Welcome to Black Sheep Yoga. If you are new to the blog, I’m focusing on depression right now. My intention is to tell my own story (this week’s focus) in order to draw light on the significance of many things, today, it is homophobia. Also to provide light entertainment here is a clip of Jody from the L Word fighting in sign language, and another L Word clip of Shane, Alice and Dana discussing Gaydar.
Playing my guitar tonight I realize there’s 8 beats to call out but my foot is sometimes at 7 and sometimes at 6 1/2.
My foot is always more concerned with the side story.
It observes its own latent beat. Perhaps this is too crass or too poorly said, but aren’t the latent beats in fact the songs? And without them everything would be really bad pop music?
If you were to set your body in motion at 4/4 time all day you’d probably turn into a manic determined militaristic jumping bean; we are meant to dance 6 ½ in the 8 sometimes. In fact, we find the beat only to break it apart? To find the stories buried beneath it?
Anyways, I’ve been thinking a lot about Internalized Homophobia and Depression. One thing I’ve noticed is that I had to quit nursing school; and publish a pretty public coming out post to let the flood gates draw back and release All the Flavors of Pain. I can tell the Flavors of Pain are rather complex because I can only handle them slowly in small doses with plenty of gentleness and compassion. And they are like latent beats; they are absolutely there but you have to slow down and pay attention to see them.
It’s like Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave where a bunch of men are chained facing a wall and can only see the shadows on the wall. What’s significant is the men are staring at shadows, but because they have been staring at those shadows their entire lives they think that the shadows are in fact reality. But reality involves more than the reflections that the sun casts on objects. And in some ways, we are all chained and facing a wall; and unable to see the truth. Or to put it another way, however brilliant we are in one area of our thinking, we are probably lacking in another, and that is part of being human.
It takes a big mind and a more open one to see that Internalized Homophobia happens because Straight Well-Intentioned People Everywhere Enforce Homophobic Standards Without Even Realizing It. An example in point, “How come you don’t like men? Do you like men? What do you think of men?” We live in a society that privileges heterosexuality and masculinity, and it is inherent in the questions we ask and the questions we don’t ask.
I don’t bring up Straight Well-Intentioned People to scare anyone into politically correct silence. In fact, there’s another complex piece I’d like to write that examines the realities of racism, sexism, and all other–isms with the room to understand that all human beings everywhere suffer and all deserve compassion. Meaning, being politically correct is not going to rid a well-intentioned person from working with his or her own suffering. It’s just that as we become stronger, we really should be taking more Diversity into the picture. And this requires being humble; and that I would argue is a feminine virtue (oh, and an underpaid one too).
I am not the thought police; and I don’t think anyone should be arrested for their thoughts. I think we should be encouraged to look at where we are missing information; and where we are being lazy; and where we are simply accepting mainstream values because they are presented in simple packages.
As someone who came out at 18 and has been out for 15 years, I still am processing internalized homophobia. I’m not immune to being told I should adopt (people don’t say or assume straight women would prefer to adopt, but they do assume lesbians would Prefer to Adopt); or to being informed by a straight women about how women are in bed (how gentle we are like schoolgirls, excuse me!); or to other stuff that involves heteroflexible and sometimes bisexual horny women that privilege the man but use the lesbian when they see fit (this happens to black men and other marginalized groups as well).
I recently came to the conclusion that my big wonderful healing will happen at its own pace thank you very much; and it will continue to make straight people uncomfortable because they’d like me to be done with all this nonsense. Because having a pretty bold, intelligent queer woman still carrying so much homophobia in 2015 must mean that we still have work to do.
The work is present in our masculine statistics.
The statistics remind me that Straight Well-Intentioned People Everywhere Enforce Homophobic Standards Without Even Realizing It.
And so you should know a couple of really important things. From the age of 10-24, LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than straight people. In addition and this is worth really focusing on here, 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicide ideation. About 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances compared to 9% of the general population. One of my biggest complaints about the yoga community is that there has been a huge drive to promote veganism without looking at actual human suffering. Most of the yoga teachers I know who are queer or who behave queerly have chosen not to emphasize their queerness; this, interestingly enough, happens to be amongst very economically successful teachers.
