Saturday, July 18, 2009

Hips Don't Lie

I'm posting this from Port of Spain, Trinidad. I've spent the past 2 weeks in Gros Islet, St. Lucia. I'm doing a summer term study abroad with BYU humanities and visual arts.

Because I'm one of two guys on the trip out of 16 students, homosexuality has been a topic of conversation frequently. My professors and the other students are pretty supportive of me, some are really supportive. But despite all that, I hadn't seen any evidence on the island itself that homosexuality existed. This is a very macho culture, and I just haven't seen any trace of anything gay-- until last night, my last night in St. Lucia.

Friday nights in Gros Islet are street party nights. A bunch of us went down and partied like there's no tomorrow. Most people went home around 11, but one of my allies and I were still out dancing when we saw three proud queers on the dance floor. They were local people, black people with skinny jeans that showed off big booties. One wore lip gloss. He was tall and had his braided hair pulled back in a pony tail. Another had glitzy earrings and a bleached mohawk. The third had fabulous boots and his t-shirt tied in a knot to show off his abs. And man, those sisters knew how to dance!

I regret not talking to them- but I didn't know what to say. So I just smiled at them and watched them dance approvingly. I know the Caribbean is a really homophobic place, but they seemed safe enough. Several local women were laughing with them and shaking booty together.

I'll be on the lookout in Trinidad, cause I am interested in where the gay community hides here. It is lonely to be in a place where your people don't seem to exist. Where straight culture is so dominant and pervasive. I mean the men here catcall every woman they pass, without exception. Let's see if I find more of my people in Trinidad.  

Thursday, July 2, 2009

I Know You're Out There, Somewhere Out There

Where are all the lesbians?

This past Pride Weekend was a big one in Chicago, where I grew up. Several of my old friends from high school spent the weekend celebrating, allowing me to discover that a lot of people I knew in high school are gay. I had no idea how many of them were in the closet just like me. It's kind of fun, because a lot of them are really surprising.

One of my favorites was our Prom Queen my senior year. She's this amazing Jew with dreadlocks, and she and I have chatted a few times since we came out to each other. Lot's of the gays that I know from high school are lesbians. The first person I came out to is a lesbian friend from high school (she wasn't in the closet). A girl I dated has come out to me as a lesbian. I am thinking of seven or eight lesbians right now that I knew in high school. I can only name three or four gay men (excluding Romulus and Remus).

When I look at my gay friends at BYU, however, the story is quite the opposite. I can name fifty gay men at BYU without even thinking. I'm sure I could list more if I enlisted the help of facebook. But I don't know a single lesbian at BYU. Not a single one.

So what's the deal? Where have all the lesbians gone? Do Mormons only breed gay men? Is it only socially possible for gay men to come out of the closet in Mormon culture? Is it harder for women? Why? Where are you lesbian friends?! I need more women in my life!

Are We Human, Or Are We Dancer?

I have a lot of Mormon friends. It's where I come from. It's where I've spent the past several years. It's who I'm related to. There's just no way around it--I have a lot of Mormon friends.

I met a lot of my Mormon friends as a missionary. I was really close to a lot of other missionaries. Like Elder C. He was a new missionary who lived in my last apartment. We got along great. We were friends. He didn't get back from his mission until a few months ago. When he got back, I added him on facebook. He didn't accept my invitation. Today I went on his profile to decide whether I should try again. I noticed that he is a "fan" of "Protect Marriage: One man, One woman." I decided not to add him again.

It's not that I don't think we can't be friends anymore because he opposes my future marriage. In fact, I'd say it's more that I assume he doesn't want to be friends because he opposes my future marriage. And the problem is going to get bigger. I have a lot of Mormon friends who oppose my future marriage. These friendships are clearly strained. I don't hide my political beliefs by any stretch of the imagination. But friends can disagree about politics and still be friends.

What happens when I announce an engagement or when I get married? What happens to these friends? Some of them may take the initiative and terminate our friendship. That will hurt. But what about those that don't? Can I be friends with someone who opposes my marriage? If I were a straight, active Mormon who married in the temple, would I be able to be friends with people who opposed temple weddings and thought they were of the devil? Is this the same? Unlike that scenario, the friends I have who oppose gay marriage actually have the power to outlaw my marriage in states like California.

So is it fair for me to delete (facebook makes it all sound so clinical) friends who are against my way of life? That would be hard for me. But can I justify being friends and maintaining acquaintanceship with people who want to deny me what will make me happy? I don't know, but I think it is sad that I have to ask these questions. I wonder what things would be like if I had gone to the Art Institute of Boston and made friends with people who support me. What if my newsfeed reported on people who were like me instead of people who hate people like me?