In / Out

(Originally posted on January 12, 2013 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I am not out at work.

A handful of my co-workers are also friends with me on Facebook, and they’re bombarded with my truth on pretty much a daily basis. My super gay life is all I talk about on the Internet these days. But most of the people I work with don’t know I’m gay. Some of them may suspect, I suppose, but they haven’t received any sort of confirmation from me.

My non-work friends are surprised when I tell them this. Some of them can’t fathom the idea of a person knowing me and not knowing that I’m a big lez. To them, my gayness is a blinding rainbow beacon, unwavering and undeniable. “Have they not seen you walk?” they ask.

It’s a fair question.

Until recently, I wasn’t prone to oversharing. I took a passive approach to conversations, not volunteering any information I wasn’t directly asked for. This was a defense mechanism; a way to avoid being judged. And it carried over to small, stupid things, like not mentioning a TV show or band that I liked, for fear of being disagreed with or thought less of. One of the biggest driving forces in my life has always been my need to be liked. And a great way to do that is to sit back, observe, and mirror what people want to hear.

I’ve never liked being conspicuous. I’ve spent most of my life feeling completely different from everyone around me. And this feeling of alienation – of unbelonging – has often driven me to focus all of my energy on being unnoticed. On blending in.

I’m friends with a lesbian who, like me, isn’t out at work. I was surprised when she told me this, because she has a long-term girlfriend. But on reflection, I can believe it. She’s not someone who would have pinged my gaydar; at least not right away. She can certainly pass for straight. And since a lot of ordinary people consider “straight” to be the unquestioned default setting for everyone they meet, it’s possible that she doesn’t have to work very hard to keep this information to herself.

I’ve been out at other workplaces, but never right away, and certainly not with any big declarations. I’ve come out to co-workers gradually, one-on-one, and usually after having formed friendships first. I tell people I’m gay when they ask, and then I assure them that it’s not a secret.

It’s not, really. It’s just not something I lead with. I prefer for people to get to know me first. That way, “lesbian” is a label they’re applying to a person they already know. Once they know me, they like me. Once they like me, it’s less easy for them to dislike all lesbians on principle.

Right? Continue reading “In / Out”

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Going Home Again (Again)

I was 22 the first time I moved across the country. I had lived with my parents while attending university and it was finally time for me to leave the nest. People were surprised when I announced my plan. I was pretty quiet and meek back then. I had never lived anywhere other than with my parents, and to some, it seemed like a big first move.

I distinctly remember my grandmother assuring me that there would be no shame in changing my mind if I decided I wasn’t ready for this. Mom told me the same thing. But I was determined. I was also gay and looking to create some distance between the claustrophobic motherland and me.

That day at the airport, my parents hugged me and handed me some cash while I gushed over a cute puppy to distract myself from crying. We said our goodbyes and I headed through security with my cousin, Melissa, who was on her way back to Calgary after a holiday in NS. It was nice to have family with me during this time of huge change.

Our flight included a stopover in Hamilton, Ontario. The first leg of the journey went off without a hitch, and we made it to our next gate in plenty of time. We boarded Plane #2, found our seats, and waited. We waited a while. I don’t remember how long it was; maybe an hour, maybe two. But eventually, we were all asked to get off the plane. Continue reading “Going Home Again (Again)”

A Woman Works

(Originally written on March 9, 2014.)

I am a bisexual woman engaged to a woman. A wonderful woman who has made me happier than I’ve ever been before. There is that saying that, someday, someone will walk into your life and make you realize why it never worked out with anyone else. This is what I have, and it’s phenomenal. I feel like I’m the luckiest person alive! But of course, all my exes are men, and my fiancée is a woman. So the question always comes:

“Do you think it’s working out so well because of who she is, or because she’s a woman?” Continue reading “A Woman Works”

Prodigy or Parody?

