Tuesday, March 8, 2011

left-handed lover

A couple of days ago, the NYT published this article about being left-handed.  Apparently, being left-handed has lost its stigma, but retained its mystery.  Have I mentioned that I am left-handed?  Probably not.  It's an interesting bit of trivia, but not altogether that important.  Being left-handed just is.  My mother is left-handed, as is my maternal grandmother.  We all do varying degrees of things with our right hands.  I think my mom is the most strongly left-handed.  My grandmother and I both cut with our right hand when using scissors, but my mother does not.  Which means that, growing up, our house was full of left-handed scissors, which no one else could use.  I think scissors are largely ambidextrous now, but I digress.  My point is that you don't think I'm not left-handed because I cut with right-handed scissors.

The article on left-handedness reminded me of my vision for the LGBT community.  I think that, in any movement, it's important to have a clear idea of where you would like to be, or it's hard to progress.  For me, it's all epitomized in left-handedness.  You have probably heard that, ages ago, lefties were thought to be witches, and that people tried to force their left-handed children to become right-handed.  Not so different from being gay, is it?  But now, if you are left-handed, it's just an interesting little bit of trivia.  Most people, when they find out I'm a leftie, just say something along the lines of, "Huh. I didn't know you were left-handed."  And then we move on. 

This is particularly what I hope happens with respect to the "born gay" argument.  There are people in my life who think they were born LGB or T.  There are people who came to it much more fluidly.  There are people who think it was their environment.  Personally?  I don't actually care.  At all.  I think people cling to the "born gay" argument because it justifies our existence to people who would put us into reprogramming camps.  But I think it's an oversimplification.  I also think it's irrelevant. 

Is my relationship more deserving of recognition because something is genetic, rather than learned (or even just -- gasp -- desired)?  Who cares?  We should celebrate our diversity for whatever the reason, not just if there is an identifiable genetic link.  I realized when reading the article that there are people out there studying left-handedness.  But I promise you that the general population doesn't spend a lot of time trying to figure out why people are left-handed.  Did I learn it from my mom?  Is it genetic?  Did someone do something to me that caused me to be left-handed?  If I tried to talk about this for too long at a cocktail party, I would probably find myself standing alone, holding my drink in my left hand.   And yet, the "what makes a person gay" question comes up over and over, and is hotly debated. 

So this is my vision, then.  I want to live in a world where one day, someone can find out I'm a lesbian, and their reaction can be as non-dramatic as saying, "Huh. I didn't know you were a lesbian." And then we move on.  I don't want it to be completely irrelevant, but more like a completely non-stigmatized interesting little tidbit about me.  Maybe I'll need different scissors.  Maybe explaining table manners is just a touch more complex.  Maybe little accommodations will need to be made, but no one will really mind.  They'll think it's interesting.  Maybe I'll even do certain things another way, but it won't make people question my identity.  And for the most part, it will just be a non-controversial little piece of who I am.


  1. Great comparison. But, I tend to ask follow up questions when I find out someone is left handed. :)

    And, I also don't think sexuality will ever be just a little tidbit. The personal is political, right? Your sexuality is more than which hand you bat with. It is so much of your domestic life--your love life and your sex life. All things way more interesting, important, and conversation worthy than handedness. When I went to see Jennifer Baumgardner talk about her book Look Both Ways, I brought up the point that some people don't *want* to know who we prefer sleeping with. And this is why some people (ahem, heterosexuals/ists) feel like LGBT people flaunt their sexuality or whatever. (But they have to, to some extent, otherwise people will assume they are straight.) But, it is also saying Hey, I like sleeping with _____! Which sometimes can be more information than people want.

  2. But don't you think straight people flaunt with whom they are sleeping as well? I see straight couples all the time making out in public, hand in back pocket, hand on inside of thigh--all of which screams I am sleeping with this person. Its just that if the couple is straight no one cares. No one says, "I dont 'want" to know who you are sleeping with."

  3. Yes, I do. I actually meant it for all people--but, unless LGBTs want people to assume straightness, sometimes clarification is needed. Whereas straight people can be assumed straight.