I am a lucky woman. I do not suffer from either overt or systemic racism; I’m not faced with problems of accessibility due to physical challenges; I’m not struggling to raise children alone on insufficient money. Instead, I live in a comfortable home in a safe neighbourhood surrounded by people who treat me with respect. Yes, I am very, very lucky, but all that luck doesn’t erase the fact that I don’t quite fit in. I am not straight.
Although I live in one of the most liberal cities in the world, I spend every day on the fringe of mainstream society, bombarded by messages that reinforce my difference. Despite the facts that Toronto hosted World Pride last June, that my rights and freedoms are legally protected by the charter, that I can live openly as a lesbian, I carry that difference with me.
There really is no end to “coming out.” Most of the world continues to assume that we are straight, until given proof of the opposite. And we who identify as LGBTQ must continually make decisions, often on the spur of the moment, whether or not to clarify the situation. Recently, for example, I mentioned my spouse to an insurance broker. A few minutes later the broker made a statement about my husband. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that people make such assumptions, since they are also bombarded by “all things straight,” and since most people are straight themselves.
My cable provider occasionally sends me information about magazines. Today I decided to have a look at the offerings. I found the usual selection of news stand periodicals and some with a narrower target audience. Of the 148 magazines listed, not one was geared toward the LGBTQ community.
Trying to be optimistic, I went to the websites for some of the magazines, thinking that perhaps we are so well-integrated into society now that I would find us unobtrusively present. Nope. Not a mention or a photo of LGBTQ people could I find. The irony of this is, of course, that much of the creative input for many of those magazines comes from the community which is miraculously absent from their pages.
I was also disappointed when reading this morning’s newspaper. The advice columnist had received a letter from a person who had a question about an online relationship with a woman overseas. As I was reading the letter, everything about the style of writing and choice of words told me the writer was a woman as well. As I was reading the columnist’s reply, I was pleased to see sound advice. Then it happened: “Is there an ex-boyfriend or husband . . .?”
Mainstream movies don’t do much better, and advertising whether print or on TV constantly perpetuates the “norm.” Hats off to American Apparel for its new ad campaign with Brendan Jordan. http://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/22843/1/internet-famous-teen-diva-now-an-american-apparel-model
TV has managed to take steps forward. It’s now possible to find LGBTQ characters in top-rated shows. Sometimes, however, those characters still end up dead or in dysfunctional relationships, as in days of old. Even the very popular Orange is the New Black, good TV with the most lesbian characters and relationships on the air today, is set in a prison. Thus the struggle to move away from dead, unhappy or unsavoury lesbians continues.
If you are interested in having a look at some of the TV shows which have lesbian or bi characters, here’s the link: http://www.afterellen.com/tv/201217-the-top-25-lesbianbi-characters-on-tv-right-now Let me know if, like me, you come to the conclusion that these women look like very few of the real-life lesbians you know.
I can’t leave the topic of TV without mentioning a show that explores a wonderful lesbian relationship, with realism and beauty. Check out Last Tango in Halifax, if you get the chance. You won’t be sorry. http://www.afterellen.com/tag/last-tango-in-halifax
When the straight world gets to be too much, there is something we can do. We can open a book; we can find ourselves reflected in the words of a well-written story. We will have to search for that book harder than some do when they want to read about people like themselves, but the search will be worth it. We deserve to be represented, and thank goodness that today there are writers who are free to write for us, publishing companies that are happy to publish for us, and some bookstores that take pride in stocking books for us.
Visit Liz’s website: http://www.lizbugg.com
If you are looking for good LGBTQ books, you’ll find them at: http://www.gladdaybookshop.com/