I have been out of the closet for 15 years (I came out at 18, and then again almost every single week after that and sometimes five times a day because coming out of the closet doesn’t happen once); and yet the Internalized Homophobia still Pops Out In My Own Damn Insensitive Words and In My Own Head All The Times. The Flavors Are Complex; being portrayed over and over as fat and kind of slow and stupid and poorly dressed on tv really sucks. Having straight people explain how lesbians have sex to me is annoying (and more revealing of how limiting linear sex may be when you just think that sex is everything up to penetration-climax-now-its-over). People praising Ellen DeGeneres to me is annoying because it assumes that we have things in common; and is a reminder that there’s simply no one else that comes to mind.
For a long ass time, I thought this Internalized Homophobia was my exclusive doing. Which made it worse. But then I looked around at my life; my yoga teacher is straight; my dance teacher is straight; the scientists I admire who taught me biology and microbiology are straight; the big yoga teachers I know who are queer females do not talk about it (and I consider that problematic); and there has yet to be a song written by a woman about a woman that makes me fall to my knees like a Johnny Cash song.
We are small; we are in the crevices; we write for Small Presses; and get to make less money; and get to be told to get over our Internalized Homophobia. We, queer women, have a lot to say; and we are able to, say, think out of the box because in order to love ourselves and survive we’ve had to step up to the plate and Be Brave.
So I’m here hoping that you are going to keep reading; and not run away because what I’m talking about is somewhat uncomfortable. I’m hoping as I grow more honest and work harder my audience grows rather than shrinks. I’m looking for the brave ones. They are my people so hopefully you are amongst them.
And if you haven’t read it yet, you really should read Beauty and Bitterfruit; which is a nonfiction piece I wrote, and am very proud of.
There’s something painful about living in a world where the rules have never made sense to you, where the idea of following the rules breaks your own heart, so you start making bird calls in the middle of the night, hoping someone will hear you, hoping there will be someone else out in the cold night singing. It takes so long for it to happen so that when it finally does the other bird is old, and she presents you with a bitterfruit. Like no one you know, she speaks, “We are not of this world.” And you don’t question her, because she holds you in the deep brown of her eyes.
When you bite it, you become the women you always knew you were.
You sneak into parties you aren’t invited to where the beer is cheap and the women are shirtless; you drink bottles of wine in fancy restaurants standing up; you talk about film and documentaries and both the history of it and all the bullshit of what happened to old fashioned picture taking like you’re a famous photographer who has an honorary PhD at NYU; you drink your weight in wine; you stay up all night literally burning your shit in a bonfire with hippies; and you finally start making those blue nude portraits that actual professionals compare to the late Francesca Woodman.
But, of course, the bitterfruit gives you diarrhea and you end up spending afternoons over the toilet bowl, and even so, you still go back for more. Because the calling of the bird tickles you from the base of your spine all the way down the sides of your wings until you are flying.
The bird knows shit that women wish they didn’t know.
You watch her, the bird, lick ketchup and vinegar off of her fingertips at 3 a.m. in the morning as she tells you, slowly slurring everything as if she’s still dancing in circles, “You know in Texas, there, the men, they can appreciate a good southern ass. Here, men are all pussies.” You want to slam her hard against the booth; and stick your hand just under her skirt close enough so she knows what you intend to do; and then take your palm and press hard on her pubic bone; you want to bite her ear and pull her hair; and make her wait.
You know her well enough to know that she wants it the way people want it who burn down buildings, for fun.
And you can bet she’d rather pour you down her throat then talk about what actually happened to her when she was say 16 and got her GED or 25 and fled Texas for New York.
With her, everything moves and moves and moves. If it stops, there is Whiskey sitting in a glass.
This story is sort of about her. It’s also about me. It’s because of her that I always want to lie about everything and I never lie about anything, not really, not in words when a person is looking me in the eyes.
