Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holidays and Traditions

With Christmas coming up and family visits almost inevitable, I thought I’d write a little about the often stressful world of family holidays that most LGBT individuals live in. There’s this whole “out-ness” and “acceptance” factor that can really make things awkward and unpleasant depending on what your family situation is.

I spent my first Thanksgiving away from my family this year. Being Buddhists, Thanksgiving was never really that big of a deal for my family anyway, but there were a few traditions I missed out on that made me a little homesick for California and my family. Being mostly pacific rim/Asian mutts, my family doesn’t have the same concept of Pilgrims and Indians, and my mom doesn't like turkey. Our Thanksgivings usually involved an atulai fish stew and “watching” football—my dad is a Rams fan and he mostly just complains about the Rams never getting to play on Thanksgiving, so we mostly sit around him and prompt him to go on Adam Carolla style rants about football.

When I moved to Florida with Nikki, because there was no way I was giving up my girlfriend, it didn’t even occur to me at the time that we would have to think of something else to do for Thanksgiving. Part of why we moved to Florida was she had extended family in the state (about an hour from where we are). And these were the people we were going to be spending Thanksgiving with, which pretty much terrified me.

Fair or not, this is what I expected
Let me break down exactly how I saw this going and why. Florida has some incredibly homophobic opinions, especially in the northern parts, which was the direction we’d be going. My girlfriend’s immediate family doesn’t like me and they’re only begrudgingly supportive of her being a lesbian in what I’m assuming is the hope that it’s all just a phase. They’re very traditional Orange County Christians and success mongers, so their fantastic overachieving daughter dating some strange little bohemian scene girl who turned their daughter into a Buddhist lesbian…yeah, they really don’t like me. Then let’s talk about my own extended family—there are the ultra conservative Koreans, the ultra conservative Chamorro, or the ultra conservative Iowans (Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann Iowans to be specific). So hearing that we would be spending our time with her family, but more specifically her extended family in northern Florida…well I started to wonder if we’d actually live through it.

I also have a little Social Anxiety Disorder and some PTSD from some pretty damaging bullying in High School (it's why I'm such an internet nerd and Emily Dickinson style shut in), so when we pulled up to the most beautiful…palatial estate I guess is the word for what this place was and saw that there were about fifty or sixty people (I later found out the exact number was 56 including us) I had a little panic attack. Nikki and I had discussed beforehand that her immediate family had outed us to her extended family in a not too polite sort of way, so I kind of expected us to end up back in the car pretty quickly.

Given a chance, people can surprise you.

Nikki’s favorite uncle, who had made the trip to Florida from New York just for us, showed us around, introduced us to everyone, and acted as something of our tour guide/liaison to the Florida sect of the family. We played croquet, which I actually turned out to be pretty good at, and horseshoes, which I sucked horribly at, and it was all really pleasant. There was no football on, because watching TV would take away from the family time. This was obviously a departure from my usual duties of being my dad’s football watching partner (he had to make do with my sister’s husband this year and he kept texting me that my brother-in-law didn’t understand the game). But there was a puppet show for the kids, during which I was apparently clinging to Nikki pretty tenaciously (I get like that when I’m nervous…or drunk…or within a few feet of her), and one of Nikki’s, I want to say aunt but I’m not really sure, leaned over and asked if we were a couple. We said we were, and she said, “You’re so adorable together.”

Seriously, people can surprise you.

Then there was a campfire and a sing along. All the kids produced instruments, and not just traditional instruments either, weird things like ukuleles, a box drum thing, and other stuff I’d never seen before. I’m hopelessly untalented when it comes to music, so they let me play the tambourine and kind of just mumble-sing. Still, it was nothing like I expected.

As we were saying our goodbyes about to leave, the same woman who asked if we were a couple came up to us and gave us a huge hug (not really an aunt—Nikki’s father’s cousin’s wife…what is that?), and said maybe we’d be married and/or expecting when we came next year.

Thanksgiving was strange, but strangely wonderful.

