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Author Topic: Just needing support- thanks
eryn_smiles
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I've been making an effort to get out and meet queer women. It hasn't been entirely successful. I find myself feeling more isolated again with tears rolling down my face whenever I'm driving.

I have a couple of lesbian friends where I live. Yeah, they're a couple and when I'm with them i do a good job of third-wheeling. So I did something pretty new and scary for me. I went to this ladies night at a gay bar with them. There were alot of lesbians there. To be honest, I felt conspicuously "not-white". Like the quiet sober brown girl. Why can't there be even one woman there who looks like me?

So I talked and intro'd myself and smiled and danced, even though I felt really out of place. I even met a colleague (who I'd never have guessed was gay) who was there with her wife. Then, a woman came on to me. At least that's how I interpreted it when she was holding my arm, dancing with me and hanging on my every word. Maybe I got her signals wrong? She told me she was 40yo with a wife and baby at home. I was bewildered and yet so happy that a woman seemed interested in *me*. I was feeling so awkward and lonely that I'm scared I might have hooked up with her, given the opportunity. I never had the opportunity as she promptly started pashing the next lady to walk onto the dance floor. What on earth?! I'm worried that feeling this desperate makes me vulnerable to people like this.

I hate that I lied to at least 5 people about how I was spending my night, just to step into that bar. I hate that I kept looking around us in the street, worried that someone I knew would see me with these 2 lovey-dovey girls and think that I was gay. And planning more lies that I could tell.

I don't know how to do this "queer" thing. I know even less how to do the "queer and closeted" thing. I am so very careful about who I come out to, and each time I am praying in my heart "Please, please accept me. I'm telling you this because I have no-one else to tell and I need you to keep liking me.."

How do you handle this so it doesn't hurt so badly or feel so lonely? (Okay, so maybe part of this is the winter blues and trying to take care of unwell people while I'm unwell myself..but still, its tough right now).

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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orca
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Hey eryn. I don't know what to say as I've not been in the situation myself before, but I am glad to listen anytime and offer whatever support I can. I'm sorry you're hurting so much. I wish some good things would come your way and soon.

If I recall, you had been seeing a counsellor. Is that still going?

That's great that you've made some friends in the GLBT community! I know you'd like more than that, but it's a really great start. Do they have some friends they can introduce you to, not necessarily for romance but even just as more people to hang out with?

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Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.--Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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eryn_smiles
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Thank you Orca, thats kind of you [Smile]

Yes, I'm still seeing a counsellor. Its not been that easy. She basically thinks I should leave this city as soon as possible and that if I stay now to support my family, then I might as well stay here for the next forty years. But I feel like I dont have enough of a support system elsewhere to move away yet. She also thinks I should let go of my culture a little, if I want to find someone to go out with here. And I have really mixed feelings about that too..

I actually have more people to hang out with than I've had in awhile; its more loneliness because I'm not confiding in any of them. I tried talking to a friend recently...it was really awful when he said *to paraphrase* "Of course you'll find a girlfriend here, f***ing coloured people is like a fetish." When I told him I was going to a lesbian medical conference, he made jokes about casual sex and said he should go to a straight singles conference. It just made me really angry and realise one more person that I can't talk to!

I'm hoping the conference will be good in terms of meeting some supportive people, but again, theres so much deception going into my trip, which doesn't feel good, you know? I'm heading home for a visit soon as well, and I know I need to be strong when my extended family starts talking about marriage [Frown]

Sometimes I call the Gay/lesbian switchboard and talk/cry. They're probably the most understanding people to talk with, in my experience. One guy was telling me about, before he was out, he used to go to the carpark in his work lunchbreak to call gayline so no-one would hear. I can so relate to that..

Anyway, if someone has some advice about managing my feelings and talking to people, meeting people in a safe environment, I'd really to hear it. (Even if you just want to tell me that I'm not completely messing up my life..that would be good too [Smile] )

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Stephanie_1
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Hey eryn,

I've been thinking about you, and wanted to just pop in and give you some support. I really think this conference will be a great experience for you, even if it's difficult knowing what it meant for you to be able to get there. I'm also so glad to hear that you at least have a couple of good friends to turn to, even when sometimes we find that those we hope will be supportive turn out to be less than we figured them to be.

I know now that I'm living at home for the summer, I'm more aware of some of the comments my parents make - and am learning quickly the easiest way to deal with it is to pick up a few extra hobbies. For instance, I met a friend that moved into the neighborhood that I spent some time with tossing a football and talking about school. As well, I find myself spending more time walking my dog, as a way to spend a little time in the outdoors and in the nice weather.

Hang in there though. You're a really strong person, and I know as difficult as it is, you're pulling through everything. And know too, that if you ever need to chat I'm around as well. A quote for you, "Sometimes it's difficult being myself, but I can do it better than anyone else."

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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stephie932
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just be comfortable with who you are, and if people cant accept that then its their loss!

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Love is when, against your own will, you feel as though you would do anything for that one person to put their happiness first.
Lust is B.S. You feel it sometimes, but, unlike love, you can't go along with it.

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks Stephanie, good to hear from you. I'm usually quite good at getting out of the house and work keeps me plenty busy. But lately, I've been stuck at home sick and clearly having too much time to dwell on my feelings. I remember getting very depressed over my sexuality awhile ago, and I really don't want to get to that stage again. Helps not to keep it inside [Smile] .

I'll let you guys know how the conference goes. A mentor of mine will be there and I'm excited to meet her for the first time.

Thanks stephie- I'm still working on the being comfortable bit. Often I feel quite ashamed, and although I know there's no reason, it can be hard to escape.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Elusion
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Wow, eryn, you seem to be going through a lot. I'll offer what advice I can, even though I'm probably the least helpfull (at least categorically, as I'm straight and so I've never been in the same position as you).

