Tuesday, December 11, 2007


For me, one of the things that defines family is comfort. Certainly love is a part of the definition of family, but, for me, comfort is more foundational. Comfort comes from spending time with people over extended periods. Not necessarily large amounts of time, but repeated, focused amounts of time over a number of years. From comfort comes caring and compassion and the ability to freely express oneself without pretense. It is then that the ties that I call familial begin to emerge.

My wife has a sister who is now seventeen. For the past handful of years, we’ve spent a week with her at spring break and we regularly talk on the phone and on IM. After our years together, I consider her my sister, not just my wife’s sister.

This past year, in anticipation of her visit, I told people that my sister would be here. For those that asked, I gave them the more detailed explanation of her being my wife’s half-sister (they share only a father), but for most people, just the statement, my sister is coming, was enough. Besides, they could see the joy in my eyes as I anticipated her visit.

When they met her, however, it was clear that something was different. This sister, you see, is of African-American heritage. I don’t think much of it, but I’m aware that people look at us oddly for a moment when I introduce her as my sister.

When people had that reaction, I didn’t much care. I gave them a little bit of time to assimilate the information and unless they asked, I didn’t offer much more. Sisterhood seems like it should stand without explanation.

Nowadays, I think we’re far too invested in families looking alike. It may have been significant in the past when people moved less, had more children, and marriages lasted longer. Today, however, most people I know have family cobbled together not entirely by biology.

Half-sisters, step-siblings, in-laws, and out-laws all characterize modern families. Combine those relations with increasing adoptions across races, cultures, and nationalities and throw in more interracial relationships and interracial families through a variety of means, and suddenly how we look does not determine if we are a family.

In my envisioned future, family isn’t about who looks like whom, but rather where is your comfort. Still, I’m not the norm. I cannot tell you how many times I hear or read about women who want a child who looks like them or their partners. I’ve heard lesbians looking for sperm from a man who shares physical characteristics with the woman who is to carry the child or the woman who is to be the “non-bio” parent. Sometimes the degree of focus on physical and genetic characteristics seems to me to eclipse the nature of our humanity. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on reproductive medicine to produce children who share physical characteristics with parents. Is how our children look worth all of that money?

I think it’s time to discard all of these associations of physical appearance with familial relationships. It’s as dated as Wally and the Beaver. Continuing to believe that shared physical attributes mark family is like continuing to believe that Rock Hudson was off screen the heterosexual lothario that he was on.

One of my sisters doesn’t look like me. I love her no less, and I’m waiting for the day when I introduce her in public – to cashiers or friends or casually on the street – and no one raises an eyebrow. There is no pregnant pause because everyone realizes that family is not defined by biology or genes, but by the strength of our affection for, our commitment to and our comfort with one another.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #17 dated December 11, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


When I was coming out, a tattoo and a doubly-pierced right ear was a sign of being a lesbian. This seems silly now, I admit, but at twenty and twenty-one these were important identity expressions to my peer group and me along with Birkenstocks, thick wool socks (I came out in Michigan), and large army fatigues held up with wide leather belts. To this day, when I wear that uniform, I feel like a real lesbian.

Each generation defines itself with physical and external markers of identity. All have profound meaning to the people who are marked and to the people who create the marks. I welcome new generational markers – even if I don’t always understand them. (I admit, tongue piercing and navel piercing were initially uncomfortable and foreign to me; though I remember the way some recoiled from my large, comfortable shoes.) I only become concerned when the markers of identity result in permanent and unchangeable actions to our bodies.

I’ve taken those actions. One tattoo and three holes between my two earlobes. Do I regret either? No. Would I do it again? Perhaps not.

Part of my discomfort comes from feminism. As a feminist, I want to embrace my body as it is – and I want other people to do that. As a feminist, I’m uncomfortable with breast augmentation. I don’t think that permanent body alterations are something to support or celebrate. I hold this philosophy to a pretty strict standard in my life. Sure, I’ve shaven my legs on occasion (and the wifey wishes I would do it more, truth be told), but I’ve not done much that permanently alters my body.

This brings me to my concern: increasing people – and particularly young people, which to me still means under thirty-five or forty – are chosing to transition from one sex to another. On one hand, I support people’s ability to have control over their bodies and to express gender in whatever way that they wish. On the other hand, I’m concerned about permanent body alterations.

I worry about the increasing medicalization of our bodies and of gender. Women and queers have never been served by the medical establishment and yet increasing it seems we turn to doctors to give us bodies to help navigate a world in which gender roles are narrow prescribed and offer little fluidity and flexibility for a moment or a lifetime.

Our experience of gender and gender roles is related not only to how we understand the world personally but also to how other around us understand and interpret the world. Lots of the butch women I came out with twenty years ago embraced their butchness because of a feminist analysis which said that gender roles weren’t working – for women or for men, but that it was fine to be gender non-conforming. Today these same women might be told by prevailing analyses that their identity is transgender. That’s fine—if it is an identity that works, I support people’s ability to self-identify. Today, however, more is at stake than self-identity. People are changing their bodies and their sex through medical intervention.

That concerns me. I’m worried about a construction of gender that requires permanent body alteration. My body isn’t perfect as it is and I do things to change it – I change my clothes, I work out, I use lotions and lots of little potions from small pots, but all of that can be undone in a short amount of time – none of it is permanent. Are we sure that surgery and hormone therapy to permanently alter the body is an essential expression of gender identity?

Many won’t be happy that I’ve asked the question, but I think it must be asked. We need dialogue about the costs and benefits of medical interventions and the constructions of sex and gender in our queer community.

Meanwhile, I’ve dispensed with the second earring in my ear. I loved it for the years that I wore it. Today it doesn’t serve me. I’m glad that I could just stop wearing it when I wanted. I want for all of the other young queers to have the same choices as their lives change and evolve.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet. She lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #16 dated November 27, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 698

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) passed out of the House of Representatives on November 7, 2007 with a vote of 235-184. In order to become law, it must of course also pass the Senate and be signed by the President. Most anticipate that those two things will not happen this legislative cycle. The version of ENDA that was voted out of the House is one that many advocates object to because it excluded gender identity language, which would have provided workplace protections to transgender people.

