Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Living Vicariously Through Books

I'm posting this in the "Why I Am Not Out" section because it expresses some of the ideas I wrote in my piece about why I'm not out. The original writing was entitled "Fitting In" and was about the frustration I feel with expectations based on race, sex, age and now sexual orientation.

The time has come to choose and register for classes for my last year in hell...well, until I enter a different hell, i.e. the workforce. I am hoping to take a class outside of the law school in which we read and discuss works by "queers of color." I figure that would help me learn a little more of what I've been seeking to know and will hopefully answer some questions I have. It should also give me some more interesting thoughts/issues to discuss here.

Plus, I can do it all with a ready list of "queer of color" works, rather than having to do research on my own. I saw the syllabus for this class, but it's long as hell...there's no way I'm going to have to buy all those works...right??? The professor needs to do as some of these other professors do and provide copies of the reading selections. I did recently order two more books other than the book I have on black lesbian coming out stories, and I keep looking for them in the mail every day. One is coming out stories of kids in college, and the other is an oldie (but is it a goodie)--"The Femme Mystique."

Funny thing about the latter book--I had checked it out on amazon and saw the reviews about it being repetitive in its ideas. Despite the super-cheap price of a used edition or one otherwise not sold directly through amazon, I thought maybe it wouldn't be worth my time or the little bit of money it'd cost. I went to the bookstore on campus not too long ago--all because I was in sugar withdrawal...imagine that...going to a bookstore because you're in sugar withdrawal, and all you leave with is M&Ms, a chocolate nutty buddy-type ice cream cone and another candy bar--and I saw a non-textbook book section and headed straight for it. I don't recall ever seeing this in the bookstore before, but I honestly don't spend much time in the bookstore that is physically on campus...I buy my school books elsewhere, and I usually order my pleasure reading online for very cheap.

I walked over and almost immediately saw this book called "The Feminine Mystique." I stared at it for a bit, confused. "I thought this book was called 'The Femme Mystique'?" I thought to myself. I picked it up and looked at it. I thought maybe it wasn't the same book that I was thinking about. I didn't see anything about being a lesbian written on the front or back covers, and I thought the front cover looked a bit different anyway. The $20+ price was enough to make me put it down, regardless of whether or not it was the book I was thinking. This is why I don't buy books at stores unless I absolutely have to--too expensive for my tastes. You could get at least four books from the internet for $20, depending on how new they are and what the books are.

I came back home and looked up "The Feminine Mystique" on amazon and, sure enough, it wasn't the right book. I typed in "The Femme Mystique" again and just said, "What the hell--it's really cheap." I ordered it (but not from amazon because I found it cheaper somewhere else, plus I saw that I could order all the books I ordered that day from the same shipper without paying separate shipping and handling for each book).

And so, yes--now I sit, dying for these books to get here. I especially am interested in the book about coming out...so interested that I actually paid (gulp) $50 for the book. I doubt that was, or is supposed to be, the book's list price, but it's a book that is no longer in print. So, everywhere I look, the book costs almost $100. When I saw this $50 version available, I still didn't want to pay that much. But I'd made the mistake of reading a few pages through the feature on amazon that lets you preview books, and the story I was reading was very interesting. I figured this might be the lowest price I find for the book and didn't want to take the chance of the $50 one being snatched up and all the other ones left still being almost $100. True, there are many stories online about coming out, but they usually aren't told as well as stories in books are...and from the little bit I read of this expensive book, these stories are told well and in depth.

Right now, books seem to be all I have for connecting and learning anything about GLBTQs. They are no substitute for real people, but they are going to have to do. Over the past two years, I have gotten the distinct impression that my fitting in with gays is not going to be any different--or better--than my fitting in with blacks, women, people in my age group and so on. With every group, the best that I could ever hope for is the few gems that come along who are either as different as I am or who aren't but who understand and won't pressure me to be something I'm not. With blacks, there's my good friend whom I'll call Nikki in law school and my best friend from undergraduate school, as well as my best male friend, Ron. With women in general, there are my two best friends mentioned elsewhere in this blog...the one from law school and the other one, who actually still works in the music industry. These people are all about my age, except Nikki is a few years younger.

As for other gays...to quickly sum up everything else I've written about in various posts...

