I watched “Nanette” the comedy show by Hannah Gadsby. Freaking amazing.
“Do you understand what self deprecation means when it comes from somebody in the margins? It’s not humility it is humiliation. I put myself down in order to speak, in order to seek permission to speak, I simply will not do that anymore. Not to myself or to anyone who identifies with me.” Gadsby…Nanette
Her show is profound in so many ways. She brings light to so many dark issues in a beautiful voice that is funny and also brought me to tears. She allows herself to be vulnerable and puts tension onto the audience to look at the ugly side of discrimination and rape and leaves it on them. She dares them to own it.
She defines herself as “Gender not normal” which I love because she does not identify as transgender at all, but she presents as masculine and knows it and owns it and doesn’t mind being misgendered. She also discloses she was physically assaulted at age 17 for being gender not normal. The lesbian population has many “gender not normal” lesbians. I live with one. My sister is another.
I did actually call my sister once, about six or seven years ago, and I asked her, “Are you trans?” I remember she laughed and was like, “No. I’m definitely a girl, and fine with it.” But she presents as more masculine and always has…well since about tenth grade, before that she did have long hair and wore feminine clothing.
Lesbians who wear make-up and are passable as straight are often more acceptable more palatable to society than “gender not normals”. Because they don’t fit the norms. As Hannah says they live in the margins. People see me with my sons and they smile because they are subconsciously categorizing me- white, straight, woman with her two toddler sons who are white little boys.
People in the grocery store today with my “gender not normal” wife and me and our sons…well we got side eyed, very few smiles, and I recognize that we were in a conservative town next to the conservative town we live in surrounded by white heterosexual cisgender individuals who are discriminatory jerks. The older gentleman at the checkout didn’t even look us in the eye.
My wife and I made a conscious decision to move to a Republican heavy town. We had a lot of reasons for moving there and even though I didn’t have language for it at the time I do now. I was fine moving to a ‘red’ town because if we make people tense, well they can just sit there with the tension. I’m not going to make them feel better about it. They have to look at us, they have to see us, they have to experience us as a family, as individuals, as human beings, so that maybe that will look beyond the label of lesbian and gender not normal and see that we are just people.
That we may never agree on politics but we could agree on perhaps the fact that we should be allowed to exist outside of the margins.
I’ve spoken with lesbians who live in Tennessee and Louisiana and Kentucky and they lose jobs because of their sexual identity and their gender not normal presentation. Their kids face horrible discrimination at school. I’ve asked people before, “But why do you stay?” They don’t always have a good answer. Because like I said, I think it’s hard to find the language for it. It’s hard to describe that you can’t leave because this is home. This is my rightful place in the world. I will not be put into the margins. We will be the light in the darkness we will make people sit with their tension we will make people see us. We won’t let them look away.
It’s hard to bring to words the gut feeling you get when you know that your community may not support your family but you can’t leave because it’s your home. You shouldn’t have to leave because it’s your home. So there are lesbians living in the hearts of Republican counties and towns because we have made a conscious choice to integrate ourselves and not separate ourselves as much as some would love for us to just go away.
Not everyone has the voice and the audience of a Hannah Gadsby or an Ellen. But it’s the lesbian family living and existing out loud and proud in the middle of Kentucky or Louisiana or a red little town tucked into the Northeast, it’s these families that are creating tension by being where society says they shouldn’t be. By forcing discriminatory individuals to make eye contact with me as I pay for my groceries. By living with tension in our bellies every day as we know we could be attacked verbally or physically by being outside the margins. But doing it anyway.
“Diversity is strength. Difference is a teacher. You fear difference and you learn nothing.”