There has been an entire brouhaha surrounding ENDA that’s been mostly documented in the blogosphere though The New York Times article provided a good summary of it as well. I’ve watched these events unfold with astonishment. First, I am incredibly proud of the GLBT movement for standing on principle. The actions of United ENDA and the nearly four hundred organizations that worked to preserve gender identity in the bill are awe inspiring to me. I have never in my twenty years of being a participant / observer seen the queer community speak with such a united and clear voice. I am inspired by the number of organizations who have taken a stand in support of a transgender inclusive ENDA and called on their members to do the same. This is the movement about which I dreamed; I am proud to be a part of it.

I was amazed and slightly baffled by Representative Barney Frank’s actions. It seems that he had the opportunity to demonstrate the perfect “object lesson” about the value of Democrats to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, but that it has now been botched. Generally, yes, queers vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. Lately, however, people like me—and others—question that loyalty in light of the waffling of Democrats on marriage. The script that could have played out is this: ENDA passes in the Senate and the House and then is vetoed by the President. The House and Senate are run by Democrats; the President is a Republican. Who will you vote for in 2008? The answer would have been obvious.

Instead, we were embroiled in wrangling with politicians about pragmatism and principle. It seems to me that politics should be about both, and politicians should find ways to hold onto both pragmatism and principle at all times. Ironically, one of the politicians who first introduced the law to protect gays and lesbians from workplace discrimination, in 1974 on the fifth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, was Representative Bella Abzug, the gentlewoman from New York. She was a politician with vision able to be both pragmatic and rooted in principle.

Instead of a transcendent political moment, or even an instructive political moment, the passage of ENDA was a divisive political moment. Certainly, the opposition to excluding gender identity from the bill was inspiring, to me and others, but the outcome was disheartening.

An important “object lesson” could still emerge from ENDA in 2007. That lesson may be more enlightening and may, in the long run, catapult queer liberation forward. I don’t think that it is going to be one that strengthens or stabilizes queer support for a Democratic candidate for President. Rather the lesson may be about unity, loyalty, and commitment. I hope that we are able to see it and learn it.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet. She lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #15 dated November 13, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 552

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I rarely say no to myself. I don’t deny my whims and desires. In fact, in the realm of things that I want to do, there is very little that I haven’t done. I don’t believe in living a life deferred – or a dream deferred as the original poem states. Despite this, as I approach the milestone age of forty, I’m thinking about what I haven’t done and would like to before I transition, by some measures, into my middle age.

It will happen in January of 2010 and, truth be told, I’m quite excited about it. I’ve never feared growing older and I don’t want to adopt that fear as the years progress. In fact, I want to be one of those people who embrace age and its corollary, experience. To achieve the experience part of the equation, I’m thinking about what I haven’t done that I want to do. I’m making a list of things to do before forty.

A dear friend suggested adrenaline activities, which are, I fear, woefully absent from my bank of life experiences. Sky diving, bungee jumping, tight-rope walking. I’ve done none of these. Nor do I particularly want to, but the point is taken about adrenaline. So I’m mulling those and definitely will put one on my list. At this point, I’m leaning to parasailing, but who can tell what might strike my fancy in the next months leading up to the big day.

I also want to dye my hair. Not brown to cover the gray that is now coming in by the handfuls, but pink or purple. A color that will shock and disarm. Perhaps green? I want to have an arresting presence for a few weeks before I cut it all off. I’ve never dyed my hair before, and it seems like a life experience that I am missing, so that’s on my list.

I’d like to do a thorough hair removal. Generally I’m a hairy gal. I don’t shave much but for one day, except for the hair on my head (dyed bright red?), I’d like to be hairless. Everyone tells me that the one hairless day will be paid for with a few weeks of intense discomfort afterward as it all grows back. That’s doesn’t seem to dissuade me, however.

I’m careening into more hedonism as I approach forty, and I embrace that. More partying and revelry all around. I didn’t do as much of this as I could have in my twenties so I’m reversing that part of the life cycle and staying out late getting drunk and sleeping in the next morning.

I’m trying to figure out how to honor all of the people in my life who have died before reaching forty. A group of gay men with whom I came out who have passed away – primarily from AIDS but other medical conditions as well. My sister, who should have been right behind me in approaching forty, but isn’t here to share in it. I want all of them to be present as I celebrate this milestone. So I regularly invoke them, calling on them to celebrate with me.

Suddenly, I’m interested in people who are eighty. What were they doing at forty? How did they spend the last forty years? What lessons do their lives have for me? I’m trying to soak that knowledge up in the way that I studied the forty year olds when I was twenty.

I want to speak another language fluently. I want to read more books that matter and change my life. I’d like to be an expert in something. I want to travel to every continent—at least once, some many times. I want to create my own list of the wonders of the world. I won’t achieve all of those goals by the time I’m forty. It seems prudent to have a few ideas of what I will do with the gift of time I am granted beyond this milestone birthday.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #14 dated October 30, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 703

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Nowhere in the world are we – gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people – a majority. There is no gay homeland from which we came and to which we turn in times of danger, for support and validation. Wherever we live, we are a minority. Even in Provincetown, the East or West Village, the Castro, Halstead, or West Hollywood, we are a minority, unless we draw the lines very narrowly and resist coloring outside them. The fact is we queer people will always be in the minority, living across cultures and communicating with others like us and yet not.

Living as a minority sometimes has advantages. Alienation from the dominant culture can be a creative; it can be an inspiring experience that energizes us to build our own culture – outside of the dominant, majority culture. Living outside also gives us greater freedom to think critically and critique our culture. We have the freedom and flexibility to create our own communities and families based not on biological or geographical conditions, but on our own intellectual, social, political, and affectional affinities.

Living as a minority also has disadvantages. Sometimes, we don’t have the support and compassion of our family of origin. Our families of origin may want us to be heterosexual or they want for us their vision of a normal life. Even when the do support us, sometimes they feel sad by their own sense of loss of their vision of us as heterosexual. Sometimes, our parents don’t teach us how to live as queer people and sometimes isolated from other queers, we struggle to find acceptance and validation. Sometimes living as a minority is isolating and alienating. Sometimes the chafe of living between the majority culture and our queer – and minority – subculture is difficult and painful.