My best friend is gay. We live together; her, me and my boyfriend, and we came from a very big and diverse group of mates. I honestly think I'm the straightest of them! [Razz]

The world is too concerned with categories. Be who you are, not who others think you should be, and listen to yourself - go at your own pace. The gay women you meet will have most likely gone through the same thing as you: the worry of acceptance and coming out. I've had friends come out to me - and I haven't understood why they were so concerned!

People will love you for you. Being of a different sexual orientation shouldn't change anything - and, like stephie said, if they can't deal with it it is their problem, not yours.

People are scared of what is different. But they forget: different doesn't mean wrong. Be true to yourself, and when you feel down take a look in the mirror and remember you are a wonderful person in every way.

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Measure your life in love. Find the beauty in all aspects of life, dance to your own tune, sing your own song, love yourself and find the one for you.

Dance often, sing loudly, love deeply, laugh joyfully.

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Heather
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Eryn, I thought this article I read today, and the helpline itself, might be of interest to you: http://rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/06/30/a-new-helpline-indian-lesbians-is-a-breakthrough-marginalized-group

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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Elusion,
Don't worry, I won't hold your heterosexuality against you! Thank you for your encouraging words- it made my day, and I think your friends are lucky to have a friend like you.

Heather,
Thanks, that was some sobering reading. I hope the helpline continues to grow and grow and starts improving our visibility.

Did you hear about this as well? http://rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2009/07/02/indian-high-court-decriminalizes-homosexuality
I'm only an outsider but it sounds like a positive step forward to me.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Heather
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I had seen that eryn, and agreed, it's a huge step, a good step, an important step. It's pretty safe to say that in cultures where we have seen changes around attitudes per anything other than heterosexuality, the law changing too (in places where is was criminal) is really vital, beyond offering important and essential protections.

If the law still says a given relationship or activity is criminal, it's pretty tough to get people to think differently.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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Ugh, there was a really bigoted comment under that blog. Some people are not thinking so differently. No wonder our people don't come out..

But, I wonder if this will lead to a law change in Sri Lanka. That would be wonderful.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Stephanie_1
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You know, it is really quite sad that no matter how many changes are made in laws and how many steps made in the right direction per acceptance of people's natural differences - there will still be people with bigoted comments. Though it would certainly be nice to be in a place where acceptance was more readily seen and available from different directions. I know it's interesting to see the debates here in the states about which states are changing the laws on their books (especially since living in PA it's hot on the press right now) and how long it will be before more states laws are changed. I certainly am glad to see some changes occurring though. [Smile]

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"Sometimes the majority only means that all the fools are on the same side" ~Anon

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eryn_smiles
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I wish there was something more positive to say. I'm still sad, scared and working really hard to distract myself. I'm still lying to everyone about the conference and racking up guilt about that. Feeling lonely and wishing for a relationship and crushing on unavailable women like crazy.

I talked to my mentor. She's really good at talking me down. She said I was welcome at the conference even if I didn't identify as lesbian, even if I decided to marry a man at some stage. She said that we come in all varieties and that that's ok. She told me to think of it just as an experience, no pressure. Her understanding means alot to me. I feel like although she's this staunch lesbian activist, we would be good friends, even if I chose to live a completely hetero life. In her gentle way, shes very open and honest about who she is and what her rights as a queer person are. I know she's at a different stage in her life than me, but I hope one day I can have maybe a quarter of that strength..

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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eryn_smiles
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(This post is mostly me needing to vent to someone. Replies are welcome but not necessary.)

Wedding fever is getting me a little down.
It gets me down when my friends talk about which one of us is going to be married first (or last)And I think about what it will be like when or if I don't get married at all. And I think maybe I'll wait a little longer to come out to these friends. What's a few months or years? My love life is so dry anyway.

And my parents keep trying to set me up. Ever hopeful. And I keep thinking, maybe it will work with this one. Maybe I won't think about women anymore. You know, if I could make myself straight for my family, I would. In an instant. I know they think I'm setting out to hurt them, that I'm not thinking of them. But thats not my intention. Of course I don't want to bring shame to my family. Thats why I keep on keeping my mouth shut, even when every part of me wants to tell people and feel less alone. I try to keep all the shame to myself. People have been asking questions about above-mentioned conference and its so hard to know how much to say.

I try not to be lonely by being busy and productive and by going out when I can't be productive. But when someone mentions a partner, I find myself wishing I had someone to talk to and love and hold and kiss. Even for a short time, just to experience what that was like. Maybe even someone to have children with. I don't know...surely thats not an impossible dream.

I know that I'm not particularly beautiful or outgoing or funny or experienced. I know that I'm not strong enough to be out at the moment and maybe I never will be. I know that I'm really ashamed of my sexuality much of the time. And I'm sorry about that. I'm working on it and on being more honest. Given the chance, I could be a good partner.

I've been wanting to go back to my counsellor but feeling unable to. She thinks that my only option is to leave home as soon as possible. And at the time I agreed with her. But right now, I feel too fragile to move away from them. Maybe thats weak of me. At times, I feel they're all I have, which is kind of pathetic. I'm afraid my counsellor may no longer be interested as I'm not prepared to consider her advice.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Jill2000Plus
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I'm sorry I can't think of something really helpful to say, but I just wanted to say I'm thinking of you and I hope that you can work all this out and find loads of happiness and acceptance from your family, friends and community.

[ 07-23-2009, 04:33 PM: Message edited by: Jill2000Plus ]

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Always knock before entering my room when I am in there alone, as I may be doing all sorts of wonderfully thrilling things that I'd rather you didn't see.

