SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2011       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Christiane Pleet

Queer Courage

It was in the winter of 2008, I was on my four hour journey from Arizona to Maryland. I had decided to share something big and my sister Erica would be the first to hear it. I was at a time in my life where I was going through some personal life changes. This was something I had been holding onto inside for a while.

The strength of courage gives one the ability to confront fears. My courage was taken away from me as I greeted my sister, whom I was visiting for the holiday. Erica is the sister I always went to for advice. I also shared my deepest thoughts and secrets with her, without even thinking twice about the outcome. This was true up until this moment, or for the first few minutes upon exiting that plane.

My heart pounded as I saw my sister smiling at me from across the crowded terminal. It pounded with joy to see her but also pounded with fear. My nerves began to flutter through my body because I had something big to share with her right away. All within a few seconds of seeing my sister and feeling my heart flutter out of control we were stopped in our path and forced to go around a couple that was in our way. As we looked back at them to excuse ourselves, Erica and I both noticed that it was a same sex couple who was kissing. It looked like the two girls were saying an emotional goodbye. I smiled inside and out at the sight before us! But this was when I realized not everyone, including loved ones close to me, feels the same way as I do.

As I see my sister Chris exit the plane at the airport, my view of her is unexpectedly blocked. I immediately become frustrated and glance at the couple that has entered my path connecting me with my sister. At that moment I am taken back as I see two girls kissing in the middle of the airport’s terminal. I completely forget that I am meeting Chris to pick her up and turn my attention to these girls with disgust. I began thinking to myself how could these two be so rude to show such public affection that not everyone is ok with seeing.

As I shifted my attention from the couple to my sister I saw on Erica the expression I had dreaded most. My sister’s face was filled with a disgusted look as if she had smelled something so rancid she was unable to hide her disgust. Once our eyes connected she continued to express her disgust verbally to me. Erica asked me if I saw the two girls kissing, I simply replied “Ya, what a cute couple.” I turned and looked out the large glass windows of the airport as my sister looked at me with a blank stare. This made me feel exposed to my secret, and made me want to hide it longer.

My sister is now standing beside me with a giant smile and I cannot help but think she must not have witnessed the same thing I did. As I help her with her bags I begin reenacting to her the show of affection I was so fortunate to witness. To my surprise she doesn’t say anything not even a change in her expression. I ask her then if she saw the two girls kissing, her answer was simply, “Ya, what a cute couple.” I thought that her comment was odd and didn’t understand why she didn’t think that was disgusting like I did.

Erica began complaining how disgusting it was to see two girls kissing and how could anyone be like that and so on. Instantly my heart and excitement was crushed and my courage to tell my sister about myself was completely gone. Seeing my sister’s eyes roll at the scene of the two girls kissing gave me the feeling of discouragement. It made me think twice with my plan to come out to her, seeing her negative reaction to a similar situation. I could not explain my feelings to Erica if this was even close to how she would react. I remember reading and researching homosexuality and what stood out to me was that only recently, in the mid-1970s, did the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association stop regarding homosexuality as a mental disorder. Would my sister look at me like I had a disease? I had never considered this idea, though Erica’s negative reaction to homosexuality made me consider the possibility.

I remember hearing the intercom right after seeing my sister roll her eyes and remember how annoying the voice was to listen to. This annoying voice only made me more frustrated in this situation. This sensory object pushed away my desire and will to come out to my sister that day. This is the first time I realized that this journey might be harder than I had expected. Knowing that my journey had not even reached the surface meant this first incident of experiencing “difference” would not be my last.

I found my sister’s reaction to be strange up until a couple months after her visit when my sister introduced her girlfriend to the family at a family gathering. My first reaction and thought to this brought me back to the day at the airport when I saw those two girls kissing in the terminal and the fuss that I had made about it. I probably crushed my sister’s feelings that day talking negatively the way I did about being gay. I have never spoken again to my sister about the incident in the airport. Today I now see gay couples and smile for they remind me of my sister that I love so dearly. I wonder if my caring and beautiful sister will one day reach equality and be able to marry her loved one the same as I am so blessed and able to. Thinking that not until this year, 2008 was it legal anywhere in the United States for gays to get married and makes me hopeful. Even though I might not understand what it feels like to be gay, I do understand that it can be a harsh world to those who are.

The past three years I have experienced life labeled as a lesbian and have come to realize what it means to inhabit the sexual borderland of difference that accompanies the lifestyle. Educating myself along with my family and friends we have all come to realize that people’s views on same sex couples vary from positive to negative. In situations similar to my incident in 2008, I now expect the worst but always hope for the best.

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