Two worlds, three women

25 06 2011

1.
When I was younger I was married for around six or seven years. I remember this as being one of the happiest times of my life, for three reasons. One was because the man concerned was an unusual one -talented, confident and quite comfortable with himself -a rare characteristic as far as Sri Lankan men go. The second thing was that for the first time in my life upto then, I was comfortable with myself. And finally the fact that for the first time in my life upto then, other people were comfortable with me.
Life as a queer woman in Sri Lanka, I find is a completely different experience. I am very used to feeling like the weird person in the room since childhood, since that is how I have always been. But being queer in Sri Lanka is a whole different level of weird. So many doors are closed to you, so many things you don’t say to so many people, (often the ones you’re closest to), and so many, many, many things you just don’t DO.
There are places one avoids, conversations one edits, dreams that one abandons, all because you know that for so many people, knowing exactly what and who you are would be just too much to handle. These are the two worlds that many of us inhabit – straight and queer. And still for its difficulties and trials, I know where I belong.

2.
I had girl friends before and after I had boyfriends. Boy friends were uncomplicated. So uncomplicated that I managed two at a time. I was doubly spoilt, taken out to nice restaurants, shown off and generally proudly paraded to friends and family.
With girl friends it’s always been hidden. Never met the parents, never taken home, never invited to dinner with family and rarely taken out.
Yet if you ask me now why I choose secrecy over acceptance I would say “to be myself”. With women I am me, not pretending to be someone I am not, just to please him or his family or just to save face. With women I can be that dark and dirty secret that lives in a closet – but that closet is my own and dark and dirty can be exciting!

3.
In school, for a long time, I was one of a handful of girls in the class who didn’t have a boyfriend. I would either be surrounded by discussions of how some adolescent male looked, touched, gave letters or arranged a secret meeting on the way to tuition classes with my classmates. Or I would have to listen to prim and snooty comments of ‘we’ were much better than ‘those girls’ who had boyfriends. I didn’t want to be in either group. Then in my early twenties, I had an intensely boring and terribly depressing relationship with a man for too long.
Life was much easier, though. It didn’t even occur to me that there would be a time when I would look wide-eyed at how joyfully people around me would greet news of upcoming weddings. Or that I wouldn’t be able to hold hands in a restaurant with the person I love. Or edit certain parts of my life when talking about myself. Or that half the family – the half that had tedious marriages and lackluster lifestyles – would be talking about me in horrified tones. When you are straight, you take these things for granted. I only had one complaint.
Men just didn’t work for me. Nothing to do with lesbian tendencies in denial. The men I was with blamed it on a home with ‘too much’ independence and an education that was ‘too feminist’. With women, my world fits together nicely.





Everyone wants to be a lesbian

15 06 2011

So what’s going on with all these men pretending to be lesbians online? Like we don’t have enough trials of our own to be going on with, now we have to spend time trying to figure out if that increasingly interesting online chat is being conducted by some hairy fat man in a vest with a good line in conversation and nothing better to do with his time.

Like we’re not all paranoid and defended enough as it is. It’s enough to make one want to give up on the internet altogether, I tell you. After all, there are loads of us, who like many in the mainstream world of online chat, have much deeper and more intimate relationships with our online lovers than any we do in ‘real’ life. It’s one of the few spaces we can feel alone, intimate and unobserved, especially if you’re queer and live in this particularly bigoted region of the world.

So what the fuck? Last week we followed with increasing interest, the story of a blog that we carry on our links which seemed to reflect many of our own anxieties and fears – the story of a young, lesbian activist being threatened and finally kidnapped in Syria. The discovery that the blog was written by a ‘middle-aged, married American man’ aroused varying emotions across the homosexual world, ranging from outraged fury and paranoia, to amusement.

Later the same week, Paula Brooks, executive editor of the US-based lesbian and gay news site LezGetReal, was exposed as being a fake identity created by Bill Graber, who now says he is a 58-year-old from Dayton, Ohio.

Eek.

So who else is out there, (presumably) hiding from his wife, scratching his balls and busily typing away?

And why? What is it about our poor persecuted demographic that makes men want to BE us? We already know that most straight men’s top fantasy is to watch and/or participate in a lesbian encounter and we find that creepy and humiliating enough. And while we’re all for freedom of speech and would be the first to support great fiction writing, this weird and deliberate deceit of gullible women (never mind the general public and the damage done to the queer cause everywhere), ends up being just another sample of male arrogance and entitlement .





