Attention has always been my drug of choice. In school, my ears would perk up at the promise of a class presentation while the rest of my class sank into their seats. I’m the first to volunteer at any stage show and I practice my karaoke song days before I go on so I can bring the house down with my best rendition of “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. Once I discovered stand up comedy, I found the most intense high I have ever felt; not only was there a whole crowd listening to me, they were all *laughing* at what I was saying. I became a local celebrity at my college and I LOVED when people would see me out and whisper to their friends about me. People who I didn’t know knew who I was, which is what I have always dreamed of.
But since I came out, I’ve gotten a different kind of attention. This attention has had sickening side effects.
I’m at a bar with a girl for the first time.
I’ve been set up on a double date type situation with my best friend and her boyfriend. We’re near my hometown, so I know a handful of people in the bar. I’ve already said “hi” to them, but they are still looking at me. My date has a funky short sleeved button up buttoned all the way up to her neck. They know. Her eyes want to look at me, but mine can’t seem to meet hers; they’re too busy checking to see where my high school acquaintances have stationed themselves. My friend and her boyfriend kiss without sending a single shockwave through the bar. I nicely dodge every move my date tries to make until we are in the safety of my friend’s house.
I’m on a date with a different girl.
We decide to do something casual and go get drinks. The older couple next to us keeps glancing over as we talk. They’re trying to figure us out. Neither of us have a shaved head, but there are a few “lesbian signs” that they are picking up on. They whisper to each other, their eyes still on us. I laugh and touch her arm. Their side eyes quickly avert, afraid of what atrocity may come next. We get up to leave and the couple gives us one last look. I feel their eyes on the back of my head, and I wait to hold her hand until the bar door closes behind us.
I’m at brunch with one of my lesbian friends.
We’re talking about hooking up with girls. As soon as the other people on the quiet patio realize what we are talking about they freeze. They want to look to see what breed of lesbians is infiltrating their Sunday, but they are afraid to startle us. I feel their eyes graze our table. For the rest of their brunch, they keep their heads fixated on their food, but their curious ears are acutely focused on our conversation.
I’m in the car with my girlfriend.
I stop to get gas. While we wait, I look over at her. She looks so beautiful. I grab her face and give her a kiss. The car next to us honks.
I’m in Atlantic City with my girlfriend. We’re both dressed in our Saturday Night Best, and we stomp our heels as we walk hand in hand through the casino floor. We’re drunk and waiting in line at the club, and I give her a particularly long kiss. A group of old men walking by start cheering. They stop walking and yell, “HELL YEAH, LADIES! KEEP GOING!” and give us a couple of encouraging claps.
I love attention. I love being a lesbian. So why don’t I like all the attention I’m getting for being a lesbian?
Because I’m not dating girls for the attention.
For once, I am doing something for myself. My personal life, although blasted all over the internet, is still personal. It doesn’t get to me when people judge my clothes or my jokes or my overgrown roots (which are totally in, by the way), but as soon as they start judging my interests and decisions that’s when it hurts. I have made a horrible habit of snarling at the onlookers or snapping back at the brave ones who dare to say something. I walk around with my girlfriend’s hand in one hand and in the other, a clenched fist.
I’ve never been happier than when I’m with her, but yet, I’ve never been more angry than when I’m stared at with her.
Maybe they are simply curious. Maybe they are jealous. Maybe they are admiring how hot we are. Maybe they are gay too and trying to send telepathic messages. Who knows if they are thinking toxic thoughts about us?
You know, while I have the audience, I might as well use it to my advantage. I’m going to make moms have to explain to their kids why two girls are kissing. I’m going to make all these straight boys jealous that I’m taking home the girl they’ve been trying to hit on all night. I’m going to make a statement since I’ve been given a platform to do so: By hiding, I’m sending the message to myself and to everyone around me that I am not worthy to enjoy the PDA that everyone else is entitled to. I have never shied away from a spotlight, so I refuse to shy away from this one. It’s not like I am now a spokeswoman for every person in the LGBTQ+ community, but I am a representative. And as a representative I have a responsibility. It’s up to me, along with every other member of this community, to decide whether we want to perpetuate this “as long as they don’t do it in front of me” notion or whether we want to do whatever the hell we want.
It doesn’t have to be a bad thing that people are staring. And it’s silly of me to think that people wouldn’t. Two hot girls making out in public is literally every person’s fantasy. Right now, it seems like everyone is staring, but I know that the more comfortable with myself I become, the more comfortable everyone around me will seem.
So, you know what? I’ll take all of their stares as a compliment. I’d be looking if I were them, too.