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. 

 

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.

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.

 

Review: Coming Out of the Closet Without Coming Apart at the Seams

Next week, I have the honor of having a guest blog post from Gail Dickert. Gail is the author of two self-published books: Coming Out of the Closet Without Coming Apart at the Seams and Enlightened-ish.

I found out about her first book when I was looking for resources to help me come out to my parents. In hindsight, I wish I’d read it then, but I was nervous about ordering a book about coming out before I was officially out (because someone could see and realize I was trying to come out and then I’d be outed! So the brain doesn’t work the best when it’s afraid of doing something that it needs to do).

Long story short, I went out on a desperate limb and sent her an email begging for support and advice. She answered back with a kind of big-sisterly care that I had only dreamed of, and in the process, she offered me a friendship I didn’t realize I was looking for.

Before I had officially left Christianity, I made sure to make peace with my sexuality and my old religion–I wanted to know that I had reached a place where I wasn’t leaving because I felt forced out. Unfortunately, that all happened before I met her, so her book never made it’s way into the spiritual resource pile.

I decided to buy her book when I was ready to handle reading about coming out with a spiritual focus again. I was a bit nervous about revisiting those themes, but I also wanted to get a feel for how far I’d come from those days when I thought I couldn’t be a Christian if I were bi. About four weeks ago I finished Coming Out of the Closet Without Coming Apart at the Seams. In preparation for her guest post, I wanted to give my impressions of the book.

She admits in the book that her desire in writing it is to help homosexual Christians find a way of coming out of the closet without losing their faith in Christianity, but she takes a completely different approach to reconciling sexuality with the Bible. Rather than diving into the scholarly research or trying to debunk the “clobber” passages conservative Christians so often use, she merely shrugs them off.

Although I think biblical scholarship and reasoning have their place within a theological setting; far too often I feel that people think you have to use that route in order to be a gay Christian.

Gail ignores that pressure, highlighting the personal nature of both faith and sexual orientation. It’s jarringly obvious and refreshing. When deciding the place of sexuality and spirituality, all you should need is your own approval. Nothing more than that. Coming out doesn’t have to be an apologetics course!

As a survivor of ex-gay therapy, she designed the sections of her book like the twelve step program that has often been applied to “re-orientation,” except that in her book the steps are flipped on their heads. Rather than containing “instructions” for turning “straight” (re-closeting yourself), they’re instructions for how to accept your sexual orientation and yourself.

When I started reading, I took the twelve steps as a serious twist on approaching the closet, but as I progressed I began to feel that the steps themselves were more satirical than serious. My suspicions were confirmed when I got to the last step, summed up nicely in her statement: “Give these ’12 Step’ programs a rest already!”

Coming out is serious business. Anyone who has faced the door of that closet knows how serious it can be. But there is no such thing as the perfect formula for coming out, and Gail rightly recognizes that when we rely too much on the process of others, we harm ourselves by missing the cues to our own process. She knew that whatever her steps were to coming out, they weren’t for everyone. She couldn’t map my path or your path, she could only follow her own.

Which is exactly what she does in between each of the steps. She doesn’t write the typical coming out book. She doesn’t really write a self-help book at all. She writes a memoir of discovering her attraction to girls–the betrayals, the shame, the desperation for change, the torture of religious abuse, and finally the painful process of breaking free.

All she does is tell her story, but it’s a brilliant form of self-help because within her lived experiences she offers so much to others.

There aren’t that many books I’d recommend to LGBT who are struggling to find a place for their faith, but Coming Out of the Closet Without Coming Apart at the Seams would definitely be one of them. Gail tells her story in such a way that she inspires others to tell theirs. She embraces her faith as her own and empowers others to do the same. Both through her words and her actions, she shines a light towards freedom.

I’m so honored to know her as a friend, and I’m excited that next week she will be presenting one of the freedoms from her newest book, Enlightened-ish. Just to entice you to come back, I’ll let you know that it’s about cussing!

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.

The Place of Apology in the Cycle of Abuse

Have you heard about Exodus International yet?

They pretty much did what every survivor dreams their abusers would do (in between the dreams where boulders fall on the abuser). They apologized and have announced that they are shutting down . . . you know, in case you live under a rock and only read my blog.

Great news, right? Now we can all hug and “move on.”

Wrong.

As with most apologies that come from abusers, there’s fine print. They’re starting another organization under a different name.

Forgive me while I vomit.

Let’s review a little something about abuse, something that we tend to forget when faced with apologies from abusers . . . they all do this! They all pull out an apology from time to time.

“I’m so sorry! It will never, ever happen again!”

And it doesn’t, until the next time.

It’s such a common pattern of abuse that it’s made its way into a pretty little flow chart that you will come across in most basic psychology classes: Tension, Incident, Reconciliation, Calm.

