I wrote this poem way back in 1979, as a sophomore in college — just a few months after I’d decided, after much agony of spirit, to accept what all my inner feelings were compelling me to know: that I was a lesbian. That’s the choice I made: not to be a lesbian — but to accept myself for what I was and had always been. And what I remain to this day.
It occurs to me that a lot of what upsets opponents to the ordinance — regardless of whether the ordinance ultimately passes — is that LGBT people are even out, being who they are. How many testimonies at the Assembly or letters to the editor have said one version or another of, “keep it hidden.” Never mind what hiddenness does to us. But don’t challenge (their version of) the status quo.
I imagine Prevo might object to this characterization, but much of his activity in response to this ordinance strikes me as being less about affecting public policy and more about benefiting of his congregation. And part of that is keeping those personal relationships with gays or lesbians—the ones with the power to change people’s minds—from happening to his flock.
Prevo & company would prefer us to shut up & stay in our closets. But the closet is damaging to us. Had I lived there in the closet as they would’ve wanted me to live, I would have died long since: in spirit, if not in physical fact, a suicide. Accepting myself as a lesbian at age 19 was the first acceptance I ever had for myself, in any way, & was the foundation of my giving up self-hatred entirely in later years.
So today we have Pride. And in an hour or so I’ll head downtown to join in the parade & picnic.
Meanwhile, here if the very first poem I ever wrote in which I expressed any pride in being who I am.
Letter to a Straight Friend
Why, you ask, so I say that I’m gay?
I must be insecure, and rather unsure
if I always must come out this way.
Well, those straights set me apart
To them, dyke‘s just like fart —
something you know but don’t say.
They think we’ll be silenced
’cause our style it ain’t licensed,
and they’ll point at us, cage us away.
They call me a dyke
and that’s a long hike
from being a real human, we’re told —
but when I say I’m a dyke
with voice loud, like a mike,
they can see on those word’s I ain’t sold.
When I come out this way,
when I say that I’m gay,
I’m confirming their very worst fears…
but they listen to me,
that lezzie loonie,
and I know I got hold of their ears.
A zoo-monkey they fear,
commie pinko queer,
but some words sink in just the same —
when they hear me shout loud
that I’m gay and I’m proud
their insults become a bit lame…
’cause it’s always more fun
to make fun of one
who snivels or squirms at their jokes.
But when I speak with pride,
don’t commit suicide,
they start seeing we ain’t wimpy folks.
What I’m doing is affirming
my past closet-squirming
and my right to come out today —
and when I speak dignified,
self-respect’s magnified —
I’m just being upfront, don’t you say?
You say I’m unsure,
in my self insecure,
’cause I say too much with too much force?
Is it ’cause I unfurled
my self to the world
on my terms — instead of just yours?
[February 12, 1979
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts]