IDENTITY, IDENTITY, IDENTITY. That seems to be all I want to talk about these days. Last month I shared my thoughts on gender and being “man enough,” or “woman enough.” Since it’s Pride month, I think we should talk about “gay enough.”
Who decides what is “gay enough” and what does that even mean?
I was recently on vacation with my partner Lori and a couple of our best friends. We were staying at a resort in Key West with a fantastic pool. This pool was so fantastic, as a matter of fact, that over the course of the four days we were there everyone in the group went down to the pool at least once on our own because we just couldn’t wait for anyone else. On one of those individual excursions my friend Bernie (not her real name), was in the pool alone with a group of lesbians we hadn’t seen before. I should make it clear that I wasn’t with her, so this is one person’s point of view and only my understanding of what happened.
The women who were down at the pool were in couples and being affectionate with their partners. Bernie saw an opportunity to bond with people from her tribe. When she told them that she was a lesbian, they scoffed at her and made it clear that they didn’t believe her. Bernie’s problem, apparently, is that she doesn’t look gay enough.
I have to admit that while most people’s expression of themselves includes some of the stereotypes of their sexual orientation, Bernie’s does not. She knows that she doesn’t fit the socially accepted image of what a lesbian looks like and she’s ok with that. Her sexual identity is in no way tied to how she portrays herself to the world. Isn’t the most important thing what makes her feel comfortable? That she is most content walking through life in wedge sandals with a clutch purse?
I keep coming back to I Am What I Am from the Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles. For those who don’t know the
song, pick up your phone right now and use your favorite media search app to find it and listen to it. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
The singer is unabashedly unapologetic in taking pride in being “…my own special creation…” going so far as to say, “Life’s not worth a damn, til I can say, I am what I am.”
Why can’t we do that for each other? When someone tells us what they are, it takes so much pride for them to do so. Who are we to judge the validity of someone else’s truth?
We focus so much in June on Pride in ourselves and being out and proud in our own lives. We owe it to the community as a whole to be proud of each other and everyone’s identity as a member of it.
The end of Act One of La Cage sees Zaza defiantly singing, “I am what I am, and what I am needs no excuses.” To that I say, “I hear you, girl!” and to the rest of the community, I say – neither do you.