What a wonderful, genderqueer world!
When I was younger, I thought bisexuality was a party trick. I thought it was something that teenage girls used to get attention. Since I've stopped being a teenage girl, I've learned that there are more than just the three oversimplified dimensions -- gay, straight and bi -- of sexuality. But that's why youth is for the young. I should have known that when I was labeled "lesbian" (a negative connotation I never understood) by my peers on my first day of high school, it wasn't just those ignorant meanies who didn't understand sexuality (or gender, for that matter): I didn't understand it, either.
Val Franz JD Samson's joke is on you, Davies.
With PrideFest 2012 just around the corner, I wanted to share a small amount of the information I've gleaned over the past decade and a half about sex, sexuality, gender, culture and a whole lot more that I'm still wrapping my head around. And it begins with an apology.
Last December, I wrote a Breeality Bites piece called "Hey, hot Tranny: Where'd you get that sparkly tank top?" Whoa. Back up. Read that headline again. I, the proud ally who spends a good amount of space and time speaking to (and sometimes, I think, for) the people of the GLBTQ community, used a transphobic slur? What an asshole.
Like a lot of seemingly socially acceptable and harmful ignorance, that column was based on a joke between some friends -- you know, my friends who are gay, so I thought it was appropriate. It wasn't. Just because Amy Poehler -- a woman I consider to be an upstanding female citizen -- dressed up like Christian Siriano and wandered around on SNL dropping "tranny," that didn't make it funny, or less demeaning. A very kind and assertive acquaintance who identifies as trans called me out -- hard. I had no idea how detrimental that joke was, just by it existing. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. Or at least hope that the story was magically deleted from the Internet.
But when you choose to reveal everything about yourself for readers to see, sometimes you mess up.
I was born in 1980. I grew up in a pre-Internet, pre-Glee world, a world where "transvestite" was an umbrella term for not-straights, every "gay"-identified person on television had a lisp and a poodle, and George Michael's kicking down of the closet door was still surprising (and demonizing) to some, even as he trumpeted his coming out to the world.
I also grew up in a very accepting, open household that taught me to understand the dangers of people like Anita Bryant, Fred Phelps and the other "god hates fags"-style toxic rhetoric spewers. I watched Ryan White dispel myths about HIV and AIDS, Pedro Zamora use MTV as its once-intended political platform, and I hung out in Cheesman Park in high school because it was the "cool place" to go. I fell in love with Keith Haring's art, John Waters's movies and RuPaul's Supermodel of the World in its entirety. But that doesn't mean I know everything. Or anything at all, for that matter.