I think I’ve always known that I might not be entirely… normal in the gender department. Purely by fluke, I seem to have grown up hitting milestones in my personal life (in regards to gender diversity) which correlated to the milestones North American pop culture was hitting at the same time. As I explored what it meant to be a woman, and whatever else it was that I was feeling, I was also being shown that it was okay to not necessarily be “one or the other.”

Since I was raised on a steady diet of The Oprah Winfrey Show, I was often exposed to gender diverse people through Oprah’s interviews with them. Although these conversations were always novel, to me, they never felt wrong or impossible. Little ten-year-old me thought: Of course there are men with uteruses. Of course some women used to have penises. I wasn’t freaked out by any of it. Gratefully, neither were my parents, and I was able to have very open conversations about it all with my mom.

She had always done her best to help me feel safe to express myself in whatever way I needed to. Neither she nor my dad discouraged me from being friends with the boys, or wearing more masculine clothes. They weren’t bothered by me being the boy when I played make-believe with my sister and friends, and they didn’t mind that many of my friends and teachers gave me male nicknames over the years. Even when I started to write male characters almost exclusively, they didn’t get annoyed.

My mother, did, however, instill a very strong sense of girl power in me from an early age. I was overweight and taller than everyone else from day one, so my mom did her best to help me to feel confident in my own skin. She called me an “Amazon woman” for as long as I can remember, told me to use my feminine powers “for good and not evil,” and taught me about feminine divinity. She helped me to celebrate every stage of puberty; every way my body changed was another step toward Womanhood, and I was trained to be thrilled about it.

For most of my life, I think I was pretty comfortable with all of that. I still am, I suppose. I really enjoy traditionally feminine aesthetics, and many days I enjoy my feminine curves, and putting on makeup and jewelry. I still feel strongly connected to this image of the “Amazon woman” that my mom presented, and I’m still happy and confident with the way that I look… on the days that the gender dysphoria isn’t there. Continue reading “Prodigy or Parody?”

Soft Skills and Baby Steps

(Originally posted on July 5, 2012 at I Dig Your Girlfriend.)

I am the youngest child of three in my family. And though I stand at least six inches taller than my mother, I am still frequently referred to as “the baby.” This is how my parents see me. I suspect my older siblings probably see me this way as well. I’m younger and less prepared for things. I’m someone to teach; someone to take care of. They might always see me this way. The real question is: will I ever stop seeing myself this way?

Not long ago, I watched a Ted Talk by Jeffrey Kluger about siblings and birth order and the impact both can have on the people we become. (The pertinent part of the discussion begins at the 12-minute mark.) What I heard stuck with me, because it felt like an eerily accurate picture of my own experience. Just like I am a textbook lesbian in a lot of ways, I am also (apparently) a textbook youngest child.

The portrait of the oldest sibling didn’t come as a big surprise to me. They tend to be extremely independent. They are doers, and problem-solvers, and they are usually more professionally successful than their younger siblings. They are intelligent, and confident, and self-assured. They know how to take care of themselves.

So, you might be wondering, where does this leave the youngest child?

I’m glad you asked!

The youngest child in the family tends to be funny; tends to be charming. She has strong communication skills and she knows how to read others. She is a natural people pleaser. The oldest sibling knows how to take care of herself, but the youngest sibling knows how to persuade others to take care of her.

Compared against my own personal experience, this description rings ridiculously true. And so, here I am at age 31, wondering how much more I might have accomplished if I had been the oldest child in my family. Wondering how I may have benefited from some mad independence skillz.

I have had a string of unsatisfying and poor-paying jobs. I have underachieved and disappointed myself. I should have been and done more but I was ill-equipped and distracted. Life had thrown me a curve ball; an obstacle my family couldn’t help me with. Life had made me gay. And that was a road trodden by neither sibling nor parent.

Being gay has pushed me in ways that nothing else has in life. It’s challenged my comfort level at every turn, and I think that’s actually been good for me. I have had an agonizingly slow go of it all, and even now I am only inching forward in baby steps. But it’s a lifelong journey, and at least I am moving in the right direction. As they say, it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than halfway up one you don’t.