This makes just as much, if not more, sense than the story about a virgin birth.
We’re back in Southern California now for Christmas where Nikki is staying with my family most of the time and I don’t really spend much time at her place since I’m made to feel very unwelcome there (and her brothers scare/creep the hell out of me). So we’re definitely back into familiar familial waters for this holiday.

Since you’ve probably been waiting for the relationship moral in all this beyond sometimes people will surprise you with their kindness, it’s this:  you’re not dating the person’s family or friends—you’re only dating them. So what if Nikki’s dad refers to me as 'the head-case from Nikki’s old school'…seriously, he does pretty much every time, in one breath, “Are you driving over with that head-case from your old school or do you need a ride?” or “Go ahead and turn on Fox News even though it bugs that head-case from Nikki’s old school.” I feel like he should shorten it to an acronym like THCFNOS…never mind, that’s pretty long too. Anyway, it doesn’t matter, because I’m not dating her family; I’m dating her. The person you’re dating doesn’t have to love your family and you don’t have to love their family. You might even like their family more than your own family sometimes and that’s fine too. The fact remains:  you are NOT dating their family. The antiquated notion of families merging when couples get married, and you’re not losing a daughter, you’re gaining another daughter, and yadda yadda yadda it’s all old-timey bullshit that people only have to participate in now if they damn well feel like it. As members of the LGBT community, you are not required to go out of your way to make your family feel comfortable even as they’re making you and your partner feel uncomfortable—this goes for straight couples as well. If your family or your partner's family aren't being pleasant and going out of their way to make you feel welcome, they aren't worth being around and no sense of familial duty should force you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Questions of Bisexuality

Anyone who has followed me for any serious amount of time on Twitter or knows me personally on about any levels knows I'm not psyched about the behavior of many bi-curious people. You've probably also heard me say I never have and never will date a bisexual person--I have my reasons, both emotional and physical health based. It's a preference and one I'm not going to be bullied out of by bisexuals or pansexuals who think the ultimate in liberal mindedness about sexuality is to include everyone. There are plenty of lesbians I won't date because of preference as well, and that doesn't make me homophobic, so not dating bisexuals can't really make me biphobic, now can it? That isn't leveled at all bisexuals or pansexuals. I've met plenty of perfectly nice ones who are every bit as respectful of other people's preferences as they hope people will be of theirs, but there is this very loud, very irritating group within that community who seems to think anyone who won't sleep with them or doesn't share their hyper-specific view of sexuality is somehow a prude or a bigot and they don't mind yelling about the injustice of it all.

So after a recent gripefest with several of exactly that type of bisexual/pansexual group who didn't like the fact that I promoted emotional health over sexual experimentation--yes, I'm one of those crazy people who thinks you shouldn't emotionally abuse your sexual partners in the name of your own sexual experimentation and then say "hey, that's life, people get hurt" by way of excuse. And it is an excuse. A feeble, pathetic, hollow excuse. People aren't toys and one person's sexual exploration never trumps the feelings of someone else, EVER. As Dan Savage always advocates, practice the campsite rule in your sexual experimentation:  leave things better than you found them. Anything else is self-serving, shallow, and selfish.

Which brings me to a question I received via email the other day...
Warning: I usually proof the letters to make them all pretty and easily read, but this one was apparently written from an iPhone (and yeah, I know those can be hard to type on, but I have a Blackberry so I wouldn't know about that) and I didn't feel like going through and fixing everything her phone did, so I kind of just left it. Please don't judge either of us too harshly for that.

"I am 21 and have jus come to terms that i am Bi sexual. I have only had sex with one man my ex and i waited til i was 19 before i wud let him. There is this girl in college who iv had a crush on 4 ages and we went 2 watch a film as friends me thinkin she was totally straight, it turned out she liked me and after a load of drinks she convinces me 2 go 2 her place and we end up havin sex, cheatin on my bf at the same tym, she told me it wasnt a one night thing and this girl is 11 years older than me. I broke up wid my bf but the girl wants to pretend it never happened and has told me not 2 tell anyone about it, now i dont know how to act around her as shes in alot of my classes and is in my social group. Im really gutted because she was my first and i actually really like her shes nice to me stil and seems unfazed i feel a little used and i am stil quite shy and not confident talkin to pretty women and she is absolutly stunning! How can i be as confident as her and do you think theres a chance itll happen agen?? Sorry its a long story but please help! I dont kno wot 2 do and you giv gud advice :) thankyou for reading nevertheless xx"

