17 May 2012

Hop Against Homophobia: K.A. Mitchell

Today is the international day against homophobia and many authors/readers/reviewers decided to come together in a hop to celebrate it and talk about homophobia in various ways. When I decided very last minute to join the Hop Against Homophobia it was because I think this is one of those topics that can't get enough attention. When I was pondering on what to do I was thinking of how to fill my blogpost. I was raised by parents who never had issues with different lifestyles. When I was in need of a children's therapist my mom took me to a home practice with a lesbian couple who did play therapy. It was just a natural thing for me and their verbal and nonverbal interaction made me feel safe. I think I'm very blessed to have parents who try very hard to keep an open mind. It's what they passed down on me. Plus, love is already hard to find, so if you do find it why should it matter with what gender that person is?! So there I sat, crunching my brain what to write for this blog hop. And came up with nothing.

That's when I gave a shout out on twitter and this incredible woman answered. She was willing to share a personal story. And as always with personal stories, they are never short. Still, I wouldn't want K.A. Mitchell to edit one word. So I'm giving the floor to her:


Leontine suggested I talk to you about the incident of homophobia that stands out the most, one particular point of discrimination. I'm a lesbian and while it gets easier to state that plainly every year, it's never without an awareness of risk, a tiny hesitation before I say or speak that word. And that hesitation is what I want to talk about.

For me, homophobia has been a lifelong experience. There wasn't any time I was bashed or fired for being who I am. I suppose if you want to take the biggest, most painful example, it would be when my now-legal- in-New-York-and-most- of-the-surrounding-states wife needed three months leave from her job to complete a certification she needed to keep her job. I couldn't add her to my health insurance because although my school was private and state-funded, we couldn't upset the bishop with a domestic partnership rider on our insurance. If the situation had been reversed I could have been on hers. We were two grand out of pocket. Expensive bit of homophobia.

But it isn't that which causes that hesitation, that moment. It's a lifetime of knowing. Of having the choice to hide or to be true to who I am. To find the courage to speak it no matter what effects the truth has.

From an adult perspective, I can tell you I should have always known I was gay. I didn't dream about marriages, but about settling into a house with my best friend. I sobbed for days if any of those relationships went sour. It seemed like an effort to drag myself into the whole "liking boys" thing we were supposed to do when we grew up. When I was sixteen, I was just realizing that my feelings for girls I'd never even hugged ran far deeper than those for boys I'd made out with. Harvey Milk's assassination that year was a salient example and sent me scurrying back to convincing myself that okay, I'd be closer to my female friends, but I'd find a guy I could fall for.

No one gets out of high school without knowing what it feels like to be "other." To know who the misfits are, the queers, the ones who even while you're nice enough to smile at them in the hall, you would never take the risk of wanting to be them. Those names that kids use--it wasn't "gay" in my day but "fag" and "dyke"—the disapproval, the fear gets into you deep and never lets go.

Eventually, I couldn't fake it anymore and came out, at least to myself. Then to others. From some of my friends it was "mazel tov," from others "I can't be seen with you or people will think I'm like that." From family, it was figuring out "What happened?" No big terrible fights. No shunning. But a judgment, when my grandfather said "You look more like a schoolmarm everyday" I knew what the connotation was. Old maid, unmarried, unwomanly. Homophobia doesn't have to be overt. On the other side, I had a grandmother who didn't speak to my eventual wife for sixteen years, though she never dared refuse us into her house.

Sometimes it felt easier to wear an otherness on the outside, so that I could fight the pretending. I had and still have waist length hair and a love of feminine clothes. I couldn't seem to conform to the militant lesbian look popular on my college campus, but I wore my favorite bright pink "Dyke Princess" pin almost every day. Insulated in college, I got a thicker skin.

But I still worried about being an embarrassment to my parents. And if you wanted to see an image of yourself reflected in fiction, there were many agonizing films about unhappy gay people to watch, tragic plays and books. It was the early days of AIDS and people were dying, and in the media, there was a clear "serves the queers right" kind of feeling to fight.

