Back in the day, when I first fell into a relationship with a woman and couldn’t believe how amazingly soft she was, I was engaged to someone else. A very nice boy. With boy parts. And I had absolutely no intention of tripping over the fact that I am a lesbian.
One minute, I was making a new friend, completely excited about the amazing connection we shared, and the next I was calling out her name at the absolute worst time when she wasn’t there and he was. That was a bit of a wake-up call. For both of us.
I was young and impetuous and didn’t stop for even a second to think about what I was doing. I was fully intoxicated, drunk on love, and deliriously happy. I ended one relationship and jumped into the next.
It could have been a disaster, ending in a fiery crash and burn. And we had our share of spectacular fights, but we both held our ground and refused to give up on the other. Now, twenty years later, she still loves to bring up some of the…less nice things I said during those early years of our relationship when I was trying to figure out my place in this new, wonderful, boob-filled world.
She’s joking, of course, because we don’t really fight anymore. We’ve long since figured out our rhythm, and our triggers and how to love and laugh and truly enjoy one another. That doesn’t stop her from quoting me every time she hears the words “What’s your problem?” She’ll glance at me, a terrible, teasing, small smile on her lips, and say “I don’t have a problem. I have you.”
Admittedly, I had quite the flair for the dramatics in my twenties. I don’t have the energy for that kind of clever overstatement now. We have far too many children and the sharp edges of newness have worn off our relationship. I still am amazed at how soft she is, but it no longer makes my brain stutter to a stop every time I touch her.
But back then, when everything was new and shiny and I had no idea how to cope with all the things I just never knew about life, we lived in a small apartment with two bedrooms and an upstairs neighbor who thought we were just too cute. Late at night, we would turn on her oversized stereo, setting the volume low to not disturb anyone else, and we’d sway together in the living room to Enigma and TLC and any other fabulously sensual song we could think of.
We lived in a small town, close enough to Portland to have access to some fabulously lesbian venues, but far enough away for the town to be filled with a cross section of people. Some liberal. Some very much not. Not that I understood the politics of being gay at that point. I was wide-eyed and had a steady stream of orgasmic endorphins running through me. I had no idea that being with her and being deliriously happy about it, was actually dangerous.
She knew, of course, and she tried to tell me. But I couldn’t see anything outside my own experience. Unlike her, I’d never cleaned up the cuts, scrapes, and bruises on my girlfriend when a group of men jumped her on the street. But that happened to her ex just a few years before. I’d never been called a bad name—that came later. I’m intelligent enough to know that a bigoted asshole yelling “Dyke!” out his window as he passed us on the street shouldn’t have the power to hurt me. But it did.
A lot has changed since then, with us as individuals, with our relationship, and with society as a whole. I knew back then that a time would come when we’d be able to legally marry each other. Then, of course, I’d been young and idealistic and completely naïve about the nature of love and hate. I didn’t think it would take almost twenty years for the laws in our home state to change.
The wheel of progress turned slower than I wanted. But it turned. And the laws changed. And she still won’t marry me, but that’s a different story for a different blog.
This month, take a moment to remember that our rights have been hard won. If you’re so young you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can just take my word for it. Find someone who was legally allowed to drive, vote, drink before you were born and say thank you. If you’re my age and you remember the hope of Clinton that turned into the failure of DADT, find someone who was born the year you graduated (or later) and tell her a story. And, if you were around during Stonewall, here are my thanks.
To all of you who put your feet down one after another on unbroken ground, thank you. To those of you where were beaten, targeted, arrested, cast out, forsaken, thank you for your courage. Thank you for breaking the trail for the rest of us to follow.