New Post: 2nd Tuesday of the Month
I celebrated my fourteenth birthday with my mom, our neighbor & my [girl] friend from school at Universal City’s Hard Rock Cafe. Throughout dinner, my mom didn’t speak, her mouth buried in her steak, waiting for her opportunity to strike. When my friend left to the restroom, she began her disparaging comments: “I wish you brought a boy to dinner” & “what does this mean – this bringing a girl to her birthday dinner? Does it mean she’s a lesbian?”
I didn’t respond, and our neighbor ignored my mom. Silence stretched. “Are you a lesbian?” my mom asked again. My fingers clutched a napkin, tore it to pieces underneath the table, my gaze burning into my almost empty plate.
“No,” I muttered, finally, barely audible. I lacked the language to express the truth: I don’t know, let me find out. I said no because under my mom’s accusatory eyes, coming out felt like stepping under a falling boulder.
Later walking back to the parking lot, my friend and I linked arms. Immediately my mom started to scream, “You are a filthy lesbian, you are filth, you are disgusting.” My friend clutched my arm tighter for a second, then released, the words hitting her. The drive to our homes weighed heavy on our lips.
My mom never let up on her accusations of my sexuality. I frequently received emails from her that started: “I know you are gay.” Sometimes she would add, “But it’s okay” followed by “How did this happen?” Other times, “I want grandchildren.”
One night my other girl friend and I kissed, but by then I was too terrified to think about whether I enjoyed it. My mom’s words ringing: “filth” and “disgusting”. I decided I should be attracted to men because making her proud became more important than my own identity. It took years to untangle this toxic decision and its repercussions.
Rather than explore freely, I followed a prescribed path, closing gates to my own sexuality & my own self. Most days, I’m no longer attracted to anyone. I struggle to be comfortable in sexual encounters. How much of my engagement in my sexuality, in my identity is my own, and how much of it is dictated by oppressive norms & parental scoldings? I deconstruct, hoping to uncover the real me.
How many of us lead lives of lies? This Western European culture of oppression results in broken bones, bruised flesh & bloody teeth, but it also steals us away from us. We (us living in Empire) aren’t outside of these constructs of domination. We are prejudiced, patriarchal sacks of shit. Don't want to be defeatist, but it's important to recognize: we are not immune, or somehow exempt from dominant European hierarchical culture because unfortunately we are steeped in it.
Recognizing this gives us the tools to think outside of imperialist hegemonic boxes. To start thinking outside of binaries, outside of boy/girl, outside of straight/gay.
No amount of rallies, marches, or even direct actions will help usher in a different era, if we are not willing to see how we reproduce the narratives of domination, exploitation and oppression in our everyday lives. It is not enough to seize the modes of production, or to overthrow dictators/presidents. Most of us are angry, but if our anger is misogynistic or anti-black, it will only lead to other forms of oppression, even if the anger is anti-capitalist and anti-state. If you decide to pepper spray people at an anti-police community meeting because you’re threatened by femme folx taking space …. Well, even if you’re anti-capitalist and anti-state, we’re not on the same side.
I question my sexual and gender identity as part of my struggle against capitalism and against the state. Our identities are cultural reflections of the economic and governmental power relations in our society, and they are also us. How do we build identities of resistance and healing? How do we peel away versions of us no longer true? How do we ensure our identities are not co-opted and used against us?
In our struggle, the questions must never end. We must unlearn what white men have taught us while listening to (and supporting) Black transwomen & queer Indigenous folx. We must continue to critically engage while fighting for liberation, not passively participating in “political” work.
The first version of this piece exists in LA Queer Resitance Zine #4. You can find this and other zines on their website: laqrzine.wix.com or FB page: facebook.com/laqrzine