Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Dr. Awkward and Tsenft Interview Me

First, jenlight interviews me:

1. Do you believe people are ever born homosexual or is it always a choice?
Neither. I do not believe that people can be born predisposed to any particular sexual preference, but I wouldn't say most people make a choice because most people aren't taught to realize they have any choice. Most people are just taught, "You'd better be heterosexual, and if you aren't then there's something horribly wrong with you!" Then sooner or later something in their environment provokes them to realize that they're capable of more possibilities than that, and they immediately feel that they've been labeled "queer." Since being "heterosexual" in this society is basically defined as "not having realized you're capable of being anything else" (most heterosexuals do NOT view ex-gays as anything but pathetic self-hating gays who are not really as good as REAL heterosexuals), a person who has realized they're capable of having queer feelings can never again truly fully meet the society's definition of "heterosexual." In this sense they do have no choice but to be queer. However, if it were only a matter of learning how to be attracted to a different gender in the present, instead of trying to forget they ever realized they were capable of anything else, then I think sexual preferences can be re-learned to the same extent and in the same ways that fashion preferences, food preferences, political preferences and all kinds of other preferences can be re-learned: having your parents threaten to disown you for your fashion, food, political or sexual preferences isn't going to change your preferences at all (although it might intimidate you into pretending to have changed preferences), but choosing to read a lot of political writings arguing in favor of a particular political stance can often persuade a person to develop more agreement with the stance in question, and manny meat-eaters who became convinced that eating meat was unethical have found that the act of mentally associating the taste of meat with the thought of murder has actually caused them to stop liking the actual taste of meat, and some experience eating vegetables more often and trying new ways of preparing them has often caused new vegetarians to start actually liking the taste of vegetables far more than they ever previously did. I believe that having a sexual preference for a particular type of person simply means that you've acquired the conviction on a deep-down level that people of this particular type are more likely to make you happy sexually or romantically. It's not always a deliberately chosen conviction at all, but just a pattern that our individual life experience has tended to fall into - and the conviction can be changed to the same extent and in the same ways that any other conviction can be changed, by searching for evidence which contradicts the conviction.

2. Why did you choose to be bisexual?
I felt it was an intolerably horrific insult to the whole concept of "falling in love" for someone's mere physical body to be able to prevent me from falling in love with them no matter how worthy and deserving and well-matched their mind was.

3. Do you prefer female to male?
The Implicit Association Tests I took last week claimed that I do, but I don't consider myself to. I do, however, tend to prefer people who identify with gender identities that are fairly androgynous but slightly more feminine than masculine. Currently, most of my closest friends actually have male bodies but gender identities which are somewhat feminine (to varying extents).

4. What was the last activity which you would describe as "activism" that you took part in?
In March I wrote and printed out my own antiwar stickers and stuck them up around town. Since then, I've posted political links on LiveJournal and updated my website - nothing big, but it's still something.

5. Were you raised by religious folk?
No. I was raised by two agnostic parents. In nursery school I heard people talking about someone called God and I went home and asked my mother who this God person was. She said, "Some people believe there's a magic person in the sky who created the world and has magical power to do anything at all. You can decide for yourself whether to believe that or not." I said, "That's ridiculous, everybody knows magic isn't real!" She said, "Well, you might change your mind later." I said, "That's ridiculous, I certainly will not ever change my mind later!" And I never have.

6. Do you tend to be judgmental?
I believe it's perfectly normal and healthy to have opinions and to view certain behaviors as being ethically superior to other behaviors, so to that extent I certainly make judgments. On the other hand, making judgments does not preclude sympathizing with people who've done things I don't agree with, and I tend to sympathize quite a lot with the pain of even people who very few others seem to sympathize with.

7. What do you dislike about yourself most?
I'm not often very good at forcing myself to do excruciatingly unpleasant things that I really ought to do.

Second, tsenft interviews me:

1. First, WHO ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE? Your journal has more characters than a Mexican telenovella. They appear to be a mix of online and offline friends, from what I can gather. Do you find that to be a bug or a feature of your life, or perhaps both? Like, it's nice to have everyone "in the loop" online, but issues like privacy and whatnot probably get mangled.
My journal has more characters than a Mexican telenovella?? Your friends list has nearly four times as many people on it as mine has! And actually, there's only one person on my LiveJournal friends list who I've ever met offline, and he lives halfway across the U.S. from me and we only met because of LiveJournal. It's true that I've known quite a large number of my LJ friends from years before I joined LiveJournal, but that just means I knew them from other online contexts (my mailing list, in almost all cases). I haven't had any privacy problems at all, and I haven't really got any offline friends these days anyway, so I haven't had to even contemplate whether to invite them to LiveJournal.

2. Tell me a little about how the idea of Queer by Choice became important enough for you to organize over. I assume some things led up to that decision, as one doesn't generally wake up and say, "Hey, I'm queer by choice, dammit" and start doing activism that way. I guess I'm asking who the pre QBC Gayle was, and how identifying as QBC altered who you are today.
Actually, to quite a large extent I rather did just "wake up one day" like that. I guess I should start the story back in the summer between ninth and tenth grades, though, when I was trying to decide (yes, it was always a decision for me, I never viewed being attracted to people as anything other than a decision) whether or not to develop a reciprocal crush on the boy who'd proclaimed himself to have a crush on me at the end of ninth grade. He was black, and I found this terribly startling and felt a need for extensive careful consideration before deciding whether I was prepared to deal with this business of his having an unexpected skin color. After having several months to think it over during summer vacation, I eventually decided that yes indeed, I was ready and willing to be attracted to him. Unfortunately, since I hadn't given him any particular response the previous school year, he'd spent the summer losing all interest in me and no amount of trying to win him back over during tenth grade ever succeeded in regaining his interest at all. This left me terribly, terribly frustrated with myself for having wasted my first and thus far only chance at a boyfriend, just by being irrationally slow to realize that love should not depend on superficial physical traits.

