Combating heteronormativity – one conversation at a time.

Often male celebrities are fawned over well into their 60s or even 70s. The older they get, the more distinguished they’re thought to be.

Let me apologize in advance for how long this rant has the potential to be.  I’ve been bothered by this for a while now, as my best friend, and partner in crime, Suz can attest to.  She’s listened to me bitch about this on more than one occasion. And bless her heart, she never tells me to shut up and get over it. Since this is a fandom-related blog, I’ve decided that it’s important to discuss social issues I’ve been dealing with in relatable terms. I also have no desire to discuss more personal relationships in such a public format.

Every few weeks a well-enough-intentioned acquaintance whom I’ve recently befriended on Facebook will start asking questions about my fascination with Mary McDonnell. While I rarely shy away from discussing Mary’s work or my affection for her, these conversations cause a bit of aggravation for me because the term ‘role model’ invariably gets thrown out by the other party as the summation of my Mary Situation. Now don’t get me wrong, Mary has many, many characteristics that make her worthy of being a role-model: her feminism, her charitable endeavors, and her genuinely kind spirit. All these qualities certainly inspire and push me to become the best version of myself. However, to simply refer to Mary as my role model is to deny a very real and important facet of her appeal – my attraction to her.

preemmy06This just in! Sarah is physically attracted to Mary McDonnell!

I do not hide the fact that I’m attracted to Mary. I am very specific – if hyperbolic – in my language, using clear indicators of physical attraction which are far too numerous to include here but include any number of references to her legs, her mouth, her décolletage and/or my being in love(lust) with her.  The fact that these indicators are so consistently construed as an attraction-free, role model paradigm is not only a microaggression against my identity, it’s a sign of our society’s heteronormativity and ageism.

Heteronormativity is the belief that heterosexuality is the inherent ‘default’ sexual orientation; every other orientation then exists as a deviation from the norm. It is the belief that people are straight until proven otherwise.  It is the reason that when I meet new people, they ask if I have a boyfriend, not a girlfriend.  It is the reason that playful toddler-aged boys are called “future ladies’ men” and why it is considered “a shame” when attractive, successful men come out as homosexual. These ideals are instilled in us from childhood.  All one has to do is think of the numerous fairy tales they were taught as a child. Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, the Little Mermaid – heteronormative conditioning. This conditioning is so thorough that when a woman is literally standing in front of someone discussing her attraction to another woman, so often the listener infers a platonic admiration from the exchange.

When the moment of clarity dawns on these acquaintances, as it always does, their realization that I’m physically attracted to Mary is almost always followed with some variation of “How old is she?” Even more predictable is the “she’s old enough to be your mother!” response upon being informed that Mary’s in her 60s. I do not, in any way, see her age as a barrier to my attraction. Instead, her age is one of her most attractive features. And if one were privy to my far more personal crushes, they’d soon learn that I tend to be attracted to women significantly older than I am. Mary is the rule, not the exception.

dc33I guarantee you, at no point, am I ever surprised by how old she is.  So, I’m quite well aware of how her age compares to mine, thank you very much.

Here’s the kicker though: why does it matter?  If you were to replace Mary’s name with say George Clooney’s or even Sean Connery’s there would be no such similar surprise. Often male celebrities are fawned over well into their 60s or even 70s. The older they get, the more distinguished they’re thought to be. Why then, is it so abhorrent to people that a woman in her 30s could unquestioningly – and unapologetically – be attracted to a woman in her 60s?

SirSeanConneryMy friend has literally never been reminded that this man is old enough to be her grandfather.

It’s because our ageist society instills in us that a woman is only attractive and desirable in her prime years – prior to her turning 40 (or increasingly 35). A few years ago, Allure magazine conducted an aging study that found men believe female beauty peaks at 29. This means that women – just as they are coming into their own, gaining life experience and the confidence that comes with it – they’re relegated to the category of undesirable. Youth is prioritized over knowledge, experience, confidence and wisdom. Ageism goes hand in hand with heteronormativity because women are held to a standard of beauty that aligns with the expectations of heterosexual males. This doesn’t just hurt queer women constantly forced to defend their attraction to older women – it impacts all women.

The moral of all this: don’t automatically assume that every single person that you meet day in and day out is heterosexual. They aren’t. When someone clearly tells you that they are not heterosexual, do not attempt to force them back into your narrow view of society. Instead, try to understand why your view of socially accepted attractions is so narrow and expand your horizons.

ps17

And finally, Mary McDonnell is smoking hot, whether you agree or not!

