I can recall one incident where my mother and I were waiting in a parked car to pick my sister up from the movies. I must have been about fifteen or sixteen at the time. I was happy to listen to the radio, but my mother decided she was going to attempt to engage me in conversation.
"I hear so-and-so's a lesbian," she began. My mother was known for having about as much subtlety as a swift kick in the kneecap.
"Yeah," I muttered in response.
"I get the impression that it's harder for women to come out of the closet than it is for men," she said, avoiding eye contact with me.
"Um, I'm not sure that's true," I replied.
"Well, it seems like it's harder for girls to be open about being lesbians," she persisted.
"It's okay to be gay, you know."
"Yes, it is."
It was fairly clear that she was trying to encourage me, in her own strange way, to come out of the closet. Which would have been all well and good, if I were a lesbian.
I have always thought that sexuality was something our society tends to over-define. It is a commonly accepted psychological opinion that while most people have a preference to one gender over the other, people who are exclusively attracted to one gender are actually in the minority. You will probably find a lot of insecure bogans willing to debate that to the death, but let's face it, this class of people are not known for their expertise in psychological academia.
Regardless, I am not a lesbian. Tomboy, yes. Minor weakness for girls with excellent hair, sure. I will accept that gladly. But lesbian? Not so much.
I remember telling this story to some of my lesbian friends (maybe it was the fact that I was also a social outcast in my hometown, but at one point it seemed that a good majority of my friends were gay). They laughed harder than I thought was necessary.
See, apparently I exude heterosexuality from my every orifice. It isn't something I actively aim for, and to be honest, I really have no idea what it is. I mean, I sometimes wear square-framed glasses, have short hair and listen to Ani Difranco. I could at least pass for a lesbian, right?
Apparently not. I used to go to the local gay bar* reasonably often with the aforementioned lesbian friends, and it wasn't long before we observed a strange phenomenon. Every time we went there, I would be quickly approached and hit on by the one straight guy in the whole place. We ended up making a game of it, taking bets on how long it would be before the straight guy found me. The game ended when it happened less than five minutes after entering the bar. I walked in, went to order some drinks, and was immediately asked to dance. I actually asked this guy how he knew I was straight. We were in a gay bar, after all, and I was there with a group of lesbians. He said he wasn't sure how, but he could tell that I was straight. I did a brief survey of the rest of the bar, and got the same answer from everyone I asked.
To this day I can't explain it. Maybe I was sub-consciously giving out some kind of body language. Maybe I was wearing my 'Ask Me About: Heterosexuality' badge**. I don't know. I really don't.
*I kind of thought it strange that a regional town that built its economy on such manly exploits as steelworks and coalmining even had a local gay bar. But, my hometown was not known for making sense. This is a town so stupid that there are buildings there that are PARTIALLY abandoned. As in, first floor: abandoned, second floor: abandoned, third floor: discount sporting goods store. How does that even happen?
**I kind of want a badge like this now. I collect badges, and have spend many a late night on ebay, trawling badge shops like the memorobilia junkie I am. I would love so much to have my own badge press. I want to make a badge that says 'Pancakes Are Flippin' Sweet'.