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eryn_smiles
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Hey Jill, thank you, thats kind of you [Smile] .
To be honest, I'm not holding my breath.

I'm heading back home for a few weeks to visit everyone. My friend called to say goodbye, and as we parted she said, "And I sincerely hope no-one there forces you to get married or tries to set you up!". As I laughed it off, she said "No, of course not, you're a strong girl!". And I hung up and I thought, I wonder how strong I actually am? What would it take for me to crumble?

I'm not sure I will ever tell my extended family. It should be manageable, especially if I continue to stay single and childless. Perhaps they can blame it on my job. Of course, in my experience, a young woman's love life is everyone's business but her own. It is a collective community responsibility to get her safely married. I remember a university counsellor once telling me "your private life is private". And I smirked inside and thought "Wow, what a 'white' thing to say!". That didn't really relate to me.

Yeah, it's hard at the moment. When I try to think of the years ahead and about isolation, it threatens to overwhelm me. So instead, I get through today and then tomorrow and then the next day.

And I thought I might go back to therapy once this holiday visit is over. I feel that she's frustrated with me because she thinks I'm expecting my life to get better without taking the necessary action (leaving my family). And I'm frustrated that she doesn't understand what my family means to me. And that while I can comprehend a closeted life without a partner in it, I can't imagine a life without them as a part of it. She thinks that they'll miss me and let me come back on my own terms after awhile. But I feel like its too big a risk when they're my main support. Yes, my queer and straight friends are around...but it's a completely different and much less close relationship. I'd be interested to hear what anyone thought about this.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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eryn_smiles
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I've been wanting to write a little about my trip..

It was wonderful to see everyone back home and it had clearly been way too long. Seeing my cousins, it was like old times again. I realised that they are the closest thing I have to sisters and I felt so warm and safe in their love. At the same time, my relatives did talk alot about how it was high time for marriage and about potential partners for me. They said, "next time we see you will be for your wedding...don't worry if you want to have it overseas..wherever it is, we will come!". And about how they would dress me for my wedding. And I understand how all that is coming from a place of love and care. I want very much to end up with a partner who can relate to them and hopefully speak our language as well.

(Incidentally, some of my other relatives told me about an acquaintance, a homosexual man that they knew. Of course, they used much more derogatory terms than that. They wondered why on earth people would engage in such disgusting activities and why foreign countries would ever imagine legalising it. That was a good opportunity for me to keep my mouth tightly shut.)

A few nervous days after returning from that trip I went to the lesbian medical conference. I had quite conflicted emotions and fears about going, but the women there made me feel so very welcome and I don't even know how to thank them for that. I was hugged so many times during that weekend [Smile] . One woman called me "incredibly brave", which unfortunately caused me to sob in the middle of a gay bar while the drag queen pole-danced!

I got to meet all kinds of dykes. Plenty who had previously been married or not. Many with children. Women who had come out at 25 or 35 or once the kids were grown. One who had come out after retirement and remained single much of her life in order to retain her faculty job! When I was there, I felt like it was really ok to like women and even to celebrate that. But not so sure whether I could handle that life.

While I mostly couldn't bring myself to talk about the pressure I feel to marry a Sri Lankan man, some of the women seemed to sense that inside me and made even more of an effort to include me. Yeah, I can understand why some people call it...the sisterhood. In a way, they felt like sisters too.

These few weeks have been intense and at times, really upsetting for me. But I am so glad I went to the conference. In part because if I decide to get married, that might have been my last opportunity. I am still going to try to date a man and work towards marriage. I'm very tired of fighting my family. I want to put my energy into a finding a mutually acceptable person that I could learn to love and spend my life with.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Ecofem
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Hey eryn!

So glad to hear your family visit went well on the whole (other than the negative remarks there) and that you not only attended but had a good time at the lesbian medical conference. [Smile] I'm happy to hear how both experiences with empowering in their own ways, if challenging in other regards. I think every positive experience and chance to feel the love from the people around us is so special.

I hear you about still feeling the pressure and wishing for some compromise that would feel all right with you and be acceptable for your family. Because you've still got mixed feelings, I say just try to see what happens and take your time; I know they want you to find someone now but despite their wishes they also have to realize that you need a bit more time either way. Good luck!

P.S. I hope you got the message I sent about a week ago; it took me a long time to reply to you and there's no need to get back sooner or later, but I wanted to let you know that that forum is still out there. [Smile]

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks Lena, for your support!
I replied to your message.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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melisma
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quote:
I remember a university counsellor once telling me "your private life is private". And I smirked inside and thought "Wow, what a 'white' thing to say!". That didn't really relate to me.
Hey - about this, I just wanted to say...

I can only imagine how frustrating it must be, how invisible and unheard you must feel, to be surrounded by this in environments where you're supposed to be able to "be yourself" (the queer part of yourself, that is) - that if you want a breather from the homophobia in your own community, you get hit with this kind of thing in place of it. As much as these people may be saying that they understand you and they want you to be yourself, when you hear this stuff, you know that they don't actually understand.

(It reminds me of when there was a death in my family, the Native American side, and I wrote a blog post saying that I was afraid to go to the funeral because I couldn't deal with issues with some relatives, but I kind of had to anyway. One friend said, "Is it local? If it's not, the excuse 'I'm sorry but I can't get off work/will not be able to attend. Is there a charity that he preferred that I can make a donation in remembrance?' usually works." Another friend said, "It will be very uncouth, yes. But how much contact do you have with the people who will think you uncouth for that? I accept that this is a collectivist culture --- but how much are you a part of their collective?" And when I read that, I knew they absolutely did not get it. They were speaking as if whiteness were all there was.

I don't feel that I like or love my family; abuse and intergenerational trauma have poisoned those relationships too much for that to be possible for me. But my connection to them, and my racial and cultural identity/ies, are immensely complicated things that I can't just shrug off.

I do apologize, by the way, for the earlier message I wrote to you, which was an example of exactly this. I just started in with the arguments I'm used to making and didn't stop to think about who I was talking to. I hope that some of what I'm saying here resonates more with you, and that I don't say anything too egregiously wrong...)

Anyway... White people's criticisms of the homophobia (or sexism or whatever) in cultures of color are nearly always (1) based in individualistic abstract rights-based frameworks, which aren't the native language of most cultures of color, which tend to be collectivist, and (2) perpetuating racism by pitting "backward" cultures of color against "enlightened" white cultures and asking people of color to abandon the former and take up residence in the latter.

But working against homophobia in cultures of color doesn't have to be that.

I keep thinking of two books recently reviewed on a LiveJournal book review community, The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera and No god but God by Reza Aslan - which seem like they have absolutely nothing to do with each other, but actually illustrate very similar points about how working to change an oppressive aspect of a culture can be something indigenous, coming from within the culture and does not have to be conceptualized as choosing white Western culture over one's own culture.

So what I'm trying to get at here is that maybe you might want to try to think of this in a way that's not either/or - to think about how you might counter homophobia starting from your culture's own core values.

I don't think that any kind of oppression is a core value of any healthy, vibrant culture. I think that a culture is more wholly itself when it lifts these burdens off its members.

One way that I'd be inclined to think about your situation from a collectivist viewpoint (I know next to nothing about your culture, so take this for what it's worth) is that your family and community are losing something by pushing you (and the other queer people in your community - statistically, you can't be the only one going through this) into a straight role. You could do more for them, be more, contribute more, if you were able to openly live and love according to your nature instead of having to go through all this pain.

(Also, maybe that your community as a whole is failing to live up to its obligation toward its queer members. But that's a little more loaded.)

(Also, maybe that others, as well as you, would get more out of a wedding and the associated excitement if your participation was wholehearted and authentic and you didn't have to force yourself to desire your spouse...) [Smile]

I'm not saying this because I think you need to be Superwoman and singlehandedly, brazenly try to eradicate homophobia in your culture. You may not have the strength or think it wise to speak up at all. Only you can know what's best for you to do and what you can do; I would not presume to judge you on that. I just offer this in hopes that it helps you feel less like you have to choose between one part of who you are and another part of who you are, and more like you can, even if only in your own mind, be whole.

(Have you talked to other queer people of color? I know of this community on LiveJournal, and I'm sure there must be other places...)

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Heather
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melisma, what am AMAZING response. Don't suppose I could talk you into making a blog entry out of it? I'd love for more people to have the opportunity to read what you've written here.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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melisma
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Sure. How does one post blog entries on here?

It may take me a while for me to edit it into "essay" form (as opposed to "message to someone" form). I'm not really into Real Writing.

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Heather
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If you use the "contact us" link below and drop me an email, I'd be happy to both tell you how and work on it with you.

Thanks!

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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eryn_smiles
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Hi melisma,
I agree with Heather and thank you for such a thoughtful response. You don't need to apologise at all for your earlier message. Those kind of arguments are very common aren't they, and I understood that what you wrote was well-meant and coming from a kind place. Similarly, when a counsellor says something like that quote above or about how I should "let go of [my] culture a little" to find a partner, I don't agree with her but I understand why she might speak like that, even with my best interests at heart.

You're right, it is frustrating trying to "be myself" in a queer environment, which is predominantly white. I feel I can relate a little to what happened when you wrote about attending that funeral. It would be ridiculous and extremely insulting in my culture to "make a donation in remembrance" instead of attending.

I've noticed that queer people who are white sometimes talk of making one's own family out of friends who love them when their biological family doesn't accept them. That idea resonates very poorly with me. I feel that my family and community are my past and my future. Growing up in a white society, I was always reminded not to forget where I came from and who my people were. Even on this most recent visit home, I was asked when I was coming back for good and didn't I want to serve my people?

I'm so sorry to hear about your relationship with your family and hope that it can improve one day. Thank you for sharing that link. Your peoples' experience of intergenerational trauma bears some similarities to that of Aboriginal people in Australia. I have been learning about that recently.

Your comments on white criticisms of homophobia/sexism in cultures of colour reminded me of a poem written by an Indian lesbian woman, Anu, entitled "Who Am I?". She writes of her anger at that perpetuating of rascism by queer white people-

"STOP IT, STOP
Stop telling me to COME OUT, you White lesbians
For how else are you to know that I am ONE too?
I would never be seen as YOU, a DYKE
Unless I cut my hair, give up the salwaar kameez
and pour a bag of flour on myself
Stop telling me to give up my sexist culture
How dare you tell me what Sexism *really* means to me?
Stop asking me to go out to dinner
to India House of course
to discuss what it really feels like to be an Indian Lesbian
If you really want to know- Pray for reincarnation

WHO AM I?
I am not your oh-so-oppressed little Indian doll
wound up to sing and dance
and add colour to your ranks."

I hear what you're saying about changing oppression from within our culture, rather than from the white perspective. And I know that there are some amazing activists living in the Indian subcontinent doing just this at a grassroots level. Trying to prevent young lesbians from drowning themselves. And no matter how homophobic they are, I don't think any Indian would want that for their daughter.

This oppression can be so deep-seated sometimes. A person I know, on visiting Korea, was told by friends- "There are no homosexuals in Korea". Yes, like hell there aren't.

All I can say for myself is that I'm not strong enough or brave enough to be this activist on my own. Maybe if I had a partner. Maybe if I had any queer Asian friends. Maybe if my mother didn't threaten to cut off my contact with all the young children and unmarried women in our family, for fear I will pass on my lesbian perversions to them.

