Sexual Orientation: None
It was a long, dry winter for this queerbie. Now that the trees are making hot crazy love all around me and the sunlight has again bullied the darkness into submission, things are getting a little less dehydrated. I’m settling into my new job and adjusting to being the parent of an almost-teenager. For the first time in my life — and, ironically, given the state of the economy — I’m making enough money that our little family is more than treading water, albeit not by much.
I’ve been absent here because the things going on in my personal life are just not the kind of things I like to write about. I’m uncomfortable with, you know, feelings and stuff. But what is a personal column if not space to process personal stuff? I’ll do my best to refrain from cheese, but I make no promises. You may want to skip the rest of this if you’re not into feelings and processing and personal self-development.
OK. So, I got laid off last June and spent the summer unemployed. To be honest, the pre-layoff job was not an excellent situation and I was a little glad to have it over. Like the first sunburn of the year, it was painful and embarrassing and, ultimately, no big deal. But then, almost simultaneously, a couple of important relationships abruptly ended.
If the first event was a sunburn, the second and third were an application of sandpaper to that burned skin followed by a treatment of rubbing alcohol. To say I was feeling raw would be an understatement. These events, in combination with an already heavy load of personal baggage and, quite possibly, a genetic predisposition, left me feeling what you might call despondent. Wearing-elastic-waist-pants, not-getting-haircuts, eating-junk-food-and-watching-WE-network blue, if you know what I mean.
I was (barely, luckily) able to get my shit together and find an excellent job, and this development made me realize how weird and out of balance the rest of my life was. I was a stranger in my own life, disconnected from my feelings and my body, anxious beyond all reasoning. I’d been in therapy for a year and was making progress, but still feeling generally bad. And with winter coming on, I was getting a little scared.
So I started taking medication.
Friends, if I had known how much better medication would make me feel, I would have started it a decade ago. I have been morally opposed to medication in the past, arguing that the same effect could be had by a combination of exercise, good nutrition, plenty of sunshine and solid emotional support.
My problem was that I couldn’t get any of those things because I was too damn depressed. I couldn’t drag myself off the couch, couldn’t afford healthy food (or summon the energy to cook it); the days were closing in and I was such a mess that I couldn’t even sustain a friendship.
When the meds started to kick in it was like waking up in the night and seeing the brightening windows that announce imminent dawn. I started exercising, seeing a holistic doctor and taking vitamins, and soon it was mid-morning summer sunlight.
If this is how people usually feel, I think I’ve been depressed for over a decade. Without the constant anxiety of potential hunger and homelessness, I have been able to relax in a way I haven’t experienced for more than 10 years. I joined a gym, finished watching a couple TV series, read crime fiction novels and cooked root vegetables 17 ways. I went to five Oscar-nominated films, started taking herbal supplements, and have been attending to my friends.
Despite the recent rush of activity around gay marriage, I have taken a break from activism. It’s all about that balance, and I’m trying to find it. No more Lesbian Radio, no more Dyke March Committee, no Pride Committee, no Transgender Day of Remembrance — for a while, at least. Instead I’m taking Daughter to theater rehearsals and Saturday classes and dreaming about gardening.
In sum, I’ve gotten better.
But perhaps the most conspicuous aspect of my renewed life is my singledom. Without any prospects for a date, much less for a long-term relationship, my life has taken a decidedly non-sexual turn — which is OK with me, given the fact I’m only just figuring out where this new mood might take me.
Without a sex life (or, at least, a sex partner) my sexual orientation has become a theory rather than a practice. Without my Big Gay Job and queer activist work, with my longish hair and professional attire and good job and lack of angst, my dykely nature has faded into the background of my identity.
It’s a strange feeling to blend. When I figured out that I liked women, I fell in love with rainbows and triangles. My sexual orientation seemed like the most important aspect of my personality, and I wanted to make sure everyone knew it. I shaved my head and pierced my nose and, in case you still couldn’t tell, wore a giant black t-shirt that said YES I AM in block letters. I wore my queerness like a spiked collar, a warning and a signal of my difference.
I don’t feel that different today, and this is partly an indicator of the times we live in. I have the luxury of working at a job in which my choice of partner is a non-issue — and if it were, the law would be on my side. I don’t have to go to a bar to find queer community. These are incredible privileges, and I am grateful for them even as I am aware of the continued injustices queer people face.
This resting time, this fallow period in my life, feels like another step on the way to a healthier self. I didn’t realize how unbalancing it was to have one aspect of my identity dominate for so long, and how much I had missed with my single-issue focus.
I’m still a queerbie, but maybe a little less of one right now. My sexuality is part of the whole package of me, but there are lots of other parts — the mom, the good friend, the writer, the daughter, the enjoyer — stepping forward to take a turn. It’s nice to see them. It’s been a while.
Jen Hodsdon is the one hanging out in the backyard. Toot when you drive by.