The thing that has held me back the most in life, and what still holds me back in little and big ways as we speak, is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of making mistakes. A lack of trust in myself. I’m afraid to take on a career that challenges me, because I’m afraid to fail. I’m afraid to drive a car in the city. I’m afraid to travel outside of the country by myself. I’m afraid to ask a woman out on a date. It took me until the age of 31 just to join a lesbian social group, and even when I finally struck up the nerve to go to one, I spent several minutes out in the parking lot, afraid to walk in the door.

That was almost three months ago. And now, with every new meeting or event I go to, I struggle to remember what the hell I was so afraid of. Was I afraid of lesbians? Have I been afraid of myself this whole time?

Now there are new things to be afraid of. If I’m too friendly with a girl, will it come across as flirting? On the flip side, if I’m actually attempting to flirt, will she be able to tell? I spent my twenties mastering the art of falling in love with heterosexual friends. I knew the boundaries then. I knew where I stood.

Liking someone who might actually like me back sounds completely terrifying. But I guess that’s how I know it’s worth doing. Part of being an adult is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

So line up, ladies! I’m prepared to be terrified, if you’re prepared to be charmed.


Author

small mo


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Book Review: Huntress

Warning: This review may contain small spoilers!

Categories: Lesbian, Queer, Women, Fantasy, YA

I have to admit, I’ve never read queer fantasy before. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but Malinda Lo’s Huntress sure didn’t disappoint!

The basic story is this: The Kingdom is in trouble. Weather patterns have changed, and crops are failing. Food is scarce, people are starving, and things aren’t looking good. Our hero, Kaede, is fruitlessly studying at a magical school, realizing she has little skill. (Think of a Squib trying to study at Hogwarts.) Our other hero, Taisin, is super magical. They go on a quest together to save The Kingdom.

The story is told in third person, but takes on varying perspectives, sometimes changing very quickly. There were a couple spots where that got a little confusing, but otherwise, I prefer third person narratives, so I enjoyed the narration. (Some people on Goodreads were really not okay with it.) Continue reading “Book Review: Huntress”

Small World

Four months ago, I quit my day job. I had been working full-time at a sign shop, doing graphic design. I spent nearly five years there before I finally threw in the towel.

I had plenty of reasons for leaving. As you might expect, most of them centered around not wanting to be there anymore. But the strongest pull away from that job was a pull toward something. I wanted to try something new. I wanted to make something new. I wanted to stop tailoring my creativity to the desires of my customers, coworkers, and bosses. I wanted only my voice in my head as I worked.

Even at the time, it felt like a pipe dream. It felt silly to walk away from the security of a paying job and plunge into the unknown with no guarantees. Irresponsible, even.

My goal was to make money writing. Four months into this, I don’t feel any closer to that goal. Maybe I haven’t been working hard enough. Maybe I haven’t been working smart enough. Maybe I’ve been too distracted by other tasks, like household chores, and Kijiji sales, and planning our move. Maybe I’ve been inviting these very distractions so I’ll have something to point to when I fail.

I feel like I’ve failed already. Continue reading “Small World”

Opening Up

Kate and I have noticed a discouraging trend over the last several years. All of our city’s queer establishments seem to be vanishing. First it was The Roost, the first gay bar I ever visited. A few years ago it was Junction, and then Roast. The most recent loss was Buddy’s, a queer night club that had been around for 21 years. It closed last November.

New queer bars and clubs have popped up over the years and disappeared almost as fast. Watching places like Flash and Play and UpStares UltraLounge come and go, we’ve had to ask ourselves whether there’s still a need in our city for an exclusively queer spot. All signs point to “not really.”

Times are changing, and we queers are no longer limited to a short list of safe spaces. Teens, preteens, and even children are coming out younger and younger. By the time they hit clubbing age, they’ve had years to get comfortable with their orientations and identities. When I was 20, things were very different. My sexuality was always at the forefront of my mind as I questioned and agonized and worried. It engulfed me, and as such, it distracted me from other types of growth. For years, I felt like I could never just be Mo, I had to be Gay Mo.

