A note: This was designed to be read aloud. I co-host a monthly story telling evening and told this story there last night. Imagine if it’s possible, me reading it to you.
My story is about a meeting.
I spent the last five days in a giant, white walled room in the box hill town hall.
I was there for the gathering of the Uniting Church of Victoria and Tasmania, and because obviously, I know how to get down.
While there, we were treated to an evening of stories. One of them was told by my friend, I’ll call her A, and she talked about her place of safety in the church, her love of it, and her experience of hearing horrible words from another person in what should have been a safe place as a bisexual woman. She talked about her fear, and her panic, and her hurt, and I cried as I heard her because she was so beautiful and sure of who she was as she spoke.
My story is about an idea in a small room.
I used to live in Parkville, in a small and wonderful apartment named Yoko. She was my nest for a year and a half a little while ago, the scene of parties and conversations and so much eating and friends planning their future lives and watching Harry Potter and one weekend, the setting for two slothful days watching Netflix- I had a lot less on my plate then? I remember I was in bed watching Orange is the New Black, which will seem clichéd in a moment, because as I watched I started thinking. I was thinking about ladies who like ladies and how that seems ok to me now, after growing up a fairly boring Christian stereotype. And how I love all my gay friends, and while I thought things in a fairly straightforward way a small voice asked me if I would be ok with the gay thing if it was my gay thing.
My story is about labels.
I‘ve never liked those tests that tell you what you are. When people who dig such things say “well I’m an IFPJ” or “ha! Classic QXKH” or whatever the fuck, something within me rolls its eyes eternally and I feel a distaste that comes from years of trying so hard at ages 13 through 17 to cope with rising feelings of inadequacy by being ‘an individual’. That stuff is less important to me now but I still feel a strong reaction in my gut when someone thinks they know something about me. Maybe it’s harder to hide when you’re labelled, because you and others know something about what set you belong to.
My story is about a word I don’t like
Sexuality doesn’t suit me. I don’t like the sound of the word, I don’t like how clinical it seems and I don’t like it that even though it doesn’t contain other words like penis, or vagina it does hold a certain idea within it, that the possessor of the sexuality in question has certain designs on other persons, and the ability to sort of use this design or action it, in some way? There is to me a dance implicit in it, or at least an ownership, and a sexiness, however small and hidden, that feels removed from me.
My story is about it not being a big deal
Scene: my bedroom, circa 2014. Yoko.
A conversation between two Carlynnes
So, Carlynne, what if you wanted to date girls?
Huh. Well. What would that change?
Probably not much.
Yeah you’re right.
Wait- we still dig guys though yeah
Cool, more people to check out on the tram.
My story is about fear
A part of the Synod meeting was a chance to reflect on the story telling evening which had been a new initiative. I told my table partners that I was very moved by my friend’s story, and her bravery.
I did not say: It touched me, because I too am bisexual.
Another person spoke and we all agreed it had been a wonderful night and a man asked what had challenged us about the night
I did not say: Well, I was challenged because though a lot of my friends know, I am bisexual and I’m not *really* out.
My story is about watching
I see you, my lovely, glowing friends.
You are derided, and picked apart, and divided and demoralised because of that word I don’t particularly like, because you love.
I see you named, and because of this signal they come for you. I see them think they know a thing about you because of a word.
I see you.
My story is about what matters
I don’t date much, so it feels like it doesn’t matter. I pass for heterosexual (whatever that means) and often feel as I’ve always felt, so honestly it feels like it doesn’t matter. In Christian circles often assumptions are made that you’re straight, and that doesn’t really matter I guess, though if you’ve got short hair, never talk about having a partner and are vocal in your support of LGBTIQ concerns, other assumptions can be made, I don’t ever know which of that matters… The current shit-fest of a debate about marriage feels like it’s not my fight, I’m still the same Carlynne, I’ve not paid my dues, I don’t want to assume my point of view matters. It’s only a wee part of me, why would it matter? And if it doesn’t matter I don’t have to talk to a dear friend who asked me if my theology could line up with my life if I dated girls (side note, I’ve had time to consider and yeah, it could), that doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t really know what my classmates would think.
My story is about a meeting.
Some guy who people hadn’t seen in the room much said bitterly to me over morning tea “they’d notice me in the room if I was gay”. I told him blankly I didn’t know how to respond to that and he said we spend too much time talking about “that stuff”. I wondered how he knew I wasn’t “that stuff”. When I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I wondered if there was something else I should be thinking about.
My story is about my friend in a white room
A in the white room in Box Hill with wings and a Valkyrie shield saying who she is and what she is and staring us all down with a laugh and soft, brutal honesty. A causing me to wonder if I could claim things for myself the same way, if I could step into a word that way, if I could wear it like a cape.
My story is about labels
Because I’ve wanted to avoid what people will think they know about me, being looked at, being told I’m not the thing I think I am.
I still refuse to believe everyone is either an extrovert or an introvert, I do not want to do a fucking myers-briggs test, and no, knowing that I could cheerfully date a boy or a girl doesn’t mean you know anything about who I actually am. But labels help you know what set you belong to, and honestly I think my 13 through 17 year old selves would approve.
My story is about the fear I didn’t know I was responding to until that table conversation, and how I’m quietly, in small steps, telling it to leave.
This story is about my sexuality (it took a lot to leave that there).
This is a story that might not be a bit deal,
This is a story about my not wanting to just watch any more.
This might be a story about what matters.