Rather than living automatically with people who understand our lives and our cultures, we must seek out others like us. Instead of following the norms of our society, we must build our own lives, sometimes in the absence of effective role models. Then, when we do build families and communities that flourish, we cannot simply rest. We have a responsibility to translate and educate others – the dominant majority – about our lives and our culture, and we have a responsibility to help other queers like us. This can be tiresome and burdensome as well as annoying and vexing. Yet, we do it because we must. We live as a minority within our nation.

Sometimes given the nation’s exclusion of queers, I want to reject my nationality. It is not only queerness. Recently, I’ve felt ashamed of my nations treatment of poor people, of children without health care, and of people in New Orleans during and after the hurricane. I want to rejected my nationality given the reality of the oppressive racism and sexism that dominates our history and our present. I’ve wondered, if my identity as a lesbian is not recognized, why should I adopt the identity that the nation wants for me? Why should I be nationalistic or patriotic?

I am outside of the nation and, yet, I am of the nation. I cannot disentangled the two. We queer people life outside this nation; we are not fully recognized by the nation with all of the rights and responsibility of citizens of the United States. The pain is felt most obviously when our governments – federal, state, and local – refuse to acknowledge our lives and treat us equally.

We are also inside the nation. Many of us were born here. We live here. We must engage with the country – to transform it to include our realities. Ultimately, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people effect everyone in our nation. We are a minority that is mutable – people join us and leave us over time. We can live without a nation; we cannot live outside of nationality. So we must struggle with both—our country and our identities. Through that struggle, we hope to transform us all with more justice and more integrity.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #13 dated October 16, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 664

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


On Tuesday, September 18, I woke up early, showered, and packed my bag for a day of travel. My partnered dropped me off at the New Carrollton train station, and I headed to New York for meetings for work. She drove back to Riverdale for her dentist appointment and then was off to work in Baltimore. It was a typical day.

I responded to all of my email on the train, took the subway to the office in New York, sat in meetings, ate the bagged lunch I had carried with me. Mid-morning an email arrived from Equality Maryland announcing the news that the Maryland Court of Appeals issued their decision in the Conaway v. Deane case—and it wasn’t in our favor.

The court ruled that gay and lesbian couples were not unfairly excluded from the marriage in Maryland or in their words, “the State’s legitimate interests in fostering procreation and encouraging the traditional family structure in which children are born” means that the State can excluded gay and lesbian couples from marriage. I didn’t have time that day to think about it.

My partner and I (and I confess, I often call her my wife and she reciprocates even though there is no legal basis for such an assertion) have been together for eleven years, yet with the exception of the mortgage that binds us both to payment and a stack of documents that are somewhere in our office (I’d be hard pressed to put my hands on them in under five minutes), we are strangers in the eyes of our government. We were hoping, perhaps foolishly that that would change. On Tuesday, we learned that it didn’t. At least for now.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday night, I was tuckered out from my day and still had to meet a friend on the Upper West Side. We had agreed to purchase her used car as she prepares to move to London (where gay and lesbian relationships are recognized), and I was driving it home. It was exciting to get the new-to-us car, but as I exited the Lincoln Tunnel, I knew I had to go south, but I fantasized about going north.

New Jersey recently ruled that gay and lesbian couples would be recognized through civil unions. I wondered, driving along the turnpike if perhaps we should move there. I knew if we headed farther north, a metaphoric and literal migration in the United States as people seek rights and equal treatment under the law, we would be recognized. The entirety of New England is now a safe haven for gay and lesbian couples. Marriage in Massachusetts; civil unions in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Only one mid-Atlantic government would recognize our relationship: the District of Columbia, and four western states: Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington. The south and the Midwest, from where we originally hale, are like Maryland all blind to our relationship.

I kept driving south and even felt sad leaving New Jersey, knowing that I was leaving one of the safe zones for gay and lesbian couples. Still, I was glad to get home just after midnight.

We love our life in Maryland. Our home, our community, our jobs. The reality is though, as we grow older when concerns about relationship recognition in light of health care, disability, and death become uppermost on our mind, we may have to move. If we had children, we would definitely want to be in a state that recognized our relationship. And as more and more states recognize gay and lesbian relationships in a variety of ways, my wife and I will want to live in a state – and a country – where we are accorded equal rights under the law.

If Maryland isn’t a state that will do that, we’ll take the future calls about employment elsewhere seriously. The drive north on I-95 is pleasant and will be even more so if it leads to a state of equality for us as a lesbian couple.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #12 dated October 2, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 667

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Public sex has a long and proud tradition and I, for one, am pleased to see that one of our Senators is engaging in it. Instead of decrying Senator Craig’s actions or speculating about his sexuality or “alleged homosexuality,” I think the more rational response is to affirm and celebrate public sex. The truth is people – all kinds of people including senators – engage public sex as a part of their sexual expression and fulfillment at different times in their lives. There’s nothing wrong with public sex; in fact, it can be a positive and healthy component of adult sexuality.

Public sex, which I’d like to define as sex between two people in a public space that offers a modicum of privacy while simultaneously carrying with it the danger of discovery, is a sexual practice of all human beings. In and of itself, public sex is neither harmful nor an anathema to civil society. When heterosexual people have or think about or fetishize public sex, we giggle and culturally reify it. Think about sex on airplanes. Erica Jong made her career writing about Fear of Flying. Most recently sex in an airline restroom was featured in the film Snakes on a Plane. More than one film about heterosexual people includes a conversation about the “kinkiest” or “most daring” place that the characters have had sex. Often the responses are descriptions of public sex. Watching these films, heterosexual people may be titillated or exchange knowing glances. Public sex is a part of human sexuality and people – straight and queer – are having it.

Yet, when public sex is heterosexual we do not call for surveillance and criminalization. Snakes on a Plane did not result in federal regulations for cameras in airline restrooms. Heterosexual teenagers caught in public parks in flagrante delicto are sent home with stern warnings or, at worst, curfew violations. The wiff of two men having sex in a public restroom, however, causes public outrage and calls for monitoring, police stings and arrests. It’s both homophobia and sexphobia.