Kingdom of Women

22 12 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian photographer Luca Locatelli documents the lives of the Mosuo tribe, often described as one of the last matriarchal societies in the world.

Women from the Mosuo tribe do not marry, take as many lovers as they wish and have no word for “father” or “husband”.

The Mosuo people’s ancient history is identified with Lugu Lake and they are famous for their matriarchal traditions and “walking marriages,” where marriage is not sacrosanct as women exercise the right to choose and change their husbands at will. There are around 90,000 Mosuos, mostly concentrated around Lugu Lake. Azu marriage is the way of living of the Mosuo people, and Azu in the local Mosuo language (which does not have its own script) means “intimate sweet heart”. It is a convenient arrangement in which the partners come and go as they like. Three types of Azu marriages have been mentioned namely, the “travelling marriage,” which is marriage without cohabitation; and the second type is the marriage with cohabitation that have developed into deep feelings after living under “travelling marriage” practice; they then live together and raise children as a family.

The third type of marriage, which is linked to the history of Mongolian people occupying Lugu Lake who inculcated the practice of monogamous marriage among the Mosuo people, is called “One on one marriage.” However, in all the three types of marriages, women have the rightful ownership of land, houses and full rights to the children born to them. The children carry their mother’s family name and pay greatest respect to their mothers who in turn enjoy high social status. The male companions are known as “axias” and they work for the women.

Lugu Lake is located in the North West Yunnan plateau in China. The middle of the lake forms the border between the Ninglang County of Yunnan Province and the Yanqing County of Sichuan province. It is an alpine lake at an elevation of 2,685 metres (8,809 ft) and is the highest lake in the Yunnan Province, surrounded by mountains and it has five islands, four peninsulas, fourteen bays and seventeen beaches.

The lake’s shores are inhabited by many minority ethnic groups, such as the Mosuo, Norzu, Yi, Pumi and Tibetan. The most numerous of them all are the Mosuo people, with an ancient family structure considered “a live fossil for researching the marital development history of Human beings” and “the last quaint Realm of Matriarchy.” The matriarchal and matrilineal society of the Mosuos is also termed the “Women’s World.”

(excerpts from Wikipedia)





Don’t ask…

19 12 2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The US Senate voted yesterday to repeal the ban on gay people serving
openly in the military, paving the way for President Obama to sign a law
ending the policy this week….

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/dec/19/us-military-senate-vote

and…are we ready for a gay Commander In Chief?





Pass me the plate with a red herring on it

19 10 2010

I read comments with more interest than the news itself! It happens all the time, like this morning when I read about the GMOA statement that male nurses shouldn’t enter labour rooms and that (female) patients should be able to choose. We don’t seem to have moved far from the time Elizabeth Blackwell tried to become a doctor. Many things about this news article bothered me.

If we ask for gender equality/equity  in employment, male nurses must be as acceptable as female doctors, engineers and mechanics. If one kind of trained employee (i.e. nurse) is not acceptable in a specific setting (i.e. labour room) because they are men, then shouldn’t other trained employees who are men also be asked to exit that setting? How is it ok for as many males to enter the labour room as gynaecologists but not even one male to enter the labour room as a nurse (or heaven forbid, an attendant) ?

It appears to me then, that this is what we must do. Let us allow the more privileged male to enter labour rooms but not the less privileged male. And let us not even point out the heterosexist nature of that discussion that has taken place because the next thing we know, the GMOA will want every nurse – male or female – to report on their sexual behaviour.

And above all, let us not encourage or demand professional behaviour or better systems in place to prevent abuse of patients in case we lose sight of that lovely red herring called ‘women’s dignity’.





Shit happens to women everyday

30 09 2010

Everyday it happens.

The leering, the staring, the whistling. The jostling, the poking, the showing. The rubbing. Comments, suggestions, requests, assessments. The blaming, shaming, and naming. Four letter words and three letter words.

Some times you hear a woman talking back and writing back. Once in a while, a man agrees with the woman who talks back and writes back. And all around them the debate goes on. Like comments on the virginity test story.

