In Oklahoma being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) is a “hush, hush” kind of lifestyle. Not many people wish to dive into the lifestyle of the LGBT community when these people probably lead more interesting lives than either you or me. With that being said, I have interviewed three different people that are part of the LGBT community; Clark who is an 18 year old transgender male, formerly known as Catherine, Matthew who is a 19 year old homosexual male, and Christine who is a 17 year old lesbian who formerly believed she was bisexual. These people have all gone through an identity crisis and have faced many other challenges with “coming out.” When being interviewed, they were all pretty open with the exception of Matthew, who would not make any sort of eye contact with me and just answered as robotically as possible. Christine is a new full lesbian, and did not really have much to say about everything. Surprisingly Clark was the most open out of everyone. He wanted to get his story out there to help any transgender and to challenge others to think of who they are. The main point they all wanted to get across is similar to Dr. Seuss’s quote, “Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
All three of my subjects are very unique people, each one different than the other. Christine comes from a broken home, her parents are divorced and her mother has remarried a man that she isn’t too fond of. The only other person in her family that’s homosexual is her step dad’s brother. She doesn’t really get a lot of support from her family, but is surrounded with friends that give her the support she was lacking. Matthew comes from a very stereotypical Baptist home. His parents are still married and he lives with them and his little brother and sister. His siblings aren’t aware that he is gay. His parents aren’t supporting in any way, but again he has a lot of support from his friends. Clark is an identical triplet and lives with one of his sisters on their own. His parents were divorced and his father passed away about three years ago. His mother and sisters are both very supporting of him, but don’t necessarily agree with what he is doing. NATURE VS NURTURE
When asked about the realization of becoming LGBT I received similar answers from all three subjects. All of them stated that it hit them at a relatively young age. Christine: “Now that I look back I think I knew when I was in 5th grade but didn’t know what I was feeling or what it meant. I realized I was gay when I was in middle school but was afraid of it and what people would think so I hid it from everyone till second semester of freshman year and I met my best friend Nikki and she made me realize I just need to accept that’s who I was.” Matthew: “Well I first realized I was gay when I was around probably 1st or 2nd grade. I was home schooled and I remember studying Greek mythology and seeing all of those pictures of the shirtless Greek looking men and thinking that there’s an attraction towards that. I started public school in 4th grade and I always felt an attraction towards all the other boys, not sexual or anything just attracted. At church I was always attracted to the boys. I don’t think it’s been a choice for me, definitely not.” Clark: “I realized that I fell into that category…uhm age 11. But I knew well before then that I was…that I wasn’t normal I guess, according to others. I am transgendered . . . I don’t want to say decision because it’s not a decision.”
Each person said somewhere in their interview that it definitely was not a choice. They were all born this way, just like a straight person is born straight. I asked them what their friends and family reactions were and if they’ve faced any struggles in society because of coming out, and this is what I got: Christine: “I don’t face very many. I’m lucky I have the friends I do. The members of my family that do know accept me for who I am and still love me. I know it bugs my mom a bit because she doesn’t understand and is always looking for a reason why. I did experience some “gay bashing” not too long ago, because I was holding a girls hand in the hallway. The other day I came back to class and someone had written “Faggot” all over my paper. It upset me a bit but not as much as it did my mom. I just know people hate what they don’t understand.”
Christine, for being so young, has already accepted that she will be hated by many, especially in Oklahoma. Though her mother isn’t 100% supportive of her lifestyle, she still protects as a mother should. Matthew: “Well, I didn’t really have a lot of friends that rejected me. My parents weren’t really happy. They’re both very stereotypical Christian Baptist type. My mother wasn’t as happy as my father, though he wasn’t very happy either . . .I definitely have support from my friends, but from my family? Not at all. My parents weren’t really used to it at all growing up. They’ve never experienced it before . . . I definitely think that in Oklahoma it’s very frowned upon and not looked at with much open mindedness as it is in other states. A lot of people at my church know, and those that do know seem to accept it. I’m sure more know…but I don’t know how they feel. I don’t really care. Through high school not a lot of people knew. But ever since I started college…if someone asked I would tell them. And things have been going great so far.”
Sadly, Matthew’s family has a very hard time accepting his homosexuality. It goes against their morals and beliefs, so because of that Matthew’s mother condemns him almost every day of his life. Clark: “I don’t want to say decision because it’s not a decision. It’s life or death for me. I had to do it. I tried to come out at age 11 and I just came out to my immediate family, not even my dad because my parents were divorced. My mom back at that age didn’t really understand. And my sisters, since we shared such a bond, they took it hard. They took it as an insult to their identity as well. They were almost offended that I would change my identity since we shared a single identity by being a triplet. It was hard on them, but they gradually, through prodding and braiding and a lot of mistakes on the names and general communication, we slowly have gotten past it. We love each other to death and it wouldn’t hinder our relationship.”
