Bay Window

The following letter to the editor was written on May 24, 1998, in response to an opinion piece by Jim Gilbert that appeared in the 5/21/98 edition of Bay Windows. My first response was nausea and disappointment. The next night I sat down at my computer and composed the following:

Letter To Jim Gilbert, Bay Windows 1998

I read Jim Gilbert’s opinion[ated] piece in the May 21st, 1998 edition of Bay Windows with disappointment.

The most telling flaw in Gilbert’s argument lies in the second paragraph of his essay, as he looks back on the days when lesbians were demanding that the term “gay community” be expanded to “gay and lesbian community.” He says “What possible harm could it lead to if we lend them half the title?” This is clearly the voice of someone who feels he is very powerful and holds ownership rights over our community. Well, Jim Gilbert, you don’t have ownership, and your patronizing attitude offends me.

Inclusion is not about an entitled group of priviliged citizens deigning to open up the big door to let their inferiors in. Inclusion is about acknowledging what already is.

When we (all of us) insist on civil rights, respect and ackowledgement in the mainstream community, we do not ask as outsiders. We are pointing out that we are already here, we have been there for a long time, and we ask that our presence as citizens be recognized, legally, culturally, and interpersonally.

Same for bisexuals and transgendered folks in the “gay and lesbian community.” I am already part of what you call the “gay and lesbian community” and what I call the “lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgendered communities.” I’ve been active in the Boston community since the early 1980s, and I’ll continue to be here with or without your permission. Because, Jim, I don’t care how gay and white and conservative and empowered you are, honey, this is one fact beyond your control. It would be a lot easier for me and for a lot of my bi and transgendered friends and allies, as well as for my forward-thinking gay and lesbian friends and allies, if you and others would acknowledge reality. Because that’s what you’re being asked to do when you’re asked to use inclusive language: acknowledge what already exists. I’m not asking for your permission to be here.

You say, “I’m not even sure ‘bisexual’ belongs in our title. After all, if I’m bisexual, doesn’t that mean that I live at least half my life as a straight person?”

Jim, I’m bisexual, and I do not maintain two separate lives. I’m out as bisexual everywhere. I have one life, and a very good one at that. My partner is a lesbian whom I love deeply, and I don’t hide her away half of the time. Furthermore, I’ve been bisexual every day of the past 20 years, whether or not I was in a relationship.

You say, “If you want to be part of an oppressed minority, I really think you should be required to spend all your time there.”

Unfortunately, I do spend all of my time as part of an oppressed group, Jim. Bisexuals, when up against homophobes don’t get half gay-bashed, lose half our jobs, or get custody of half of our children because we are bisexual. And what does “spending all your time there” mean? What about gay and lesbian people who aren’t out at work, or to their families. Since they’re not spending all their time being oppressed, should they not be allowed in your gay and lesbian community? Again, we’re back to the issue of ownership. You don’t have the right to decide. Sorry, Jim.

Furthermore, common oppression is not what makes us a community. We have created a wonderful, diverse, vibrant and exciting subculture (actually, subcultures), and I love (most) of what we’ve created. That’s why I’m involved, that’s why I go to events, that’s why I care.

I’m sorry that you are having such a hard time accepting reality, but I am not going to disappear, or keep quiet, to make you or homophobic straight people more comfortable. I’m here. Get used to it.

Robyn Ochs
Cambridge MA

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