Born This Way
Born This Way
By Dennis Yeo, Niagara community member
We’re born this way. It’s just part of the nature of the human species. No…. not THAT! That’s a given. I’m talking about our need to sort and classify so that we can make sense of the world. The old teacher in me thinks that if we didn’t insist on shoving everything and everyone into little boxes, we wouldn’t be able to take in the half of all that’s out there to be learned.
But it’s such a— a systemic, hetero —way of looking at things. Based on the latest research, binary just doesn’t work any more. It’s no longer just a black and white, heterosexual/homosexual, male/female world. The possibilities along the orientation and gender identity spectrums are countless and when you do the math, the orientation X gender identity possibilities are infinite. We know that and we believe it, but we still let that binary BS keep us divided within our queer community.
We come by it honestly. We’re born into a pink or blue culture and if we are to thrive in it, never the two shall meet, let alone mix. I recall the disapproving glances of my parents watching me play dress-up with my bestest girlfriend next door. I learned very early on to keep my “girly” play solitary and secret. And it wasn’t just at home. We were programmed by our schools, from the earliest primary grades, to respect those boundaries. We even entered through gendered doors in those days! All of it left us pretty much assigned to our own lane long before adolescence kicked in.
It’s no wonder, then, that as adult members of the 2SLGBTQ community, we’ve continued to set up boundaries and get our backs up when they aren’t respected. In the big cities to which we emigrated as soon as possible when we came of age, there were specific bars for micro-communities of men —drag, denim, leather, preppy, business/professional types, kink, BDSM — you just had to pick the candy store that suited your nature or your tastes that day. I think the women’s community had options too, although I can’t be sure because the only time I went with my lesbian friends to a bar, I was asked to leave for breaching that boundary.
It wasn’t so rigid in small cities. I socialized in the only gay bar in Hamilton, Billie’s, when I finally came out in the early ‘80s. Space was shared between men and women, although we stuck to our own territory; the men at the front closest to the entrance, washrooms and service bar, the women at the back around the pool table. When I’d come back to St. Catharines on a weekend, the boys and girls seemed to play nice in whatever gay bar of the day was open — four of them that I recall but never two at the same time it seemed, and the clientele consciously relegated themselves to specific space in every venue. Boundaries were especially evident when I ventured once a month or so to Cambridge to the lesbian owned and operated Robin’s Nest, where every Saturday night was like a high school dance with the women taking up the prime space on the left and the men relegated to the dark dingy alcove on the right. Ah…the good old days.
It’s no wonder then that when we look back on our history, even to the start of the gay liberation movement after Stonewall in ’69, gay men and lesbians seemed to be on different pages so that the divide-and-conquer strategy wasn’t even necessary to weaken the movement. It has always felt and can still feel like a 2slGbtq+, in which gay men, especially white gay men, set the agenda and call the shots. But when you look closer, you’ll see that women really were on a different page, but it was just one page of a pretty substantial chapter they felt they had to write themselves. To find out more about how the women at the forefront of gay lib changed the world, stay tuned….
His views do not necessarily represent those of OUTniagara.