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.





Becoming normal

12 06 2011

A friend living in a Scandinavian country recently told me of his difficulties in locating and meeting other gay people to hang out with. It is so normal to be gay in that country, he said, that they are difficult to find.

I found this highly amusing. What would happen, I wondered, if we actually became so normalized that we would disappear into the woodwork? Would we feel less special?

Lost in a crowd

I imagined life where you just walk into a pub with friends, queer or straight or whatever, and just have a ‘normal’ time with no complaints about people staring. Your commitment ceremony or marriage evokes the same tediousness as does your straight friends getting married now. Your queer friends have babies and you forget to visit them till the baby’s first birthday. You hold hands in public with your girlfriend and no one gives a fuck! There are few gay bars and not many gay parties (not secret anymore either), there is no need! Finding out if film stars are gay never occurs to you and coming out is a quaint thing that previous generations used to do.

Somehow, I can’t imagine my community of gay men and women enjoying that much normalization.





Jessica Rabbit 2.0

31 05 2011

Why can’t women be more upfront about masturbation, asks Bim Adewunmi





The infamous queen

4 02 2011

One thing that always irritates me is the lack of diverse sexual practices in our historical accounts. What I mean is, most of the historical texts seem to be devoid of anything other than kings with many wives and extra-marital affairs by royalty.

The only person of interest seems to be the queen Anula (47-42 BC). She doesn’t get much coverage in historical texts, the Rajavaliya refusing to even name her. The Mahawamsa is the only text that gives a detailed description of her and has this to say:

“After his death king Mahacula’s son ruled three years as king, being known by name TISSA. But Coranaga’s spouse, the infamous Anulá, had done her infamous (consort) to death, giving him poison, because she was enamoured of one of the palace-guards. And for love of this same palace-guard Anula now killed Tissa also by poison and gave the government into the hands of that other.

When the palace-guard, whose name was SIVA, and who (had been) the first of the gate-watchmen, had made Anula his queen he reigned a year and two months in the city; but Anulä, who was enamoured of the Damila Vatuka, did him to death with poison and gave the reign to Vatuka. The Damila VATUKA, who had been a city-carpenter in the capital, made Anula his queen and then reigned a year and two months in the city.

But when Anula (one day) saw a wood-carrier, who had come to the house, she fell in love with him, and when she had killed Vatuka with poison she gave the government into his hands. TISSA (Daru Bhatika Tissa) , the wood-carrier, when he had made Anula his queen, ruled one year and one month in the city. In haste he had a bathing-tank made in the Mahameghavana. But Anula, enslaved by passion for a Damila named Niliya, a brahman who was the palace-priest, and eager to be united with him, did Tissa the wood-carrier to death giving him poison and gave the government into (Niliya’s) hands. And the brahman NILIYA also made her his queen and resigned, upheld constantly by her, six months here in Anuradhapura. When the princess Anula (who desired to take her pleasure even as she listed with thirty-two of the palace-guards) had put to death Niliya also with poison, the queen ANULA herself, reigned four months.”

I can only admire a queen who lived the way she wanted and didn’t care for the conventions of the day. The descriptions of her numerous consorts of varied origin serve to distract us from the fact that even though she took the throne after a tumultuous time in the country’s history, no wars or rebellions are recorded in her time. We can only imagine what this might mean.





porn today – gone tomorrow!!

6 11 2010

The Daily Mirror reported that the Colombo Fort Magistrate has ordered police headquarters to publish in the newspaper photos of local men and women appearing in Web based porn sites. According to the Magistrate, they want to track these people and identify and punish them!

Bull shit!

What will the lives of these people be like once they are identified? The court punishment is one thing, but what about the ostracism they will receive from the wider community? Can they ever safely live in Sri Lanka again? What will their livelihoods be? How will the consequences for women be greater than those for men?

Furthermore, have they no realization that doing such a thing is not going to deter the making of porn, the demand for porn or from other people entering porn films? This is all assuming that those who are featured in the newspapers are willing participants in the movies. But we all know that there are many young people who are forced into such things, black mailed, and coerced. Some are even trafficked into the sex trade. And many are underage. Some are filmed without their knowledge. So basically what we are doing here is re-victimizing the victims. Is this the best way to address the problem? The government’s approach will only make it more difficult to help those who were coerced into the porn industry. A more productive policy would seek to reduce stigma to assure that those who are willing participants have proper access to medical care and those who were forced to participate could access resources that would help them reintegrate into their communities and rebuild their lives.

In Uganda, some 100 photos of gay men were published in a newspaper – apparently to shame them – so we are going the Uganda way or what?





Of becoming the femme

15 09 2010

Memories are placed in time in relation to events in my life. Before I left the country and after I came back. Before I went to university and after. When I was straight and when I started loving women. Life sliced into two with that.

When I was straight I was thin. Dark. Long hair down to my waist. I laughed loud, talked loud and put my feet up.  I hung out with lots of male friends and a few close female friends. I was constantly told that I had been born with a male horoscope – that which makes you fight with the men and behave arrogantly.

Now that I am lesbian I am thin. Dark. The long hair has become shorter. I laugh loud, talk loud and put my feet up. My life is full of women. Queer women, lesbians, straight women. And I am constantly told how I am a femme – that which makes me laugh loud and act proud.

When my life sliced into two, I became the Femme.





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.