I took my internalized homophobia with me to work. While I would never permit name-calling, I could never tell my high school students. All I could imagine was the headline of "Avowed lesbian denies molesting female student at all girls school." That sense of otherness teaches you that when the world is not on your side, you hide, you blend. You worry about being seen going into a gay bar. You worry about what books you might be seen reading.

As a romance writer, I discovered a whole new world of homophobia. At my first writer conferences in the beginning of this century, I could tell what the attitude was. Women who didn't conform to the feminine in clothes and hair were immediately labeled queer, especially as they grew more successful. I don't know how many people tried to tell this newbie Suzanne Brockmann and Eloisa James were gay. I decided the publishing world would not accept a lesbian romance writer and swallowed all casual mentions of my family life.

Ten years later, here I am in a genre that I still wasn't sure would accept me, where I still get asked why would you a lesbian, chose to write about gay men, often with some agenda behind the question. I can't tell you why I find gay male romance to be the romance I love most to read and tell, anymore than I can tell you why I've always fallen in love with women instead of men.

And I want to tell you that for most gay people, we don't daily face a gauntlet of name-calling and sneers. It's the underlying digs, the knowledge that you will always be other, always have to correct the assumption of heterosexuality and in do so take a risk of rejection that wears on our souls.

In fact, the name calling is kind of funny. At least you know where you stand. None of this fake politelness to your face while they hate you behind your back. The only time I've ever been harassed in the "traditional" way is when while holding hands with my future wife while walking in Provincetown, putatively a gay haven, someone in a car threw a cigarette at me yelling "Fucking faggots." I was mostly worried about my hair and he was gone before I could correct his gender confusion of "That's a fucking dyke to you, moron."

While saying "I'm a lesbian" may be getting easier, there are still those moments that make my heart pound with fear. Just last summer, I was leaving a marriage-equality rally in Albany (we won!). It was noon. I had a pro marriage equality sign with me as I crossed the street in front of city hall. A driver leaned out of his truck to yell, "Fuck queers." The sudden explosion of hate and anger called up a lifetime of that fear, but I've had a lot of practice lately. Or maybe one of my cockier characters took hold of me. In an instant I yelled back "Thanks, I do."

Yeah. those three little words are getting easier. Maybe I'll try sliding them into conversations a little more. Hi, I'd like the eggplant I'm-a-lesbian Panini and a side of, yes, I'm queer, salad. Harvey Milk was right. Despite all the fear the institution of homophobia instills in us, it never gets better until we come out.

Thanks for having me here.

UK MEET GIVEAWAY
GIVEAWAY 1: For one lucky winner I have a ticket for the GLBTQ UK Meet. This does not include hotel/travel or meals not included in the ticket) The ticket is a portal to loads of fun, panels and many authors/readers of the GLBTQ genre!! Here's the program.

GIVEAWAY 2: K.A. Mitchell has been generous to offer the prize of an e-book of your choice from her backlist save The Christmas Proposition.

Just leave a meaningful comment to this blogpost, tell me if you have a preference for one of the giveaways and come back on May 20th to check back if you've won!!


K.A. Mitchell on the www:
website | Goodreads | Twitter

26 comments:

  1. What a great idea for a hop. I don't think I'll ever understand why people are so threatened by things like homosexuality, when really, it's none of their business and shouldn't matter to them at all. Luckily I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so the majority of people are very accepting of alternative lifestyles, but even here there's plenty of homophobia. Anyway, I think that the popularity of gay romance books is doing wonders for exposing this lifestyle to people who would otherwise avoid anything to do with it, so kudos to KA and other writers like her. I haven't read any of her books, but I'd love to give one a try.

