First, a caveat: No, this is not a post about the possibility or likelihood of a The L word remake/reunion/whatever. (By the way: if you see something, say something!) Instead, this is a post about exactly the sort of taboo that the showtitle was mocking. The showtitle makes fun of the fact that it seems so awfully hard to say the word “lesbian”. And this is what I want to talk about – although probably in an anecdotal, incoherent way.
Due to a very weird mixture of feeling that I don’t have the right, not trusting myself, and general awkwardness, I just can’t say the L word when it comes to myself. And as a response to two frequent questions, namely
- But why do you care? It’s juuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuust a label!
- What’s the big deal? Just try it!
I would like to share two anecdotes.
- Yes. Thank you captain obvious, it’s just a label. I hope I do not repeat myself too much when I say that it just being label has pretty much no bearing at all on the question if it could potentially be important or helpful to label myself that way. Some months ago, I had a semi-coming out talk with one of my colleagues, and it felt really good to be able to talk to her. I felt lighter every second. Yet, at some point, after sharing dozens of anecdotes, and my thoughts on them, and what makes me happy sad about them, I had given away every possible hint. She was listening patiently, and it was clear to me that this was the moment to end my monologue, comprised of anecdotes, thoughts, and descriptions of my emotional states, with a conclusion. But all I could say was “I cannot say it. I hope you know what I am trying to say, because I cannot say it out loud.” This matters. Any advice taking the form of “Well, if you can’t say it, just don’t! It’s just a label!” is ignoring that whatever this last mysterious thing is that keeps me from saying it is probably responsible for me not dealing with this 15 years earlier, and it probably is meaningful in some way. Also, it’s not quite unlikely that it could be a good idea to find out what the problem is in order to work through it.
- Now for the opposite kind of advice. Just say it then, right? Well, I hope we agree that “If you can’t say it, just say it!” is bullshit advice. I take it that this sort of question is therefore best understood as a question of understanding, along the lines of “What’s so hard about it?”. Well, here’s my second anecdote. A couple of weeks ago, I had a less than semi-coming out talk with another colleague. I attempted to start out with an anecdote again. I managed to tell him that the issue of my sexual orientation has been a thing for me for quite some time, and I added – in order to make the whole thing more tangible – that I had ended my last relationship with a man on the basis of many problems, among them the rather significant one that he was not a woman. My colleague responded: “Well, I am sure that’s only because he was not the right one! It’s not about someone’s gender, is it? It’s about the person!”. I may add that said colleague is of course not bi- or pansexual. He is a declared heterosexual, and he has no trouble with the tension between his heterosexuality and his declaration that it’s all about the other person! I don’t know if his unconcious bias is leaning towards the idea that female homosexuality does not exist, or that it’s somehow unfair, but the world in which we live is one in which, for whatever reason, attempts to come out to somebody are answered with a version of “Don’t worry! You’re probably wrong!”. And that’s the part of society that is not explicitly homopobic. And you ask me what the big deal is? What is the point in saying something if people are so good at not hearing it?