Clark’s situation is drastically different than Matthew’s or Christine’s. He is completely changing his identity, though his family is much more supportive than Matthew’s or Christine’s. All three seemed to be comfortable with their decision to tell others about themselves, and all three have similar ways of coping with the negative feedback. WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
I was curious about the love lives of my subjects and how they would possibly differ from a straight person’s love life. All three said they are currently in a relationship, but two of them focused more on the sexual relationship than the loving relationship. Christine: “Hmm well casual sex..Yeah I’ve had it. Not a lot just a couple of times. I’ve had sex with 5 people (all girls). I’ve had some girlfriends okay probably a lot. But I don’t really care what other people say or think.”
Christine’s first girlfriend was last year, and she was dating her when she still thought she was bisexual. Christine stated that she believes she used the title bisexual to ease into the title of lesbian, not just for her but for those around her. It surprised me when I learned that she had already had four other sexual relationships other than her first serious girlfriend (as serious as one can get in their sophomore year of high school). She definitely focused on the sexual aspects of her relationships, and didn’t really talk at all about love, except when asked about her future. Christine: “Maybe dating or married, no one knows what will happen. In ten years hopefully having a family of my own, maybe still in the Army if needed.”
Christine didn’t seem to be too concerned about having a life partner, though I believe this is in part because of her age. Being newly 100% lesbian she is more concerned with exploring her sexuality with other women. Christine was not the only one focused on sex, when I asked Matthew about his love life this was his response: Matthew: “My love life started when I was 17. I had sex for the first time with one of my straight friends. Then after that I started to experiment a little more. I’m a big advocator of safe sex. I definitely think that in the LGBT community it’s not as strongly advertised as it needs to be. My ex was actually positive, so I was always taught very much from him about being safe and everything. For me I think that in the gay community sex is a big thing and I feel that a lot of people, if they were to choose between having a relationship with somebody who they don’t think is very attractive over having a relationship with somebody who is hot as hell just to have sex with them and not be with them, a lot of people in the gay community would choose that because sex is such a big thing for the gay community. Relationships are more sexual based than they are love based.”
Matthew currently is dating an older male who he is very happy with. When diving deeper into this topic Matthew had told me that he has lost count of many sexual relations he’s had with men. Contradicting his major idea on this topic, his current partner has never had sex before and Matthew is surprisingly happy with not having sex any time soon. When I asked him what his future plans are he responded with: “Hopefully in a serious relationship. I do plan on having a life partner forever. For me I don’t feel like I’d have to be married. I feel like I could buy a ring and the other person would buy a ring and we’d consider ourselves married. I definitely think it’d be easier if I was raised somewhere else.” Clark’s response to the love life question was much more based around love itself, he actually didn’t mention the word sex one time. He doesn’t view himself as a part of the gay community, but as a part of the straight community. This could be the reason for the difference in answers. Clark: “I went through all phases. In puberty I tried going back and forth and I didn’t experiment with my sexuality but I didn’t feel right being a heterosexual female. I was never really attracted to guys but I did that to be normal. But I was never really attracted to girls either…but in the past few years I’m definitely a heterosexual male. You know I love women and my love life is really good right now. I’ve had a steady girlfriend for a while now and she knows my situation. And she’s very supportive. She never misses a beat, you know? She’s supportive like anybody, especially because she knew me before transition. Which is all I can ask for. I guess it’s been hard on her, but she takes it like a champ. We were dating while I was pre hormone treatment. So I was…I had intended at that time that yes I was going to get a sex change, to put it blatantly. But I still appeared very female. I told her right from the beginning; I didn’t lie to her or anything. I just feel like that’s how it should be, so she’s been very supporting from the start.”
Clark seemed much more concerned for his girlfriend’s feelings than for his own. Since Clark plans on having a sex change, I asked how his girlfriend felt about that. Was she attracted his female body, or to who he is as a person? Clark: “I would say she is attracted to me and it doesn’t matter at all. I mean we met as life guards and we saw each other in bikinis, so…I just… I don’t know. I love her to death. I just love her to death.”
Expanding on that, I asked what his future plans were, and if they involved marriage someday. This was his response: Clark: “right now I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m hoping that five years from now people will see a man not a person that’s confused. Married. Out of school. Healthy, stable job.”