I am getting to know some other queer people of colour. Slowly and quietly.

Thanks again, and look forward to reading the blog!

(PS- Reading this book has helped me feel somewhat whole, as a lesbian AND a South Asian:
http://www.librarything.com/work/1127776 )

[ 09-05-2009, 05:43 AM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Heather
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By the way, just wanted to insert an apology in here if I've been blind to any of this, eryn. I hope if and when I have, you (and anyone else) knows that we all benefit if it's called out.

I think one of the tricky things for me about all of this with culture and family is that it's not just been about being queer: I needed to separate myself from some of my family for totally different reasons (to escape abuse, and not abuse based on my orientation), and some of my family also separated themselves from me, too. My impression is these kind of compound issues are a factor for many people, which isn't surprising, because where there's bigotry, there is -- to some degree -- hate, and where there is hate there is often abuse or dysfunction on more than one level.

I wonder, too, what kinds of differences we do/can see with immigrant family when it comes to all of this. While my family isn't of color (despite half the family treating the other half like they were when I was a small child: there's some funky xenophobia coming from some Irish culture about Mediterraneans that is posed like racism), they were immigrant and both sides were very dedicated to assimilating.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Ecofem
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Hey eryn, I wanted to agree with Heather and say I hope I haven't been too blind to this, too, either here or in conversations elsewhere. (I think I've been mostly ok can can think of a few specific slip-ups of mine!) I will say, however, that the "just send flowers or make a donation thing" may certainly be a white thing but gosh! I find it incredibly (if unintentionally) insulting!

I was also thinking, somewhat on the lines of what Heather was saying about some aspects being about others things, too. I think that for a lot of the people who say "You can make your own family" that they are trying to help you but also reaffirm their own decisions. Because the best of all options would be able to have familial support and acceptance in addition to a group of friends you select, but they had to choose and chose the later, then it's what they are probably going to lean more towards.

I do agree that there are certainly big differences in the role of families, but I also know that sometimes there's more than meets the eye: I can think of some tightly-knit fundamentalist Christian groups (who are not necessarily conservative even) but for whom the role of family is more akin to what you have described. I also read an interested article about the founder of Auntie Annie's Pretzels, a big pretzel chain here, who comes from that background; she dealt with a deal of horrible abuse and started help centers that were run for and by community members whom the women could trust; they weren't from the mainstream culture, trying to get them to leave or give up their ways, but also trying to get them support. I will look for that. I know it's not the same but I think some of it could apply.

I think it's also an interesting point that Heather makes about growing up in immigrant families. For example, I read somewhere how emigrants of Middle Eastern heritage who come to the US tend to assimilate/integrate (whichever you'd choose since they can both be loaded) more than members of the diaspora who go to, say, European countries, partially due to things like having more education (required to immigrate, which can be good but also bad in that it's exclusive) or other things like the new home's openness to accepting others (like the good and bad about integretion/assimilation.)

I really glossed over this because I have to go but I wanted to get it out there. Hopefully it came across ok, i.e. how I meant it. Again, I apologize for any possible missteps on my part and appreciate your sharing. While you shouldn't have to be pushed into some educator/outreach role, I really do appreciate it. [Smile]

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Ecofem
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Also, melisma, I'm also really looking forward to your blog entry! [Smile]

Here's the article I had mentioned above about help and support coming from the inside. (Of course, the Amish/Mennonite faiths and communities are pretty exclusively white.) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/01/AR2008010102081.html

I recently read about the comedian/comedienne (does anyone really say the former any more?) Adelina Anthony. She addresses some of the issues you bring up in that interview. It's a short interview but it address a lot and made me want to learn more about her and see her comedy!

Here's a quote:
quote:
Making queer Chicana experience comedic affirms our pains and glories--hijole, just the fact that we exist and thrive. If I flip the dynamic around and poke fun at whiteness or heterosexuality, that's hte work of resistance, because I've inverted the paradigm and I'm using comedy to laugh at those sam power structures that work to make us invisible. Since I'm writing with a queer Chicana audience in mind, it's meant for us. We recognize the stereotype[s]-- even how we sometimes play into them ourselves. If I poke fun at lesbians of color (with a progressive agenda, of course), then it's the work of healing-- and that's the best effect of laughing in a group setting. The roar of the audience on some jokes points to that collectivity of experience and culture.

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eryn_smiles
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Thank you, Heather and Lena.
I appreciate that acknowledgement and to be honest, Scarleteen is one of the places I've felt most understood. I've found it to be much more of an issue with counsellors/doctors, in my workplace and in some queer social settings. A GP once said to me, "You've grown up here and seen how Western women live...you understandably want that life for yourself!" What I should have said (out loud) was NO. I want to keep my culture and live my own life.

Another concept often discussed here and in mainstream Western settings is dating. This concept is foreign in many (but not all) parts of South Asian culture. It is foreign to my family. For us/them, young people do not have short term relationships or engage in serial monogamy. When you become involved with someone, from the outset, it is with the serious intention of marriage and their family is also involved. After marriage, you do everything you can to hold that relationship together. Unfortunately sometimes even if that means living through abuse or violence. Divorce remains unusual.

And I know that studies have shown that most people will have multiple partners within their lifetime...but I wonder which populations those studies included.

Please understand that I'm not trying to deny or degrade anyone else's reality. The reality of finding family outside of traditional 'family'. The reality of dating and falling in love..and then falling in love again. Even the possible reality of being "of color" and really wanting to be white. I'm only acknowledging my own reality...and trying to be a little less invisible.

