The Lesbian Problem
Originally published 9-10-07
When I talk about the lesbian problem, I don’t mean to imply that lesbians are overrunning our cities, taking all the good jobs and draining our social systems; but rather I mean that I personally have a lesbian problem. That is, a problem in being a lesbian.
I find that the baby dykes of today, born into post-Stonewall privilege, express a collective yawn when lesbians my age talk about the hardship of coming out as gay in the 80s, dismissing our reminiscences much like I did my father’s tales of how, in his day, he walked 10 miles to school everyday, uphill, both ways, in the snow; and surely they will balk when I say how still, at 43 years old, I still am troubled by my lesbian problem. But I maintain, it was not easy, and it still isn’t.
I’m not one of those grown lesbians who remembers always being different. In fact, I truly enjoyed my youthful oblivion about sexuality, when I blended in with my chums as just a kid, then a pre-teen and then a young co-ed with no idea that one day I would fall for my college hall mate, Amy, and forever be different from most women.
Despite a telling crush on Olivia Newton-John at age 14, I was a late bloomer who didn’t recognize the nature of my feelings about other girls until my early twenties. By then, I was deeply enmeshed in an engagement with my high school sweetheart, David, my best friend, whom I would later marry in hopes of keeping myself on the straight and narrow.
When marriage didn’t pan out, I had to face the womyn’s music and come out as a lesbian. First, there was breaking the news to my parents, which I bravely did in a letter tossed on the kitchen counter as I left their house after a particularly homey Sunday brunch. Mom said dad nearly had a heart attack. Then mom said nothing else about it, and still hasn’t, for 15 years.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is the policy with my family, and while they are comfortable with introducing my partner to others as my “friend,” I feel awkward about it, especially when their friends look at me with a smile and a wink to say, “We know she’s really your girlfriend, and it’s okay.” It’s mostly mom who prefers the charade, and while I know that my being a lesbian is really her problem, that makes it my problem.
The problem is that being a lesbian is a big part of my life, and as much as I’d like to say I’m just like everyone else and get over it, the truth is, my sexuality is intrinsic to my identity. In fact, in some respects I have inadvertently made a career of being a lesbian, as a lesbian television director, lesbian activist and lesbian columnist. I have earned awards for being a lesbian. I have even gotten jobs and been in the newspapers and on television for being a lesbian.
Needless to say, my high profile as a lesbian has not made things easy for my mom. With every lesbian accolade, instead of feeling honored, I feel guilt for putting my mom through it; and conversely, tinged with her feelings of pride in her daughter’s achievements, my mother is embarrassed that my notoriety comes from being a lesbian.
Now my lesbian problem has come to the forefront, because I am about to embark on the lesbian role of my life, that of lesbian mom. I am five months pregnant with the grandson that my mother will love and adore, but while there were tears of joy in her eyes when I told her the news, I know that later she must have suffered palpitations of anxiety from imagining the many awkward situations to come. After all, how will she explain to her bridge club that I will be raising the baby with my partner along with a gay man who is the father?
Unlike the young lesbians coming out today to be embraced by their accepting friends and families who have grown up with “Ellen” and “Will & Grace,” I must face the fact that my mother will never be a card-carrying member of P-FLAG. I must accept that I cannot change her, just as she cannot change me. For the sake of little “Stephen,” named for my beloved late brother, who was also gay, I must forget about my mother’s approval, because soon I will be a mother too, and I don’t want to pass on my lesbian problem.