These celebrations are starkly contrasted with the backsliding of support for same-sex couples. There is a dizzying array of efforts aimed at undoing many of the rights we only recently gained — including kicking transgender people out of the military, removing protections for LGBTQ federal employees, implementing religious exemptions that allow health-care employees to refuse care and proposing to kick LGBTQ people out of homeless shelters.
From the looks of it, we’re living in a highly charged time, one that should feel simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. I should be fire-dancing in the streets in a rainbow thong waving angry signs marked with political fervor.
But for me and many others, being a lesbian in 2019 is pretty boring. These days, I’m more worried about crayon marks on the wall than I am a social uprising. It’s a sobering fact, and one that might end up hurting us. I bet I’m not alone.
If you’re like the 10 percent of LGBTQ people like me who took full advantage of the legal right to wed, life shifted significantly toward domesticity. If you a went a step further and had or adopted a baby, your life might look even more traditional. Add a suburban home and a corporate job, and I more closely resemble my heterosexual counterparts than I do the lesbian I was over a decade ago.
It’s possible the adult-onset ennui is just nature’s way of slowing me down, and maybe that was inevitable whether or not I tied the knot or had a kid. Maybe everyone ends up trading in Tuesday shenanigans for channel-surfing on the couch, and it’s just something I should accept without fanfare. But then I remember dancing like a young whirling dervish, drink in hand, with total abandonment alongside other lesbians who were in their 40s, 50s and 60s. At the time, I accepted that my future wouldn’t include marriage and a family. But looking to my queer elders as example, I was excited that it would at least continue to deliver titillating nights that didn’t have to stop when Social Security kicked in.
Being a lesbian used to mean you were automatically labeled an outcast, a sexual deviant. People thought we were engaging in all sorts of sexual acts, even if in reality I was sitting home on a Friday night nibbling on slices of low-sodium seitan and watching BBC World News.
Though times were more dangerous for us queers decades ago — and still are to some extent today, especially trans people of color — the past was also more titillating. It felt like being a member of a secret society, one in which I knew I could be attacked by everyone from the government to family to strangers on the street for being a part of it, but also anything could happen on a Friday night at the Christopher Street Pier with the roller-skating drag queens and their boomboxes. The higher the stakes, the more enticing the membership felt. There was an adrenaline rush when that truck driver leaned out the window to spit homophobic epithets in my face because I was walking down the street holding my girlfriend’s hand. It made that next, stolen kiss with her even hotter.
It may have been a very different story for those coming-of-age in earlier generations when a sexual deviant label translated to excommunication, social isolation, abuse, forced institutionalism, imprisonment or worse. For me, though, coming out in New York in the 1990s was hostile but improving. The hate imposed on me was a license I took full advantage of.
In the 1990s and early 2000s when a fellow lesbian passed you on the street, they would give you the secret nod, a half-head tip of the chin, as if a fleck of dust had landed on their nose and they were discreetly trying to shake it off. It was an exciting acknowledgment that you were part of a special clan. At any moment one of them might invite you home and give you the best orgasm you’d ever had. Or you both might get your heads bashed in by a homophobic passerby.
Now, we lesbians are too busy to acknowledge one another on the street. We’re wiping the dribble from the baby created using sperm from a donor that most closely resembled younger versions of our wives.
A little part of me misses that fear of being found out, of not knowing what adventure or terror might be around the next corner. But I’ll take casseroles and Dr. Seuss books any day over losing the rights we’ve gained.