“This is the song that never ends. Yes it goes on and on my friends…”

cycle of abuse

It takes a while for victims to learn that apologies don’t necessarily mean things are going to change, but sooner or later, we catch on. In the context of abuse, apologies mean nothing. They’re one of the more underhanded ways of catching victims off their guard and making way for more abuse.

That’s true, even if it’s a sincere apology.

Does that mean that abusers can never truly change?

Not at all. Everyone can change, including abusive people/organizations. But it’s going to take a hell of a lot of work to prove that the promised change is real. Too often apologies have been used by abusers to get charges dropped, prevent victims from leaving, make themselves look better, or even get themselves into a position for abusing new victims.

Not so surprising then that I found this sudden apology from Exodus a little questionable (especially since it came out the right before a program aired in which survivors of the ex-gay movement confronted Alan Chambers and Exodus’ practices).

I was willing to give them a chance, but I needed to see some proof before I started celebrating.

Shutting down was a good start for an abusive organization. For abusive individuals, that would be the equivalent of quitting a job that puts them in a position to abuse or relinquishing authority within the home. Perhaps if Exodus had stopped with the shut-down, they would seem more believable in their contrition.

Unfortunately, they made the mistake of thinking they could just start up again. Kind of like a priest getting caught abusing a child and starting a new ministry in a different parish.

BAD!

Acknowledging abuse means acknowledging that they abused that position of power. Pretending they can just pick up and start anew is the biggest indication I’ve seen that they don’t understand the full gravity of what they’ve done. It shows little concern for their victims and how their victims might be feeling. It shows no concern for protecting other people. It’s a completely ego-centric approach.

This is exactly the kind of crap that made me write my “Forgiveness is Bullshit” post a while back. 

More importantly, with an apology comes the responsibility to shut up and listen. Abuse is about power. It’s about silencing victims and stealing their voices. When abusers apologize and truly want to change, they need to accept full responsibility for their actions, which means zipping their mouths for once and letting the victims speak. The victims need a chance to voice their pain. Apologizing doesn’t erase the victim’s need to be heard, and an apology that is used to try to coax a victim into more silence is just another form of abuse.

Exodus isn’t listening right now. They’re barreling ahead with their own ideas and agendas. They’ve spent years teaching that homosexuals are sinful and need to be cured. They’ve spent years torturing innocent people and convincing them it’s “for their own good.” Now, they want to say sorry, kiss and make up, and go back to loudly declaring their beliefs. And the worst part?! I don’t see any change in their message. From what I understand from TWO, ex-gay has rebranded as Restored Hope Network. The “About” section of their new Restored Hope Network still condemns homosexuality as a sin that will keep people out of heaven and even steal their salvation away.

So . . . what the hell is the point of shutting down then?

The only ones they’re speaking for are themselves, trying to do damage control because their victims are getting vocal. Where is the desire to understand their victims’ experiences? Where is the desire to educate themselves on the truth after so many years of believing lies?

This isn’t like a company suddenly deciding that a product isn’t selling. Exodus doesn’t get to pull the “consumers have spoken” line. This is about an organization that survived on the exploitation of the pain of a group of people.

Change has to happen for this apology to mean anything, and I’m not talking about a change in the direction of their marketing. There has to be a change in behavior. Exodus needs to completely close its doors, back away from the homosexuality arena, take responsibility for their actions, and let their victims speak out. They need to show humility and understanding over what they’ve done and the impact their actions have had.

Sorry just isn’t enough, and in this case, I’m convinced it’s not even sincere. Thankfully, I’m not seeing many people who are buying their b.s. right now, but in case anyone is confused by the smoke and mirrors, Exodus isn’t shutting down. They’re just apologizing and changing their name so they can continue to do the same thing all over again.

EDIT: There’s also rumors of Chambers starting a “reduce fear” organization, but even if he has good intentions at this point (doubt it), he has yet to prove he has even changed himself. We’ve got the same problems as above. He’s not leaving his position of power, he’s shifting it. He’s not listening, he’s restarting under a different name. And though I can’t find any information yet about his Reduce Fear idea, even if its goal is to preach acceptance, he doesn’t get to switch from being the head of the abusive organization to the lgbt church advocate overnight like that. I wouldn’t trust him any more than I trust this “Restored Hope Network” crap.

Tales from the Lesloom: Episode Five “Coming Out is Hard to Do.”

Welcome to the fifth episode of the Lesbian Heirloom Tales. If you haven’t been following along with this silly little series, I’d recommend going back to the beginning to get your bearings. Enjoy the break from the more serious topics with these imaginative accounts of the wonderful highs and terrible lows of a girl growing up and the loving futon that was sent to help her.

COMING OUT IS HARD TO DO

After Emma discovered that she was lesbian, she couldn’t wait to tell Rebecca. She constructed elaborate daydreams of their excited squeals as they read over the information together, and as such daydreams do, they quickly morphed into fantasies about dates, telling parents, and beautiful weddings.

“I’m so lucky,” she whispered to the futon. “I’ve found out who I am by falling in love with my best friend! It’s so romantic!”

