From Straight to Lesbian to Queer to Fairy
Straight life was obviously not for me. Looking mainly like a boy in my adolescent years, I was always getting hit on by women. But when I was young I had a high school boyfriend and a college boyfriend, like most girls. I grew my hair long and femmed up. Yet my female friendships were so intense and close and their company was by far, favored by me over the company of men. I had grown up with brothers and was overwhelmed by their company from early on. What I was curious about was what it was like to be feminine. Boys couldn’t show me anything new even when they showed me their penis. But the world of women and women’s forms of intimacy, intrigued me.
The straight world grew pretty predictable with the alcohol, the bars and the parties, all designed for meeting someone new. I had little interest and was bored. It wasn’t until I met my first girlfriend, when I was 19 and working in Philadelphia, that my lesbian awakening began. I clung to my college boyfriend, 5 states away, while I had a tempestuous love affair with a woman 10 years older and far more sophisticated then myself. It was the world of art and sensuality she showed me, and there was also the sexual awakening. I remember her showing me my clitoris and how it worked during our first sexual encounters. The boys I had slept with never did me that favor. We fell in love, right under the nose of one of my most conservative aunts, who we both worked for in the same small office. When I left Philadelphia that winter and returned to my southern home, I was a changed woman forever.
For the next 10 or 15 years following my first lesbian love affair, I would grapple with this idea of a lesbian identity. I had lots of torrid affairs with women after the first, They were pretty, artistic, inspiring — and some were even dangerous. Yet I never would feel at home calling myself a lesbian, even as I was loving women, and doing it in the context of a monogamous lesbian relationship. Was I a closet case? Or a bisexual women? At the time these were the only other two categories I could fit into, because I surely was not straight. For the first 10 years, perhaps I was in the closet with some people. It was the 80s and things were different then. It was hard to be out at your job, to your family, and friends. Ellen hadn’t made it to t.v. and queer guys weren’t giving makeovers to homes, cars, and people.
The queer guys were in the inner city with me during the early 90s, as I was developing a queer identity. It’s true, I mixed with women from the ‘lesbian community.’ I even helped worked on a women’s newspaper for several years, to widen my circle there. Yet I never felt accepted by many of these women because many were coupled and I was not and I had many gay male friends. I had one particular gay male friend who was a real lesbian lover, and an instigator of trouble when he met head on with separatist dykes. Keeping his company frequently, I developed a bad reputation with the ‘sep dykes’ and I began to dislike them as much as he did. None of this really helped any sort of lesbian identity formation within me. If anything, I was more conflicted, confused, and hostile then ever towards real ‘lesbians’ – whatever that means. I began dating women much older than me, and straight women who were curious and existed far outside of lesbian community. I saw a lot of limitations in lesbian lifestyle back then, and I still do. I also see a lot of change, especially from younger lesbians who are less interested in labels or sexual histories or behaviors. Like me — in their twenties, they are busy chasing older women twice their age. This somehow seems like an appropriate thing to do when you love women and will probably always be a part of my sexuality.
In between my monogamous relationships with women, I would sometimes have sexual sojourns with men. I call them sojourns because they were too distant to be termed relationships, though some did develop into such. In my sexual affairs, there was never really much of an emotional charge to most of my relationships with men. There were a few exceptions to this, but not many. I have found that physically, I’m capable of being with a man, but emotionally, it’s a rare man that I connect with on this level. If I look deeply inside my heart I can see that it’s women I truly love. Now I’m sounding like a real lesbian again.
While I was still in Philadelphia, I met the radical faeries at an event at the William Way Community Center in 1996. I was more than intrigued with their presence. I felt their fuck you attitudes about sexuality, art and rural living were right on. It was the mid 90s and we were all fed up. Anybody who had joined the corporate ranks was feeling the pressure of that dysfunctional trap. I had imbibed on poetry for the previous 8 years, so the faeries made sense to me. I got hooked on faeries after this. I began reading everything I could possibly find about fairy magic. It wasn’t the radical fairies I wanted to read up on (I knew you had to experience them firsthand) – it was the fairies of Irish folklore that intrigued me. Within the faery context I discovered the genre of shapeshifting, or gender bending, to be revered as a magical practice. Through my readings on fairy shapeshifting and Leslie Feinberg’s work, Transgender Warriors, I suddenly began to understand my own queer gender identity as a form of magic — and to wield it as such.
After leaving the north to come south, I began to search for my tribe. I mean I looked everywhere. There were not many like me, and if there were, they were on the East Coast in a big city. Then I discovered the rural faery movement, and have been very much a part of it ever since. I learned about pan sexuality, and how the queer movement grew out of the GLBT movement, mainly due to frustrations with categorical imperatives, as I would call it. I learned, through men and women fairies, not to be so hung up on public perception about sexual or gender identity. The fairies have taught me to focus within on the spiritual experiences that may unfold from enacting a sacred sexuality. Sometimes faery sexuality can get a bit messy. It can seem like free love queer style. Our community has a way of honoring whatever it is you want to do with someone else sexually, so long as it’s done respectfully and with mutual consent.
Gender and sexual identity are matters that need to be explored, by some, throughout their lives. Some people are content with what they discover about themselves early on, and others are not. In my own quest for self-knowledge I would have to say that gender and sexual identity are best experienced as fluid. Looking back, I would say the most suffering came to me when I was trying so desperately to fit myself in at least one category. I am thankful to say I don’t worry about it so much anymore. If people ask me if I’m a lesbian I just tell them I’m a faery. Hell, I figure if they’re REALLY interested, they can figure it out.