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.





Feeling Queerly this New Year?

2 01 2011

Never do I feel more resentful about heterosexual privileges than on Significant Days. Birthdays, New Year’s Eve, Aluth Avurudu are all designed to make me feel conflicted and low. It is family time and I love spending time with my family. But what enrages me is how difficult this time would be if I want to spend it with a partner – of the same-sex.

All around me, straight cousins and friends spend Significant Days with their spouses or with family, or both. If they don’t turn up at the family event on this Day, they are not asked why. If they do turn up, they are not expected to leave their spouses behind. If you are a straight married female, or even engaged, these are Days when you say ‘I am spending it with him’ and Society smiles fondly.

For those of us in this country who love women, such a scenario is a luxury. Unless you don’t have much to do with your family anymore (all too common in our community) or your family has accepted you just the way you are (I am happy for you. Really.) the day seems far away when we can choose to spend a birthday or Christmas with the woman we love without having to find excuses or feel guilty.

Happy New Year everyone, and here’s hoping you can spend the next New Year queerly!





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.





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.





You might as well be straight!

7 08 2010

Strange things flash about your mind while doing the most mundane things. Like when I was toasting bread this morning and remembered me’s cartoon on the butch-o-sphere. And it struck me in one clear line why I dislike butches (and other women but mostly butches) taking butchness too far.

IT IS NOT PLAY

Half the time I can’t say why I am attracted to the women I am attracted to. I don’t know why, but I can say what I like. A woman’s body in men’s clothing. Make up on a butch woman. But when it gets to the point where the lines are too clearly drawn it is not play anymore. ‘Eeek this is girly’ and ‘oh you are wearing flowery prints’ and ‘eewww look at your hairstyle, it’s too femme’ becomes the same as masculine vs feminine becomes the same as male vs female. When you stop playing, you might as well be straight!