All of us know what it's like to be part of a sometimes oppressed minority. We are young people. Some of us are women. Some of us are queer. Some of us are immigrants or children of immigrants. Some of us are not-white and we may be from parts of the world that struggle to get a second glance from mainstream White society (unless it's trying to *save* us). I belong to all of these minorities. And as much as my parents or anyone else might want to tape my mouth shut, I can't shut up about this anymore. I just can't.

(I've been thinking that if I decide to get engaged to a Sri Lankan man, I want to confidentially tell him about my sexuality beforehand and give him the chance to make an informed choice about me. Good or bad idea? I'm not sure, but at the very least, it is honest.)

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Ecofem
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quote:
Originally posted by eryn_smiles:
Thank you, Heather and Lena.
I appreciate that acknowledgement and to be honest, Scarleteen is one of the places I've felt most understood. I've found it to be much more of an issue with counsellors/doctors, in my workplace and in some queer social settings. A GP once said to me, "You've grown up here and seen how Western women live...you understandably want that life for yourself!" What I should have said (out loud) was NO. I want to keep my culture and live my own life.

I'm glad Scarleteen's been a positive atmosphere for you. I think it's really interesting/ironic that, for example, your coworkers are not more understanding/tolerant/accepting of various cultural backgrounds and ways of living; I can't believe that quote! I mean, of course I can, but that's pretty ignorant. I think that there's a lot of ignorance even amongst people who are highly educated in Western societies, like in people who consider themselves progressive or liberal but do not realize their own ethnocentricity. Also, I wonder if the GP you mentioned was even aware of all the domestic diversity, how NZ-born-NZ residents and citizens do not share exactly the same set of values and lifestyle.

quote:
Another concept often discussed here and in mainstream Western settings is dating. This concept is foreign in many (but not all) parts of South Asian culture. It is foreign to my family. For us/them, young people do not have short term relationships or engage in serial monogamy. When you become involved with someone, from the outset, it is with the serious intention of marriage and their family is also involved. After marriage, you do everything you can to hold that relationship together. Unfortunately sometimes even if that means living through abuse or violence. Divorce remains unusual.
I have always been very aware of this growing up; it's not practiced in my family but in others, be it domestically or abroad. I know some families have the expectation of marrying someone from the same background yet also turn a blind eye to dating of others that happens beforehand, as long as it is temporary and more hidden from the family.

Random but related: I'd highly recommend the German-Turkish director Fatih Akin whose films deal with interculturalism, immigration and emigration, generational differences, etc. I know that some Turkish people criticize them for painting an old-fashioned, much-too-conservative portrait of modern Turkish/Turkish-German society and I can see that; I also think they can be considered great works of art and raise a lot of good questions.

quote:
And I know that studies have shown that most people will have multiple partners within their lifetime...but I wonder which populations those studies included.
That's a good question! I do know that many factors affect those statistics but cannot name them off the top of my head. I also think back to how some people will claim things were "better in the good ol' days", like in the 1950s in the US, due to statistics like a lower divorce rate but forgot to think of other factors, such as women having fewer options to support themselves outside the home and those marriages not necessarily being happy ones.

quote:
Please understand that I'm not trying to deny or degrade anyone else's reality. The reality of finding family outside of traditional 'family'. The reality of dating and falling in love..and then falling in love again. Even the possible reality of being "of color" and really wanting to be white. I'm only acknowledging my own reality...and trying to be a little less invisible.
I think you've always been very clear that this is what you want/where you're coming from but not that you expect others to choose the same... and you don't need to apologize for explain yourself. [Smile]

quote:
All of us know what it's like to be part of a sometimes oppressed minority. We are young people. Some of us are women. Some of us are queer. Some of us are immigrants or children of immigrants. Some of us are not-white and we may be from parts of the world that struggle to get a second glance from mainstream White society (unless it's trying to *save* us). I belong to all of these minorities. And as much as my parents or anyone else might want to tape my mouth shut, I can't shut up about this anymore. I just can't.
I think this is a really good way of summing this all up and I understand how you feel the pressure from all directions. I know it's not quite the same because my nationality was different but my race the same as the mainstream in both places but I often felt this way in Germany where I'd feel I had to explain or defend certain positions or political beliefs held by my fellow citizens even if I didn't agree with them myself and argued against them back in the US. I felt I had to always explain and defend who I was, that I wasn't seen as an individual but my citizenship, that many people were more interested in saying their bit rather than listening to what I had to say (and had some of that educated, liberal ignorance I mentioned above), and sometimes didn't feel welcome in groups/organizations whose ideologies and goals I supported because I got tired of how stupid or ignorant people in my home-country where when there I was, a real person who felt differently. Of course, my friends were very different and there are certainly open-minded people everywhere but i really do understand feeling caught in the middle, even if the contexts are different and I still have a certain "white privilege" that means I experience things differently, even if I am not trying to take advantage of it.

I really like your quote from Margaret Cho: I've been listening to her stuff a lot lately but know exactly where she says that and how wonderfully it applies to all this, and how powerfully she says it!

quote:
(I've been thinking that if I decide to get engaged to a Sri Lankan man, I want to confidentially tell him about my sexuality beforehand and give him the chance to make an informed choice about me. Good or bad idea? I'm not sure, but at the very least, it is honest.)
I think it'd be good to say. I mean, I think that even in traditional partnerships that may look the same on the outside that they will sometimes differ on the inside; I think it'd be a way to make sure you both knew what you were entering and discuss each of your expectations. I went to a public school that happened to have a lot of immigrant families and queer teachers; I can think of one opposite-sex couple who were married and had children. Their relationship was based on friendship and respect but not sexual or romantic, I think, and they would see other, same-sex people privately. While I would not want this for myself, it apparently worked well for them.

