Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Born to Be Picked On?

Yesterday I read Different Daughters: A Book by Mothers of Lesbians, edited by Louise Rafkin, originally published by Seal Press in 1987 and then in updated editions in 1996 and 2001.  I read the second edition, which I found at a library book sale.  It consists of short essays by about thirty women, mostly of my parents' generation, telling how they came to terms with the discovery that their daughters were lesbian or bisexual.  It's familiar territory to me, since numerous books of this kind have been published, but it was good to brush up, and to be reminded of the attitudes lesbians faced in the first decade or so after Stonewall.

The book also nudged me toward thought on some secondary issues.  Many of the contributors told of agonizing over what they might have done to make their daughters turn away from men, and this passage stood out for me:
I remembered with guilt a debate I had many years before with [my ex-husband's] therapist, a woman, about the children's independence and their learning to do things like change their own bicycle tires.  She said I was going to raise daughters that no man would want to live with [66].
This would have been sometime in the 1960s, I believe.  Similar ridiculous ideas were expressed by other psychiatrists, according to these mothers, which is a reminder that psychiatry and therapy generally have often been hotbeds of reaction.  Seriously: changing her own bicycle tire would render a woman intolerable to men?  But yes, traces of this attitude persist to this day, and though it was never true that all men required incompetence and dependence from their wives, enough men are threatened by competence and the independence it may signal to be a problem -- especially when the official culture endorses their attitude.

But also:
One day at a beach someone threw a bottle at one of my daughters and yelled "dyke" [61].
This set me thinking.  A young woman might be assaulted by a random bigot on the beach or anywhere else whether she is lesbian or not, simply because she's a woman.  She was born that way, of course. The same would be true of people of color who are subject to harassment by white supremacists simply because of the inborn color of their skin.  Why, I wonder, do so many gay people believe that if we could just prove that we're Born This Way, bigotry would simply evaporate, when everybody knows that inborn conditions are the basis of discrimination, hostility, and violence?