I’ve been examining my thoughts and feelings about queerness. It’s been a comfortable journey so far, realising that some people I know are gay and they have felt comfortable in my presence. But now I find myself in a real dilemma.
Some months ago, I received an email from one of my readers. She was a lesbian lady who had come across one of my posts on Gaysi and wanted to tell me that she appreciated my support for the gay community. I wrote back thanking her and telling her how some of my close friends were gay and that it had given me a chance to see the difficulties they faced because of discrimination. At the end of that conversation, she asked to meet me, adding ‘if you don’t mind having coffee sometime with a dyke’. Of course, I didn’t I told her, wouldn’t that be silly after all I had said?
Later, she invited me to a party, telling me that there would be mostly gay people at the party. Work held me up and I didn’t manage to make it to that party. She and I had a few conversations since then, about the kind of things that I write about – life, love, friendship, people etc. She has popped up a number of times on my radar, in the form of comments on my posts or chat messages saying hello. She has also been inviting me to different events and outings. And she has frequently asked me when I’d like to meet for coffee. I have to say that I haven’t managed to make it to any of the aforementioned events and neither have I made time for the promised coffee. I do have a rather busy social life and when it comes to prioritizing, I almost always place an old friend, a date or solo time over a casual conversation with a stranger.
But one thing has been nagging at the back of my head for some time now. If she had been a straight woman, I think she would likely have lost interest in trying to make contact with me by now (I know I don’t make the effort to create new friendships now). If it had been a cis man at the other end of this interaction, his persistence would have made me sure that he was romantically/ sexually interested in me. But this is the first time I’m in this situation with a lesbian woman whom I don’t know too well. How should I construe this behaviour? It’s a difficult dilemma. How I handle this will shape how I think of myself.
I thought back to my friend MJ. I didn’t know she was a lesbian when we first met and neither of us actively pursued the friendship. We just ended up meeting a lot of times, and hanging out a lot with friends and by ourselves. We were already close when I realised she was gay. By that time though, her major association in my mind was FRIEND and being gay was just one of the many things I knew about her, like her hair colour or her last name.
Now though, the only real definition I have of this lady is that she is lesbian. And she has been quite keen to meet me. I know that this may be more indicative of her friendliness than a romantic interest in me. Yet, the possibility exists, however remote. I also know that gay people are able to discern other gay people and would logically not expect a person to change their sexuality. Then again, one of my lesbian friends did indeed date someone who had hitherto portrayed a ‘straight’ face (pun entirely unintended!), even having had a boyfriend before she met my friend. Also, I myself know that when you like someone a lot, it is quite possible to misread or even read a little too much into their actions.
The dilemma I face is a moral one, not a practical one. Should I meet her and risk sending her a wrong signal that I reciprocate? Or should I refrain and succumb to that archaic belief that gay people are just waiting to pounce on one? Furthermore, considering that we don’t have common friends or interests, am I not willing to meet her only to prove that I’m open-minded about homosexuality? There’s definitely an over-correction in favour of gay people then. After all, by my own premise, equal rights mean equality and vice versa.
I struggled with this dilemma for a number of days. Finally, I decided to just come clean and tell her what I thought. I told her that this was what I would think if a guy reader had contacted me and that I could be reading this wrong but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t sending out a wrong message.
“Oh god, don’t tell me you got the wrong message!”
and then logged off. Maybe she was offended and I am sorry about that. It was never my intention to insult anyone. It’s not a comfortable feeling for me at all. I don’t enjoy offending people and I don’t want to be disliked. But at the end of it, I think I’d rather live with that than run the risk of leading her on. This was a hard dilemma but I don’t regret the stance I took.
Note: I mentioned this to MJ who laughed and said, “It’s so amusing to see the hetero community more touchy about gay issues than gays themselves!”
Update: Shortly after this post, this lesbian lady began leaving hate comments on my Facebook profile. She spread it about that I pretended to be a queer ally but was lying. She got one of my writing contracts terminated by telling the company that I was a homophobe. I couldn’t do anything and stayed silent.
Then she contacted my friends and tried to get my phone number by saying that we were in love and were having a fight. A few months later, I received persistent emails apologising for her misbehaviour. She insisted that I forgive her till I had to reply asking her to let it go and to stop contacting me. Her response? Can I interest you in a coffee now?
At that time, because I had no references, I tried to think of how I would navigate the situation with a cis man. This cis woman’s behaviour went on to mirror every toxic cis man I’d known, from the consent violations to the predations to the violent tantrum throwing and vicious lies. My instincts about her were right. Trying to be a good ally clouded my thoughts and the dilemma left me open to a vicious predator. In despair, I turned to my friend Harish Iyer who said,
“Why do you think gay people have to be good people? Gay people are honest, gay people are liars. Gay people are nice, gay people are mean. Gay people are brave, gay people are predators. Gay people are PEOPLE.”
It was one of my most profound life lessons. A horrible person is a horrible person, regardless of their gender or sexuality. Predators and narcissists work behind every known human mask of region, language, caste, religion, race and more. Some groups are unfairly policed more but that doesn’t mean they may also not contain criminals. Stay safe but also stay loving.