Post-Convention Blues

This weekend I traveled to Houston, Texas for Comicpalooza. It was two hectic days of over-the-top, geeky delight with tens of thousands of my geek brethren. While I usually attend conventions with friends, this was a solo trip. I had been a bit nervous about attending alone, until I walked into the George R. Brown Convention Center. At that point, the excitement for the weekend took over.  Of course, this could be due to Mary McDonnell’s photo op session being the very first thing on my convention schedule.

meandmary

If you’ve ever read this blog before, or had a conversation with me that lasted longer than five minutes, you already knew that Mary had to be involved in some way for me to travel all the way to Houston. I had two days of photographs, autographs, and panels ranging from Mary’s Mother’s Day panel to a panel on the science behind Victorian weapons. Everywhere I turned, I was surrounded by fellow fans, young and old, reveling in their private fandoms as we all collectively geeked out in the packed convention center. I strolled through the Exhibit Hall spotting the General Lee (racist and outdated, but who am I to judge), a Winchester Impala, Ten’s Tardis and on the other side of the Hall Eleven’s as well, and almost all of the fandom related merchandise your heart could desire. Then, Sunday evening, it was time to catch a plane home and just as quickly as I’d been immersed in Comicpalooza, I was knocked back into reality.

Sadly, one of the oft neglected results of convention attendance is the post-convention blues that strike once you get back home. You can no longer look in any direction and see at least four women dressed as Harley Quinn. You can’t hop on the elevator and admire a cosplayer’s commitment to Nick Fury.  (Seriously, it was 85 degrees and he still had the full-length jacket on!) You can’t even eat your lunch in the shadow of a hundred Darth Vaders marching by. You certainly can’t walk around a corner and see Mary McDonnell, in all of her perfection, sitting at her table talking to fans. Basically, it sucks!

 

 

An Open Letter to the Woman Who Broke My Heart

Pam,

I know that you don’t know the last time that we were in contact, so allow me to tell you.  March 6, 2016.  It was your birthday.  I texted you to wish you a happy birthday because I never was able to get a hold of you on the phone without miraculous intervention. You never responded. Not so much as a “Thank you.” You stopped responding to me a long time ago. So long ago, in fact, that I never got to discuss with you my returning to college – let alone my graduating.  I graduated in May of last year. You never responded to that invitation either. So, you can imagine how unsurprised I was last month, when you didn’t respond to my deleting you on Facebook.

I know that what happened was a terrible, tragic thing.  I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain that you went through – that you continue to go through – every day. To lose a daughter is an injury no mother should ever have to endure. You did have, and forever will have, my most sincere sympathies.  I have tried on so many occasions to reach out to you, to grieve with you, to check on you, or to update you on important things in my life.  Each attempt has been met with resounding silence. At first, I believed it to be excessive grief.  You didn’t want to talk to anyone.  You needed to adjust to a new normal.  I understand this. Yet, even as you adjusted to this new way of life, and began venturing out again, my messages went unread, unanswered.

I have not heard your voice, nor seen your face in over three years.  This is the longest span of time that we have gone without speaking since I first met you when I was 15 years old. It has been so long that I cannot remember the sound of your voice. I cannot begin to describe the pain that this silence causes me. My heart is broken.  It is shattered into pieces too small for me to reassemble. I am lost – alone, trying to navigate the world without my voice of reason – the person I turn to for guidance.

Most days, I do my absolute best not to think about you. Everyday I make the active decision to not allow my hurt to disrupt my day. I push the pain that lingers in my heart to the back of my mind so that I don’t have to remember how very much I miss you.  This weekend, that coping method has been impossible.  I met a woman so very similar to you in so many ways.  Three years ago, I would have delighted in the presence of your doppelganger and told you all about it when we saw each other next. This year, it took everything that I could to keep my composure and not become the poor sobbing girl at the dinner table.

“Have you talked to Pam?” Grandaddy asked me when I visited him last month.

“No,” I sighed. And added silently, “That would require her speaking to me.”

I don’t know what I did. I will likely never know what it was that caused you to stop speaking to me. I’m not sure that you even know that you did. But every day, I wake up a day further away from the Sarah that you knew.  So much has happened in my life, so many things have changed.  There have been so many huge decisions that I remain unsure if I made the correct choice because I wasn’t able to talk them over with you and seek your guidance. This weekend has proven to me that I still miss you.  As much as I ever did. I miss your spirit, and your encouragement, the way that you could always sense when I needed an uplifting word. I miss your laughter and how much fun we could have just sitting in your kitchen drinking coffee. I miss your wisdom and your enveloping hugs. I miss you.  And I’m afraid that I won’t ever stop missing you.

You always used to say that I gave you too much credit.  Too much credit for pulling me up out of the mud.  Too much credit from pulling me off the ledge when all I wanted to do was jump off of it and make all of the pain stop. My response to you was always that you never took the credit that you deserved. I can say with absolute certainty that without you, I would not be sitting at this computer tonight writing this letter.  I would be in the ground. That’s the reality that you pulled me away from.  You saved my life. What you didn’t do was teach me how to live in a world without you. I don’t know how to do that. I hate that I have to learn how to.

My eternal love,

Sarah