Kate and I created Butch Please to be a website for queer women. This seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do at the time, but fifteen weeks in, we’re feeling stuck. We don’t have the readership we want. We don’t have the variety of writers we want (though we love and appreciate our existing writers). We’re feeling really limited when it comes to the writing. Kate is bisexual and I’m a lesbian, but that’s not all that we are. We’re both complex, well-rounded people with lots to say about our lives and the world. And, for the moment, we’ve run out of ways to talk about how queer we are.

In light of this, we’ve decided to extend our reach. Instead of being a queer women’s site, Butch Please will now be simply a women’s site. We’ll remain, as always, queer friendly and feminist (because obviously), but we won’t limit ourselves as far as talking points. Gone will be the daily categories. After all, personal journeys don’t just happen on Mondays.

What’s it like to be a woman working in a predominantly male field? What’s it like to navigate the intimidating world of online dating? What’s it like to take the plunge and start a new business? What’s it like to be a feminist man? We want to bring you these stories. We want you to see yourselves in them. We want to invite everyone to our table; not just queer chicks.

The door’s open.


Author

small mo


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So…Threesome?

In January of 2012, I was coming to terms with my sexual orientation. The process was more difficult than I had thought it would be. In truth, I didn’t even take my attraction to women seriously. I always brushed it off. It didn’t mean anything.

But the thoughts didn’t go away just because I brushed them off. It was becoming almost an obsession, to the point where if I was dating a man and things were going well, I’d have sinking thoughts like, “but what if it could be better with a woman?”

With the support of a friend, I explored my feelings, and they took me to a party hosted by one of their gay friends. I was entranced by the wide variety of women present. Butches, lipstick lesbians, and chicks who styled in the middle; a casual mix of feminine and masculine. I had an instant crush on one woman in particular, and in my heart, I knew.

But I had doubts. I didn’t trust myself. I thought, how do I know I’m actually attracted to women, if I’ve never been with a woman? The refrain echoed by many outside the community when someone comes out before they have any “experience.” I worried that I would come out, date my first woman, and be horribly embarrassed when I realized that I was only into boobs aesthetically, and not sexually. I had to know. I needed to reassure myself that my attraction to women was not just a phase.

I had talked about my concerns with a male poly friend of mine, whom I had dated briefly for a while (but polyamory had been a huge stumbling block for me). He offered himself and his main partner for an experiment. He pitched it as a service to me: I could explore his lady as I desired to either confirm or rule out my attraction to women, with the safety of a nearby penis if it proved to be the latter. A threesome.

Continue reading “So…Threesome?”

#YQL – Taking Pride

Despite having recognized my queer identity at a very young age, I haven’t been able to attend many pride parades. Until very recently, I had only been to two parades, both of which were in Edmonton.

Thankfully, I added a new pride celebration to my list back in June. The Lethbridge Pride Parade was located on a downtown street, ending at Galt Gardens, a local hangout spot nestled between the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and a popular mall. Onlookers lined the street for a few blocks, clustered together on the sidewalk and sitting in the back of their cars to escape the muggy heat of the day.

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Onlookers wait for the parade to reach them.

The whole of downtown Lethbridge was bursting with rainbows. A variety of local boutiques participated in a last minute window display competition, and the pride flag flew outside of City Hall. Rainbow crosswalks were painted throughout the downtown core, and are still in place almost two months later. It seemed that Lethbridge Pride Fest did a great job developing initiatives for local businesses and government to engage in.

It was also nice to see that the parade took place on such a central road in the downtown core, although my friend and I almost immediately noticed that the street wasn’t blocked off. Participants in the parade were forced to walk or drive on only one side of the street, as cars whizzed on by beside them. Continue reading “#YQL – Taking Pride”