Parents will counter that they don’t want their children in the course of using public restrooms to encounter people having sex, particularly two men having sex. I can understand that, I don’t want to unintentionally encounter two men or two women or a man and a woman having sex when I just want to urinate, but I have and it wasn’t traumatic. The fact of the matter is, while people want the possibility of getting caught while having sex, they don’t want to get caught. So when I walk into the rest room or a child does, most people have the capacity to pause for the few minutes it takes me to relieve myself, wash my hands, and move on with my life. Besides if we were to extend the argument about fear of children encountering two people having sex, wouldn’t we mandate that parents must not have sex if their children are in the house? After all, children are more likely to have their first glimpse of adult human sexuality running into their parents bedroom to tell them that visitors are here or they need breakfast or had a bad dream than running into a public bathroom to take a pee.

We need to speak out as a community about the homophobia and sexphobia that surrounds these public sex scandals. If it is truly OK to be gay, then it must be by extension OK for two people of the same-sex to have erotic encounters in semi-public spaces that carry the possibility of being caught—and being caught must not be more likely than it is for heterosexual people and the consequences of being caught must be the same for same-sex public sex partners as for opposite-sex public sex partners.

While we’re speaking out, we could also say that there is nothing particularly wrong with public sex, in fact, for some it’s a perfectly acceptable expression of sexuality. Who knows maybe in the process of speaking honestly about human sexuality we will liberate ourselves and even our heterosexual counterparts.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #11 dated September 18, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 677

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


Sometimes there are moments of great tragedy when gay and lesbian inequality is made visible. These moments are painful and profoundly disturbing. I think of the murder of Matthew Shepherd and the murder of Sargeant Allen Schindler. Two brutal murders motivated by hatred for gay and lesbian people. There is wide-spread agreement in the United States that murdering people because they are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender is wrong. It is a public tragedy that diminishes all of us.

By and large, however, gay and lesbian people live peaceable lives. The vast majority of us live without being targeted for discrimination, harassment, or murder. Yet, regularly, we obscure this reality. We perform a victimized status for the American public and for our legislators in an attempt to pass laws. This performance and these laws emanate from a civil rights paradigm that is a close, but not quite fit for the queer community. It’s time for a change.

We in the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community—the queer community— are not going to achieve equal rights through the demonstration of hardship, or victimization, to the American people. Not because that hardship isn’t there; it is. It can be found and performed as we have just seen in the performance for the passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. We can find and tell individual stories of brutality and harassment for the benefit of Congress and the public. We can even put it together to create a pattern. The reality is, however, that the pattern of violence and abuse of gay and lesbian people in contemporary culture does not rise to the level of the reality that was experience by the African-American community during the 1940s, 50s, and 60s which lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

On one hand we could argue that nothing should ever rise to that level again. We could argue that we should learn from our past and take action earlier to smite injustice and strive for equality. In fact, I think that is the respectful framework that our queer civil rights organizations have adopted, but the time for that has now passed. It is time to reframe the debate.

For us queers to present our experiences in this country within the civil rights paradigm now and in the future is a strategic error. First, our experiences do not rise to the level of intensity or repulsion for most Americans as the experiences of African-Americans did during the 1960s. People recognize this fact; they know it. We must acknowledge it through a change in strategy. Second, a focus on violence and brutal repression has a different impact on the American people today in 2007 than it did in 1967. If we were still sensitive to violence and death, would we be in Iraq?

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are not going to achieve rights by asserting victimization. Our story, while compelling to us is an adequate parallel. What we should do instead of seeking to honor the civil rights movement by mimicking it, is to craft new messages. They may emerge from the history of the civil rights movement, but we must transform them to make them our own.

Our messages are not about violence, victimization, and harassment. Our messages are about the ordinary and the everyday. We will achieve equality by demonstrating the ordinariness of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender life. The banality of our lives, the everyday similarities of our lives to our heterosexual counterparts, is the message that people will understand and believe. It is the message or ordinariness and dailiness that will help us secure equality.

We need to turn up the volume and energy on these messages. Certainly, we stand on the shoulders of all who have worked for justice and equality in the past. We must honor their work, but when standing on the shoulders of greatness, we are most able to keep our balance by looking forward or looking upward than by looking downward or backward. To have a vibrant contemporary queer movement, we need to reach to the future, not the past.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #10 dated September 4, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 694

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

LET'S SINK THE CENSOR SHIP: Catherine Crouch’s The Gendercator

Are ideas threatening? Are we, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community, threatened by thoughts, images, and stories? Is censorship our response when we encounter art that challenges our contemporary ways of living?

The answers to these questions are yes, judging by the actions of Frameline in San Francisco in regard to the film, The Gendercator, by Catherine Crouch. Originally selected for the 2007 Frameline Film Festival, the screening of The Gendercator was cancelled by Frameline with the following explanation, “Given the nature of the film, the director’s comments, and the strong community reaction to both, it is clear that this film cannot be used to create a positive and meaningful dialogue within our festival.”

Hmm. I guess I don’t believe that art always needs to create a positive and meaningful dialogue. Sometimes art provokes people. Ruffles feathers. Raises questions. Postulates radical visions. Makes people anger. Clearly, that is what The Gendercator did.

The Gendercator is a fifteen-minute film with a satirical take on female body modification and gender. In a future dystopia, a young lesbian wakes up, like Rip Van Winkle, in the year 2048 after partying in 1973 to celebrate Billie Jean King’s victory over Bobbie Riggs. In The Gendecator’s vision of the future, sex roles and gender expression are rigidly binary and enforced by law and social custom. All people must choose to be either a man or a woman—no more sissy boys or butch dykes. No more androgynes. The protagonist of the film, Sally, rejects this binary based on her experiences as a 1970s feminist. Sally wants to live in the world straddling an androgynous middle between the male and female genders. This choice is not acceptable in the world in which she has awoken.

The dramatic conclusion of The Gendercator offers two possibilities in a dream-like sequence. Either Sally escapes from the rigidly gendered society of the future into a lesbian utopia replete with a rescue team of lesbians driving a VW bus or she is forced to undergo gender conversion from being female to being male. While each outcome is considered, ultimately, Sally wakes up to the party of 1973—it was all a dream.

The Gendercator is thought-provoking film. It is made with classic lesbian-feminist filmic tropes. The Gendercator raises difficult questions about the social construction of gender roles and begins to ask questions that are common in feminist communities about the costs to butch women and feminists of embracing sex reassignment surgery as opposed to working to change gender roles and eliminate patriarchy. While these questions may be challenging, they should be asked and explored, especially since there are many shared objectives of gender liberation for feminists and transgender activists.

