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I’m not just a lesbian- I’m gay

October 10, 2010

Bloggers everywhere are talking about the tragic deaths of young people who killed themselves because society made them feel hopeless about being gay. One of my blog BFFs put together a collection of posts about this at The Liminal State and I finally had to sit down at 3:00 am and figure out why I haven’t written anything about  it yet.

I am a lesbian. And a mother. I write a blog about the best and the worst about my fellow human beings. And I train people in suicide prevention for a living. Why the hell can’t I write this post?

I am beginning to understand why. I can’t write this post because I am jammed squarely into one of life’s catch 22s. We have to write blog’s like T’s calling out those who threaten, bully, and hate. Young people struggling with their sexual orientation– hell, young people struggling with being different in any way– need to know that they are not alone, that most people are on their side. I needed to know it when it seemed like the whole world was against me, and my experience wasn’t even all that bad.

I made it through high school rural Canada because it was the 80s and lesbians hadn’t been invented there yet. I saved my babysitting money to pay for the psychiatrist I would need because I didn’t like boys, and I buried the crushes I had on half my female friends and my grade nine English teacher until I left home. As a young marginally employed teacher (in that same high school), I kept my mouth shut about my personal life, tried not to be alone with my female students, and feared for my job. (And continued to feel uncomfortably attracted to my grade nine English teacher as we ate lunch together in the staff lounge.)

I will never forget the first person who stood up publicly for me. It was at a conference where the presenter discussed the impact of music videos that contained suggestions of lesbianism and bestiality. Yep. Those two together. From the back of the room, the vice president of the Girl Guides of Canada stood up and clutched her pearls. Reeling from the presenter’s comment, I glanced over, noted her cashmere twin set, and prepared myself for a reading from the Book of Leviticus. But instead, she said, “Excuse me, Dear. I think people are going to misunderstand what you are trying to say. It sounded like you were saying that being a lesbian and having sex with animals are pretty much the same kind of thing. I just want to give you a chance to correct that.” I didn’t have time to feel relieved, because the presenter stammered on with a lame apology about how they were not really the same, that what she really wanted to say was “images of inappropriate sexuality.”

I sat there silent, terrified, and ashamed of my inability to speak up, while the nation’s second-ranked soccer mom tore this presenter a new one. When my Girl Guide hero was finished, the presenter suggested we take a break and she did not come back. I skulked in the back of the room until I was sure no one from my school would overhear, and I went over to thank the woman who had defended me so passionately. She squealed, “Oh, are you a LESBIAN?” and grabbed me in one of the best hugs of my life.

Young people need moments like that. But the problem is that to do that publicly, to stand up for them, we have to make the problem a little bit worse. We have to remind them that being gay is so bad that some of their peers decide to take their own lives.

As a trainer in suicide intervention, I know that every suicide covered in the media pushes those already thinking about killing themselves one step closer. Suicide is suddenly everywhere you turn. And hopelessness casts a shadow that distorts their perception of the world so thoroughly that it can actually seem like a way to get the love that they so desperately need.

I think the only way out of this is to make sure that when we shine a light on this problem, we also show the other side of being queer. Young people need to know that if they get help and if they can just hang on, eventually it will all be okay.

It wasn’t easy coming to terms with my sexuality, but the struggle didn’t last forever. And along the way, I found people who loved me for who I am. I have been with Brigitte, the love of my life, for 13 years now and we have a beautiful 8-year-old daughter. I have a fantastic career and I am surrounded by friends. I’m not just a lesbian– I’m gay. They need to know that they will be too.

And to celebrate, I’m awarding 1 point to humanity.

The Apocalypse: 21.5

Humanity: 18*

*+1 bonus point from Elah, who has been granted temporary authorization due to her overwhelming awesomeness.

  1. wow..i’d have thought humanit would be further behind in those sweepstakes – intrigued… i shall investigate your blog further 🙂

  2. Humanity should be totally obliterated by now. But I get all inspired and shit. I think it must be The Change.

  3. So glad you finally did decide to write this post! Well said. I am a new reader to your Blog and expect to return again and again.

