conjured up in her mind. Emma gave Rebecca a goofy grin, bouncing on the balls of her feet in an effort to restrain herself from hugging her.

“Wow,” Rebecca laughed. “Did you have coffee or something?”

“No!” Emma lowered her feet firmly to the floor. “I’m just really happy. It’s nice . . .” she cocked her head, biting her lower lip, “you know, having someone who understands.”

She didn’t see the initial look of pained confusion that fleeted over Rebecca’s face. She only saw the warm and very genuine smile that followed. “You can always tell me anything, you know.”

Rebecca meant what she said with all her heart, and Emma clung to the words of hope with her own desperate need. “Yeah, I guess you figure it all out on your own anyway.”

They laughed, the last little bits of visible awkwardness melting away.

“We better get to class.” Rebecca motioned towards their room.

Emma nodded, falling into step beside her friend. As they walked, their hands brushed lightly against each other, sending a chill up Emma’s arm and setting the butterflies in her stomach into full flight. Rebecca suddenly threw her arm over Emma’s shoulder, hugging her neck as they entered the classroom.

The day went by like any normal school day, but every time Emma caught Rebecca’s eye, she felt that they were sharing a secret language that the others couldn’t enter into. Every touch, no matter how innocuous it would have seemed last week, now felt laden with meaning. When Emma finally came home from school and related her day to the futon, they both sighed—one out of sheer happiness, the other out of relief. The futon didn’t admit to Emma that it had actually worried that Rebecca would withdraw from her.

“I think I’m in love with a girl,” Emma finally whispered, as much to herself as to the futon. “Is this what the crushes they’re always talking about feel like?”

The futon, having never experienced first love itself, shrugged. Probably, it said, but it secretly thought that Emma might be experiencing a deeper feeling than the other girls had known up to that point. Forbidden crushes are always a little bit stronger than general puppy love.

“What does it mean?” Emma asked.

You’re lesbian, the futon tried to explain. But it’s hard enough to understand the language of furniture as it is, and Emma had never heard that term before.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with me?”

No! the futon chuckled. There’s nothing wrong with you! There are many people who feel the same way. The futon knew that it wasn’t enough for it to whisper that to Emma, but it wasn’t quite sure how to help her see that she was normal. Suddenly, thought of a solution. You could look it up!

“I could look it up,” Emma mused to herself as if she had come up with the idea. Grabbing her laptop, she opened up a web browser. It didn’t take too long for her to discover a site that answered all of her questions. Together, she and the futon sat there and read what it meant for her to be attracted to girls instead of boys.

Emma hadn’t thought her heart could get any fuller than it already was. It was wonderful enough to have a friend who understood how she felt, but finding out that other people felt that way too and that there were words to describe that—even websites dedicated to helping teens like her—it was almost too much for her to handle. The only  thing that kept her grounded was the slight fear over how others might react, for in her reading she also discovered that not everyone was so kind to people like this. But that fear was far easier to bear than the one that she’d been carrying before—the one that feared her difference and feared understanding why she was different. Armed with self-knowledge and young love, she felt she could face anything her classmates might say about her.