The futon rejoiced with Emma as she discovered her identity, but it quivered in fear at the memory of how it had been inspired with its mission in the first place. It knew from its maker’s experience that accepting yourself is not the same thing as being accepted—and how much a young heart needed both.

Take it slow, it tried to warn Emma.

But she wouldn’t listen. She was far too excited to have discovered a way to explain her disinterest in boys. The next time Rebecca came over, Emma was practically bursting from the effort to keep her mouth shut long enough to get her mother out of the room.

“You look excited,” Rebecca ventured as she pulled out some DVDs she’d rented, tossing them on the bed.

Emma peaked out her door once more to make sure her mom was really gone and turned back to her friend. “You’ll never believe what I found!” she squealed, rushing over to her computer. She popped up one of the websites she’d been reading earlier and swung the screen toward Rebecca. “It explains everything!”

Rebecca glanced at the screen, her face unreadable. “What explains everything?”

The futon groaned slightly as it felt Rebecca stiffen.

Take it slow, it tried to whisper again, but Emma was too far into her own world to notice the changes in either of her friends.

“We’re lesbians.” She pointed to a paragraph about halfway down, wondering how Rebecca hadn’t seen it as clearly as she had.

Rebecca dutifully read what Emma had pointed to.

“I don’t think that’s me,” she finally said.

“What are you talking about? Of course it is! It’s why we like each other instead of boys.”

“I’m not lesbian,” Rebecca said again, more firmly.

“But you said you thought about kissing girls!”

“Uh, no, I didn’t! I said I didn’t always think about kissing boys.”

“But what about . . .”

“Ugh!” Rebecca groaned, flopping her head onto a pillow. “Emma.” she mumbled into the fabric. Sitting back up, she pulled the pillow into her lap. “It was something we tried to see how it made us feel. It wasn’t supposed to be an engagement!”

The words stung. Emma pulled the computer back to herself, creating a wall of screen between them so Rebecca couldn’t see her face. Tears pricked the edges of her eyes, but she refused to cry.

“Why are you so afraid of this?” Emma snapped. “I thought your mom was all feminist and stuff, but you’re acting like a complete . . . homophobe.” She barely knew what the word meant, but she knew it was bad—and bad fit her feelings.

Rebecca glowered. The futon did its best to intervene, with one girl trembling in despair and the other in anger.

“I’m not a homophobe!” Rebecca tossed the pillow at Emma. “You can be whatever you want!”

“Apparently not. My best friend can’t handle it.”

“Oh, that’s rich! You’re the one trying to force a label on me that I don’t think fits.” Rebecca grabbed the DVDs off the futon and shoved them back into her bag.

“What are you doing?”

“I want to go home.”

“You’re such a traitor!” Emma screamed as Rebecca yanked open the door. “You’re . . . you’re a tramp!”

She regretted the words as soon as she said them, but the pain and confusion felt as though they would suffocate her.

They’d had fights before. The one who left always came back. It was like a rule between them to always come back, so Emma waited for Rebecca. She didn’t cry. She just sat on the edge of the futon, holding her laptop, and watching the door.

But Rebecca didn’t come back.

A half hour later, Emma’s mom came up and knocked on the already open door. “Can I come in?”

Emma closed out her browser and shrugged. “I guess.”

“Rebecca’s mom just picked her up,” her mother stated as she joined Emma on the edge of the mattress.

“So,” Emma snarled, tossing her computer aside and flopping down on her back.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

Emma’s hands flew to cover the tears leaking onto her cheek. “No. Leave me alone, please.”

It was meant to sound defiant, but it came out as more of a whimper.

“Alright.” Her mom gently rubbed Emma’s arm. “I’ll leave you alone for a while.” She stood to leave, but hesitated. “Don’t throw your friendship away over a fight, sweetie. You don’t find many friends like Rebecca. Promise me you’ll try to work it out.”

“Okay,” Emma muttered through her hands, but inside she was screaming, I think I threw away my friendship over a kiss!

After her mother left, Emma curled into her pillows and let the tears go. She cried for all she was worth over the unfairness of love, life, and growing up. She cried in anger at Rebecca and at herself. She cried in sorrow at the loss of something in their friendship. And she cried for the sake of crying because sometimes it’s the only way to get the tension of a horrible day out.

At some point her mother brought in a cup of tea and left it. She didn’t interrupt even though the futon could see it tortured her to watch her daughter in pain like that.

Don’t worry, it assured her, I’ll stay here with her.

Although her mother hadn’t consciously heard what the futon said, she felt the assurance of the words. Nodding her head sadly, she left her daughter to cry alone as she had asked.

The futon cradled Emma as gently as it could, hugging her to its chest in the way only a good piece of furniture can. To her, it felt like the end of the world. But the futon felt sure that things would look better when they got to the other side of the night.

It didn’t say that, of course, because heartbreak cannot be cured by promises of the future, but it tried to let hope silently seep  into Emma’s tears.