Thursday, October 13, 2016

Jenny (Part 3): On Becoming Honest

Jenny and I had beers on her front porch Sunday afternoon, and I realized how much time you have to spend with a person to get a decent interview, to make sure you've covered all your bases and captured at least a little bit of the nuance of their experience. 

Traister argues that even for most straight women, relationships with women are more fulfilling in every way. "So I just felt so lucky," Jenny said, "that I'm also sexually attracted to women, too, because I can get so much more from those relationships -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- than I could with a man."

"I'm generally happier when I'm in a relationship," she'd said the week before. "When I'm happy, it's because my life feels full. It feels like the things I'm doing are honest projections of me, and what I want, and what I want to give to the world."

As a teen, Jenny remembers meeting gay women and feeling an inexplicable admiration for them, an awe for their bravery. She remembers being impressed when any woman -- gay or straight -- was able to present themselves as strong and down-to-earth, in opposition to a culture that wanted them to preen and pluck and perform. 

After she came out, she realized that this admiration came because she knew deep down that she wasn't being brave in the same way.

Now, she knows who she is but still finds LGBTQ labels -- lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer -- spectacularly insufficient.

"Meeting someone new, I say 'gay' because I'm dating a woman, so I feel pretty gay," Jenny said. "I do identify as queer, but I don't say that when I am first meeting people, because they're like, 'well, what is that? What does that mean?' If they don't say that, they're thinking it, and that's almost worse."

Queer, for Jenny, carries with it an acknowledgement of the men and the F-to-M trans people she's crushed on and dated. As she puts it, "It's a little more than just lesbian." Queer also gives her the freedom to embody her own version of the strong and down-to-earth women she's admired. 

Jenny is petite, with a tough and determined walk. I most often see her in straight-legged pants, button-down shirts and dangling earrings. She explained her thinking behind her look. 

"I don't like to portray a whole lot of feminine qualities. I've been cutting my hair shorter and shorter. I have a very strong aversion to portraying myself as super-feminine. I don't want to be masculine, just somewhere in between. The last time I dressed really feminine was Halloween. That felt really right to, only on Halloween, put on a dress."

Five or six years after Jenny first started to settle into her own identity and feel comfortable in her own skin, she met her current partner. They've been together for a little over a year now, and the five year plan involves a child. Jenny hopes it involves her current partner. But marriage? Not necessary.

"I'm not sure that marriage is super-important to me. It's a huge waste of money. I'll have to spend money on having a baby. But yeah, I think in five years I want a kid. Just one. Then I'll get another one in seven years," we laughed.

There was something in our laughter that hoped it would be that easy for her to become a mother.

At least some of the confidence and excitement around this vision -- of a child and family, in a few short years -- comes from her current girlfriend.
My relationship has made me feel more fulfilled. Sometimes, I'm overwhelmed by that feeling of being fulfilled, but I feel that I could be with her for a long time and never get bored. She makes me feel confident in myself. I can bounce ideas. She's a question-asker who challenges me without making me feel stupid. 
I feel better matched in my relationship than I ever have, in terms of us being able to talk about anything. She's the first person I've dated who I can see a really long-term future with. In the past, I have been terrified of settling for something that's not right for me, or getting stuck in something, but that has nothing to do with being gay.
Maybe there's a key in there to gay happiness, or to what Jenny called "grown-up happy": learning to separate the trials and dramas of life, the hang-ups and heartbreaks, from our sexuality. Or at very least, to not blame our sexuality -- or bigots' response to it -- for the challenges we face.

Few people lead truly charmed lives. Gay or straight, everyone has their inner and outer demons to face. We're all just working towards being, in Jenny's words, honest projections of ourselves and what we want to give to the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment