Being who you are.

For the longest time I had lived a semi-sheltered life when it came to the gay community. I grew up in a Catholic family whose goals for a girl was finishing high school, maybe college, then marriage and start a family. I have two third cousins that family members speculate are both gay; there’s been no confirmation from either party. One is probably more obviously so than the other. She is stereotypically butch: flannel shirts, never seen her in a dress, short hair, can probably lift twice her body weight, she walks with a swagger. She also lives with a ‘friend.’ Yet I until I was older I never really thought “lesbian” when I seen her. I knew she was different, but I didn’t understand the whispers that she was a “dyke.” I understood her to be a like a grown up tomboy. I don’t envy her, she basically lives in the closet, back when she was a young woman that was most likely the way. Her ‘friend’ is always present for big family gatherings, but everyone refers to this woman as her ‘friend,’ not her ‘girlfriend.’ Its like a dirty secret.

When I was about ten, I seen my first John Waters movie, I believe it was “Pink Flamingos.” While I understood ‘Divine’ was a man dressed like a woman, what I didn’t understand is that some people don’t do this for entertainment, its just who they are. I managed to get to see this movie because my aunt, Lisa, would babysit myself and my uncle, Brian, (who is older than me by three years) while our parents went out on Saturday nights. The VCR was the best invention ever! We got to watch all those movies that our parents would never let us watch. Sometimes, Lisa would just put the movie on for us and leave the room, never really knowing what we were watching! Though for the John Waters movie, we all gathered in my grandparents’ living room to take in the event. We knew this one was special. And special it was.

I seen many movies over the years that I was probably too young to understand. Brian and I really enjoyed the ones that involved things like gore and nudity, the more the merrier! Though I never seen any more movies involving characters in drag or ones that were gay until I was in about tenth grade. That was the first time I saw “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” I didn’t really know any one, at the time, that openly identified with the GLBTQ community. My friends mentioned that there were gay innuendoes and transvestites in the movie; I was half expecting a free-for-all-orgie with some guy dressed in drag. My friend Michelle popped the movie in the VCR one night while we were hanging out after I confessed to never have seen it. I eventually became as obsessed with it as my friends and learnt all the words to most of the songs. I never seen it performed live like some of my friends had. They would go every weekend to a local theater to see it performed. There were vague plans to go, but no one ever agreed to go with me. Instead I was part of a performance of “Time Warp” with some friends in twelfth grade for our school talent show. Some of the audience did the “Time Warp” right along with us. I wanted to be Magenta, I have the hair for it, but my friend Trisha owned a maid’s costume and I didn’t. I got to be one of the dancers. I dyed my hair with red Kool-aid for the performance.

I suppose the movie did have some impact on my life because by the time I was in my late 20’s and attended my first PRIDE the only thing that wasn’t culture shock was the drag queens. I had seen Tim Curry in heels and garters singing “sweet transvestite,” drag queens seemed completely normal. By then, I understood that identifying with the opposite sex isn’t always for entertainment purposes. However, seeing thousands of gays, lesbians and bisexuals made me realize it wasn’t just my small circle of friends! I had to force myself not to stare and not seem like a tourist, though I felt like I had entered another universe upon walking through the rainbow arches set up in Station Park in 2003. I recall feeling rather overwhelmed by it all. I also had a small fear of getting stabbed or shot; we were all so out in the open where everyone could clearly tell what a bunch of homos we were! That first time I went with my two best friends. We wandered around for about an hour, it was late and the only thing to see was all the people and the last performance of the night right before everyone lined up to see the parade. I had relaxed a bit by the time the parade had ended and was hoping that we’d go to a gay club after. But, my friends were seasoned in being bisexual, they had seen gays, been there, done that – this wasn’t anything new to them. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it, but I was disappointed especially since I had never been to one. I didn’t know where else to meet women! Online dating was a concept I had yet to consider.

My disappointment ended the following year when I got to go to my first gay club. A gay rodeo theme no less. My first time at a gay club and there I was walking around in a cowboy hat that was handed to me shortly after paying the cover charge, then I rode a mechanical bull. My best friends convinced me that if I got on it, I would surely land some phone numbers. I didn’t, getting thrown off a mechanical bull is probably the opposite of hot. It did provide a good laugh for my best friends. I didn’t dance with any women that evening, though I did have a damn good time. It has been pretty much the same with every PRIDE. I go, watch the parade, dance, hang with my friends and am ignored by most of the women. I don’t understand why there isn’t one female who might want to dance with me. They walk by, or stand around looking too cool too smile and dance with the girl dancing to the lip-syncing drag queens on stage. I sometimes think I’m going to be like the Billy Idol song, ‘Dancing with myself’ until the day I die. At least I can say I had a good time all by myself. It’d be nice to meet someone who isn’t too drunk to recall who they danced with, has some brains, a sense of humor and a goal in life – this may be asking too much for people one meets at a nightclub. However, I’d like to not spend another PRIDE dancing with drunk gay men who lost their friends at the club because it was so crowed.. they aren’t going to ask me to dinner tomorrow night.

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