Why the Lesbians?

I love Grey’s Anatomy but I have a complaint. I am wondering why they always seem to pick on the lesbians. Since Callie came out as bi, the writers have constantly messed around with her partners. First there was the other doctor (I can’t remember her name) but they sent her away just as she started to become human. Then when Callie hooked up with Arizona, things are going well and the baby thing comes up to drive a wedge between them. Then Arizona goes to Africa and doesn’t really want Callie to come. Then Arizona comes back. Callie is pregnant and they are going to get married. So now, there is a tragic accident. Thankfully she didn’t die.

 

But seriously why are they messing with the lesbians so much? Have they run out of heterosexual story lines? I for one would really appreciate it if they would just let Arizona and Callie be happy for a while. I’m just asking for a couple of episodes. I know I am not going to get my wish as now, no doubt, the baby will be touch and go.

 

It seems like we have not come very far with regard to lesbians on tv. In the past, if there was a lesbian either they ended up with the man or their lives did not work out. It would seem that those story lines are still happening. Is it too much to hope that we can have positive lesbian stories on tv?

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Published in: on April 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm  Comments (1)  
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How to kill a conversation

Today, Deb and I were at Safeway picking up a few things. We were doing our usual shtick, teasing each other. This time it was about the deviled ham[1] I had put in the cart. Deb, as a new vegetarian (again), was mocking my choice. I then made a comment about not teasing me, to which, the cashier piped up and said: “isn’t that what friends are for?” I then replied: “or partners.” Well. You would have thought I grew a third head. The air turned icy and it seemed to take forever for her to ring through the rest of our groceries.

After we were in the car we had a discussion about what had happened. I feel the need to challenge people’s assumptions about us. I have been doing it for a very long time. I resent the fact that people believe they can make assumptions about our relationship. Sometimes they see us friends, other times it is as sisters. People just never think outside of the box and consider that we might be married. I think this fact is exacerbated by the fact that we are women. Women, outside of heterosexual relations, are rarely seen as sexual beings.

All of this, of course, is about discourse. As long as we live in a hetero-normative society these kinds of assumptions will be made. We are all so busy assuming everyone is heterosexual that we do not recognize different sexual orientations. Along with the discourse of heterosexuality goes the rampant homophobia within our society. Where we live, there are not as many LGTB people as there are in Vancouver. We live very close to the bible belt and the views which are predictable of neo-Christians.

What is the answer? Well, we need to begin to challenge heterosexist views. Not everyone is heterosexual. By assuming everyone is space is not given for people to be different. This lack of space creates huge problems for youth who are different. Without role models youth have difficulty seeing LGTB people living happy, productive lives. Queer people need to become a positive part of the general discourse, i.e. magazines, TV shows, stories etc. Perhaps if we incorporate more images of queer people into our media we will start to see some positive change. Every time we challenge people’s assumptions, we start to break down barriers and make room for different kinds of relationships.


[1] I told her to blame Wander Coyote’s deviled ham sandwich picture.

Published in: on January 31, 2011 at 8:15 pm  Comments (4)  
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National Coming Out Day

Today is National Coming out Day. The purpose is for those of who are LGTB to come out and let those around us know our sexual/gender orientation. When I was younger this was a much more important event. Those initial ‘coming out’ events are very, very stressful. Any of us who have gone through it definitely understand. Telling friends and family that you are queer has the very real risk that you will lose that person in your life. I can remember deciding I was going to come out to someone and being completely petrified by the whole prospect.

Coming out to my parents was by far the most difficult. My sister told them ahead of time to kind of ease the way. It still didn’t matter. While I was not disowned, they certainly were not receptive in any way. I decided not to tell them until I had someone I wanted to be with and take home to meet them. The first time they met Deb, we had been together almost a year and they were incredibly rude. My step-father did not talk to her and my mother picked a fight with both of us. It was a disaster!

