Sunday, September 09, 2007

Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are...

What if you threw a party and nobody came?

As some of you know, Fellow Traveler and I have been trying to provide fellowship opportunities for lesbians in our area -- last fall we held a Thanksgiving open house for people who didn't have a family dinner to go to and we've scheduled several potlucks and meetups. We've used the Internet and our network of friends and acquaintances to let people know we're here. And some of our friends have also stepped up to host events in their own communities and at their own homes. Most of these happenings revolve around eating (as if you wouldn't guess this from this blog), talking and engaging in non-sensational amusements like playing cards or watching sporting events on TV.

What we've found, though, is that many women who are interested in what we're doing nonetheless won't come to our get-togethers. Because they're afraid. One of our friends who lives in a metro area downstate related that the same thing happens when she tries to get people together in her own city -- that women on one side of the city are reluctant to travel to the other because they're scared.

While caution while meeting people online is always prudent, I think this goes far beyond anxiety that we're a couple of Internet-based wackos. I think many women, especially in our rural part of the state, are afraid of identifying with other gay women in any other way; that they are burdened, in their psyches, by an unseen gallery of disapproving others who intimidate them to the point of self-segregation from the rest of our community.

This makes me sad. I wish there were a way to reassure these women that it's okay to come to our homes; that there's good food and good conversation, hopefully some good-natured silliness, and support.


toujoursdan said...

I think I can understand how intimidating it might be to show up at someone's home if you are struggling with your sexuality or trying to work your way into community.

Can you find a friendly public place to hold a party, like a restaurant? That may be a good place to start.

LutheranChik said...

We've tried scheduling meetups in restaurants in centrally located communities -- we got about a dozen women together at one such luncheon in a central part of the state -- but there's still hesitancy. One woman asked us, "What do the rest of you look like?"...and after tactfully unpacking her question it turned out that she was uncomfortable meeting in public with women who appeared too "lesbian." (While I don't think anyone will confuse us with Victoria's Secret models or Totaled Women...we're not dressed like Pride Parade floats, nor do we look like longshoremen. We're just a few middle-aged broads.;-)) That's actually why we've tried having home-based get-togethers; to give women with these concerns safe space.

toujoursdan said...

That makes sense too. Sorry it's such a difficult road!

Cheryl said...

If I lived in your neck of the woods, I'd come and hang out with you!! :)

However, I live in Atlanta (aka Gay Valhalla of the East), so we don't have quite the same concerns as the rural areas. However growing up in lower central Alabama, I can understand the situation you're in.

I think what you and FT are doing is a ministry of sorts, and eventually, word will get around that it is a safe and fun place to be. Hang in there!!

LutheranChik said...

Thanks, Cheryl!

In the rare event some shy/non-"out" mid- or northern Michiganian who's never been to a party of the sisterhood is reading this and thinking, "Oh, it would be nice to go to something like that...but I can't...I just can't..."...please reconsider. If you're afraid that our parties are some sort of amazon orgy...well, they're more like a Red Hat Society party without the hats and feather boas. There is very little alcohol consumption, if any; we do things like watch sports on TV, or hang out outdoors, or go to a restaurant, or play cards (I'm not an enthusiastic card player, but I can play Skip-Bo, and my nephew-in-law taught me to play Texas hold-em, sort of, so I can be persuaded to sit in for those games), or just sit around and eat and talk, and talk and eat. If you bring a chocolate dessert, you will immediately become everyone's bestest friend. We don't fly rainbow flags or wear in-your-face activist T-shirts or otherwise make a big deal out of who we are, so you don't have to be afraid that Larry, Darryl and Darryl down the road are going to show up and harrass us. It's a nice way to spend a few hours on a weekend afternoon. We'd love to have you join us sometime.

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

LC, the question about appearance is particularly ironic for me, since, when I moved up here from Texas, my gaydar was thrown way out of kilter --not because of how the lesbians looked, but how the straight women looked and acted. Lots of women with short hair, little or no make up, and sensible shoes. Who probably worked in the shops or on the family farm.

Yes, it IS sad ... and all too real.

P.S. an after-thought said...

I'm not one of your in-crowd, but I guess I can understand not wanting to be identified in a rural area. OTOH, there are scores of women's groups that meet in restaurants, etc. As mentioned, the Red Hatter-s, and there there are the friends of the library type groups. And groups of old friends, etc. etc. Maybe the best "defense" would be for individual women to meet with all sorts of women at various times. IE: normal life.

Since I'm not in this situation, I will apologize if my comment misses the mark and is insensitive; that would not be intentional.

Counselor in Process said...

I would definitely come to your party. It sounds like a lot of fun and more laid back than the kind of event that we generally attend here in NYC. Maybe the beloved and I should throw a potluck. I've always wanted to do a poker party, but I don't know how to play!
Does your church have a gay group-I haven't read much. I may have found the only Catholic Church in all of North America that has gay and lesbian groups and have made a lot of friends that way. The beloved belongs to the GLBT synagogue-where she is now repenting.and many of our friends are from there.