Yes, the questions raised by The Gendercator may be uncomfortable; yes, transgender activists may be angry that they are asked and want to refute them with great alacrity. Asking the questions, however, is not wrong. Censoring the questions raises great concern. I believe our cultural institutions should embrace the opportunity to view The Gendercator. As a community, we should watch it and talk and argue about it. Censoring The Gendercator and limiting availability to the queer community does little to address the questions that it.

Hopefully, in my hometown of Washington, DC, One In Ten, DC’s International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival will show the courage that Frameline wasn’t able to demonstrate. The Gendercator should be screened in Washington, DC. Ideas should be expressed freely. We all should have an opportunity to see and evaluate The Gendercator for ourselves. We may disagree. We may find the film to be transphobic, but unless we see it for ourselves, we will never know.

As SONiA and CiNDY sing in the disappear fear song, “Let’s Sink the Censor Ship,”
Narrow minds are generally two-faced
We must sink the censorship to find
What truth is
In Washington, DC, let’s find what truth is.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #9 dated August 21, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 648

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


If you want to know where you want to be, look at your feet. This is one of the hundreds of maxims that my gay father has given me. My gay father, like my lesbian mother, is a gay man who helped me to understand the gay and lesbian community and my role in it in profound ways.

I remember the advice, If you want to know where you want to be, look at your feet, most clearly because my gay father told it to me during one of our first long conversations involving the nature of life, love, and the city of Detroit. I left the conversation with my gay dad and bought a house in the city of Detroit. My gay dad was my realtor. I sold the house two years later, but it was absolutely the right decision at the time. I looked down at my feet, and there is where I wanted to be.

To this day, I always remember the advice of my gay father, and I look down. If I don’t like where I am, I know that I have to walk away—otherwise this is where I want to be.

My gay father is J. Michael Hickey. Like most, I just call him, Mike. Mike is a tall and hairy man. He’s a bear in every gay sense of the word. I met Mike when he was volunteering as a telephone operator for the Gay and Lesbian Helpline operated by the gay and lesbian community center where I worked. Mike came in every Monday night from 8:30 p.m. until 11 p.m. As I was leaving work during his shift, I’d stop by to say a brief hello and goodbye. These brief stops often resulted in me and Mike walking out of the community center together late at night after he had imparted some of his wisdom.

The house that I bought in Detroit was in his neighborhood, so we became stopover friends. And brunch friends. And I-need-a-special-hammer friends. And I-love-your-partner-of-now-eighteen-years-Jon friends. And I-need-you-to-approve-of-the-women-that-I-date-and-love friends.

My gay dad is knowledgeable about the ways of the world—gay and non-gay. He knows what to tell you to avoid particular trauma and what not to tell you because “everyone goes through that.” He’s an expert on depression glass and china patterns and he can repair anything in an old home.

Mike always has good advice for facing life’s challenges. Often it is a variant of if you don’t like things the way they are, get up and make a change. Often it is more direct and even blunt at times that I need a kick in the butt. Often Mike raises issues that I’m not yet ready to think about and months later I’ll remember his question. I usually call him then though I rarely tell him the reason for the call. Mike doesn’t seem to mind. I think he understands the nature of human beings and human interactions more than I ever will.

Eventually, I moved away from Detroit. Honestly, my only regret from leaving Detroit is not living a few blocks away from Mike. I only see him a few times a year now. We trade emails and I write letters occasionally. Although our physical time together has lessened my affection hasn’t.

I think we all need gay fathers and lesbian mothers—people with wisdom and experience who befriend us on our life’s journey to help us along the way. I honor my gay father Mike. He’s given me good advice throughout my life and more importantly he is one of the best friends I’ve ever had.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #8 dated August 7, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 603

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


Often when I think about lesbian mothers I think about foremothers. Foremothers are generally women that I haven’t met and women that I admire profoundly. Women after whom I want to emulate my life. Foremothers are important to me as a lesbian, but this isn’t about foremothers. This is about my lesbian mother. That term feels a little too familiar, since I haven’t talked to my lesbian mother in years now – long enough to elicit enormous guilt in anyone let alone someone like me who me prone to guilt. Nonetheless, I still want to pay homage to my lesbian mother.

What is a lesbian mother? A lesbian mother is a lesbian who meets and befriends you early in the coming out process, often before you can even say casually and aloud, I am a lesbian. A lesbian mother is the woman who helps you understand what it means to be a lesbian beyond the pages of a book or the confines of a barroom. A lesbian mother is first and always a friend and not a love interest. A lesbian mother is the woman with the confidence of being a lesbian herself who inspires you to want to be a confident lesbian yourself. A lesbian mother is the person with whom you can practice your lesbian look. A lesbian mother will gently correct you on all matters of lesbian etiquette from hair and clothes to dating and socializing. A lesbian mother will comfort you during your first rejection and celebrate with you after your first kiss.

My lesbian mother was a woman named Lynn D’Orio. I met her in the late 1980s. She was a member of the feminist collective at the Women’s Crisis Center. I joined immediately and she schooled me in the nature of consensus decision-making, understanding empathy in a group process, and having humor in the face of the impact of patriarchy on women’s lives.

Lynn was nearly twenty years older than me. I don’t remember her exact age because it wasn’t important. What was important is that she was older and wiser and most significantly she was able to share her wisdom without judgment. Lynn lived in a large and lovely house in Ann Arbor; I know because like all good lesbian mothers she invited me to her home and treated me as a friend and family member while I was there. She had matching furniture and a well-stocked kitchen. These are things that I aspired to have in my lesbian future.

More than physical things, however, Lynn had a confidence in herself and the conviction that she would do what she wanted to do in this lifetime and live the way that she wanted to live. This may be what I admired most about her when we were friends. It is definitely what I took with me from her as my lesbian mom.

Lynn’s confidence and conviction were tested when she was my lesbian mom. She and her partner of many years broke up. That brought her great sadness, but she handled it with strength and grace. During my own break-ups, I’ve chided myself for not emulating her more. Lynn went back to college to become a lawyer and in doing so left behind her life as a saleswoman. Now, years later and about her age when she befriended me, I find myself getting a master’s degree surrounded by young men and women in their early twenties. I now realize even more the challenges she must have faced returning to law school. I admire Lynn and even though we haven spoken recently, I remember her as a source of strength in my own journey.