Women should dress appropriately. No, we can dress any way we like. No, they should not dress revealingly, asking for trouble. And what if our elbows cause desire in a man? Don’t be silly, it is natural for men to be aroused so women should just not provoke the men. But, what if a man gets off on my finger nails? Or tries to masturbate next to me in the bus? Or in the car park turned towards me? You can just tell him off no? And what if the man starts shouting at me in all the words he knows and everyone around is looking at me accusingly or weirdly? What to do no, you have to face these things as a woman if you want your rights.

And if we are in a rage at the things that happen to all of us women at any time of the day or night? What is the appropriate response, you think? Write about it and shout about it? Keep on writing and shouting about it? Talk to the few women and men who think and act differently?

And keep laughing, I think. Loudly.





Sluts and sweethearts

12 09 2010

Women! Dare you approach the Pyramid of Egregiousness? This is the new chart that’s been put together by women’s groups in the US to classify the hate words used against us, from bad to worse to really quite stinkingly repulsive…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/sep/03/sexist-language-bidisha





A bi-vangelical moment

24 08 2010

GUEST WRITER – the Fencesitter

I’m fed up now. Everyone is talking the queer talk, but when the chips are down our lesbian sisters are just not walking the walk and keeping it cool with their bi-sisters . I want to be down with my dyke lovers, partners, sisters and friends,  and be part of their cuddly queer family. I am, after all, the very essence of queer. I love both women and men – sometimes at the same time, sometimes one at a time. I blur the boundaries of gay/straight and confuse my partners, lovers, friends, parents and child.

I’m not one thing or another. I’m bisexual.

I have tried being straight and being a dyke. It would be cleaner and easier for people to digest. But it’s not me. And anyhow I thought that’s what we were all meant to do? Rise up, love ourselves for who we are and stand proud?

So why do we bisexual women throw such a spanner in the works of the queer community, especially for dykes? Why do they get so furious with us? Why is it hard to just let us be? We do really, really love you (you do know that, don’t you?).  It’s just that we can love and have sex with men also.

It’s like, just when you think you have found some friends, they bloody attack you on the basis that you are NOT enough like them. I’ve actually been refused entry to queer clubs because scary butch bouncers asked me if I was a dyke and I told the truth. Where’s the community in that?

I mean, I get all the stuff about protecting lesbian space and identity. I understand. It’s an identity that needs as much support as it can get. But is blocking out the ‘fencesitters’ the way to go? (And I know we are not meant to mention it, but I know quite a few of my dyke sisters who like a bit of ‘male on them’ action now and then…)

So here in my bi-sermon is a non-exhaustive list of all the comments on my sexuality I have received – and my translation of those comments back into how they might sound delivered to a lesbian sister. Fellow bi-women, please print these off and laminate them for use in the war at the frontier of control on our sexuality – as the spit begins to fly off the moral high ground you can just keep wiping it away and read back these answers to the shit we have to deal with. It will save energy and head space that can be used for more interesting topics.

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

It’s just a phase – you’ll grow up to be a lesbian

Response:

It’s just a phase, you’ll grow up to be straight or if you are really lucky, bi

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You are confused

Response:

You are confused

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You have not met the right woman yet

Response:

You need some real cock to sort you out

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You don’t know what you want

Response:

Ditto

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You are not really bisexual – you are so good in bed and really turn me on

Response:

(Blush and small giggle – we’ll let that one go)

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You’ll leave me for a man

Response:

You’ll leave me for a woman

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

How do you know what to do in bed?

Response:

Whatever

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You are a fence-sitter

Response:

I’ve got a good view from up here

What I’ve had said to me by dykes:

You want to have your cake and eat it

Response:

Why not?

I hope these handy frequently uttered insults and handy responses prove useful. After all, when people tell me that being bi means never being short of a date, I just smile. Because I know that being bi means my quality standards can be so much higher than either straight or gay can manage – because I’ve got so much more choice. Come on over to our side. The sun is out and we don’t care who you sleep with.





Would you get married if you could?

15 08 2010

I have always doubted the whole institution of marriage. My parents had a terrible one. My mother married young and it just killed her spirit. They separated after about 7 years and divorced sometime later. My grandparents, as far as I remember, were happily married although my grandfather once told me, rather morosely, he gave up ballroom dancing because his wife didn’t like it….he still wanted to dance…but that’s beside the point.

