Owning our authentic voice

Hi gang. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of living and expressing our authentic voice. In my life, just as many of you, I’ve experienced homophobia in various forms. I lived as a closeted lesbian in the US Army in the pre-DADT days, when just the whisper of innuendo was enough to get you hauled into an interrogation room and run out of the military—no matter how competent or capable you were. Being lesbian automatically made you unfit. After a couple of near misses under investigation, I came to realize that I couldn’t live dishonestly and left the military with a heavy heart. But I made myself a promise to live my truth and never again let anyone else bully or define me, or make me feel that my authentic self was less than worthy.

I read the most recent coming out news this week about NBA center Jason Collins. Collins is receiving the distinction of being the first pro athlete to come out. He follows US soccer star Megan Rapinoe last summer and Baylor women’s basketball star Brittney Griner, who will be member of the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA this season. In his interview with Sports Illustrated, Collins talked about the same need to live authentically. It’s a common thread virtually all of us share.

But to live and express ourselves authentically, while universal, is a bit different for each of us as individuals. LGBT people are still marginalized by the world. Although acceptance is increasing exponentially, there is still a large segment of our society that feels that we really ought to shut up about it, already. Why do we have to keep telling them? They wonder. Because it’s still legal to discriminate against LGBT people. Because DOMA is still on the books, denying same sex couples the same benefits as straight couples. This means LGBT members of the military, law enforcement, and fire fighters can continue to risk their very lives for you, but their families will not receive the same survivor benefits as their peers.

So, back to the question: Why do I write lesbian fiction? I write lesbian fiction because I want to tell my story—our stories—authentically. I don’t want to ignore the totality of our experiences as lesbians. I don’t mean to disparage, but let’s remember that as women, we do have a different experience even from that of gay men. Yes, the human condition is universal in many ways, but to deeply grasp the emotion and experience of any human, one cannot edit out sexuality. Humans are the only species whose sexuality is inextricably tied to emotion, and this is especially true for women. I want to write stories with lesbian heroines who are strong, capable, sensitive, and yes, sexual.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion recently surrounding the debate of sex in lesbian fiction. Both sides have valid points. Every writer has her own style, and decides how best to tell her story. That’s as it should be. However, I don’t believe including the depictions of the sexuality in my characters automatically demeans my story. I get the irritation that the label “lesbian fiction” is sometimes equated with pornography. That is demeaning on it’s face. It says what the straight world has always said to me: “I can accept that you’re a lesbian, I just don’t want to hear about it.” Why do I have to edit out the sexuality of my characters in order to be taken seriously? Wait. I only have to edit out the sexuality of the lesbians. That’s really the truth. A lesbian author who has had success in the mainstream market says that her publisher doesn’t care about her sexuality, as long as she writes a good story. I’m sure that’s true. They also say she writes badass women characters. She does, and I’m a fan.

But. Why can’t the leading ladies be badass and lesbian? And if they are, why can’t we see them as authentic, whole beings—sex and all? That’s the character I want to read and write about, and if the sex works within the context of the story, I’ll include it. I read a wide variety of books—fiction, non-fiction, mainstream and lesfic. I think every author should write the story they want to write. When this debate comes up periodically, I fear that what we’re actually doing is applying the mainstream, straight world’s biases in the reverse. The straight stereotype accepts kick-ass women, so long as they still need a man between the sheets. The straight male execs at Amazon are the ones who lump us into one category based on the ‘lesbian’ label. Let’s agree that’s wrong, rather than fighting amongst ourselves over how much or little sex determines whether we’ll be taken seriously. When we throw stones at each other for including sex, we’re telling ourselves that depicting our sexuality automatically shames us. I disagree.

Right now, I can’t find those positive representations of myself, or lesbians in general, out in the mainstream, straight, fiction world. Therefore, I choose to write those stories. My writing is my way of taking back my own power to live and express my authentic self. So, for me, I’m not writing lesfic as some lead-up to hitting it big in the mainstream world. Unless the mainstream world is ready to accept unabashed, fully developed lesbian characters. I pray that day arrives. Until then, I am proud to wear the label: “Lesbian Author”.

Thanks for reading~ LM

Money changes everything…

Let that Cyndi Lauper musical anthem play in your head for this offering.

 

So, here we go again. The rabid religious right (or the RRR as I like to call them) is all flapped up and riled that corporations are donating to causes supporting diversity and gay marriage initiatives. Social conservatives are outraged—indignant I tell you—that corporations would sink money into this social issue. The conservative crowd is upset by the announcement that Amazon CEO Jeffery Bezos donated $2.5 million to help pass a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington State. And in June, General Mills came out publicly against a same sex marriage ban in Minnesota. The nerve!

Wasn’t it just last week that Dan Cathy, the CEO of Chick-Fil-A, reaffirmed his moral position against gay marriage by stating that our country is “inviting the wrath of God” for our tolerance? That’s the same Dan Cathy who has donated nearly $2million dollars to organizations opposing gay marriage in 2010 alone (Source: equality matters.org) What happened then? Why, the conservatives were gleefully praising the chicken giant, and calling for a dine-in for support. Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee were the standard bearers for the cause to defend the moral high ground, exhorting their followers to rush to buy chicken sandwiches and extra large waffle fries!

Help me to understand. I know Republicans believe in less government, and the less government, the better. Keep government away from my guns, my healthcare, my religion (only straight, intolerant Christian denominations here), fire all the lazy SOB’s with government jobs… the list goes on. That’s always their position. Government is bad. Right? Corporations should have unlimited ability to make political contributions without regulations. Regulation is another way for government to interfere. Right? Oh, wait, unless… GASP… a corporation gets behind causes benefiting women or lesbians and gays…

<That’s the sound of the needle skipping across the record>

Praise the corporations who funnel billions into certain causes, but supporting marriage equality for LGBT citizens? Nuh-uh. And when we respond by rightly saying we’ll spend our lesbian money somewhere else? Well, we’re just being…umm…reverse bigots! Yeah, that’s it! But if you’re cause is on the right, boycott or buycott as often as you can. So, I think our LGBT dollars should speak just as loudly for companies that support equality. And thankfully more corporations are realizing that a stance for equality is the way to go. We buy stuff, too! Wow, it feels good to know that my next lesbian ebook purchase will matter even more. Thanks, Amazon.

I read a newspaper article the other day that quoted a woman in MN lamenting that she is running out of places to shop because of all of those sinful businesses supporting gay and lesbian causes. She says they’re destroying thousands of years of tradition (read suppression) and the final indignity is that she’s had to take Cheerios off of her shopping list, presumably because of the General Mills stance on equality. I think that’s perfectly fine that she spends her dollars in accordance with her beliefs. She’s entitled to her buying decisions.

Tell ya what? With the money we save avoiding Chick-Fil-A, my wife and I will buy an extra box of Cheerios next week.

Thanks for reading,

~LM