Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Identity Issues and Boomer Homophobia...

Lately my queer identity has overpowered the other ways I identify myself. My various identies seem to ebb and flow depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, especially when among reserved folks, I feel terminally abrasive and jewish, in very sex-role circumscribed situations where all faces are male, I feel extremely female and among the economically privileged I feel very working-class. Now, among almost everyone I am beginning to feel really old. Yet, at rare and wonderful moments I feel as though I represent a universal human being, connected in many ways to everyone. It's never a question of one identity trumping the others, it's a far more fluid situation.

Of course, I feel very queer when I am singled out for discrimination. For example, I belonged briefly to a writing group that was overwhelmingly heterosexual. They were, like me, older lefties who were serious about writing. The format of socializing was very different from what I'm used to. The women didn't  reach out to each other very much. The person I got the most support from was a man. It wasn't a come on thing (he was married with kids), he just liked my writing. But I wasn't there to make friends so I let it go. The real reason I wound up leaving the group was that queer issues were not taken seriously. Civil rights issues for other racial and ethnic groups were, rightfully, regarded as an important struggle. But when I wrote a memoir piece about homophobia on the job they viewed it as a story about individual indiosyncracies presenting problems in a specific workplace.

An acquaintance of mine wound up in a nursing home. She was suffering from dementia. Her close friend/ex-lover would visit her there. The staff assumed she was her sister until one day she explained that Nan, in better days, had been her lover. This admission was a terrible mistake. Once the other old women realized that Nan was a lesbian, they became aftaid of her. In her dementia, Nan believed that she was in her own home and would sometimes wander around naked. Her roommate and fellow patients now considered her nudity a sexual come on. Due of the lack of conciousness and support of the staff, Nan had to ultimately find another place to live.

Homophobia, by its very definition, means fear. Will folks of the boomer generation and older ever overcome the way they were raised? As an old dog, I have learned quite a few new tricks so perhaps there is hope that one day we will come together to fight for us all.

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