Today is National Coming Out Day. When I was a Smith student, this was celebrated by lots of supportive chalking all over campus (“Come out, come out, whoever you are”) and by an outdoor celebration at night. All the houses set up tables and handed out fliers and candy and stickers — my house made labels one year, and encouraged people to wear as many as possible. My friend A. ended up being something like “femme top queer lesbian dominant queen,” I think. Girls who started the day with chin-length hair would stop by the table with clippers and go back to their own houses with buzz-cut heads.
Today the Outer Alliance is encouraging its members to participate in National Coming Out Day. On of the best posts I’ve seen so far today is Malinda Lo’s essay, in which she addresses the fact that identifying as lesbian — as she does — “erases” her one heterosexual relationship, which was also a meaningful part of her life. (Also read the great comments section below her article, too.) But if she identifies as bisexual in order to describe the complexity and fluidity of her experiences, she notes, many women in the lesbian community do not entirely trust her. I get this. At Smith there was a joke about girls who turn out to be LUGS or BUGS, “lesbian until graduation” or “bisexual until graduation,” and I remember the outrage directed at Ani DiFranco for daring to marry a man. Women commenting on Lo’s piece describe related problems: “Who wants to date a recently-out-of-the-closet girl?” asks one.
There’s been a lot of noise surrounding the Lambda Literary Foundation’s decision to change the eligibility rules for their writing awards to include only LGBT-identified writers. LLF states that they don’t require an actual statement of identity from a writer, but that they will assume that any writer who allows his/her publisher to submit a work is at least tacitly identifying as LGBT. (As rm points out in her thoughtful post on this issue, “Qs” are left out.) Lee Wind suggests that blocking out allies is not a good step for the LLF to take, while others in the comments section of his post offer some pretty convincing arguments in favor of LLF’s decision. I’m not sure exactly what I think about it. Personally, I’m not actually affected, because I’m a bisexual woman in a heterosexual relationship. (I won’t get into the question here of whether or not “bisexual” is the best term ever; the way it reifies binary gender norms is obviously not cool at all.) I could still be considered for an award of this sort and I also get loads of straight privilege in everyday life. But I’ve been thinking about this in terms of my own novel, which comes out (heh) next February and which I hope my publisher will submit for the Lambdas. In my last Outer Alliance post, I described it as a “queer retelling of a Greek myth.” It’s also a feminist retelling. In a sense, what I wanted to do was take the sexual fluidity that has always been allowed to men in Greek myth and extend it to a female character. One of my favorite teachers in high school characterized the plot of many myths by saying, “Goddesses happen.” I wanted to write about a goddess happening to a woman. But Alcestis is also married to a man, and that relationship is not erased, to use Lo’s term, by Alcestis’s time in the underworld.
Anyway, I was heartened to see the Outer Alliance’s first spotlight feature Michele Lee, a woman writer who is, according to the profile, “bisexual and happily married to a straight ally.” While I certainly understand the motivation behind the LLF’s decision, I’m glad to see bisexual-identified people (and straight allies!) welcomed into queer organizations, too. The more people who come out, the more we get to enjoy our infinite variety, and try as hard as we can to support each other.