Over time, as you live your life completely out, coming out is not an issue. Now, I do not ever have to bother coming out. I just live my life openly. I talk about my partner and my life just like everyone else. I never thought that would happen. When I was young I had become so accustomed to that heart pounding in my chest feeling when I came out that I never imagined my life would be as it is now.

Coming out is a continuous project. It takes different forms and can be done in different ways. Regardless, being queer in this society requires constant negotiation. Coming out and living your life truthfully takes guts and courage. If you know a queer person, congratulate them on their courage today.

Published in: on October 11, 2010 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Women as Commodities

In yet another day of stellar BC news we are informed that, yet again, the RCMP have fucked up. This on the heel of news yesterday that sexual assaults in Vancouver are up 21%. Yet again women are victims of crimes that completely and utterly change their lives by being exploited by men. I am completely and utterly disgusted. You will note, however, that I am not surprised.

Let’s take the first incident. Apparently some RCMP officers and some civilian employees decided to watch two women having sex in the drunk tank. Given the possibility that they may have a medical crisis requiring assistance they were being watched on CCTV (closed-circuit television). The last time I checked monitoring for ill heath effects did not include watching people have sex.

What kinds of beliefs about women would allow these men, in positions of authority, to watch two women having sex? Clearly they needed to objectify these women. Women are treated as commodities in our society. Often used in advertisements, women are the purveyors of sex used to sell so many products. We are also inundated with images of women in popular culture where women are portrayed in all sorts of roles: wife and mother, slut and whore.* Women are viewed as incompetent. If a woman is in a position of power she must be a bitch, emasculating or a shrew. Women cannot express any strong opinions without being suspected of having ulterior motives. Strong intelligent women are not allowed to simply exist and be successful. Instead women ‘go under the radar’ by being good wives and mothers and staying within proscribed roles.

Women who are not viewed as successful have a much worse experience. Likely women who end up in the drunk tank are not women from the upper classes who drank a little too much wine. These women enjoy privilege safely in their warm houses. If statistics hold, the women were likely Aboriginal and/or women of colour, came from abusive backgrounds and may have been survival sex trade workers. Of course I am generalizing here but traditionally these are the women who get picked up by police for being on the streets drunk and causing a disturbance. These are likely the same women that Robert Pickton targeted and we all know how important those women are to police and society in general.

So how does all this tie in with the 2 women having sex in the drunk tank? For many men, lesbians and lesbian sex is the ultimate threat. Lesbians don’t need men which some men find insulting and the flip side is that every frat boys’ dream is to watch 2 women having sex. So here we have 2, most likely disenfranchised, women having sex. I find it somewhat insulting that the RCMP are bringing up issues of consent given that both women have been released without charges. Is it not possible that these women might have been lesbian? Maybe they were seeking comfort with each other in a world that provides very little of it for them. Perhaps they felt valued with each other. They may have even known each other. I think the whole thing about consent is a bit of a ruse to deflect from the fact that seven men watched these women have sex for several minutes. In those moments what was going through their heads? One does not need to speculate too much. Clearly no one was thinking they needed to stop it.

It is no wonder that these kinds of things happen. After all the day before Jim Chu, Chief Constable of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) announced a 21% increase in sexual assaults. Chu then goes on to ‘reassure’ people that the increase is not in violent  sexual assaults. Instead the increase is in ‘groping.’ Somehow ‘groping’ is less traumatic than straight on sexual assault. All I have to say is ask a woman how sexual assault has impacted her life. Chances are you won’t have to go too far out of your living room for an answer. Flash back to the incident in Kamloops and you have to wonder if the comments about consent were specious. Clearly, if something looks consensual it just might be. I am sure they are throwing the ‘consent’ issue up as a way to deflect from the fact that RCMP and city employees watched the video. Now, apparently, the tape will be “reviewed,” no doubt by more men, to determine how long each employee watched. At some point the women stopped it is unclear if the staff stopped them or they finished? At what point does the exploitation stop? Will the people tasked with reviewing this video do it from a respectful place or will it be just another round of free lesbian pornography.

