Monday, November 10, 2008

Breaking News: I Might Not Be Gay!

"Has my whole life been a lie?!"

Well, okay, that's a bit of a sensationalistic headline, but I wanted to make sure I have your attention.

Just moments ago, as I was looking at this, my very own website (which I only peek at through my fingers, like I'm watching a horror movie or a live Liza Minnelli performance), an advertisement caught my eye. It said something like: "Are You a Lesbian? Take This Test and See!"

I had a few minutes to spare, so I thought I'd take the test and find out. Even though I consider myself to be pretty obviously gay -- gay as hell, to be precise -- others aren't always as convinced. My siblings, for example, didn't believe me when I came out to them. It took my sisters several months to realize I wasn't kidding. Even after I got my parents to vouch for my gayness (I remember it like it was yesterday, calling them into the room so I could wave towards my sisters and impatiently demand, "Will you tell them I'm incredibly gay?"), they regarded me with skepticism, convinced I was secretly dating a male friend.

And my brother, he didn't know what the hell was going on. I came out to him very casually, when we were having a conversation about something that couldn't have been of much consequence since I don't remember the topic now. It was put forth as a little aside, something like, "You do know I'm gay, right?" He nodded and went on with his story. It wasn't until years later that he told me he hadn't known, and that he had only kept rambling out of embarrassment.

My siblings aren't the only ones. My grandfather, who I love despite the fact that he's completely insane, frequently calls my mom to see if I have a boyfriend. He bristles when she reminds him that I'm gay, and then he does something that infuriates me since I've never heard him make similar remarks about any of the other gay people he knows: he suggests that maybe I'm confused. "Maybe you're confused," my mom likes to tell him. "Maybe you should have a boyfriend." That's his cue to grudgingly admit that he knows he's being stupid, but it's never the end of the conversation; they've been having this exchange since I came out as a teenager.

Then there's the case of a straight male friend who often accuses me of being a bad lesbian -- or, as he once put it, like he was scolding a rambunctious dog who nipped at a neighbor: "a bad, bad lesbian." (I don't remember if that was before or after the time he wrote an e-mail explaining why he's a better lesbian than I am. He's very invested in the theory that I'm somehow a disgrace to the gay community. I believe he owns more Tori Amos CDs than I do, and he's far more emotional than I am, so on those grounds I'm willing to concede that between the two of us, he might be the superior lesbian. But I also suspect he has dated more lesbians than I have, so this might be more a case of him being a terrible heterosexual than anything else.) This is all in addition to the legions of people, most of them fellow dykes, who've told me I'm more like an old queen than a 25-year-old lesbian (and, hey, if the caftan fits...*).

As I was transported to a website with the word "dumb" in its name (which seemed only fitting) and waited for the "Are You a Lesbian?" test to load, I thought of everyone who had ever doubted my orientation. I'll show them, I thought. This will set the record straight and no one will ever question my epic lesbian-ness again!

The early questions, about subjects like how you'd change a tire and what men are useful for (the options were things like opening jars or serving as beards, when in reality such men would be merkins) weren't promising. They were supposed to be humorous but often missed the mark, and several seemed to equate homosexuality with gender confusion, which is roughly as amusing as all of those America's Funniest Home Videos clips that showed five-year-olds hitting their fathers in the crotch with Wiffle ball bats. A few didn't have any answers that appealed to me at all, like how would you finish the sentence: "Bettie Page is..." (The choices were "Who?", "My fashion GODDESS," "Someone I'd go lesbian for" or "In my dreams." My preferred answer would have been: "Someone Mary Harron made a decent movie about.")

Still, I breezed through the quiz, answering a total of 20 questions about everything from Melissa Etheridge (I chose the David Crosby answer) to the Grand Canyon (which I don't believe is Mother Earth's vagina, though a Grand Canyon postcard that reads "Greetings from Mother Earth's Vagina!" is definitely something I'd send to my grandma), and waited for my results. A screen popped up asking me to enter some personal information while the true extent of my gayness was calculated. Sighing in irritation, I submitted bogus info and again clicked for my results.

A new page came up asking for more information. This happened several times, with the requests getting more and more outlandish. (What does my mother's maiden name have to do with my sexual orientation?) Several more times I fed it phony responses, and then "special offers" would appear, all with fine print that said things like "If you accept this offer you will be charged $9.99 monthly on your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid account." Hitting the button that was supposed to decline the offers and tell me if I'm a lesbian only summoned more -- you guessed it -- special offers!

Accepting that I'd unwittingly boarded an endless merry-go-round of stupidity, I closed the Mozilla tab without ever learning if I might be straight or bisexual. Could the website have made a convincing argument that I'm not a lesbian? Probably not. Our club's admission standards have grown so lax since the invention of MTV that pretty much anyone is allowed to join nowadays. (Don't you ever wish you'd been a lesbian in the age of Katharine Cornell and Eva Le Gallienne? Doesn't their world seem infinitely cooler than the newer one that includes Tila Tequila and the stars of Work Out?) And for all the crap I take from friends and the occasional relative, I hardly think my lesbian credentials are anything to scoff at. So what if I know more about Joan Crawford movies than episodes of South of Nowhere? Joan Crawford had her own South of Nowhere-esque adventures every now and then, and none of them would be stamped with a TV-PG rating on Noggin. (This is where Edward G. Robinson would sneer, "Where's your lesbian now, Moses?")

And isn't there more than one way to be a giant lesbian, anyway? Look at Ellen -- she dances. Rosie writes poetry. Melissa Etheridge sings herself hoarse and publicly contemplates tax evasion. Jodie Foster ignores the lesbian issue altogether and keeps herself busy by making the same terrible movie over and over again. My best friend from middle school, who didn't officially come out until a year or two ago, plays ice hockey with a bunch of women who all seem to end up leaving their husbands for their (female) teammates. As my hopelessly heterosexual father once said after I carefully explained to him the difference between bears, cubs and otters in the gay community, "It takes all kinds."

Even so, I'm still looking for a quiz that will prove I'm a 100% board certified lesbian. If you know of one that isn't comprised of unbearably stupid questions, send me the link and we'll get this taken care of once and for all.

* I don't really wear caftans, so you don't have to look so alarmed. But if I were an old queen, I'd live in them.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors