Are you a good liar?

20 03 2010

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Guilt by association

10 03 2010

Recently I met a young woman who was questioning her sexuality. (Read: ‘extremely closeted’). We met through a mutual friend who felt it would be good if the three of us got together so her friend could talk to another queer person in friendly company. I suggested meeting in a cafe in Colombo but was told it was too public. So then I suggested a more obscure, quieter place that I knew would be deserted on a Saturday afternoon. And so we met and chatted and actually had a lovely time. I was really pleased to have met her. She reminded me of myself in some ways.. a younger me. I tried to reach out to her and reassure her that it was perfectly normal to be going through the feelings and experiences she was but I am not sure I made any sense at all.

Later, I wondered – why was she so afraid to be seen with me in public? What was it? What if people saw us together? Would they wonder how we knew each other? Would they think – how come we were friends? Or was she afraid that people would see her with me – someone who is very publicly out as a lesbian, and start thinking – Oh, so maybe she’s a lesbian too?

Was this feeling of ‘guilt by association’ so strong that she had to hide? Should I feel offended that she was ashamed or guilty to be seen with me in public? Do I look that dykey? (No, I was not wearing my “I love my girlfriend” t-shirt) or should I just try to be understanding and remember how it was for me all those years ago, when I was coming out?





I need you

28 02 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nxq-wCf5G8o

Anyone who’s ever been in love would have used the words ‘I love you’ at some point of their campaign of persuasion. And most people over the age of four would have heard and understood the phrase at some point of their lives.  ‘I love you’ is possibly the most emotionally moving, courageous and meaningful thing anyone can say to another person and it takes precedence over any other claim that a lover especially, might make. ‘I love you’ has the power to remove all doubt, reaffirm one’s faith and even perhaps re-create feelings which might be fading away. ‘I love you’ is magical.

The words ‘I need you’ though, are not half as exciting and are not advertised half as often as ‘I love you’ in popular music and culture – implying as they do a more selfish wanting which is not necessarily a compliment. Unless of course you are of a masochistic turn of mind. And that’s the thing.

People leave relationships for all kinds of reasons. Discoveries of sexual incompatibility, differing life-agendas, infidelity and boredom are some of the common reasons one hears. (There are lots more of course, such as violence, mental trauma and other psychological issues which are more complex). Excessive neediness by one person however, is not really seen as a valid reason for the other to leave a relationship, possibly because it is not often very obvious and can take years to manifest itself to its true maximum potential of horror. Indeed, a person ditching someone for reasons of simple boredom might be astonished by the levels of uncontrolled insecure behaviour they could be forced to witness from a previously calm and stable individual. But how could we not know this about them? Is it an entirely new development in their character? Can we simply blame them and quietly sneak off or do we too have a responsibility for their condition? Why have we spent so many years with someone whose black hole of neediness is now driving us away? Can we honestly claim that we were not attracted to and turned on by this very need? Didn’t it appear to be sweetly vulnerable and didn’t it arouse all our most protective instincts – back then? Before it turned into this monster? Neediness could be the reason so many of us are in co-dependent relationships, that weirdly work if both parties are on the same page but not if one person decides to grow or change.

We all have needs, and these are mostly made manifest in our love relationships. And while we know that the failings of our childhood relationships with our parents almost always drive the flaws within the relationships we have as adults, it is interesting to observe how neediness works across all ages to different degrees. Since many of us have huge insecurities about ourselves, we seek to find the perfect partner. That is, one who will validate our lives, boost our egos and give us unconditional love. This is not easy. Some people spend their entire lives seeking their Soul Mate and most never find them. Most other people, gay or straight, settle for the closest thing and if this means compromising on attributes such as strength of character, will-power or critical analysis skills, then we are usually willing to do it. And some of us find our partner’s failings and flaws very attractive. Their fears, phobias and little white lies might be enchanting at first. In time however, the cost may be high and distressful.

In Sri Lanka as elsewhere, many straight relationships and marriages are founded on common interests, mutual benefit, social acceptance and family values. Gay relationships are not always so clearly defined and certainly do not have the public and private support systems that straight people can access. Sexual attraction is often a primary driving force and other factors may not be considered so important when falling in love, especially in a small queer community such as ours where choices are limited anyway. And neediness manifested appropriately can be the best means by which to attract lovers, especially in lesbian relationships. Many ‘fragile’ femme women’s maternal instincts are aroused by their ‘strong’ butch women’s need for mothering (which can lead to lasting relationships). However it could be that in crisis, the butch identified woman might completely lose the plot while the fragile femme might reveal herself to be the real Schwarzenegger of the two.