I am angry about this situation. I have been angry for a very long time. I am sick and tired of the acceptance and the making excuses for men’s behaviour towards women. Almost all violence perpetrated against women is committed by men. I know that not all men are rapists. There are many good men in the world who are amazing fathers, brothers, sons and husbands. However there are still far too many men who rape and assault women. We must do better for the next generation.

*Interestingly, our discourse does not have similar words for men with the same connotations.

Published in: on August 31, 2010 at 9:20 pm  Comments (2)  
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Integration

When a minority group has struggled for acceptance for a very long time it is so surreal when you see yourself reflected in popular media. Integration is defined as: “the intermixing of people or groups previously segregated.”* I have known that I was lesbian since I knew what the word meant. I also knew that being lesbian would not be acceptable in my family let alone society. In my lifetime, I never dreamed that homosexuals would achieve any measure of acceptance within society let alone any level of integration. I am sure you are all wondering what has led to my discussions of integration. Sometimes it is in very simple and strange ways that integration presents itself. I recently purchased an iPad. I enjoy playing games and I had played “Sally’s Salon” on the computer. When I saw “Sally’s Spa” I immediately downloaded it. “Sally’s Spa,” like a lot of these games, uses customer profiles. As I was playing, I came across a customer type called the “lovebirds.” For gameplay, they are inseparable and so they must be served together. When I first saw them I did a double-take as they looked like 2 women. I wasn’t sure so I decided to wait until I saw a close-up of their faces. Sure enough, they were 2 women. I am sure the significance will be lost on a lot people. For us queers, seeing ourselves represented in a computer game is very significant. It means that we our presence is no longer deemed so abhorrent that we should be kept in our closets. I do believe that the fact that the characters are women is because lesbians are not as much of a flash point as gay men. This of course speaks to the invisibility of women and their sexuality but that is an argument for another day. Seeing representation of lesbians in moderately popular iPad game in no way means that things are all rosy for us lesbians. One only needs to look at what has happened to Tory Inglis of New Westminster, BC. She has been told by her church that she is “promoting a sexual lifestyle.” Clearly, there is a long way to go. Not only for gay, lesbian and bisexual people but also trans and gender-variant folk. It is, however, nice to see that we are making some progress. *Definition came from the Apple dictionary on my MacBook Pro

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 9:31 pm  Comments (1)  

Lesbian Space

When we lived in Calgary Deb and I often went to lesbian events, venues and parties. We had to do this in Calgary because most women remained in the closet particularly in the late 1980s and 90s. I always enjoyed these events because there is something magical that happens when strong women who love women share the same space.

When we moved to Vancouver we stopped needing to seek community because it was everywhere here. I worked with a significant number of lesbians and a few gay men and Deb the same. We never really did become involved in the lesbian community in Vancouver. Besides I was out of the closet and finding queer space became less important. I then got a job at the local LGTB Community Centre and suddenly I was immersed in our community. I really enjoyed meeting other lesbians and getting to know the community.

Saturday night, when we were at the Rhizome café I was reminded how much I like being in the company of lesbian women. While the crowd was not entirely lesbian, there were a few including us. Even though it was not a strictly lesbian space, the other people there were completely open and welcoming. Being able to be open with my partner, holding hands, dancing together or just have our arms around each other in a public place, is a pleasure we are unable to enjoy in most places. When those times come, I treasure them and enjoy them thoroughly.

Published in: on January 19, 2010 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What the struggle is really about

In some very sad news, Del Martin, wife of Phyllis Lyon, passed away this morning. Phyllis and Del were in the vanguard of a burgeoning gays right community in the 1950s when they formed the Daughters of Bilitis, a lesbian rights group. They were finally able to marry, this year in California, and did so in June. Rest in peace Del and many condolences to Phyllis.

Published in: on August 27, 2008 at 11:56 pm  Comments (1)