Sunday, October 3, 2010

Spirit Level

When I consider my own sexuality (gasp!) I always visualise a spirit level.

In our house when I was little, we had an orange spirit level with a yellow bubble that sat in the middle when the spirit was level, as it were. This is a memory I am not certain of, perhaps I invented the orange colour, but it's what comes to mind.

When I let myself (or make myself) consider it, I know I am not straight. I also know I am not gay. As Al Gore might put it, this is an inconvenient truth.

My Fellow European hit the nail on the head for me by using one word in reference to this over a glass of wine the other day:


The reason it is inconvenient is it is difficult to build a coherent identity, an idea for yourself and also an idea for others (especially other people you love) to have of you when they can't be certain where the bubble on your spirit level lies. This is due to the impossibilty of separating your sexuality from every other facet of your life. It's true that it impacts other areas, but I know truly and completely that I am exactly the same person, in essence, as I was before I ever found out I could be in love with someone of either gender.

And this issue is not about what you do with someone, not for me. It is about who you do it with. It is about love. In the absence of any faith that grips my heart except the faith that love inspires, I am beholden to it and spend my life in it's joyful and heartbreaking pursuit.

I can say without any doubt that when I have truly loved someone I have never doubted that they were the 'right' gender for me. For me there is no right answer, no right team to play on, just a right person. I think I've loved the right people so far. (Of course I would eventually like to love someone who is so right for me, who I am so right for, that we stay together for a billion years and have 27 children.)

I think my gayness (I'm single so I don't have anyone to sway the balance; let's call it 50%) is more deeply rooted than I first thought when I fell in love with a girl at university. I thought it was just her - the way her hair smelled like rosemary, her contrasting boldness and sensitivity, her fine bone china tea cups and the floral, lavendery Earl Grey tea that they always held. It didn't occur to me before that I was different from a lot of girls way before then. I'm still not sure now, because I have no one to measure myself against. I don't know if my childhood devotion to Rosemary Ford (the glamorous assistant on the Generation Game) and passionate support of Jennifer Capriati at Wimbledon in 1991 when I was 10, was just a normal growing-up thing, or if it meant I always saw girls differently than most girls do. That girl at school in the year below, with the pale blonde sheet of hair that waved to me like a white flag after a fight and made me happy each time I saw it; did I just admire her lack of frizz or did I have a crush on her? Does it make a difference now? Why am I thinking about it at all?

I haven't thought about girls in a long time, about the way I feel about some of them. Last weekend I went to see a band play and it is not an exaggeration to say that it rejuvanated my zest for, well, absolutely everything. There is still a spring in my step that had been lacking for months before. The music was awesome, I had fun sharing it with a friend and seeing Stanley Park for the first time. But that wasn't it - the magical part was that it made me remember something I like. When you forget what you like, you forget who you are.

I have been here, swamped and wading around, directionless, forgetting all the tiny things that make me who I am. No wonder I have been so miserable. Since the show I have set myself the task of remembering them; I want to chart the influences on my life since the first time I went to see that particular band play when I was 21, to now, till I saw them on my 29th birthday and felt like something in me was bursting open.

This is a totally self absorbed project that I don't plan to write too much about (but hey - if I turn out to be self absorbed enough I might change my mind on that later). The point of it stems from seeing this woman on stage, singing to me as I stood in the mud in a crowd of 2000 people, and remembering the first time I saw her. It was in the bathroom of the Metro Club on Oxford Street in London and as I was washing my hands I noticed a petite, dark haired girl wearing a parka with a furry hood washing her hands next to me. It was Sara Quin, one half of the band Tegan and Sara. When I realised I recognised her I wanted to hug her I loved their EP so much. I was absolutely too shy to say hello, or thanks for coming to London, or your new album rocks, or anything like that. I loved that show and the one I went to 2 years later, both venues so tiny that they played in front of me as close as Sara had been to me in the bathroom that time.

Six years after that first Tegan and Sara show I saw them play in LA and was astonished to discover their rise to fame meant fans were sleeping outside the venue to catch a close up glimpse of them (in Hollywood! Instead of being synonymous with 'glamour' it should be synonymous with 'dirty on the ground', don't sleep outside!). Within a few weeks of seeing that LA show I had the utter pleasure of bumping into another woman in a bathroom, who's music and attitude and face I have loved since university. You can bet your sweet anything I didn't let the opportunity of meeting Pink (or Alicia as she's known to good friends like me!) slip by, I said hello and chatted to her for a good five minutes in the bathroom of Hotel Cafe. I didn't faint or anything!

How things have changed.

When I bought Tegan and Sara's EP (before I had even heard their voices - I admired the cover) I didn't know they were both gay or that it would be important for me later. Or maybe I did, maybe my gaydar was so super duper and subconscious that I knew without knowing.

Either way, it's knowledge about myself that can't be undone. I don't want it to be. I don't know where it's going to take me. I'm going to try to stop fretting about that part.

p.s. I remember one of the most confusing things anyone ever said to me regarding my gay behaviour; she asked how I ended up being friends with a girl I had just met (who was also exploring her own signs of gayness at the time) in the manner of 'how come you don't fancy her? she's gay too, so how do you know who you fancy and who you are just friends with?'. This was useful for me as it really gave me the idea that maybe some women grow up without their version of Rosemary Ford, maybe some people have no capacity for empathy with that. To me it's obvious - straight women (and me too) are able to distinguish which men they fancy and which they don't. It's even more pronounced than that, we can distinguish which men we fancy, which we don't mind, which we are repulsed by and which we view in an asexual manner (i.e.brothers). I can do the same with women too. Instead of being all in one group of 'don't fancy' there is a scale and my friends all fall under the 'not attracted to, at all' category while Pink comes under 'definiftely attracted to but can maintain composure during surprise meetings'. It's not that you aren't totally beautiful, my friends, I just don't fancy you.

p.p.s. This does not even touch on the anxiety produced in me by the term 'bisexual'. I can't deny the real meaning of it about myself, because it's true, yet the term has been hijacked so completely by society, by both gay and straight communities, as being a purgatory for people who are sitting on an imaginary fence, people who are polyamorous (this is so not what it means - 'bi' should stand for 'either' not 'both') or people who want to have their cake and eat it too, who are confused or lying to themselves and everyone they know. That's why I rarely use this term in reference to myself, but if you need a term to process me with, its the only one I've got to offer you. If you are reading this and were not already aware of it and think that I should have mentioned it to you before, please know that I often forget that the fluidity of sexuality is a big deal to some people, and that to some others it is a foreign concept altogether. I wouldn't imagine regaling everyone I know with intimate details of my early 20s if they concerned a boy, because I don't think it matters. (Except you Robin and Mimi, you get to hear all the fun stuff, sorry!) The fact that much of that time concerned girls, I tend to think is only relevant to me. Oh goodness it has taken so long to organise my thoughts for this post it is past 3am and I am now ravenously hungry. Either that or my basement-fellow's pot smoking session earlier has given me the munchies. I must go and sacrifice the last Dairy Milk in my stash. Thanks for listening.

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