First and foremost, we have to deal with what you did wrong here. Cheating is cheating and you cheated. Before you do anything to address this girl, you've got to go back to your boyfriend at the time and apologize for what you did. Like I said, campsite rules:  you left him worse than you found him and now you owe him an apology and explanation for it. Take a step back from lusting after this older woman, and realize you trampled someone during your experimentation and their feelings matter too.

As for this woman, take a look at exactly what she's doing and map it out. This is precisely the person you DON'T want to be as a bisexual, and you certainly shouldn't want to be with her. She lied to you, misled you with false intentions, and is now ignoring you after she got what she wanted...sounds a little like she learned those tricks from...I'm not going to say it, but you know who I mean. She did exactly what you're not supposed to do as a bisexual, so learn from her MASSIVE mistakes and don't do to anyone else any of the things she did to you.

How do you be as confident as her? Sweetie, she's not confident; she's abusive. There's a big difference between knowing what you want, how to get it, and being a user of people. Being like her is the last thing you should want. Do I think there's a chance it'll happen again? That's the wrong question that I'll answer with one of my own:  why on earth would you want it to? You cheated on your boyfriend, ended the relationship because of a lie she told you, and now she's treating you like shit in public...what exactly is the attraction here? Let me make this perfectly clear for you:  do not sleep with this girl EVER again.

Like it or not (and sometimes I really don't), you're now in the LGBT community as one of the Bs. So in the sense of community, let me straighten you the fuck out. This girl you slept with is not a role model. What you need to do is go find yourself a real role model within the community to show you how to behave when it comes to bisexual relationships. Don't look at me on this one--I'm a lesbian who doesn't know the first thing about managing relationships with guys, forget about the complexity that bisexuality adds to that--you need a bisexual mentor in this. You've got a good start though; this first female/female sexual experience you had was with a woman who reads like a "shit you should never do" list. First and foremost rule though--campsite:  leave people better than you found them. You can explore your sexuality without emotionally harming others, but you're off to a bad start with this since you did cheat on and dump your boyfriend at the drop of this girl's panties. Resolve to NEVER do that again. People are not toys, people's emotions are not disposable, and the things you do can cause harm to others if you are careless, selfish, and shallow in your dealings with them. Think about how crappy you feel right now and resolve to not do this to anyone else. Am I being abso-fucking-lutely clear about this?

There's a part of this letter that irritates the hell out of me, and I even know why it bugs me so much. Because I'm guilty of it to. You go on and on and on about how attractive this girl is as though that is somehow one of those Mr. Clean Magic Eraser pads (seriously, have you tried these things?) that wipes away her abusive relationship tendencies, bad personality, and probably a myriad of other negative things about her that you didn't bring up since you were typing on a phone. This bugs me, because I used to be (still am to some degree) the same way. My girlfriend is ridiculously attractive and I excused so much of her bad behavior early on in knowing her because I just felt so honored that she even noticed my existence, even if it was in a negative way (and it often was). The thing that helped me break the cycle was realizing she didn't really do anything to earn her looks--it's mostly genetic. Giving her credit for being attractive is like giving most basketball players credit for being tall. Worshiping someone because they're good looking is so silly. There are other attractive people out there who aren't shitheads, so why are you wasting your time pining over this one? Attractive people won't respect you if you willingly take their abuse simply because they're attractive. So knock it off.

If you feel like you got a little reamed by all this, take as me wanting to stop something negative before it can really start. You do yourself, the people you encounter, and the credibility of bisexuals harm if you behave the way this girl behaved toward you. The first two steps on your journey to not be a shallow, selfish abuser of other people:  1. Apologize to your exboyfriend and 2. Tell this bitch to fuck off.