It was definitely interesting to discover such a difference between the gay community and the transgendered community. I believe since Clark’s battle is an internal one, that he seeks a stable relationship so he can have someone to help him with that battle along the way. Matthew and Christine are still exploring their sexuality, and I believe they’re obsessed with the sex scene. Though both expressed to hopefully have a fulfilling relationship someday, they both were more focused on the sexual relationships of today. IN OTHERS’ EYES
Living in Oklahoma the LGBT community expects to receive a lot of looks and negative comments on how they are living. In the U.S., 75% of students have no state laws to protect them from harassment and discrimination in school based on their sexual orientation. In public high schools, 97% of students report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers (1). I asked Christine, Matthew, and Clark if they have any personal struggles with that. All three have mentioned some sort of bullying and they all mentioned suicidal thoughts. Here’s what Christine said about her struggles: Christine: “I think the main thing I struggle with is with my mom because I know she wishes I was straight and she’s told me that before. I know she loves me anyways. Well sometimes the way people look at me or talk to me you can tell they just disapprove. The person that wrote the word “faggot” all over my paper hurt me a bit but if anything it made me laugh thinking of how immature some people are, how they sit there and judge me saying I’m not good enough or whatever but they turn around and something like that.”
I then asked Christine if the reactions in society have changed her social life in any way, or if they have even changed her social habits at all. Christine: “It hasn’t changed it much, I’m still me. I still like laughing and hanging out. If anything it’s made me stronger than I was before. I don’t find it hard to go places; it doesn’t bother me because I look just like anyone else. I know people treat me differently sometimes but there are more accepting people now, so I’m not too worried.”
When I asked Matthew the question, bullying really wasn’t that much of an issue for him. It was a lot more of a battle within him than anything else. Matthew: “I’ve always been that person that…I don’t know. I’m not the person that people would be bullied because I’m friends with everyone. I’ve never been in a situation to where I could have been bullied. I think that one of my biggest struggles have been with my family and trying to get them to accept me more than they are now and just trying to live life as easily as possible. I don’t think I’ve tried really changing myself…I mean I’ve thought about it. But it’s never really happened and I’ve never made the attempt to do so. I think that if I try to change myself now I’d just be putting more stress in my own self and more confusion into my mind. It’d just complicate things. I feel like I’m at that point where I won’t even consider it.”
Talking more with Matthew, we got into the topic of suicide. I asked him if being LGBT has caused him any suicidal thoughts, and if he still has those thoughts. Matthew: “Yes I have had suicidal thoughts. I think being gay plays a part in it, but being gay isn’t necessarily the reason. I feel like a lot of LGBT people would agree with me that it’s not being gay that makes you want to take your life. It has to do with the people’s reaction to you being gay. I’m definitely happy with the people who are supporting me now and I feel like…I don’t know. I feel good.”
Talking to Clark I learned that he has had the biggest struggle with himself and with how others see him. His goal is to be completely with himself, and that involves changing his outer appearance. He said a lot of people don’t understand that he can’t just be a homosexual female. He stated blatantly that he’s a male trapped in a woman’s body. This is what he said about his struggle: Clark: “Oh god yes. I have been a boy since I was 4 years old…4 years old. That’s immensely young. Not only do children that young not know what things around them are, but to know that your body isn’t right at that age it’s…it’s monumental. Personally being transgendered I have a lot of issues regarding my body, obviously. Firstly are public spaces. Like which bathroom to use…things of that nature. Next is my height. I’m 5’4” 113lbs soaking wet. So I was already pretty petite as a woman so I’m definitely small for a guy. It’s hindered my role in passing for a male. I would still get ma’amed and on the phone before my voice started getting deeper…it was so discouraging. This brings me to my next point, which is like ID and name changes. All of my records are still in my birth name. And going through that process is going to be really hard. That may not be a huge thing to people but that can be humiliating to someone who is trying to change their name as discreetly as possible. Then there’s also clothing. Clothing never fits. I always have to shop in like the large boys…or the really small men’s. I’m always getting carded. I look young, and it’s humiliating. I plan on pretty much the whole nine yards [regarding getting a sex change]. It’s expensive, this is expensive. I choose to get those surgeries because it is medically necessary for me, even though others may think it’s not. I’m a good guy, and I hope people will love me for that. Not because I’m LGBT of any kind.”
