Hello American lesbians! Any American lesbians in the house? Seems only fair to do a shout-out, considering all the action that’s been going on down south. People, it is nuts. Prohibitions against same-sex marriage have been collapsing all across the States like wobbly soufflés. Someone who left for a two-week white water rafting trip on October 1, 2014 would have come back to find that ten more states had succumbed to the fabulous rainbow tide. Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming- bleeping North Carolina, y’all. If you listen very closely, you can hear all the members of the Eagle Forum sobbing helplessly. The tears of bigots are the source of our powers, so let us rejoice with loud rejoicing.
Cheers and all that, American friends. You signed the petitions and marched in the marches and stood around in mute helpless disbelief while your political representatives said impossibly dense things, and you litigated and you campaigned and you made noise and trouble and friends and enemies and you got ‘er done.
It really is just a matter of time now. Of course it always was a matter of time- as a teacher of mine used to say, “Yes, there are people who can’t accept change, but let me tell you what happens to them when they get old. They die.” My teacher was bonkers and he eloped with a student shortly afterwards, but his point still stands, I think. Before long, just-married couples will be tangoing on tables in every state in the Union, and Texan Republicans will be sulking so hard that they will emit radiation.
Congratulations, American friends, and all our good hopes and good wishes.
Of course, we won same-sex marriage in Canada twelve years ago, but our achievements make less of a splash of colour on the global canvas.
Consider independence. We get it, you Americans like your independence-from-Britain thing, rocking the not-a-colony vibe. But you do realize that Canada became independent from Britain too, right? It doesn’t have to be done by way of a revolutionary war. Look at us- we just went “I can haz responsible government pleez?” and batted our eyelashes a few times and boom, country.
A piece of advice, in case the situation comes up again in the future. If you want to get something from a bunch of English people, then, for the love of Hades, do not throw their tea away. Nothing good can possibly come of that.
As the American courts deliver one epic bitch-slap after another to homophobes, lesbian culture again creeps closer to the mainstream, and we once again get to look in both directions and ponder. On the one hand, it’s a wonderful thing to be acknowledged as ordinary people. On the other, how ordinary do we want to be?
The heavy boot and frowny face of censorship kept lesbians off of screens and out of books when most of us were young. The information blackout didn’t just deprive us of interesting characters and relatable moments- it messed with our ability to find out who we were. I think often of a friend of mine who grew up in China. In the region where she lived, there wasn’t even a word for “lesbian.” She had no idea what was going on. Her story turned out all right, but it could easily have been different, and I wonder how many stories around the world are ending in different ways tonight.
But censorship gave us something, too. Blocked from using the usual themes, language, and imagery of romance, authors had to find ways to encode longing and desire. Vampirical bloodlust, honey-gathering, mirrored self-portraits and extra-flamey candles…there’s a rich and vibrant iconography in lesbian-themed literature, precisely because, for a very long time, nobody could write, “And then Mavis tore Gertrude’s clothes off and they boned all night.”
Nobody wants to return to a time when authors dared not speak any names. But damn it, why can’t we have the best of both worlds? Why can’t we have the mainstream acceptance as well as all the quirky, walking-out-of-step themes and plots and images that the lesbian community produced and embraced?
Canadians have an edge here. Not only is Canadian literature famously quirky, but half of our national identity is being different from the United States. Difference is what we do. That, and drink milk from bags.
So send up the fireworks all over America as the fear evaporates and the barriers fall. Let’s do silly little happy dances at all the legal and societal changes that have brought us into the wider world, but at the same time, let’s hold onto all of the good things we found while we were wandering in the wilderness. Let’s be magnificently, spectacularly, unapologetically different, and let’s have a whole chapter where Mavis and Gertrude ride penguins out to a lunar base, just because we damn well feel like it.