Thursday, June 26, 2008

Pride Week: A View from the Outside…

…or Why I Can’t Be a Lesbian

By Gamal Hennessy

I’m not a lesbian. I spent time among lesbians, in their bars and at their parties. I submitted an application and studied for the entrance exam. I had good recommendations from respected and accomplished lesbians. I loved women and I was eager to learn more. I didn’t know it at the time, but I even
shared the same brain structure with lesbians.

Even with all this going for me…I failed.

Some would assume I was rejected based on anatomy. I actually think I just couldn’t handle the social pressure.

Some would assume I was rejected based on anatomy. I actually think I just couldn’t handle the social pressure.

There are internal pressures in the lesbian community that I refer to as the “small town” effect. It’s like dating someone in your office, or dating someone in a small town where everyone knows everyone else. The only difference here is that you really can’t quit your job or move out of this town.

Let me clarify; there are only so many lesbians and only so many places lesbians go to meet other lesbians. The community isn’t large, even in a city as big as New York. So if you’re a lesbian, almost every girl you meet already has a connection to you, even if you have never heard of them. They’re already friends, enemies, current lovers or ex-lovers of one your friends, enemies or current lovers or ex-lovers. There is no clean slate. You can’t separate her from her social situation. When you meet her, you have to quickly try and figure out where she fits in the fluid and Byzantine arrangement of women.

If you hook up or date, you might start to share friends and enemies, which can be disconcerting if former friends are no longer welcomed or former enemies are now OK. If and when you break up, the whole structure shifts. New barriers go up, former friendships are strained and who is going to show up at what party now becomes a source of stress as everyone tries to adjust to changing circumstances. Multiply this several hundred times and my little brain can’t handle all the permutations.

Before I submitted my application, I took for granted my ability to date someone who had no connection to me. I could project whatever persona would appeal to her without my past indiscretions getting back to her from someone else. When we broke up, my circle of friends was intact. That doesn’t work here.

Now you can see why I’m not a lesbian. I’m just not smart enough.

Keep in mind I’m not even including the external social pressures on lesbians or the normal issues of education, money, religion, family upbringing and social standing that make any long term relationship difficult. It is a wonder that anyone lasts for any amount of time in this system. This situation might be similar with gay men and bisexuals, but I don’t have any first hand observation of this.

I have witnessed ways around the small town effect, although they are not universally effective. She can find someone hundreds of miles away from where she lives. This will remove her from the network and allow for a relationship to grow without the pressure I just described. The only problem here is the pressure of a long distance relationship replaces the small town effect. She can go online, but the online and offline worlds overlap. The small town effect might just invade her laptop so she can’t escape even if she stays home.

There are girls who make this work and are enjoying the lesbian dating scene in spite of the pressure that we put on them and that they put on themselves. I applaud them for being able to do it. I know I’m just not qualified.

Happy Pride Week


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