No lifestyles, no specters

This is my letter to the editor of the Northampton, Mass. “Daily Hampshire Gazette,” published on Aug. 14, 2010.

Since coming out of the closet 29 years ago, I’ve witnessed incredible legal gains and changes in public attitude, but I also see that many heterosexuals are still confused about the lives of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender individuals.  In the Aug. 7-8 issue, Stephen Hartwell’s letter laments that the Gazette ignored important current news by devoting a recent front page to the reactions of local lesbian mothers and their teenagers to the film The Kids Are All Right.  Hartwell says that the movie depicts the lesbian “lifestyle.”  On the opposite page of this Gazette issue ran an article about the U.S. District Court judge who ruled that California’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional.  The Associated Press author of this story, Lisa Leff, writes that same-sex marriage opponents appealing the ruling do not “plan to raise the specter of the judge’s sexual orientation.”

I’m glad to hear this, as the dictionary definition of specter is “ghost, apparition, or object of fear or dread.”  A quick online search reveals that the phrase “raise the specter” has been used in recent media reports about child abuse, political disturbances, lawsuits and cancer.  Judge Vaughn Walker’s sexual orientation – whatever it is – should not be a cause for alarm, nor should the orientation of any GLBTQ person, or heterosexual, for that matter.  Those of us who are GLBTQ have lives, not lifestyles.  The CEOs of BP, perhaps, can be said to have “lifestyles”; the rest of us are simply trying to live.

Why is it that when the mainstream media covers the lives of heterosexuals 99 days out of 100 (weekly wedding and anniversary announcements, to begin with), no one bats an eyelash, but the one front-page story about GLBTQ folks that’s unrelated to a ballot initiative or judicial decision inevitably elicits protests?  Perhaps the protestors could walk in a GLBTQ person’s shoes for a month or two.


About springbyker

See more at: Feminist QBLTG Left activist grammarian & general crank. Love grassroots political movements, literature, independent film, travel in Latin America, bicycling, & good vegetarian food. I plan to write about all of these, plus being a recovering clutterer, writing, and saving the planet from suburban sprawl.
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2 Responses to No lifestyles, no specters

  1. Margot Backus says:

    I loved this entry, and it came at a timely moment, as I just read my online teaching reviews, something I honestly never, never do — and found I’d gotten yet another complaint about harping on and on about homosexuality in an Irish studies course. Because, you see, my students know much better than I do that of course homosexuality and Ireland are unrelated. They know this better than all the queer Irish people I know and have worked with over the last twenty years, and they know it better than Irish contemporary writing (the topic of the course), and better that the Irish government, which has consistently moved forward on same-sex protections at a faster rate than has the United States. In fact, I am also making up all the novels, films and videos that I teach thematizing gay/lesbian lives. Still, this is marginally less annoying than the women who freaked out because I was teaching _Bastard Out of Carolina_, _Stone Butch Blues_, _S/he_ and _Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons_ in a course titled “Women’s sexuality in literature.” I enjoyed the day I was able to ask directly, when they objected that the books didn’t belong on the syllabus, which aspect of the course title they did not fit. So, I enjoyed your entry about het annoyance at finding lesbians in their face at the breakfast table and felt slightly bucked up. Thanks!

  2. Denise says:

    Margot, I would have loved to be in your classroom the day you asked your students how they managed to conclude that books about lesbians (and other aspects of non-heterosexual sex) don’t belong in a course on “women’s sexuality in literature.” Did any of them have the grace to look embarrassed?

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