Growing up in Twin Falls, Idaho, I had no words for people who loved differently from the model we considered “normal”. Not that all the families around us led Leave-It-to-Beaver lives. My own nuclear family consisted of a single mother, an absent father, a resident brother, and four half siblings who didn’t live close enough to feel like family.
Still, I would have been embarrassed and shocked to learn that our circle of friends and relatives included those whose sexual identity was different from the assumed pattern. That two men who shared a house or two women who were best friends and constant companions might be something more than pals never crossed my mind.
I’m grateful I no longer live in such a narrow world. Sexual orientation is a fundamental part of our identity. Having to keep it hidden is like being required to wear a mask in public.
Fortunately, I’ve found a circle of friends who consider other things more important—like trust, honesty, shared interests, and good times. Sexual orientation isn’t on the list. So this poem really hit me. It reminds me that even those of us who believe we see beyond labels can be unintentionally cruel. Language is important, and it can hurt.
As the poet says:
I’m not ashamed by any means,
But I have dreams
Of being seen as anything
Other than just “the lesbian”.
You’re right, Michelle. Thanks for the reminder.