I then asked Clark if it’s affected his social life in any way, being a part of the LGBT community. He said that people think that since he’s changing his body, he’s changing who he is, and that he’s lost many friends because of that. Though becoming a part of the LGBT community he has gained many new friends. Clark: “I’ve made better relationship because of coming out, but I’ve also lost some. That’s how it goes. You know, I think I wouldn’t normally face a lot of discrimination, and I haven’t so far, experienced that as much as lesbian, gay, or bisexual people might, because I do try to be a little stealthy about it. I’m not ALL that open about it. I will tell people who I am if they ask though. I’m not ashamed of who I am…of who I’ve always been. Having a gender identity disorder is described as being in mind one gender and it conflicts with your appearance. So I have a male brain in a female body…that is now in transition to match my mind. I’m on a big who are you trip. I hope that people when they see me question who they are. Like this is who I am…so who are you” MAKING IT BETTER
Each subject had a very similar coping mechanism when it came to how they dealt with society’s reaction. Every single one of them told me it’s best if you go out and make friends and find friends that support you and your decisions. I asked them to give any advice to those who are struggling with being LGBT today. Christine: “Everyone I told just laughed and told me they loved me anyways and supported me all the way through. I would tell anyone having trouble with being LGBT to keep your head up. Even if life got you down find a reason to laugh at it and make it better. Remember no matter how many times someone makes fun of you or hurts you because of it don’t let them get to you, you are who you are.” Matthew: “Just try to look towards tomorrow…and try not to think about the bad things that are happening today. Think about the good things that will happen tomorrow.” Clark: “Be who you are. I tried living as a person who I wasn’t…and it only made me unhappier. It makes me happier to fulfill my need to be a man than to see people be happier that I was a woman. And that will never change. I have no regrets at all 110%. Be who you are. Pick up a hobby, it really helps. Supportive relationships have helped immensely. I have been blessed with relationships such as my sister’s and really good friends. Make healthy relationships that last by being you. In the end if you have nothing at least you’ll be who you are.”
I asked Christine, Matthew, and Clark if they had anything to add and Clark was the only one willing to offer more of story and advice to me openly. Some things he said about changing himself –who he is, not his physical body- surprised me. Though Clark isn’t your stereotypical picture of confidence, he has a different kind of confidence that absolutely blew my mind. Clark: “I’ve been truly blessed with everything I have. So I don’t look at my being LGBT as any different. I don’t look at it as any difference than a person that is a heterosexual straight being who is perfectly happy with themselves. I don’t look at myself any different than you do. In fact my therapist asked could you see you living your life without having to be transgendered? I said no I wouldn’t, because I’ve never known any different. If there was a cure for being transgendered, if I could be 100% happy in my female body…I wouldn’t take it. Because I’m more than 100% sure that I am a man. So there you go.” CONCLUSION
Christine, Matthew, and Clark face so many struggles in society for their specific lifestyle. They all come up against walls and are discriminated against simply because they were born different than most people. Clark, whose case is a little bit more different than Matthew’s or Christine’s, was surprisingly forward and willing to tell me anything and everything about his lifestyle and what he faces. Interviewing all three has just indicated that their lifestyle isn’t much different than the average person’s lifestyle. The only difference is their choice of life partner. Clark ended his interview with this quote:
“I try to balance each negative thought with one positive thought. Keep the balance.”
This is a perfect example of how everyone should think, not just the LGBT community.
Interviewing Christine, Matthew, and Clark have definitely changed my outlook on the LGBT community. I had never really given much thought into gay rights or into how LGBT people were treated before a close friend of mine “came out of the closet.” I didn’t really know if people chose to be gay or if they were just born that way…I used to even think it might just be some mental disability. Now, I would say I definitely believe that they are born the way they are, just like a heterosexual person is born straight. This project has definitely peeked my interest about the LGBT community and I plan on looking more into it and into the laws in our state about gay marriage and any other laws pertaining to the LGBT community.
11 Facts About Gay Rights.
http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-gay-rights Dr. Seuss Quotes
1. Tell me about the realization of becoming LGBT?
2. What struggles do you face in society because of being LGBT? (Family problems, church, school, etc.) 3. How did your friends and family react when you told them? If you haven’t told them yet, do you plan to? If you don’t plan on telling them, why not? (Have their attitudes changed in any way towards you?) 4. Tell me about your love life. What do you notice about other’s reactions to your love life? (i.e. casual sex, protection, lack thereof.) 5. Do you face any personal struggles with being LGBT? Have you ever attempted to change yourself because of personal struggles? (Using any means such as religion or therapy.) 6. How has being LGBT affected your social life? Do you find that going to some places and being openly gay or transgendered has affected the way people treat you? 7. Have you faced any discrimination towards you? If so, tell me about them. (Behaviors, actions, how it made you feel.) 8. Where were you three years ago? (In relation to being LGBT.) 9. Where do you see yourself five years from now? In ten years? 10. What advice would you give to those who are struggling with being LGBT? 11. Do you have anything else to add?