Sunday, June 21, 2009

PA Arts Sunday - June 21, 2009 -- Letter to a Straight Friend

[The Anchorage public hearings on a new civil rights ordinance have inspired thousands of photographs, hundreds of hand-made signs. No doubt, songs have been and are being written about the scenes outside of and inside of the Loussac Library. And poems too. I even wrote a play about the upcoming hearings, the weekend before they started.

If you know of art that has been inspired by this trying public process, please let Progressive Alaska know, and I'll post it here. The following is a poem, written by Mel, back when she was realizing how important it was for her to be proud.]

-- by Mel

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 oru 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 fund
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]

image from henkimaa flickr photostream


AKPetMom said...

Very poignant and lovely poem. It makes me ache for those with so much hate and fear in their hearts. I worked in the arts for 15 years so folks from different walks of life were just the norm. When I walk outside of that life I am appalled at what I find in regards to tolerance; tolerance of any sort of difference be it lifestyle, dress or choice of any sort that flies in the face of the indoctrination and teaching of those who choose to judge others.

I can't condone those that hide behind the bible and use it as a weapon against free choice. I can't tolerate it and that makes me I guess as smallminded as those who preach hate, but they need to open their minds and their hearts to love and not mindless hate and fear and that is what I believe and no one can convince me that I am wrong.

Mel said...

Thanks for reposting, Phil. I was so (un-)busy sleeping away my exhaustion from last week that I didn't see this until this morning.

I was 19, just about 20, when I wrote this poem after one of the tiny tiny group of friends who "knew" about me expressed nervousness about me talking about being a lesbian. (She was, in other words, one of the few people I even felt safe in talking to about it.) I was not nearly so open as the poem would make it seem, not for several years. But I think being open is absolutely necessary for our mental & spiritual health.

As I said in my intro to the poem on my own site,

"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."

Thanks for your unwavering support. It means one heckuva lot.