Not Always So Trendy

By Tracy Duggan

Being in your twenties during the 80s was a lot of fun: the best music, university life, and tons of sports. However, realizing one was a gay female was not so fun.  

Being a lesbian has not always been so trendy. Before Ellen declared she was gay to the television audience, three key experiences in my own life come to mind. As a gay woman, I was constantly made to feel shame for who I was.   

1. At my small maritime university, the floor monitor of my first girlfriend's residence told me if I was going to be staying over as much as I was, she was going to charge me with "cohabitation".  I had no idea what this really meant, but I am pretty sure the heterosexual couples who spent nights together on weekends were not equally shamed for their sexual preferences.

2. In University I was on the field hockey team, that happened to be comprised of a high population of lesbians, including one of the coaches. Rumours were going around the school about the number of gay women on the team. Despite making it to Nationals that season, we were then dropped as a program citing "budget cuts." Oh, and by the way: field hockey is one of the cheapest programs to ever run in a university setting.

3. In the early nineties, I began teaching at a private school in Ontario. Every year in the week before school started, the insurance company covering our health benefits did a presentation.  Near the end of the presentation, he said (and I paraphrase): “We do offer same sex benefits, but I doubt there is anyone like that at this school.” People chuckled. I was mortified and felt betrayed by my colleagues.  That was in the mid-90s.  

Yes, a lot has changed since then.  Being gay is now part of the consciousness of mainstream society, possibly mainly due to TV shows that have embraced gay characters.  High schools have clubs such as Gay-Straight Alliances. The common term for your spouse at schools and businesses is your "partner," and it is not assumed it is of the opposite sex.  

I just hope that young women coming out now will not experience the amount of shame those of us born in the 60s have had to endure for trying to be who we really were and not wanting to live a lie by pretending we were straight.

Emily Dickinson