However, I realize this means that the man can choose to accept or not to accept the situation. Then again, I have a friend who is bisexual, who married a straight man who seemed ok with it at the time (they have a monogamous relationship) but found himself being a bit confused by the whole thing regarding sexual orientation... I hope they can work things out, whatever that may be.

If you feel comfortable sharing and I know this is a very private question so I certainly understand if you just want keep your answer to yourself. Here you go: I was wondering how you would feel about having sex with a male partner. Would you want a relationship that was entirely non-sexual (other than for conceiving children?); if so, would you be comfortable with him going elsewhere for sex as long as it's private? Do you think you could possibly enjoy sex or would you feel required to do so out of duty, etc.? Do you think you could have romantic feelings for a man? I ask because I think a partnership based on common goals, friendship and respect and a love that grows over time is not an issue at all because I can totally see that happening. However, I do think the sex issue is something that should be addressed so the two of you could go into the marriage knowing what you each want and expect. It need not be a big deal, especially if you find someone who feels the same way you do about it, but it could be problematic if the differences are huge.

Good luck, and off to the our other message next. [Smile]

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eryn_smiles
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Hey Lena,
You've written such a detailed reply- thank you!

quote:
I think it's really interesting/ironic that, for example, your coworkers are not more understanding/tolerant/accepting of various cultural backgrounds and ways of living; I can't believe that quote! I mean, of course I can, but that's pretty ignorant. I think that there's a lot of ignorance even amongst people who are highly educated in Western societies, like in people who consider themselves progressive or liberal but do not realize their own ethnocentricity. Also, I wonder if the GP you mentioned was even aware of all the domestic diversity, how NZ-born-NZ residents and citizens do not share exactly the same set of values and lifestyle.
Yes, it was an ethnocentric and generalized comment, despite being well meant. And I never know the right and eloquent response to give in these situations.

quote:
I know some families have the expectation of marrying someone from the same background yet also turn a blind eye to dating of others that happens beforehand, as long as it is temporary and more hidden from the family.

Yes, I also know of this happening. One of my friends is dating a Kiwi man currently, and while her parents are aware of that, they are also searching for Sri Lankan partners for her. Without generalizing, I think that in our culture, we are very good at hiding and ignoring that which we do not want to see. That director you mention sounds really interesting- I'll have to look them up. Is there a particular film you recommend?

quote:
I also think back to how some people will claim things were "better in the good ol' days", like in the 1950s in the US, due to statistics like a lower divorce rate but forgot to think of other factors, such as women having fewer options to support themselves outside the home and those marriages not necessarily being happy ones.
Similarly, I think the lower rates of divorce that we notice in the East are not necessarily due to happier marriages, but are to do with social obligations/expectations, family pressures and lack of women's autonomy.

quote:
I think this is a really good way of summing this all up and I understand how you feel the pressure from all directions. I know it's not quite the same because my nationality was different but my race the same as the mainstream in both places but I often felt this way in Germany where I'd feel I had to explain or defend certain positions or political beliefs held by my fellow citizens even if I didn't agree with them myself and argued against them back in the US. I felt I had to always explain and defend who I was, that I wasn't seen as an individual but my citizenship, that many people were more interested in saying their bit rather than listening to what I had to say (and had some of that educated, liberal ignorance I mentioned above), and sometimes didn't feel welcome in groups/organizations whose ideologies and goals I supported because I got tired of how stupid or ignorant people in my home-country where when there I was, a real person who felt differently. Of course, my friends were very different and there are certainly open-minded people everywhere but i really do understand feeling caught in the middle, even if the contexts are different and I still have a certain "white privilege" that means I experience things differently, even if I am not trying to take advantage of it.

I really like your quote from Margaret Cho: I've been listening to her stuff a lot lately but know exactly where she says that and how wonderfully it applies to all this, and how powerfully she says it!

Thank you for sharing that. I imagine you must have felt very conflicted and frustrated. It's a great thing to have open minded friends, isn't it [Smile] . As you say, our experiences are different, but similar. Whenever some NZer or white person decides to criticize "arranged marriages" to me, something inside me really flares up and I feel this great need to defend my culture. Even though I myself sometimes criticize and question this practice when I'm among friends. And I agree, Margaret Cho is a very powerful and inspiring woman. (Dealing with these issues does really affect my self-esteem at times. There's a small part of me that thinks I don't even need to worry about navigating sex within a marriage..because who on earth would feel sexually attracted to someone as flawed and confused and ugly as me?)

quote:
I think it'd be good to say. I mean, I think that even in traditional partnerships that may look the same on the outside that they will sometimes differ on the inside; I think it'd be a way to make sure you both knew what you were entering and discuss each of your expectations. I went to a public school that happened to have a lot of immigrant families and queer teachers; I can think of one opposite-sex couple who were married and had children. Their relationship was based on friendship and respect but not sexual or romantic, I think, and they would see other, same-sex people privately. While I would not want this for myself, it apparently worked well for them.

However, I realize this means that the man can choose to accept or not to accept the situation. Then again, I have a friend who is bisexual, who married a straight man who seemed ok with it at the time (they have a monogamous relationship) but found himself being a bit confused by the whole thing regarding sexual orientation... I hope they can work things out, whatever that may be.

If you feel comfortable sharing and I know this is a very private question so I certainly understand if you just want keep your answer to yourself. Here you go: I was wondering how you would feel about having sex with a male partner. Would you want a relationship that was entirely non-sexual (other than for conceiving children?); if so, would you be comfortable with him going elsewhere for sex as long as it's private? Do you think you could possibly enjoy sex or would you feel required to do so out of duty, etc.? Do you think you could have romantic feelings for a man? I ask because I think a partnership based on common goals, friendship and respect and a love that grows over time is not an issue at all because I can totally see that happening. However, I do think the sex issue is something that should be addressed so the two of you could go into the marriage knowing what you each want and expect. It need not be a big deal, especially if you find someone who feels the same way you do about it, but it could be problematic if the differences are huge.