I don’t think that I ever adequately honored Lynn as my lesbian mother. So writing this is in many ways my honoring of her friendship in my life. Lynn was a great lesbian mom to me, and I’m sure, as it’s her way, to many others.

Thinking about my lesbian mom makes me wonder: Who was your lesbian mom? How have you honored her? To whom are you a lesbian mom? How can you honor our community by being a lesbian mom to someone who needs one?

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #7 dated July 24, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 696

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


A friend of mine has a four-year-old son. I have to admit, although it exposes my own internalized homophobia, that the first time we had my friend and her family for dinner, I worried. What would they tell Noah about me and my partner?

I’m used to heterosexual parents, who say they are fine with gay and lesbian people, fumbling with what to say to their children. Many times I’ve heard, “This is so-and-so and her friend,” followed by a quick subject change, or worse shushing of a child’s continued questions. I sold my friend short, however. She knew what to say.

She told Noah very clearly that this is the home of Miss Julie and Miss Kim and we were celebrating a very special event with their family, Passover. Noah, at four, didn’t need much more information. He knows that we live together, and we are a family like he and his mother and his father. He’ll get more information as he grows up.

Noah is one of the many reasons I always look forward to our Passover seder. Each year, Noah participates more in the seder; already he is asking about when he can find the afikomen. It’s these traditions, these shared, family traditions, that are going to make a difference for gay and lesbian people and our acceptance.

While our Passover table has never been as uncomfortable as the dinner table in Little Miss Sunshine, the movie demonstrates the same principle. It is fine to tell children about gay and lesbian people.

In Little Miss Sunshine, at the dinner table, over the protests of her father, Olive’s uncle explains to her his suicide attempt and that he was in love with a man. She dismisses his love for another man, but Olive’s life has been changed. She now knows gay people exist. As she grows up, she’ll learn and understand more, but for now the existence of gay people, the possibility of love between two men, exists for her. That changes her world, and it changes our world.

Sometimes heterosexual people ask me how they can support gay and lesbian rights. I’ve fumbled in the past, but now I know what to say. Tell your children, or your grandchildren, about gay and lesbian people. Make it simple and straight-forward. Do it with words they can understand. But tell them. Make the families and relationships of your gay and lesbian friends and colleagues visible to your children.

The time of believing that sexuality and sexual orientation are something in the adult world from which children must be shielded is over. Gay and lesbian people are a regular part of our everyday lives.

Whether we are partnered or not, whether we are raising children or not, whether we are your next-door neighbors, your teachers, your coaches, or your friends, we gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are in your communities. Some of us still feel the need to render ourselves invisible; some of us still remain in the closet. More and more, however, we live openly as gay and lesbian. To continue to be open, to continue to live our lives visibly, we need the support and affirmation of our heterosexual counterparts.

You know us, and your children know us. Talk to them about gay and lesbian people. Keep it simple. Make it natural and in ways that they understand. Talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people to your children, no matter what their age, makes a difference.

It makes a difference for them as they grow up. Your children may be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and knowing people who are from a young age will have a profound and positive effect on their ability to understand and accept themselves. Your children will meet other peers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender; they can be a voice of support and compassion to other young people who may be confused or upset and who may not have parents as open as you. Your children will work with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people; they will live with them, and they will share with them throughout their lives. Talking with your children about gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people now will make their lives easier in the future.

Help children to know gay and lesbian people early in their lives; help them to understand different families and different ways that people organize their personal and intimate lives. Don’t hide gay and lesbian people and their lives from your children. It makes a difference for them, and it makes a difference for us.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work, including her blog, at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #6 dated July 10, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 776

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Let’s be honest, we’re not going to be guaranteed equal rights under the law, until we convince heterosexual people to stand beside us. While elected officials may be the key to getting our rights, more and more it becomes clear that politicians will not act without the majority of people behind them.

Some polls demonstrate that the majority of people support some forms of equal rights for gay and lesbian people, but this support crumbles under pressure. We need to stop that. We need straight people to support gay rights, unequivocally and without reserve.

In order for that to happen, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community needs to educate, cajole, and, eventually, demand that heterosexual people support our quest for equality.

To achieve that objective, we need to refocus our social change work to speak to and persuade not only our own GLBT community but also heterosexual people. We need heterosexual people, not all of them, but a large minority, to embrace queer rights. How will we do this?

One way to begin is by telling our stories and engaging heterosexual people in our lives. Engagement is more than simply telling people that we are gay. As a community we need to move the focus away from the hyper-energized “coming out” moment.

For many of us now and for most of us in the future, being gay or lesbian is not something that we are going to hide—a fact which in itself diminishes the significance of coming out. As a result for our heterosexual counterparts, instead of reacting to this hyper-energized coming out moment, they will need to respond to openly gay and lesbian people in a wide variety of circumstances—at home, at work, and in the communities. These interactions in which gay and lesbian people do not hide their sexual orientation and in which there is no heightened moment of disclosure, heterosexual people and gay and lesbian people will be much more human and authentic than in previously constituted “coming out” moments.

Coming out is no longer enough. We must move beyond coming out to helping heterosexual people to know not only that we are gay, but what it means to be gay as well as lesbian, bisexual, and transgender. We need heterosexual people understand what our lives our like. We need them to understand that we must have the support of the institutions of our society in order to have full equality.

Fortunately, this isn’t difficult. We live and interact with heterosexual people every day.

Our greatest ally for this in the past has been popular entertainment. Intentionally or unwittingly, the presence of gay and lesbian people and our stories on television and in the movies has created a more intimate understanding of gay and lesbian people by our heterosexual counterparts. 

In spite of this success in the entertainment media, we need more visibility of gay and lesbian people in ordinary and mundane situations. People need the lived experience of knowing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in addition to the celluloid experience of watching GLBT people on the large and small screens.

Collectively, we can create a circumstance where heterosexual people cannot “change the channel” or boycott or ignore the everyday realities of gay and lesbian people in their, or rather our, communities and neighborhoods. We do that by being open, by not focusing on particular “coming out moments,” and by living our lives honestly, openly, and authentically.

