Queer Questions, Straight Talk
Abby Dees wants to know what’s on her straight counterparts’ minds and she wants them to ask questions.
“Why do lesbians I meet seem so, well, masculine? If they’re just like every other gal, why do the ones I see do things like wear ties and a mullet?”
Dees asks this question and 107 more in her new book, “Queer Questions, Straight Talk.” In the book, she covers the spectrum of lesbian, gay and bisexual inquiries using the umbrella term “lesbigay.”
Dees, who has been an out lesbian for 25 years, tells GayRVA.com her life experiences prompted her to write and create what she feels is a much needed dialogue.
GayRVA.com: Did you notice hesitation in your peer groups or family regarding asking questions about sexuality?
Dees: I’ve noticed that people have a hesitation to ask or they ask kind-of ridiculous questions that they wouldn’t ask a straight person. ”Gosh, I hope it’s alright to ask – is one of you the man, one of you the woman?”
I hear this question so many times. In your relationship, how does that look? Are you really broken down into these gender roles?…
In all these years that I have been politically active, I’ve been grappling with my discomfort of how different identity groups communicate with one another. We need to get everything down, otherwise we can’t be completely knowledgeable about what’s going on around us. When it comes from a place of genuine care and respect, I believe there are no stupid questions. If people are feeling silenced in an effort not to cause offense, then we’ll get nowhere.
So why now?
Sometimes around gay and lesbian issues, it can be personal and you wouldn’t normally ask these types of questions. We need to make room to talk about this stuff. My idea is that you need to put these questions out there and provide some guidelines and structure to do it.
I recognized that some of these questions have not changed over time – however awkward they may be so we need to make a forum to talk frankly.
How do you know who to talk to?
You don’t want to be just asking your neighbor these questions. The book is an invitation to not be self-conscious about it. You can ask these questions and I may not answer but I won’t take offense.
Tell me about your intended reader – a curious straight person, family member?
It’s not for somebody absolutely committed to being a homophobe. I wouldn’t recommend giving this to your super-conservative fundamentalist cousin who’s saying you’re going to hell, end of story.
It’s for anyone willing to just talk. I like the idea of gay and lesbian people giving it as a gift to a straight-loved one. We can make a game of it, do it over wine, and then the other way around – ”I want to get to know you.”
I really tried to make sure I wasn’t preaching to the choir. Someone might have some dougbts about religion and same-sex marriage, but still a desire to know more and maintain a relationship with a loved one. I also know the world is sort of boring if it’s like that.
Ending homophobia as a practice is getting correct information out there. It’s upsetting talking about equality with false information. I think this conversation is how things change.
In the book, you rarely provide answers to the questions you pose.
Some people will be bothered by that. I think there are a lot of other books that do a good job of answering those questions. I want to emphasize that there isn’t one straight line – there are as many answers as there are people to answer them.
The sample answers are provided by real people and can really differ by topic, so there may not be one right answer. Religion and sexuality for example – some people say, “I don’t know, I have real doubts.” Others mention, ” God made me this way.”
Were there any questions that surprised you or you found people hesitant to talk about?
Sex questions always surprise me. I always think it’s personal, but it makes me wonder where’s the other person’s imagination.
There were a few things very surprising when I was putting together the book and seeing the emotion behind some of the questions from both gay and straight people.
Regarding religion, I could feel the depth of their struggles and how some had to choose between.
What I heard from some straight folks, which I refrained in the book, aren’t you people ever satisfied?…Why are we saying that’s not good enough? I got that from some people that I really care about and really care about me. I know that’s a real question and the easy answer is when we’re all equal.
You have quite the roster of questions including sex as you mention – is there anything off-limits?
As a civil rights attorney , I’m a big believer in free speech, but I’m also a fan of good manners. Any question is okay, but don’t forget your talking to a real person.
It has to do with your intent. If you’re trying to convince someone that they’re bad or wrong, that’s not okay. I want to make sure both people want to have this conversation.
I think people are tired or exhausted by these questions, so we can be short or impatient. I’m encouraging us to pick our battles.
More information about “Queer Questions, Straight Talk” is available via the book’s website.
Kevin Clay is the editor and publisher of GAYRVA.COM. He is a Richmond native, loves the city and knows it's on the edge of greatness. Don't hold back RVA. You can follow Kevin on GAYRVA's Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Highland Rape” was the name that British designer and couturier Lee Alexander McQueen, commonly known as Alexander McQueen, gave to his first collection that debuted in the Fall/Winter 1995-96 season. To many the name was controversial but to McQueen, the name held the history of the slaughter of his Scottish Ancestors by the English. This [...]September 5, 2013
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