I also still think it would be something good to discuss prior to marriage. When I talked about it with my counsellor recently, she brought up that a straight man's likely response to my disclosure would be "If you prefer women, then why do you want to marry me?". (If it were a queer man, it would probably be a different response). And I don't quite know the answer. I know that having my family and community around is vitally important to me and by losing them, I feel I would lose myself. But beyond that, what would I say? That I'm looking for a friend in marriage? That I hope my sexual feelings will change over time?

I think it's really important that the man can choose not to accept the situation if it doesn't sit well with him. The last thing I want to do is trap someone into a marriage. I feel like this is something too important to hide.

Regarding your question about sex with a man, I'd say it's very difficult to answer in the abstract. If there was a particular man in mind, I could talk about how attracted I felt to him. I have felt attracted to men in the past, even enough to consider being sexual with them, had the circumstances been different. But the feelings I have about women seem much stronger.

Those other issues, I haven't really considered at all, until now. I've only grown up around monogamy and don't know how I'd feel about one or both of us having sexual relationships outside the marriage. At the same time, I know it's unreasonable for me to ask him not to go elsewhere for sex, if I am also unwilling to have sex with him. Well..unless he's asexual.

Having not been in a long term sexual or non-sexual relationship before, I don't know whether I'd want an entirely non-sexual relationship forever. Ideally not, but I expect I'd manage. Or I may well feel in time that I need to have sex I don't really want, out of duty. I mean, I hope that doesn't happen..but the future is so hard for me to imagine.

As you say, the best way to avoid problems is to clarify and talk about those wants and expectations beforehand, without shyness. And that's not really what most Sri Lankan people do. Good thing I've never been that traditional girl..

Thanks again for your support and advice! (And I might provide a bit more current context elsewhere).

[ 09-17-2009, 08:06 AM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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eryn_smiles
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I had a pretty tough week.
I met a man from Australia a few days ago. He flew over for a couple of days especially to meet me. Both of us knew very little about each other beforehand. This created some pressure for us to like each other. He wasn't particularly interested in me. Not that I was interested either, but I felt guilty and like I wasn't worth the cost of his trip. Actually I'm feeling worthless and I haven't known how to talk about that, so I'm just writing it here.

And then, there's a senior colleague at work who I joke around with. He tells me about his wife and child. Also often asks me why I'm not married/engaged/going out with a guy. He started teasing me about liking girls and I really snapped at him. I was so scared that he would 'out' me in front of everyone. I don't think it's their business and I need to keep it together at work.

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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Ecofem
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I'm sorry to hear your week was so tough. [Frown]

I know it's hard not to feel that way *but* I say the trip was totally "worth it" for him... even if it was just so the both of you could decide you weren't so interested... it was his choice and, if we're talking about money, that was a financial risk that he had to take for it to potentially be positive, too.

Your senior colleague sounds very off-putting in his comments. I have to say that I'm surprised and upset by how much your colleagues seem to feel they can comment on your life and make judgments. I agree with you that it's not their business at all. I don't know what it's like at hospitals but even with coworkers I'm close to, there are never any questions or assumptions about my private life unless I specifically want to share. Maybe having a stock answer ready for when people pry again, like "I appreciate your concern but I'm set" or something more biting or politer, too.

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eryn_smiles
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Thanks Lena,

I'm not sure how to describe my work environment at the moment, except that I work with mostly youngish men who joke around alot with each other when the big bosses aren't around. It can be quite fun, but also there are times when the sexism and homophobia comes out. My stock answer to teasing when I'm in a good mood tends more towards "Shut up dork!" or "I need to have a word with your wife.."

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"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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captaininsomnia
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Hey Eryn,

I just thought I'd do my best to show we're all rooting for ya! It can be very hard to balance anything with work, especially culture and identity, and the edgy joking of the office place can sift from being enjoyable to being like a very tiny hell in half a second. My two thoughts regarding things, I spose, are like this-

Culturally, I come from a very Russian background; neither of my parents are really invested in it, but it's always meant a lot to me, partly because if I don't hold on to it, that part of my families history would just disappear. Our history is who we are, and also who we want to be, and no one has the right to take it away from us; it can certainly change as we do, but that's dependent on us.

You have a lot of hard decisions you're making - just glancing at the topic tells me that you're facing things head on, no matter how harsh they are. You probably have already given this a thought, but have you considered keeping a diary? It can be a wonderful thing to come home to after a hostile day at work or anywhere.

I'd also say that most youngish men have the annoying habit of not knowing how offensive they come off (myself included sometimes), and if you can ennumerate politely but firmly that 'you can't deal with it today' or something, it can do wonders.

Sexually, I can't offer much besides telling you to follow your heart (cheesy, I know), and pursuing your true self. Everyone above has given great advice, and clearly you have some great ideas of your own too - but if you ever need reencouragement or anything, lemme add my voice to the crowd. Good luck, and again, I'll be rooting for ya!

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eryn_smiles
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Captaininsomnia,

Thanks so much for your support. After almost 2 years here, I tend to assume people will be over reading my angst and struggles. But new people seem to keep replying, so perhaps thats not the case [Smile] .

I like how you say that no-one has the right to take our history away from us. I believe that as well.

I used to keep a diary and love writing (and reading as well) when I was at university. Then I started working *sigh* and everything else took a backseat I guess.

[ 10-01-2009, 05:14 AM: Message edited by: eryn_smiles ]

--------------------
"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."

Audre Lorde

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