10 Unexpected Things I Learned From Being Lesbian In My 20s
The world is both way better -- and way worse -- than writer Scout Durwood imagined it would be for young gay people.
In life, it is best to expect the unexpected, so, here’s a list of things to expect! I had no idea what was going to happen when I came out to myself and to the world as a lesbian. The ten items that follow are my Cliffs notes version of growing up gay. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope they help you along your way, be you hetero, homo, or anywhere in between.
1. Alternative is the new mainstream.
Being predictable blows. Everyone’s looking for a fun and interesting way to stand out, so if you’re gay, congratulations. You are different and unusual enough that people will want to bring you up in conversation to solidify their street cred for having “gay friends.” Employers may reference you to accent the diversity of their staff, and you get to throw a wedding however the hell you want (I now pronounce you… man and man?). What ever you do, people are sure to talk about how cool your “gay wedding” was for years to come. Not to mention how much fun your extended family will have tracking down customized “hers and hers” coasters for your anniversary. (I actually own those coasters.) Sure, it’s slightly reductive, but it’s progress none the less. A little limelight never hurt nobody, so put on your gayme face and smile!
2. Everyone should get a parade.
Pride is gay Christmas, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. Sure, the way I celebrate it has changed over time, (air conditioned house party, anyone?) but it is still a day that fills me with happiness and, well, pride. It is a day when the minority gets to be the majority, when we get to celebrate who we are rather than apologize for it or explain how it came to be. I imagine it’s what ComicCon feels like for people who were bullied for liking video games in high school. Everyone should have a personal pride experience at least once in his or her life, when whatever it is that sets you (singular) apart brings you (plural) together, and if that means throwing the first “straight white dudes” parade, then the first case of Bud Light’s on me. Beer pong.
3. Everyone’s a little bit gay.
Whether one admits it, acts on it or not, everyone is at least curious about what it would be like. Haters gunna hate, but sexuality is all about discovery, and shutting yourself off to anything only makes that thing to which you are shut off more illusive and appealing. I am not implying that everyone should kiss a girl and like it, but I am insisting that life is a spectrum, and if college taught me anything, it’s that everyone’s like pencil, as in they’re only straight up to a point.
4. The only way to appear effortless is genuinely not to try.
It’s hard to pull a magic trick on someone who knows the same slight of hand. Take, for example, double-sided tape, Spanx, hair extensions or stick on strapless bras. Sure, they help you pull of that sexy, strappy, backless dress, but we all know how ridiculous you’re gonna look in four hours when trying to peel those chicken cutlets off your sweaty, drunken body. So, don’t be surprised if you fail to turn heads at a lesbian bar when you look like all the beautiful that money can buy. No one believes you when you say your heels are “comfortable enough to jog in,” so there’s no need to pretend. Don’t try to pass the illusion that you're effortlessly, comfortably hot -- just be yourself. And if you’re worried no one will find you attractive once they’ve seen the man behind the curtain…(cont'd below)
5. Don’t worry. Most people like you better in your glasses, anyway.
Lesbians aren’t known for being “fashion forward,” but we do have a knack for going through life with a healthy dose of “she don’t know she’s beautiful.” I am consistently blown away by the number of compliments I receive on days when I wear my glasses because I’m too lazy to deal with contacts. Let it be known: having a personality is sexier than not having a personality, so if you want to sing out, sing out. Trying to look perfect makes everyone look the same. I almost never get hit on when I look just right. It’s when I look like the first half of She's All That that, suddenly, I become all that.
6. You don’t have to pretend not to know the word for “eyeliner.”
Butch women, men, tomboys of all shapes and sizes, at some point in your life, be it for a theme party, Halloween, or god(dess) willing, a parade, you will be compelled to put on make up. When you do so, do so with pride. Don’t feel like you have to pretend you’re being forced, or that you have no idea what’s going on. Don’t ask for “that stuff that goes around your eyes,” go ahead and say “eyeliner,” or “guy-liner” if you’re going for Adam Lambert chic. Pretending to be smart is the new pretending to be dumb. #Obvi
7. Sometimes a lie is worth its weight in: “No, seriously, please leave me alone.”
You’d think “no thanks, I’m gay,” would dissuade men, or at least be reason enough for them to give you back your personal space at the bar. Alas, most fellas take it as a challenge or an invitation to delve deeper into the unwanted conversation of “what are you into.” In their defense, you did bring it up first. Saying “I’m a lesbian” opens the door to your personal life. It’s like having an interesting tattoo: people are going to want an explanation. Stick with sexuality on a need-to-know basis, and you’ll cut down astronomically on unwanted conversation.
8. People take pronouns way too seriously.
In a hundred years, when we all look back at the deeply flawed concept of “gender as a binary” and laugh, we are also going to chuckle at how much we used to care about our pronouns. I’m not talking about my trans brothers and sisters who continue their fight to be recognized, I’m talking about the short haired lesbians who are offended when they are accidentally called “sir” when walking into public restrooms (aka getting “sir-ed”) and the cisgendered men who get upset when I call them “girl,” in conversation, as in:
HIM: “Hey, Scout. Are you hungry?”
ME: “Girl, I could eat a horse and a half!”
HIM: “I’m not a girl.”
ME: “And I’m not blind, but I stand by what I said for emphasis and flare. Now cut the crap, mama, and let’s go eat!”
9. The world isn’t as bigoted as we sometimes think.
Years ago, I was staying with my girlfriend’s family for the summer in a little “village” on the east coast. When the family received an invitation to a fancy wedding, my girlfriend and I were initially hesitant to go.“I wouldn’t want to cause a stir,” my girlfriend said, to which her mother responded, “Don’t humor yourself. You didn’t invent gay.” Mom had a point. The struggle for gay acceptance definitely rages on, but 61% of Americans are in favor of same-sex marriage -- so we may not always be as novel or as strange as we sometimes believe. Side note, the wedding was suuuuper boring, so we wouldn’t have been missing out either way. #NoRegrets
10. Sometimes, the world is significantly more bigoted than you ever could have thought possible.
In 2007, I was the victim of a hate crime. A group of about thirteen individuals, men and women ranging from 18-22 targeted two of my friends and I outside a straight bar in Long Island. They singled us out for being gay and called us horrible names that were ignorant and outdated. They tackled me from behind, slamming my face into the curb. They stole and destroyed our video camera. They dragged my friend across the pavement on her knees. What shocked me most was the look in their eyes when all of this transpired. I had never seen “hate” before, and it is very, very ugly. I like to think our attackers were motivated by general angst rather than genuine homophobia, but it served as a sound reminder that no matter how far we have come, we still have further to go. All of us go through life with the dream of loving and being loved. Let that be the thing that brings us together rather than tears us apart. Spoiler alert, everything else on this list is pretty much bullsh*t. Except for the part about parades.