It being the holiday season in my locale, it is a time of family and obligation.
Yesterday I was helping my mother arrange the place names for the seats, the name cards were a mess, so I quickly put all the couples and their children into smaller piles.
I was the only solo card.
Now, after an entire semester of studying the sociological aspect of singlehood and writing a 6000 word essay about the position of the single aunt in the extended-nuclear family for said course, you probably don't understand the feeling of sheer poignancy
that came from seeing my name, alone, among the clumps of little families that make up my huge tribe.
I have no doubt that I'm not the only single person who has a family made up of couples and families and has felt this way. But I have been theorising about it, this position of mine in my family, the role I play of Dutiful Daughter, Doting Aunt (despite raising my voice a few times and having my cousin, a mother, come to make sure I haven't murdered her children) and Single Gay Relative.
I may be the only one who perceives myself this way. Who knows, maybe others do
see me this way. Glass closet and all.
What has come to mind in my navel gazing about this, because I have been thinking about it the whole week, were the issues of "passing" and "flaunting" my sexuality in the context of my family.
My nuclear family are a paragon of harmony, support and TLC. Really, I couldn't have asked for a better family, really. My bitterness considering my coming out process and the crappy way I and [Southern!Girl] were treated when were together notwithstanding.
Being single and queer is easier than being queer in a relationship - man or woman. The invisibility I experience when I'm with a guy is painful because of the erasure of my identity and the culture I identify with. The all out double standard of being with a girl requires constant negotiation of what is appropriate or inappropriate behaviour in so many contexts.
It is sheer kismet that Spark In Darkness
wrote about this very issue on his blog, where he writes about living your life through a filter
Every question has to be passed through it, evasions and lies considered, examined and discarded or adapted. And damn if that isn't tiring, even now when I largely shut the filter down and try to answer without it – it still fires up and activates the closet instincts. Before when I nearly always used the filter it was even more draining – because everything someone said to me or I said back had to be run through the filter to ensure that the BIG DARK SECRET was hidden.
[...]that's before we get to simple things like the awful crime of kissing/touching and the dreadful decisions of whether it's ok to sit next to him or not – can we go out to dinner together or do we need to bring more people so it's not a date? Am I stood too close? Whose watching, who can see is anyone upset/angry/sitting on a cactus expression?
So, yeah, here's little ol' me “flaunting” my sexuality because not “flaunting” is a lot of work. I just don't have the energy not to flaunt.
I emphasised the last bit, because that pretty much hits the nail of the head. Sometimes, most of the time, we're asked to "tone it down", or stop making everything "about being QuILTBAG".
There are worse things that happen to gay people than being told by heteronormative society that we're disruptive and should shut up and suck it up, because you know, being beat up and murdered because you weren't quiet enough is worse than being escorted off a plane for kissing your partner
But the incident with Leisha Hailey and the Southwest flight, brings to a head how careful we have to be in order to walk around unscathed.
I mean, if you read the statement from Southwest Airline
following the incident, you can't help but cringe:
Initial reports indicate that we received several passenger complaints characterizing the behavior as excessive. Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all Customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender. The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight. We regret any circumstance where a passenger does not have a positive experience on Southwest and we are ready to work directly with the passengers involved to offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectations.
All emphasis is mine. It would be mind boggling if it wasn't such a typical framing of "gay behaviour" in public.
First of all, the passenger complaints? Really? You know how many times I've complained about a child running up and down the isles of a plane? Are you going to remove that child and its parents?! Boy that would be grand!
Never happen of course, after all, a child running up and down the isles is "natural". As is, you know, kissing and holding hands between a man and woman.
Two women, well, that's "excessive". Because it disrupts the "family oriented" flight, of heterosexual and nuclear clumps of couples and their children.
And of course one must not make the customers uncomfortable, I mean, it's not like gay people pay for services, or use the same methods of transport as straight people. *snort* of course not, we have our own airlines, our own cities, our own laws and regulations, you know... in those "clubs". We'd never imagine doing that
Existing, that is.
Of course, despite Southwest's hypocrisy
, they are a well known airline that discriminates against its customers.
Dorothy Snarker who wrote about this earlier this week
mentioned that Southwest is the airline that kicked Kevin Smith (Director of "Dogma" and "Chasing Amy") off a flight for being fat
and Billy Joe Armstrong (Green Day front man) for dressing in baggy pants
Obviously, Southwest feels very strongly about its well dressed, straight and thin customers. Everyone else just isn't up to par for this airline.
These are incidents that have happened to celebrities
. Just ponder that one for a moment.
Reading about the above and planning out this post, well, it makes my own single status a thing of visibility and invisibility. I break the pattern of pairings in my family, but I am rendered silent because talking about wanting to date or going on dates is "flaunting" and "disruptive" and sometimes I just don't have the energy to deal with that.
It's giving into homophobia.
And the homophobia exhibited by Southwest, by accepting the underlying assumption that a kiss between two women is disturbing to customers, but being called disgusting by other people is just something we should suck up, is so entrenched in the culture, practically every culture on earth, that I sometimes despair at thinking I'll get to see or feel, fundamental change in my lifetime.