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    1. We here in the netherlands are very acceptant too - Janna has a great blogpost about that!! (http://www.rarelydustybooks.com) And I looked at K.A. Mitchell's backlist and Bad Boyfriend screams my name LOL

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    2. Thanks for the mentioning of my post, hon! :)
      And Bad Boyfriend is a great pick, I think you'll enjoy it. You already know I loved that book! :)

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  2. Thank you for the guestpost, I liked reading it. I have a very homophobic father, he does not even want to watch/listen to gay singers on tv, even though they are some of our greatest stars. But I have always had some collegues who are gay or lesbian, I've always gotten along fine with them, especially some of them were very fun to hang with. I have never noticed them being treated differently, although some people make cruel jokes behind their backs. Which I dislike a lot. I agree with Leontine, when you fall in love, why should gender matter, when it is the person inside you fall in love with? Go for it and be happy.

    I don't like reading erotica, nor gay romance, so don't enter me in the contests please.

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    1. Even if you don't enjoy the genre of gay romance I'm still so very glad you stopped by, Aurian and share a personal moment about the topic!!!

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  3. Thanks so much for the post KA. Those of us straight folk really have no clue what it's like to "come out" every time you meet someone casual conversation about "Where do you live? Are you married, etc." can make you second guess your response.

    My daughter has a lesbian friend. I've known she's out for about a year. She had a girlfriend for a while, I asked my daughter if they were still dating and she said they're just friend now and she thought the other girl was with a guy. Has this girl been rejected at school? I'm not sure, they are just 16 or 17 now, but I know she has a good group of friends around her who I hope make the fact that some kids may have turned away a little easier to bear.

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  4. Thanks for this, KA. I know just what you mean about those heteronormative assumptions. As a feminine looking bi woman married to man, it's very easy for me to just let everyone assume I'm het, but saying those little words, "Actually, I'm bisexual" is incredibly freeing. I should do it more often.

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    1. Oh, and no need to enter me into either giveaway, as I have all of KA's backlist and my very own ticket to the Meet :D

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  5. Thanks very much for the post. I live in a small town and when I was growing up if a kid was gay it was hidden. I have to admit I was really surprised when I was talking with my 16 year old niece and she was telling how many gay kids there was in her class I guess time does make a big difference. I don't see why it matters who your partner is if you want to get married or adopt a child. It really makes me mad to listen to politicians tell how someone else should live.
    Sorry if I ramble but I'm better at saying what I think than writing it down.

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  6. I've read your post with fascination. It dawned on me that when you're a lesbian/ gay you have to 'come out' many times and not only just once during your life. Every time you meet new people or groups of people you have to make that decision if you're going to say those three words. I can only imagine how exhausting that must be. You have my respect and thanks for this wonderful post!

    Leo, don't count me in on the giveaway. As you know I probably won't be able to go to the UK Meet & I happen to have all of KA Mitchell's backlist already. :)

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  7. thank you for sharing this with us today. I think this is an important cause that needs the spotlight shining on it.

    musings-of-a-bookworm@hotmail.co.uk

    I live in the UK so it is hard to choose but I think I would have to say KA Mitchell's backlist is calling me.

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  8. "Hi, I'd like the eggplant I'm-a-lesbian Panini and a side of, yes, I'm queer, salad."

    So many stories today have made me cry or cringe, so thanks for leaving me with a smile. Seriously, though, I think you really nailed it with what you had to say about choice. Very well said, indeed!

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  9. Thank you for a very thoughtful and illuminating post, KA!

    I'll pass on the ticket opportunity, thanks, since I can't make it to the UK then. :(

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  10. Great post and thank you for sharing. I'm nowhere near the UK so don't enter me for that one :)

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  11. I think m/m can open people's minds. This hop is a great thing. I can't make it to the UK, so giveaway #2 is my option...