When we do that, heterosexual people will know us and, eventually, will support us. When we share more of our lives and our issues on a daily basis in comfortable, ordinary, and everyday ways, we will win meaningful and long-term support from heterosexual people.

In addition to our individual actions, we need our organizations to speak to everyone – not just the GLBT communities. The combined action of organized campaigns and individual action is how we will change the people’s hearts and minds. Ultimately, this works well to embolden lawmakers to take the actions we require.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and activist living in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #5 dated June 26, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 669

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

LESBIAN SEX CULTURES: Part Two – The Right to a Pleasurable and Fulfilling Sexuality

The second value of lesbian sex culture is that everyone has a right to experience a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality. Everyone. No exceptions.

This value has operated on two important axes in American culture in the past thirty-five to forty years. First, the right to a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality has led lesbians to work tireless to end rape and domestic violence because of how they fundamentally violate that principle. Ask anyone who has worked in the movement to end violence against women if they knew lesbians. They did, and they can tell you about their work. Lesbians’ work, like the work of their heterosexual counterparts, was both to empower women to live a life without violence, but also to live a life that is satisfying and fulfilling. Ultimately, it is not just the absence of violence that movement to end violence against women is seeking – it is the presence of a full and fulfilling life, and that includes the healthy expression of human sexuality. The movement to end violence against women is another contribution of lesbian sex culture.

The other area where lesbians’ work has been central, and where that work is based on the belief in the right to a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality, is AIDS prevention and education. From the beginning of the AIDS pandemic, lesbians have worked to educate about HIV transmission and ways to prevent it. This work has been done, by and large, from an impulse that was and continues to be sex positive and life affirming. The work both to end violence against women and to address AIDS is another public manifestation of lesbian sex culture. It is work that we do because of our own experiences with our sexualities and because of our desire to express those experiences in public ways. We make our sexuality visible and in doing so contribute to the lives of others—lives that include a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality.

I don’t want to suggest that lesbians, monolithically, have a sex culture that is only positive. That isn’t true. Even in the examples I have given there are times when individual lesbians and lesbians as a community have been at odds with one another in ways that are not positive and affirmative. There are times when lesbians have been at odds with one another in ways that are painful but productive.

There are many examples of times when individual lesbians and factions of the community as a whole have been prudish and sex negative. Struggle—inside and outside of the lesbian community—is something with which we are very familiar. It may be this struggle that cause some to believe that lesbians’ sex cultures are less developed than gay men’s sex cultures or than heterosexual sex cultures. Such a perception, however, is false. Even in the times when lesbians desire to repress or suppress sexuality, there has been a public sex culture in the lesbian community that is highly developed and that seeks to strengthen and affirm a broader sense of sexuality than that expressed between and among lesbians in the community alone. Lesbian sex culture always seeks to make broad cultural, social, and political connections and contributions in the world.

Lesbian sex culture is both analytical and experiential. Lesbian sex culture is verbal and physical; it is emotional and spiritual; it is pragmatic and fanciful. Lesbian sex culture is a sex culture that engages the mind and the body, the heart and the soul. Lesbian sex culture is here for good times and bad; it is a sex culture that is expressed within the community and that reaches out beyond the community. Lesbian sex culture expresses the hope and the vision that sexuality is something that we can all experience to bring more joy and meaning to our lives.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #4 dated June 12, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 632

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

LESBIAN SEX CULTURES: Part One – Self-Determination

Recently, I read an article that said that gay men had a more developed sex culture than lesbians. I took umbrage. In fact, there are highly developed lesbian sex cultures. Granted, they may not be found prominently at the Folsom Street Fair nor in back rooms in bars, but lesbian sex cultures have benefited every person in the United States, and, I would argue, they have benefited people beyond the U.S. borders. To suggest that the sex cultures among lesbians are less developed than among gay men is specious, but more importantly such a suggestion is harmful to us all.

Lesbian sex culture, which I’ll speak of now in the singular, though that singular is not monolithic. I use the singular, lesbian sex culture, with the understanding that lesbian sex culture is a variegated, multiplicitous composite of a variety of cultures. Fundamentally, lesbian sex culture is premised on two values. The first value is that everyone has a right to determine for him or herself what to do with his or her body. The second value is that everyone has a right to experience a pleasurable and fulfilling sexuality. These two values provide the foundation of lesbian sex culture and extend beyond the lesbian community to impact broader notions about sexuality.

Let me begin by exploring the first value. It bears repeating. Everyone has a right to determine for him or herself what to do with his or her body. In short, everyone has a right to sexual self-determination.

This value of sexual self-determination has been manifested in lesbian sex culture in a variety of ways. One expression of this value is the work of lesbians, in conjunction with heterosexual men and women, to ensure reproductive rights. Reproductive rights, whether they are access to birth control or to abortion or to just basic, common-sense information about sexuality, emanate from a public sex culture that lesbians have created.

A public sex culture is not simply formulated as public sex acts. That is too simplistic. Public sex cultures make sex and sexuality visible so that it can enter the public discourse. The notion of reproductive rights found its expression and public entry, in part, through lesbian sex culture. This isn’t to say that the notion of reproductive rights was created by lesbians; it wasn’t, though lesbians were intimately involved with the work to create it. Rather, lesbian sex culture—our experience of our sexuality as both a private and a public experience deserves protection and expression—was central to the creation and public embrace of reproductive rights.

Another way that sex and sexuality are made visible is in sexuality education. Lesbians, whether openly lesbian or closeted, always have played a role in educating women about their bodies and their sexual organs, including how they work and how they can be pleasurable. This education, the belief in it and the consequence of it, is another public expression of lesbian sex culture. Our sexuality and our experience of it is made visible through the education of other women and through the creation of social movements that seek to further protect women’s bodies and women’s rights to sexual self-determination.

The basic value that women have the right to sexual self-determination is an idea that emanates from the theories of feminism. It has been made visible and put into practice by a broad network of women, with lesbian women integrally engaged in its creation and promotion. The value of sexual self-determination is one contribution of lesbian sex culture.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #3 dated May 29, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 582

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


While America is watching and voting on the next American Idol, I’m thinking about lesbians. Specifically, I’m thinking about Lesbian American Idols. The cult of American Idol is built on discovering new talent among young people, transforming it into commercial talent, and ultimately into pop stardom. Some of these new, up-and-coming singers may even become icons, a few may even become divas.