What I think of as "the gay lifestyle" is simply not for me, in most ways. I am not a clubber or bar-hopper, I don't like to drink or have random sex. I'm not interested in knowing every little thing about gay happenings. I'm looking for friends who don't have "I'm a gay stereotype" written all over their beings. I don't mean to be offensive with that, but I honestly feel like so many gays--particularly gay males--that I've met are like that. All the girls love "The L Word" to proportions I absolutely don't understand and assume I do, too. All the guys talk about how many times they've seen "Dreamgirls" and how they know the soundtrack by heart. The funny thing is when I was in that group for people who are not out or are in the early stages of coming out, they had a whole rant session about gay stereotypes. I suppose being a stereotype is fine to them, just not when straight people point it out.

I wouldn't reject anyone who is stereotypical as long as they weren't trying to stereotype me along with them, and as long as we actually had some things to talk about that weren't so gay-common (i.e. I've never seen "Dreamgirls," "The L Word" is not one of my favorite shows--though I do watch it--I've never read/seen Eve Ensler or Audre Lorde...yet, and I have only been to one "gay" hangout in this area and don't know what the rest of them are). I've had a problem feeling a friendship connection with most gays I meet, black or white, and it takes more than all of us being gay for me.

I have my interests in the gay community, but they don't amount to my wanting to immerse myself completely (i.e. learn everything there is to learn--and that I'm expected to know--about "queer culture" just as I've done all my life about "black culture"), wanting to become a stereotype and wanting to belong to yet another "community" that has a long list of standards and expectations that I have to meet in order to be accepted and not looked at as if I'm crazy or "ashamed of who I am." I'm 26...I ditched the idea of "fitting in" with anybody back when I was in junior high or high school, and now here I am again, faced with the same problem in some respects but one that is harder to ignore than how everyone my age thinks we're all supposed to find alcoholic beverages and reckless "hookups" "fun." Harder yet to ignore, but a problem I've been dealing with much longer and have become less concerned with over time, are the standards and expectations of the black "community"...which, interestingly enough, a lot of black gay blogs complain about and, yet, they apply standards and expectations to other gays.

Frankly, I'm exhausted and am beyond a tolerance level for everything people want from me. I just want some gay friends whom I can talk to about anything, not mainly about being gay. If I want to hear their coming out stories or get their advice on a GLBT issue or go with them to a GLBT event/club/bar, that should be there for the asking...but not as a requirement for us connecting with each other. Unfortunately, all I've found so far are detached black blogs that are media and political-heavy, negative connotations and uncalled for assumptions associated with not coming out and campus organizations that click on the basis of race and meeting gay expectations.

And I want physically present friends. I got over talking to people on the internet years ago, and it's not really fulfilling. There are lesbians I speak to online, but I'm interested in finding someone with whom I can go out to eat, go to the movies, watch TV, discuss issues or just have regular conversations. The one person I met who came close to any of this was LA Girl, and she won't even speak to me now because racial issues, as well as other things, got in the way. She is "half-way gay," meaning she fits some gay expectations and not others. She doesn't even watch "The L Word" (I don't think) or fit the dumb stereotypes I've seen given for how to spot a lesbian, and we talked about a lot of things other than sexual orientation. And she didn't do a lot of things that many other gays speaking to me would, such as lecture me about coming out or act weird about bisexuality.

I have mentioned that I tend to feel uncomfortable around gay people, which I think happens for similar reasons as to why I feel uncomfortable around blacks. I feel a lot of pressure and expectations and judging, and it makes it difficult to connect, to want to connect or to even want to be in predominantly gay or predominantly black environments. Instead of wanting to come out, it makes me want to distance myself even more from gays just as I started doing with blacks after a while. I have come to view gays as incredibly alienating, even more so than I view blacks and definitely more so than I view women and people my age, and I don't want to deal with it. I deal with more than enough alienation from various groups, including whites, as it is.

I think about looking for black GLBT support groups, for example, but then I think it'll just be more of the same thing, more of what happened with the group on campus for graduate GLBT students of color. I'm not a group person anyway. Finding the gems and talking to them one on one and revealing information about myself to them only is for me. I know when I've found someone I feel comfortable with regardless of identity, because these are the people I don't feel uncomfortable around based on identity.

The other day, I realized that LA Girl made me uncomfortable, but not in the same way other gays tend to. She made me uncomfortable in the way some people get--and the way I always get--around their crushes. Aside from that...I didn't feel uncomfortable. If anything, I made her more uncomfortable than she ever made me. So I guess it would be a good idea for me to make gay friends whom I don't find attractive.

Until then--if that ever happens--I'm stuck with books.