So one day in the spring of tenth grade, when I'd spent a good six months highly frustrated at not being able to regain his interest, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe the reason my best friend had kept stubbornly insisting for the whole four years I'd known her that she had never ever liked any boys ever might be that she liked girls instead. And if she liked girls, I was the logical one for her to like - she'd never expressed any comparable interest in any other girls, and if I were the one she liked, that would help explain why she hadn't ever dared to tell me who she liked. So, bearing in mind the painful lesson I'd learned by waiting too long to reciprocate the last crush, I resolved that this time around, I would not allow any silly prejudices about physical body types to cause me to waste what could be the greatest love of my life. I'd never felt the slightest attraction to any females before, but the second it occurred to me that one might be attracted to me, I was instantly determined to develop reciprocal attraction. There was no question in my mind that I would succeed - the possibility that love could be limited by mere physical body types was simply too horrifying to contemplate.

Unfortunately my best friend denied having any romantic interest in me or in any other females, but my newfound opposition to the idea of restricting my love to one gender remained. As far as I knew, I'd never met any queer person but myself, so I wondered what other queer people were like. I'd certainly heard lots on TV about how gay people were always proclaiming "It's not a choice!" but I wasn't sure how seriously to take those reports. Perhaps it was just a vast heterosexual media conspiracy to pretend that gay people were like that when really they'd all made choices just like mine? I found the media images of gay people terribly unappealing and desperately hoped they were a lot more like me than they were presented as. In the evenings I sneaked into the family room alone to watch the local GLAAD TV show on cable, and was relieved to find that the gay people on GLAAD TV were usually shown saying things that had nothing to do with the causes of queerness, which was at least better than the mainstream news where gay people were only ever shown saying nothing but "It's not a choice!" all day long; but the GLAAD TV people still never said anything whatsoever to indicate that they were annoyed by all that "It's not a choice!" yelling on the mainstream news and wished to correct that image of themselves by reasserting that it was too a choice. I kept hoping they'd get around to doing that. Eventually near the end of 12th grade, a substitute teacher came out to my history class one day in response to some students making homophobic remarks - that substitute teacher was the first person I'd ever met who I knew was queer. I immediately left a note on his desk as I left the classroom, which said simply, "Thank you. I'm gay too." At lunch that day, I sneaked away from my friends and went to his classroom to beg him to tell me what other gay people were really like. He was a pretty stereotypical young blonde yuppie mainstream gay guy studying to be an actor - you know the type, the classic target audience that The Advocate is aimed at. During the conversation at lunch, he said something which vaguely implied he didn't see his gayness as being anything he had any control over. I instantly interrupted him and demanded in a tone which very clearly announced my own opinion on the subject, "Do you actually believe that stuff about people being born gay and not having any choice????"

It is immensely to his credit (and I shall be forever grateful to him for it) that rather than expressing horror at my views and attempting to force his views onto me, he instantly stopped talking and said, "Tell me about what you think." So I did tell him, and he heard me out, and he didn't try to contradict me at all, and although he didn't express agreement either and I could tell from what he'd already said that he didn't agree, he did his very best to be as supportive of my right to hold my views as he possibly could, and to minimize his own, and in other words to treat me with precisely the kind of delicacy that a 17-year-old who's never knowingly met any other queer person in the whole world except you and is desperately counting on you for her entire sense of connection to "the gay community" at large ought to be treated. It still made me sad to know that between his views and experience of gayness and mine there lay a chasm so deep I could hardly begin to imagine what his experience could be like, but at least I didn't have to feel that the gay community was going to hate me for being different. I felt sympathized with. However, I left that conversation feeling simultaneously less lonely (because he did understand and relate to my fear of coming out) and yet more lonely (because he didn't understand or relate to my notion of what it was I was coming out about, and I had to increasingly face the prospect that this same chasm would stand between me and who knew how overwhelming a percentage of the rest of the queer community).

I got reasonably lucky in that none of the queers I met for the first several years thereafter ever reacted really negatively to my saying I chose to be queer, and several of them came at least somewhat closer than the substitute teacher did to actually understanding and relating to my experience. In my next-to-last semester of college, however, I took a psychology class on homosexuality in which the professor was the most extreme born-that-way proponent imaginable, and putting him and me in the same tiny classroom two days a week for 16 weeks gave rise to such intense levels of mutual hatred that few college classrooms have ever witnessed. So although I was very outspokenly queer by choice from the first day I turned queer, my already existing strong desire to spread queer by choice ideas was even further intensified by the evil professor (who, incidentally, gave me an A in his class, but it was only because I was so determined to show him the error of his ways that I wrote 30-page research papers every time he asked for a 3-page homework assignment, and he couldn't very well give me anything other than an A with the immense volume of work I was doing).

3. If I were to give you the power to eliminate one bad thing about the world today, what would it be?
I would redistribute the world's wealth equally among all individual human beings.

4. If I were to give you the power to eliminate one bad thing about your current living situation today, what would it be?
I would ask for a free house. Just a small one, but free.

5. If I gave you the power to eliminate one bad thing about your character today, what would it be?
I'd like to understand people better than I do.

6. If you had to choose between books and films, which would you choose? What would you miss most about the one you choose to leave behind, do you think?
Hahahaha, that's an easy one . . . I've never had any films in my life in the first place. They got left behind from the day of my birth.
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