It is an interesting paradox. The very characteristics that many of us claim to aspire to and celebrate – independence, strength and unwillingness towards emotional manipulation, are not our most common experiences on the route to finding companionship and love. The refusal to use the weapon of need is rare. In reality the woman whose inner strength is too apparent could be so intimidating that few women and fewer men, would dare approach.

Where lies the difference between one person’s desire for honest intimacy and the other’s desire simply to possess?





Coming out

23 02 2010

1.

I don’t have a coming out fetish – I know some people do. They have to come out to everyone. For me it’s not like that. I think it’s important to think about how my coming out affects the other person while I am thinking of the relief (along with the more painful consequences) it may give. Neither can I think of coming out as one side of a binary: out vs not out. Is anyone really completely out or completely closeted? I don’t think so. I think most of us go through life being out to different people and to different degrees. I am out to friends at work, I am out to some cousins and not others, one person in my family is oblivious to my love for women and with another I have a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy!

The first people I came out to were my group of immediate friends. I didn’t have to tell them anything. When I first fell in love with a woman in my late twenties, it was right in front of them. And they surrounded me with a safety net, without being told anything. What would our lives be without our friends! I had such good luck coming out to friends that I thought all my friends would be accepting. I was right. The people who were important to me were accepting. What I didn’t see was that people who were important to the people who were important to me, would find it difficult to deal with. So when my best friend started avoiding me, it was a shock. Obviously, she would put her relationship before her friendship with me, but how could such a wonderful, sensitive, open-minded person be with a conservative prick who thought being friends with a lesbian was bad??

There is nothing I would change about coming out to the people that I have come out to. But that doesn’t mean I have to follow that up with coming out to everyone in my life. You choose who you come out to (when you can choose). You try to think if this person is important to you, if it is important for this person to know this part of your life, how much good or damage it will do to your relationship with this person, and so on and so on. You have much to lose by coming out in our kind of conservative society with taboos against same-sex love, but there is also much to gain. You are yourself! No more pretending that the person you love is a man, no more pretending that you find the penis desirable and best of all, no excuses needed for crying when your ‘friend’ suddenly leaves!

2.

I came out at 13. But not to myself…I just came out to the older girl I was in love with at that age – she was 15. I told her I wanted to be with her forever. I meant it wholeheartedly. Later in life, I married (a man). My childhood sweetheart told me I was making a mistake. The only person who had the balls to tell me that home truth! In my heart I knew she was right, but I never had the courage to act on that knowledge.

I came out again when I was 26. This time to myself and to the girl I was in love with at that time. My mother said “I should have known.” and “Why did I let you marry a man!” There was much drama. Then we broke up and she married – a man!

I was very sad and confused and lonely in those days – I think it lasted at least a year. Nothing could lift me out or up. It was one of the hardest times in my life. Until I finally met a few women like me… dykes! Hallelujah! What bliss… mad, confused, wonderful, strong women – the bravest women in the world. Finding this community was the best thing about coming out.

Since then there has been no turning back.

Of course this is the abridged version. If I were to tell it all like it really was, I could fill a book. But in the end I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Now I can truly say “Been there, done that and now I know what I really want. So there!”

PS: A cardinal rule in life: Be true to yourself first.

3.

I came out very late in life – I must have been around 30 at least and it was sort of involuntary but also very definite. I was married at the time and hadn’t really thought about being a lesbian (I had trouble with the word, even) and certainly was not identifying as such. But nevertheless I ended up having one of the most spectacular coming out stories of all…involving falling in love with my best friend (at the time), while many other people – friends and family – contributed to much general drama and gossip that went on for months, ending in a divorce.

Looking back, the best thing about it was the fact that I was finally forced to deal with the elephant under my bed – the fact that I was a dyke and had plenty of evidence for this from childhood but never really took it on board for all the usual reasons – religious upbringing, family background, social condemnation, guilt, fear and all the rest of it.

The worst thing about it was that I hurt someone I cared about, who had never been anything but good to me, which I regret to this day, although I know I have been forgiven.

What I would have changed: I wish I had had the courage to know myself and come out when I was a teenager, which would have been a much more appropriate time and would probably have caused far less trouble all round. Today I am out to my family and I would be out to my parents if they were around. I am not overtly out at work but neither do I trouble to change anything about myself in order to inhabit that environment.

I have changed so much since then I think I am an entirely different person today. I have this idea that coming out marks the end of one life and the beginning of another. I am proud I took this road and though it has often been painful it has also been the source of the most joy. It is certainly the most real thing in my life. I have never regretted it.