    Thank you!


  4. I don’t know what I would have done if I had decided to teach when I was a young kid…I’m not sure the purple Mohawk would have gone over well in the teacher’s lounge…come to think of it – it still doesn’t. 🙂

    Great piece – and thanks for the shout out – I’m honored to be one of your blogging BFF’s

    Oh..what the heck is a Girl Guide….is that like a Girl Scout?

    • Thanks!

      And yes, you silly American, the Girl Guides are like the Girl Scouts, but with more apologizing and moose. I bet you don’t know what a chesterfield is either!

      • Hey….I know what a Chesterfield is….I listen to Bare Naked Ladies! Ok – not really – I had to ask Carla… but her knowledge is like my knowledge and she loves Moose, so whatever. Shit, I am a silly American. 😉

  5. This is an amazing piece, Sharon. Thank you for writing it and sharing your experience with us. This sentence really struck me: “…hopelessness casts a shadow that distorts their perception of the world so thoroughly that it can actually seem like a way to get the love that they so desperately need.” It speaks to the core of depression and how tough it is to climb out of it without help.

    Have you seen the videos on YouTube – The Trevor Project, It Gets Better? What’s your take on those?

    • Thank you. It was a difficult post to wrap my head around.

      As for The Trevor Project, I am still evaluating. The crisis line looks fantastic but school outreach programs on suicide worry me a great deal. They are well-meaning but may actually increase the risk. I’m going through the material today.

      • I can see what you mean there by possibly increasing the risk. The glory factor is certainly present and can overshadow the purpose.

  6. Elah permalink

    Hell, I’m gonna throw in an EXTRA point for Humanity, which I have absolutely NO authority to do.
    I have a bundle of gay friends and I don’t know if it’s inherent or coincidence, but they are some of the most humane, intelligent, creative, funny, loving people I have ever met (thus their status as my “friends” duh!). SO I say FUCK the Apocalypse and let’s just give Humanity one more point for all my friends who have had to show more courage than any human should have to. And all in the name of LOVE (insert U2 ballad here). Fighting suicidal demons should never be a requirement in order to gain the respectful freedom to love whomever one may love. Humanity would be severely lacking we didn’t have humans who would fight for something so often taken for granted.
    I’m pretty sure the Apocalypse is corrupt enough to eventually give itself freebie points so can we please get it before it gets us on this one?

    • You, my dear friend, are granted a temporary permit to assign points to Humanity. Don’t let it go to your head.

  7. Very nicely said. It’s different from your other posts. I guess it had to be. I like it. Keep em coming.

    • Thank you. I’ll stop being all inspirational soon, though. It gives me the heartburn.

      • Heartburn looks good on you. Hey, where can I email you? It’s likely that I’m just a dumbass, but I’m not finding an email address on your page. Can you email me at I gots some questions for you.

  8. Coco permalink

    “When my Girl Guide hero was finished, the presenter suggested we take a break and she did not come back. I skulked in the back of the room until I was sure no one from my school would overhear, and I went over to thank the woman who had defended me so passionately. She squealed, “Oh, are you a LESBIAN?” and grabbed me in one of the best hugs of my life.”

    This was one of the best things I’ve read all week. It may or may not have made me sniffle. My eyes were probably watering due to allergies, as well.

    Now – what do moose and apologizing have to do with Girl Guides? Is there a patch for apologizing to moose? Because that would be awesome.

    • I love my American readers. People like you are the reason we share the world’s longest undefended border.

      I am sure there is a Girl Guide badge for apologizing to a moose. We’re Canadian. It’s all about the beavers and moose. (But I couldn’t mention beavers in the same post as the Girl Guides. Obviously.)

  9. *giggle* Patch for apologizing to moose. I want one of those. *giggle*

  10. I’ve been asking myself why I haven’t tried to write a post like this, too. Fortunately, a ton of awesome people have picked up where I’ve slacked off.

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