Ultimately, though, I don’t think that the real American Idols are under the age of thirty, and I don’t think that the real American Idols are singers. I think that the real American Idols are people who have pursued their passions for many years and whose passions have enhanced all of our lives. In the lesbian community, we have our own share of real American Idols. This is about what and whom I idolize.

Idolize means to hold someone in blind devotion or adoration. My Lesbian American Idols are in three areas: literature, activism, and history. I don’t want to exclude singers. After all, there are lesbian singers that are Lesbian American Idols – and now many of them have become idols to the rest of America, not just to the lesbian community. Melissa, k.d., they go by first name only. Yes, these are Lesbian American Idols. There are also Lesbian American Idols among the women who build womyn’s music. I think of Meg Christian, Cris Williamson, and Ferron. I idolize them.

Lesbian American Idols aren’t just music-makers, however. Lesbian American Idols build our culture, not only in music, but also in literature, activism, and history. Lesbian American Idols have committed themselves to building lesbian culture and lesbian identity over a lifetime. Here are four of my Lesbian American Idols: Barbara Grier, Del Martin, Phyllis Lyon, and Lillian Faderman.

Barbara Grier loves books. She’s always loved books. First, as a young adult she collected books by and about lesbians. Then, through The Ladder, the publication of the Daughters of Bilitis, she wrote about books by and about lesbians. Then, she published lesbian books through Naiad Press. Recently, Barbara Grier has retired – and, with her partner Donna McBride, made the largest contribution of lesbian books ever to the Hormel Center of the San Francisco Public Library. Grier’s life and lifelong commitment to literature is something to idolize. I idolize Barbara Grier.

Like Grier and McBride, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon have built a life and a legacy together. They organized the Daughters of Bilitis in 1955 as a way to build a social life as lesbians. In 1972, they published the book Lesbian/Woman. A year later they followed it up with Lesbian Life and Liberation. The lives have been filled with activism to benefit lesbians everywhere. Most recently, Martin and Lyon were among the couples married in San Francisco in February 2004. Their marriage came after over fifty years of their intimate partnership and life together. The activism of Martin and Lyon is something to idolize. I idolize Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon.

Lillian Faderman knows how to tell a story and how to bring together the stories of our past into a lesbian herstory. Her first contribution to lesbian herstory was the book Surpassing the Love of Men which looked at the romantic love between women in since the Renaissance. She followed it with Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers as well as an autobiography about her life as a lesbian. Most recently she’s collaborated on another history of gay and lesbian life called Gay LA. As a result of Faderman’s work, we know more about our history. I idolize Lillian Faderman.

These are just three of my Lesbian American Idols. Yes, I’ll be watching American Idol and yes, I’ll be voting for the next American Idol, but I’m aware that these pop stars may or may not last. My Lesbian American Idols are all tried and true. Their stardom has lasted, but, more importantly, their impact on all of us is everlasting.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #2 dated May 15, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 653

For permission to publish, please contact Julie R. Enszer at JulieREnszer@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

MARKING OUR TIME TOGETHER: Reflections on Lesbian Anniversaries

The perennial question in response to lesbian couples celebrating anniversaries is, What are you celebrating? This question refers not to the number of years that the couple is celebrating together, though certainly that is of interest, but rather it asks, what milestone is being celebrated?

We have a variety of milestones that we celebrate in our relationships. First meeting. First date. First sex. And now in the new world of increasing relationship recognition by governmental units, additional questions are appended: domestic partnership? civil union? or in Massachusetts and select countries around the world, marriage?

I think it is good and right that we celebrate our anniversaries in whatever ways we want to construct them. In the absence of formal government, religious, or community recognition, we put together a patchwork of anniversary milestones that recognize our relationships and define them on our own terms.

My partner and I celebrate the first day that we consummated our relationship – though, to be honest, the entire week surrounding the anniversary is a series of remembrances. This is the day you told me that you were in love with me. This is the night of the fundraising party. This is the first night that you slept at my house. The milestones, burned into our memory are numerous. We celebrate each in small ways as we recall and retell the story of falling in love with one another.

In spite of my fondness for our celebrations together, I’m always struck that anniversaries, no matter what their basis, are an arbitrary construction to recognize our relationships. We create them to recognize and mark our relationships, but ultimately the significance of our relationships is not found in these anniversary dates, whatever the stories behind them. The significance of our relationships is not in our annual milestones; the significance of our relationships is in the daily milestones of our lives together.

Relationships endure not from the stories of their creation, though we may revel in these. The stories of first glances, first dates, and falling in love are the stories of love and romance. Love and romance captures the popular imagination in the dominant heterosexual culture, and, indeed, they are the stories that we love in our own lesbian cultures. We tell them again and again to friends, new and old.

The stories of love and romance, the initial stories of a relationship, however, are moments driven by lust and those delicious chemicals called pheromones. Certainly, individually and as a community we parse out moments that define our creation as a couple. While these moments define our relationships publicly as they draw us together individually, they are not the moments that write the future anniversaries which we celebrate.

The moments that write anniversaries are everyday moments. They are moments that may be remembered fondly minutes later, but not years. Everyday moments are the ones that sustain a relationship – shared responsibilities, shared interests. Everyday moments are small in their scope in a relationship and in a life. They are the moments when wet towels are hung carefully on a towel rack. They are the moments of bringing popping corn to the beloved during a scary movie. They are the moments of bringing home flowers for no reason or dinner after a long week at work. Everyday moments are the moments that provide the sustenance to keep a relationship together.

In the retrospective of a life, people rarely recall every play or concert that they have seen together, but they know that they like to do such things together. Thinking back over a relationship, people rarely remember the smallest of kindnesses and the most meaningful of thoughts, but they know that they have shared a life with another person on a daily basis that was characterized by kindness and thoughtfulness.

Celebrating anniversaries is something that we’ll all continue to do. I hope that in the face of increasing governmental recognition we don’t lose our own community definitions of anniversaries. I also hope that we’ll acknowledge – and celebrate – the everyday moments in our lives together.

Julie R. Enszer is a writer and poet who lives in University Park, MD. You can read more of her work at www.JulieREnszer.com.

This is column #1 dated May 1, 2007 in the series, CIVILesbianIZATION.

Word Count: 677