I am a curious person, a lover of learning, a daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend, lover, partner, admirer of nature, admirer of art, an avid and tireless consumer of the written word, a bisexual, pansexual, ciswoman, lifetime feminist, progressive and critical observer of life, a game-player, a silly fun-maker, a deep thinker, a question-asker, a hard worker, a bike rider, a sometimes runner, a beachgoer, an animal lover, adventurous traveler, healthy but sometimes indulgent food lover… but, first and foremost, I am a human being.
I am a human being whose own personal version of “normal” means something very different from the “normal” which the rest of America (and the world) considers acceptable and respectable. This is my normal, this is my human experience:
In many ways, I am an extraordinarily privileged human being. I am a college graduate, with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and plans to pursue a Masters in Social Work. I get up and go to work six days a week, sometimes seven. I live in a cute little apartment with two roommates and two cats in a beautiful and safe neighborhood. I love to travel and have had many exciting experiences abroad. I appreciate healthy, safe, fresh food and make an effort to buy local. I am able to dress in clean, comfortable clothing and pay my bills. I have access to appropriate health care, advocacy and legal resources when needed. I have a loving and supportive middle-class family. I am a fairly typical-looking white American woman. I don’t look “like a dyke.” Strangers believe I am “normal” and a generally agreeable and attractive person. It is both a blessing and a burden that my appearance is so shockingly misleading.
After considering the amount of privilege I am afforded by society, it is probably easy to draw even more stereotypes regarding my queer identity—that is, apart from the usual nonsense you might hear about bisexuals (see here: http://www.glaad.org/blog/celebrate-bisexuality-glaad-dispels-common-myths-and-stereotypes and the funnier version: http://www.alternet.org/story/149710/9_stupid_myths_about_bisexuals_that_will_make_you_laugh/). Though I don’t set off any gaydars, I am not ashamed of my alternative sexuality, nor do I wish to hide it from the world. Despite my hetero-passing, I am not under the impression that LGBTQ-identifying people are “just like heterosexuals” once you get past the weird sex acts. I know that the fight for human equality is infinitely more complex and challenging than the fight for gay marriage. And—get this—sometimes, I even feel exclusion from the queer community for perhaps not being “gay enough.”
But let’s slow down a moment, and explore some of the gory details. I grew up in a Western Massachusetts college town around countless queers. When I was young, I never knew these people were unusual, I didn’t conceptualize a minority. I was insulated from the hatred, exclusion and mistreatment that exists in many other communities. I had friends and classmates who had same-sex parents and gay or lesbian siblings. At one point, I even had two moms myself. When I went to college in Virginia, I loved to casually toss out, “Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I had two moms?” to my friends. Many who hadn’t grown up around gays thought this was an absolute riot. I thought it was a riot that they were wildly amused at something I think is totally normal. My mom is bisexual. So what? For the record, she and my wonderful step-dad have been married for twelve years. This, to me, is also completely normal. I have no cognitive dissonance regarding my mother’s choice of partners, or my own. All I have are the facts.
Though I spend a significant amount of time operating within the bounds of the dominant heteronormative culture, I am not wholly a part of it. I do not find happiness or satisfaction in relationships that mirror traditional hetero-relationships, or that abide by the rules and expectations of the prevailing patriarchal society.
I have loved gay, bisexual, and heterosexual men. I have loved heterosexual, bisexual females and lesbians. I have loved queers, homos, butches, dykes and fags. I have loved gender non-conformers, the label-less among us, those who are transitioning from one identity to another, slipping and sliding about the many binaries that confine and often consume us. I have struggled to find accurate labels that fit comfortably. I am a human being who loves other human beings.
This is my normal. I can’t agree with the powers that be that there is only one way to live, one way to act, one way to look, and one way to love. I refuse to accept the vilification of my human experience. I refuse to accept bigotry, divisive stereotypes and exclusionary homonormativity among those who may share my human experience.
I was asked to write about my human experience, and on this occasion I couldn’t do so without paying major homage to my queerness and its multitudes. I could have told you how my parents got divorced when I was a kid. I could have written horror stories about all the mental illness in my family. I could’ve shared enchanting details about my favorite books and writers (Jeanette Winterson, Tennessee Williams, ee cummings, Barbara Kingsolver, Kurt Vonnegut, J.D. Salinger and John Steinbeck—to name just a few!). I could have bragged about my awesome little sister, or my handsome and kind partner and their incredible dog. I could have written extensively about my many goals, dreams and fears. These things are all also part of my human experience. This essay is but a short introduction.
Ultimately, I want to be someone who helps people, and makes peoples’ lives better in some way. I want to acknowledge the human experiences of others and put in the work, sweat and tears to make those human experiences more joy-filled. That’s why I’m involved in T.H.E. I chose to share this much of my story, so that others may know that it is safe to do the same. This is actually my first time speaking publicly about my sexuality, and I sincerely hope that we can continue to vocalize our individual and shared human experiences in a way that betters us all.
Sarah Stout, T.H.E. Team Member
What is The Human Experience? It is the validity in your story and the story of 7,000,000,000 other people in this world. How do you put a label on being human? You don’t. You open your heart and listen. This is the foundation of our publication, The Human Experience, and we want to hear your story. Join us in spreading the diversity of the human experience with the world by sharing your story. Find out how to share your story with the world.