Tales of a wandering lesbian

Posts from — April 2010

Should we really define our friends by gender or even accept those that do?

The questions surrounding gender identity and gender expression are fascinating, and ever-shifting.  I am by no means an expert on the subject, but it’s something I consider on a regular basis.  Usually when I get called “sir.”

I’m going to take the question as it’s presented.  There are other issues that come up when we’re looking for a partner – a mate.  Gender identification and roles can prove helpful for some of us in those situations.

So, should we define our friends in terms of gender?  I think it depends.

I define myself as a woman.  It’s an important part of my experience and the story line that is my life.  But whether I have a penis or breasts or both isn’t the essence of who I am.  It does, however serve as a short-hand, signaling to other women that, without a word, we have a shared language.  A shared set of experiences.  We both probably know what it’s like to buy tampons, for example.  In a world where resonation, community and commonality are important, I think there is value in using gender as a way to acknowledge similarities.  That said, using any one factor as a singular definition of a person is dangerous.  And limiting.

I’ve played softball with a number of trans folks, both those transitioning from male to female and from female to male.  There have been times when I haven’t been sure how someone identifies.  So I ask.  I’ve found it incredibly humbling for me, and empowering for them, to ask the simple question, “what pronoun do you prefer?”  (I didn’t come up with that on my own.  I learned the question at a training somewhere.)  Just asking puts me in a vulnerable place, where I show my desire to define.  But it also shows my respect in allowing the other person to define for themselves how they will be seen in the world.

So, I think the answer is that self-identification is incredibly important.  Self-identification.

If someone wants to identify themselves as a man, a woman, neither or both, the best I can do is to allow room for that, acknowledge it, and accept the story-line they express for their life’s experience, whether that’s their gender, sexual orientation, race, culture, religion, or reality TV affiliation.

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April 30, 2010   No Comments

Why do lesbians like softball so much?

Ah, softball.  The great lesbian cliché, stereotype, and cultural experience.

Not all lesbians play softball.  Not all lesbians like softball.  But most lesbians have either played, watched from the stands, or been enticed to keep score for their girlfriend’s team.  Whether it’s cliché or not, softball is where a lot of lesbians find community.  It’s where I looked when I was feeling isolated, and where I’ve found an amazing family and support system.

Portland has a gay league.  55 teams of queers playing their hearts out every weekend for girls in bikinis and bears with travel trailers.  But even outside the gay leagues, softball plays an important part in lesbian culture.

It’s true that softball isn’t the only sport out there.  But it (aside from maybe rugby) holds the top spot as sports associated with lesbians.  Why is that?

Here’s what I think.  Boys like baseball.  It’s the great American pastime, after all.  They play it growing up, they watch it after they’re too old to play it.  It’s part of their psyche.  It’s part of the American psyche.  Until pretty recently, girls weren’t included in that culture.  The first opportunity we had to play something that looked like baseball was in Junior High or High School, when we signed up in droves for the softball team, eschewing the gender norms that pigeonholed many of us as “freaks” and “she-men,” to put on socks and stirrups like the boys.  No briefs like volleyball, or skirts like field hockey.

When you line up the traditional Title 9 sports, softball and baseball are the most similar team sports for men and women.  Through college, softball allows women to compete in a sport that is as understood and important to our society as baseball.   And it’s empowering to know that you can compete physically with top athletes of any gender.

Outside of the women’s studies, gender role stuff, in the recreational arena, softball is fun, and it’s inclusive.

While it requires a certain level of hand-eye coordination, and certainly rewards those who are physically fit, softball accommodates all sizes and shapes of players.  Whether you’re a super-fit sporty dyke, or a fluffier lady, there’s a place for you on the field.  There aren’t a lot of sports that have room for 250 pound women as starting athletes.

Softball is a team sport.  It’s a place where people can come together to play, to compete, and to socialize.  Unlike say basketball or volleyball, a lot of socializing happens DURING the game of softball.  Most of the team is in the dugout together for extended periods of time each inning while the team is batting.  That provides for great camaraderie around the game, as well as time to chat about what people did over the weekend, and how cute the shortstop on the other team is.

So there you have it.  Softball allows us to participate, to compete, and to socialize meaningfully in the context of athletics.  It allows for exhibitionists to perform for their ladies and for voyeurs to watch women of all physicalities giving their best.

And it allows us to dress up in uniforms.  Uniforms.  Let’s be honest.  That’s what it’s really all about.

FOR THE GAYS

Softball is so much a part of lesbian culture, that “softball lesbian” is a known shorthand for a certain type of lesbian.  It describes much more than the fact that she plays softball.  Are you an aspiring softball lesbian?  Here are some things to consider:

Dating team members – If you are going to play softball in order to find a girlfriend, think carefully.  I have a rule that I don’t play on the same team as someone I’m dating.  That also means I don’t date someone on my team.  I learned that the hard way after dating a teammate on my rugby team.  When we broke up I lost my girlfriend, and my team.

Softball girlfriend – If your girlfriend isn’t a softball player, she may or may not be interested in watching your games.  Find out up front.  If she doesn’t know the difference between practice and scrimmage, it’s likely she’s not going to understand why you want her to come to your games.  It’s best to manage your expectations early, or it’s going to be a rough season.

Drama free team – Many softball teams will advertise themselves as “drama free.”  Don’t’ be fooled!  This is the first clue that there have been many drama-filled incidents occurring on the team.  Likely, half of the team has dated each other and the other half is new players (read: “fresh meat”).  If the team has a new coach, and last year’s coach is now just a player on the team, or a player on another team, the team is not drama free.

Tokens – Not all softball players are gay.  Even in the gay leagues, we have straight players sprinkled in.  Whether they’re looking for a cultural experience, or playing with their lesbian sister, it’s important not to assume that they’re lesbians.  Because things that would indicate lesbianism in the outside world (like ass grabbing) don’t necessarily work the same on the field, it’s always safest to ask.

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April 29, 2010   No Comments

Why is it that every lesbian I know has at least one gay boyfriend? And, since a gay man and a lesbian make up a “one man- one woman” relationship, should they just get married and start a whole new brand of gay marriage?

Thanks for the question Heather!

There is a simple answer:  fashion.  And safety.  Perhaps you ‘ve noticed the lack of fashion savvy many of my lesbian sisters possess.  It’s like the lesbian gene is completely lacking fashion sense.  As though we collectively donated it to our homosexual brothers, and kept the homerun derby genes for ourselves.

Why do we have gay boyfriends?  We have to keep our gayboys close to us so that we’re not gunned down in the street for our poor fashion choices.  It’s really that simple.

Why don’t we get married?  Believe me, honey, I’ve thought about this.  I LOVE my gayboy Jeffrey.  I could probably live the rest of my life with him.  Except that I don’t want to do the nasty with him.  Not even a teenly little bit.  (Jeffrey, I’m not saying you have a teeny little bit, so don’t come flying at me with that queeny rage of yours.)  I want to go shopping with him and talk horrible trash about people when I know I shouldn’t.  I don’t want to go to sleep next to him and wake up in his arms.

So, if I should ever be in the hospital and need someone to make a decision, or hold my hand as I go into surgery, I want it to be my partner – the woman I do sleep next to every night, and wake up with.  And I want the government, and my community, to acknowledge that my relationship with the woman I choose to spend my life with is every bit as valid, important, and worthy of protection, as anybody else’s.

Fabulous question, darling.

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April 28, 2010   No Comments

Why is my cat so obsessed with my lady friend? She says the cat is jealous. I say I’m jealous. And if I only have one cat, am I really a lesbian?

Thank you, LeAnna for those insightful, and related questions.  Let’s take them one at a time:

1.  Your cat is obsessed with your lady friend, because you are obsessed with your lady friend.  Either that, or your lady friend really does not like your cat.  Cats can sense these things, and like to be disagreeable.

2.  It is a common misconception that all lesbians have cats.  In fact, not all lesbians like cats, though all lesbians like pussy.  So, I think the better question is:  “is your lady friend really a lesbian if she doesn’t like your pussy?”

Thank you again for that question.

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April 27, 2010   No Comments

Do you prefer the terms– gay or lesbian? And is that an okay question to ask “da gay” person?

Thanks Nat!  Any question is an okay question to ask.

Language can be a big roadblock to even beginning discussion about these issues.  And, because definitional terms like “gay” and “lesbian” can be so very personal, this is a perfect way to start the discussion.  Let’s take a minute to define some terms:

GLBT:  This stands for Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual and Transgender.  It can also be expressed LGBT.

Homosexual:  someone who is sexually attracted to people of the same gender.

Gay man:  homosexual man.

Lesbian:  homosexual woman.

Bi-sexual: someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women.

Transgender person: generally someone who identifies as a different gender than the gender assigned to them at birth.

It’s important to know that, while there are some terms that have specific definitions, the language around GLBT issues is constantly changing and evolving.  Especially the language around transgender and gender-identity issues.

For me, “gay” is a general term.  Sure, it can be used in a more male centered manner, but I use it often to describe all homosexual people.  Much the way it’s used in the term “gay marriage.”  We know gay marriage also includes lesbians, and it’s an easy shorthand.

I will say, however, that I was schooled one evening by a room of older activists who had cut their teeth in the women’s rights movement, when I referred to them as “gay.”  They didn’t like it.  It wasn’t comfortable for them, and wasn’t the term they chose to use to define themselves.    Which was funny, because I didn’t like the word “lesbian” for a long time.  It made me feel uncomfortable.  Even though it was a proper term for what I was, I didn’t use it to describe myself.  And that’s really what it’s about.  Self-definition.

For now, I prefer the word, “queer” to define myself and my community.  Which makes a lot of people uncomfortable.  For me, it’s the most inclusive word we can use to describe a very diverse community.  And it reclaims a word that has been used for a long time as a marginalizer.

So while there are some words that mean really specific things, the best rule is to ask.  If you want to know how someone defines themselves, just ask.  It’s a great place to start a conversation.

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April 25, 2010   No Comments