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

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  12. Thanks for taking the time to participate in this hop... if I win I live in Aussie land so I would have to take the book.

    normanielsen@bigpond.com

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  13. First I wish I could enter for the first but live in the US so I have to pick the second. LOL Second. I want to tell you that I love your books!! I am not even sure if there is a book that I don't own (that is for sale at least LOL). I've been leaving the same message on each post because they're a lot of them and it's a lot to read and then write about but on authors that I really love i'm taking a little extra time (lol) to write something else. I personally have never thought about what gender it is that is writing the books that I love. I don't really care as long as the book is great...which yours are. I would never ask why someone writes about murder/robbery/etc if they were not a murderer or robber. How little minded so many people still are in this world. I can't wait for the day that people stop hating other people for who they love. I think that I am a very open minded person. I am a loud supporter in GBLT rights. I have family members that are either bi or lesbian but my best friend from forever had a hard time coming out to me. It is such a personal decision for each person. I remember her asking me if she could talk to me but that she was afraid that I would hate her. I was the first person she talked to and she was scared. We cried for a long time. Me because I was so sad that she was hurting and afaid that I would EVER hate her and her because she was finally after 30 years accepting who she IS. We are closer than ever and she is very happy. Thankfully we have a great support system of friends and she has a great support behind her. I am so glad it is getting easier for you. I hope one day that it will be easy for everyone.
    This blog has helped some people, I've used it so I wanted to share what I've been posting elsewhere.
    Thank you so much for participating in the hop. I hope that this helps to spread the word and that one day a hop like this will no longer be needed. I have shown many of the post to my nieces and nephews. We recently have been discussing how damaging bullying is and how innocent remarks can make you be seen as being a bully. One of the things that makes me mad is when I hear...you're so gay... pisses me off. These post have helped them already. I heard my nephew stand up to someone that called someone else a hurtful name... I was so proud. Thank you all for helping by sharing hurtful and/sad memories and your personal views/message.
    I pray one day for equality for EVERYONE not just some.
    forettarose@yahoo.com

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  14. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I can't imagine what it would feel like to experience the things you have been through. It is so unfair. I don't understand why people are so close-minded. Everyone deserves to be able to love and marry who they want.

    Thanks for taking part in the hop. I'll go with Giveaway 2.

    lkbherring64(at)gmail(dot)com

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  15. " A driver leaned out of his truck to yell, "Fuck queers." The sudden explosion of hate and anger called up a lifetime of that fear, but I've had a lot of practice lately. Or maybe one of my cockier characters took hold of me. In an instant I yelled back "Thanks, I do." You go girl! I almost literally fell out of my chair laughing at this. I suppose we have to keep a sense of humor otherwise we're no better than the homophobes out there. Thanks for contributing.

    lena.grey.iam@gmail.com

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  16. K.A. if you would be so kind, would you pass this link on to your friend from Twitter who shared their story. Thank you.
    http://shadowsterling.blogspot.com/2012/03/new-journey-begins_25.html

    That was a wonderful post.
    With great respect,
    Shadow Sterling

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  17. Thanks for participating in the HOP.

    gisu29(at)gmail(dot)com

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  18. Thank you for participating on the blog hop and to KA for sharing her story.

    As much as I would love to go to the UK meet I know I can't so would have to opt for the second giveaway. Pretty sure I have already read and enjoyed at least one of KA's books so that is just as good as prize in my opinion.

    lmbrownauthor at gmail dot com

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  19. I think it is so sad for any gay person to grow up in an environment where they automatically have to fear the feelings they have because of what is said around them. Thanks for the personal information. I don't live in the UK so the second giveaway is what I am entering for!
    OceanAkers@aol.com

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  20. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and for being part of this blog hop. It gives me hope for the future.


    I enjoy your stories and would love to win one of your books.


    caity_mack at yahoo dot com

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  21. Thank you for the wonderful, humorous post. I love your humor and sarcasm and I admire you for speaking out for what you believe. Thanks for sharing and participating! And while I would love the first giveaway, I'm a poor college student in America who has no way of going to the UK, so I'd like to be entered for the second giveaway. Thanks again!!

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  22. I didn't have time to stop by during the hop (heaven knows I tried!), but I just read your post today. Thank you SO much for sharing that. It's been very illuminating :)

    Erica

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I love to hear all your voices and opinions so thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.