What I am talking about here is good marriages, based on trust and faith in today’s context….in the age of the internet and online sex. A marriage in which people are together because they want to be with each other and that alone keeps them together. Not children, not a shared bank account, not the lack of finances and not your families. Just you and the other person, wanting to be together.

I haven’t seen too many couples around me who are truly happily married in this fashion. That’s not to say there aren’t any. It’s just that I haven’t seen too many.

So in the West, when lesbians and gay men started wanting to get married, and advocating for the same rights as straight people, I looked on with scepticism and doubt. I kept wondering “Why should we want to ape what straight people have, why replicate an institution that has failed in our current context.

Why can’t we try and create something different?”

We often spoke of this among friends. Many gay people I know have migrated to the West from Sri Lanka and the rest of the sub continent, because they can’t be themselves in their home countries. Some went as asylum seekers, some migrated legally to work, most just went as students and found ways – legal or otherwise, to stay on. Some have obtained citizenship overseas and are thinking of gay marriage as well. But that’s because in some countries, lesbians and gay men can get married. Canada is one such country – full of Sri Lankan immigrants! In Europe, the Netherlands, Sweden, Iceland, and Norway are a few. I think there are others including Belgium and Spain. In the UK, same sex couples can enter into a civil partnership. Some states in the US also have this system of Civil Union or partnerships. However a marriage and a Civil Partnership are not the same. Far from it.

For example, in a marriage, the relationship is recognized across cultures, countries and religions. Although I marry in Anuradhapura, it would be accepted and recognized in Afghanistan. Not so for a civil partnership. That would be recognized only in the country where it was performed. Worse still -if, as a Sri Lankan, I chose to marry an Australian, we would be able to choose to live either in Sri Lanka or in Australia. Not so for a gay couple. Gay couples being forced to separate because of immigration regulations are more common that we realize. (I believe there was a film made on this subject as well!)

There are loads of other benefits that married people have that the rest don’t. Getting a bank loan together in joint names is another. Or a joint insurance policy, Or a joint club membership. People who aren’t married, can’t do these things together.

So I find myself now advocating for rights to marriage  – for those who want it, that is. It should be equally accessible to gay people as it is to straight folk. I think civil partnerships are a poor replacement, but better than nothing at all and far better than being considered criminals in your own country!





Vasopressin shots for ALL lesbians, please!

13 08 2010

I am a little put out. I was reading up on this Casanova gene: the VASOPRESSIN RECEPTOR GENE. Yep. You don’t know what that is? These Casanova dykes are hiding it. That’s why you never heard of it. Here’s what it is: a vasopressin receptor is a cell surface receptor which binds vasopressin, which is a peptide hormone that controls the reabsorption of molecules in the tubules of the kidneys by affecting the tissue’s permeability and affects the central nervous system in such a way that it initiates and sustains activity supporting pair-bonds between sexual partners. Righti-ho.

Translated, it means the vasowhatever is a gene which makes you either stay faithful or fuck around. Men may be influenced by it and voles definitely have it (sounds absolutely perfect, that vole-male connection). Lady voles, on the other hand, have Oxytocin (fondly called OT by scientists) that make them prone to such things as staying with their first love and looking after everyone (i.e. men and babies).

But we need research to be absolutely sure that we humans have it too. So some committed scientists have patiently got hold of a number of Swiss men, unravelled their DNA, asked them and their wives/girlfriends questions like “How often do you kiss your mate?” and “Have you discussed a divorce or separation with a close friend?” and voilà! Link found between the vasowhatever and human stable long-term relationships (as in over 5 years). That’s us baby, humans.

My non-lizzy sisters. Now you know. You thought it was some woman’s short skirt and the famed 64 seduction techniques, but you don’t have to blame it on your fellow women anymore. Neither do you have to castigate yourself for his straying. Some of these poor things have the short end of the gene and it makes them absolutely need to have sex with someone nice that they see. (If you are already with one of them, don’t worry, I think an antidote is being developed).

And this is when it started smelling fishy. For my lesbean self, that is.

Lizzy sisters. Some honesty is in order here. That dyke you said can’t stay with someone for more than a year? And that really hot woman who just had to hit the dance floor to pull a girl (in a straight nightclub, for fuck’s sake!)? What about the lizzy friend you caught making eyes at your girl? Obviously there is a place I can get these vasowhatever shots in our community. Put ‘em on the table, girls! Not fair.