The suicides of gay teens have been all over the media lately – it is tragic – and it reminds me of a moment in time I had with my mother when I was maybe eleven or twelve years old. That would have been 1982-ish…
There was a fairly new singer on the Canadian scene called k.d. lang. Her music videos were all over Toronto Rocks music-video show (which we watched religiously, of course) and also on the then budding Much Music channel. She was from Alberta, and played some kind of punked-out country music. She looked kinda like Elvis, only prettier. Her country outfits made my eyes hurt – not good. She had an extremely powerful voice, but I did not dig the country music at all. (Still don’t mostly.) She was all over the media.
And she was a lesbian.
A lesbian. I’m pretty sure I had to look that up at first. l’ll bet some of my friends and I did all kinds of snickering and talking about it, once we understood the literal meaning of things. A lesbian. I practised saying it, rolling the word around in my mouth to see if I could say it without laughing, or smiling, or smirking… the newness of the information… it was all just so… whoa.
My mother sat on the couch reading the newspaper, and my sister and I were milling around her, watching Toronto Rocks or whatever, and suddenly, k.d. lang and her band appeared on the screen. There were sound-bites of an interview, and some clips of the latest video. My eyes got super-round, and I pointed excitedly at the screen.
“Mummy! Look! Look!! Do you see her? Do you see that woman? That woman right there? Mummy, look. LOOK!! Do you see her! That woman?! She’s… she’s a LESBIAN.”
I could barely breathe with my excitement. I might have been jumping up and down in one spot. Crazed, I tell you.
My mother, who is not a hysterical woman at all, calmly moved her newspaper to the side, looked at the tv, and then looked back at me. She leaned forward in her seat, and deliberately made her eyes as wide as mine, and said loudly and deliberately, “So! What?!”
I felt like I’d been slapped.
She just stared at me without blinking, with one eyebrow cocked, in that perfectly meaningful Claire Huxtable kind of way. My mother could say one hundred different things with her eyes alone. All mothers can, you know.
In a very fast moment, I saw her point. She’s a lesbian. So what? Indeed, SO. WHAT. What does that mean? What does that change? Nothing. It’s nothing.
She asked, “Do you like her music?”
“No.” I was ashamed.
She picked up her newspaper again and added, “Me neither.”
And that was the end of that.
It changed everything for me after that. Any kind of news or information that has ever left my mouth agape gets a quick check in my mind about whether or not it’s truly fascinating. It’s perhaps why as an adult I don’t read much tabloid-reality-type stuff. People should be left alone for goodness sake. Move along folks, there’s nothing to see here…
It’s been nice walking through life knowing this is just no big deal. I wish everyone felt this way, and I’m staggered by the amount of people for whom it’s a big deal. I mean grown people. Makes me sad.
People are people. Being a lesbian is not a big deal. One day it won’t be outrageous to anyone anywhere, I hope.