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

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