IF YOU’D LIKE TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY, PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY NEWSLETTER. YOU WILL RECEIVE THE PIECE WITHIN 24 HOURS BY EMAIL. Thanks and namaste, Renee
If you’re here, before you read my post, I want you to know that there’s a ton of instructive video content on here about meditating; I want your feedback; I want to help people relieve anxiety, find true peace, and live connected to their bodies. You might find a video you like here. Please use it! And please let me know what can be improved. Also, there’s a tasteful nude picture at the end that is my original work of my body. I’ve decided not to censor it as I think the approach to women’s bodies in our culture is a little off, distrustful, silly albeit at times. This is the same post that was just posted at The Manifestation Station.
I wanted this to be eloquent and researched with facts and figures to legitimize my pain. I wanted a weekend of three days to write this post to y’all but it can’t wait any longer. I’m in a 14 month program at Johns Hopkins University for nursing; and I’m being inundated with information and rules and patients with cardiovascular disease comorbid with obesity that beg some real empathy, the kind of empathy that everyone deserves and is lacking in our fast-paced system.
I thought at one point that yoga could heal it; or that I didn’t need therapy; or I didn’t need support; or my ingrained homophobia would just poof disappear. Because it seems so antithetical to be carrying around this deep shame when so many states and people are starting to finally realize that we aren’t child molesters.
And for the record, I used that term on purpose. I’m sick to my bones with the fact that even a teeny, tiny or maybe a bigger portion than I know associate me and the LGBT people I know with people who do awful things.
I am gay. I’ve toyed with the word bisexual because my sexuality is somewhat fluid, and I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years or so; and it just seems so nice to have a partner who can impregnate you, and then have a child who resembles you both.
But really I’ve toyed with word bisexual to avoid the bigoted stuff that lesbians face in large. The stuff that doesn’t go away if you chose to love the same gender.
For example, I’m sick of knowing that some people I love would rather have straight children than gay children; and that our bigoted society allows a lot of room for gay people to exist as long as we aren’t too loud or too demanding. I’m sick to my bones with opening a book and having my fear confirmed; LGBT people have four times a higher rate of Clinical Depression than our heterosexual counterparts. Of course we do, we’re survivors.
I’m sick of being invisible.
I’m sick of the search for the gay gene; I know that idea makes some people more comfortable, but what really is wrong with just two grown people of the same gender loving each other?
I’m really sick of having to prove that I’m just as moral and just as good as the most moral straight person.
The reason this got me for so long is that I’m not the most moral, puritanical gay person. But here’s the thing, driving drunk, as I’ve done is wrong. It’s wrong. You can point your finger, you can get angry, but being told over and over that, “I’m not judging you (your homosexuality) Renee; God will judge your sin,” is wrong on an essential level. There are things we know if we sit quietly long enough and everything settles and our eyes get soft. And I know that equating homosexuality with sin is wrong.
I’m not vanilla.
This, is where I get really sarcastic. While I have no problem getting on my knees and looking into the eyes of a homeless woman with AIDS who is so lonely I can feel it pull at my eye sockets and the muscles in my neck; I have also slept around, and snorted coke; and done reckless things that involve cars. I have driven naked. I have shouted fuck you at my entire family for an extended period of time.
I know what it’s like to have darkness.
And I sure as hell know what it’s like to need forgiveness.
And good God am I sick of having to be held to a higher moral standard because I’m gay.
Because I know who I am deep down inside. I’m one of The Good Ones.
I’m someone who has survived sexual assault; years of my own alcohol-shade-to-fade-from-bigger-pains; serious Clinical Depression; semi-offensive statements about LGBT people and really, really offensive statements; and perfectionism. And instead of letting any of these things kill me, I have made art; I have learned modern dance and opera singing; I have gone to India by myself and walked up to little towns despite the ice alone; I have forgiven the Christian girl in the Himalayas who told me my gayness was a sin; and mostly, I have tried to listen when people are desperate to be heard. And if there is something I am thankful for amongst the shivering, sweaty, nighty Clinical Depression and the crying out to “Dear God, Dear Buddha,” if there is something I’m thankful amongst a decade of occasional “I’d rather not be gay,” I’m thankful that I’ve discovered that I am capable of extraordinary feats of forgiveness, and love and generosity; and I’m thankful for knowing what it’s like to be deeply misunderstood.
Thanks for reading Black Sheep-ies,
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