IN HONOR OF THE 13TH ANNUAL LESBIAN & GAY FILM FESTIVAL, A SMALL OFFERING, “WHAT LESBIANS HAVE MEANT TO ME” BY NORMABATES666

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One night, unable to sleep, I got to thinking about all my gay friends, and how they had influenced my life.  Having been a fag hag for quite some time now, I thought to begin at the beginning of my life and try to come up with a list of gay people I had known, who’ve inspired me.  I had expected that most of them would be of the gender who invented the phrase “the love that dare not speak it’s name.”  But found that it was only LATER in life that the men (who I fondly think of as my “gay boyfriends”), the Gay&B&T of of the fab LGBT (as it were) community came into play.  (Women First, then it’ll will be their turn.)

I am proud to have been enjoying friendships with my strong lesbian sisters since I was a kid in grade school–but that’s a story in itself, which I’ll get to later.  So when I was a kid the first time I’d ever run across the expression “lesbian” was at a family reunion, used to describe my distant cousin.  Divorced, she had finally found true love, so made that bold step to come out to the family and  bring her partner to the family reunion. (This was ’60’s, early 70’s, where coming outta the closet didn’t automatically mean instant death, but it DID mean a considerable amount of pain, physically, emotionally, psychologically & spiritually.   SO different form today. Sigh.)  Which, unfortunately was inflicted on them when they showed up.  The ultra-conservative Catholic Lithuanian (Orange County!!) half of the family had no  truck with those people and they made that excruciatingly clear.  I was told NOT speak to them……..isn’t it amazing how parents STILL don’t get the idea that by them saying something is forbidden, it’s taken by the child as a challenge?  OY!  So naturally I went over and talked to them.  There were no visible horns or claws, their eyes didn’t blaze red or anything, they seemed like lovely people.  Possibly because they WERE lovely people.  They left soon after as my stupid relatives were giving them an iceberg shoulder.  So I that day I understood that being lesbian meant to display courage, and the willingness to tolerate others’ ignorance while being true to yourself.  Even when it’s a bitch.

Next family reunion, my 2 aunts got outta their minds drunk, and decided to wrestle.  So they were running from room to room, breaking stuff and hurting anyone who came across their destructive path, ripping each others clothes off, screaming and laughing hysterically.  As they were 50 (and definitely NOT GILTF’s!), this is something NO ONE wanted to see.  EVER.

Let’s remember though, it’s LESBIAN behavior that’s unacceptable.  Sheesh!!!

When I was in Campfire Girls, we all went off on a jamboree in the wilderness.  In one place that you could climb up to there was an ancient factory, with only it’s foundation remaining.   At sunset, it was the perfect place to be, you could dangle your feet off the edge and watch the spectacular NO FX entertainment, provided for you free of charge.  I’ll never forget this, my classmate Jill’s mom and I were doing just that, and had a long, lovely conversation.  She was really amused by my precociousness (Yeah, yeah, yeah!) and really encouraged her daughter to invite me over.  She was one of the the warmest, caring, and most hopeful people I’ve ever met, she nurtured me, and provided me with an excellent female ideal to aspire to.  Later she found out her own truth, and, fortunately, a partner.  (She was also very kind.)  For a young girl from a tempestuous house, I really needed the comfort being around them gave me.  They were definitely more of a family than my own family.

But the absolute BEST experience I’ve ever in the company of a lesbian, was in Elementary School.  Miss McKnight.  Her teaching methods, creativity, and wonderfully curious mind was balanced by her love of form and preciseness. In all of my other classes to get an A all you had to do was provide more than the teacher called for, i.e., if they wanted 1 page, write 2, 5 gets ya 10, etc.  Because, this precocious child had figured out that, those poor teachers, overworked and underpaid (and often without much of a social life), would generally just give you an A so they didn’t have to waste their precious time reading the damn thing.  I was also used to straight A’s.  So when I got a C on my attempt to write a proper paragraph (introduction, body and conclusion) I flipped out, ran to her desk and started to rail at her.  She merely looked up and smiled and said, “I think your nickname will be Oscar, because you deserve one for that performance!”  ( I’ve always felt that if, by the wildest chance, that happened, I’d make sure and thank her in my acceptance speech.  How very IN AND OUT of me!)  Every month, she’d put up on the wall the winning paragraph. None of mine ever made to the wall, and I STILL can’t write a cogent paragraph to this day, as gentle reader, you well know. (Can I help it if my sequiturs are non?  It’s NOT MY FAULT, I was born this way!)

She taught us all about Banshees, and would turn out the lights and tell ghost stories.  Even better, she’d  turn spelling tests into impromptu story time by making up a story as she went along, making a connection from, say, the word finance, to the next word, say, zebra.  I KNOW my love affair with words came from her teaching.  She also told an autobiographical tale for all of us girls, who, (living 10 blocks from the ocean–you could see it from the other side of the school) were always paranoid of their bodies.  A field trip to a certain beach was arranged, but most of the girls didn’t want to go, as the boys would see them in their swimsuits, and they were ashamed of their bodies, afraid of being ridiculed.  (And this is an Elementary School in the 60’s, mind!  Before we’d become saturated with the need for THE absolutely perfect body!)  When she heard THAT, she told us of going on vacation to a Scandinavian country when she was in her teens.  It was quite a walk from the house they were staying at to the water.  When they finally got there, everybody matter-of-factly took off all their clothes in front of each other, and put on their swimsuits, and dove in.  Miss McKnight was so intimated by this (American religious hypocrisy–those who believe their bodies were made by God seldom believe showing them in their original packaging is acceptable.)  She was so embarrassed by her inability to do as they did, she hiked all the way back to the house to change.  She was embarrassed that she was embarrassed!!  She told us that if you don’t go do what you want to do, what’s good for you to do, simply because of what you look like, you’re gonna miss a lot of life!

What was also delightful about Miss McKnight was her girlfriend, Miss WiIliams, though stereotypically, I’m afraid, she was the Gym Teacher.  They would walk around, holding hands, sometimes even kissing briefly.  Everyone knew that they loved each other, that they lived together, and didn’t want boyfriends.  EVER.  NO PTA meeting was ever called.  I  never even heard 1 kid call them any unflattering names.  AND Miss Williams was a hero!  One day at the School Bus Zone, somehow some kids who were exiting 2 buses were going around the back of one, while the others were exiting in front of another, and somehow the buses rolled into each other.  Unfortunately, many children were crushed.  Miss W. ran into the fray, saving child after child and gently laying those who were no more on the lawn.  (I was SOOOO glad I was not there!)  So when it was over she was covered in blood, and Miss McKnight, her lover and partner, races up to her, sees the blood and promptly faints. No comforting for the hero!! (Miss W. said she was always doing stuff like that.  But she loved her anyway.)  Miss W. was one of the most courageous people I ever knew–talk about showing character and integrity under pressure–she was rescuing  those kids while some guys on the lawn merely looked on, too terrified to move!

So to all my favorite lesbians (and you KNOW who you are!), and to you who I’ve yet to know—THANK YOU!!!!  You have DEFINITELY ENRICHED  my life TENFOLD!!   🙂

GAY PEOPLE UNITE!  MARRIAGE IS YOUR RIGHT!

(That way you can get married and find out it might bite!)

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