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Liveability

This is a queer problem. It requires a queer solution.

People are being killed. All kinds of people in all kinds of places. Targeted. Planned. Angry mob murders. Serial murders. And there is no real sense that can be made, no coherent thread that can be pulled between everything so that we can say, yes, this is why, let’s just stop this one thing and…

So the problem of fear and the problem of the closet and the problem of being suddenly hurt or killed one day are all the same problem. How do you live your life in this country and feel like you’ll actually live? How do you act yourself?

Let me become specific.

As a bisexual cisgender woman from an upper-middle class background, I have a lot of privilege. I’m aware of this privilege and I’m aware that others do not have some or any of these privileges. Therefore I have thus far imagined that I’ll be fine. Finer than others. I will not go hungry, barring absolute catastrophe. I’ll be okay.

But it turns out, I’m not okay. Because wellbeing is not the sum of privileges and misery is not the division, subtracted, dispersion of them. We are not determined by what has power over us, or what attempts to exert power over us. We are affected by it – but we’re not determined by it.

I have been and am being determined largely by fear. For years now. I don’t really talk about who and how I am, I don’t like people to know. I hid and dissemble. This is healthy, to an extent, in a highly homophobic, highly misogynistic society. It is healthy to dissemble; and, in different circumstances, it is commanded – takiya in Shi’i thought.

And as I imagine my future, as Lovely and I plan the next 1, 5, 20 years together, as we imagine our child’s life and our work and our universe together, I become so afraid that it’s not a liveable life.

I wonder how many queer women of any kind of means have left the country.

I wonder how many queer women want to leave.

I don’t ever want to leave. I don’t know where I’d go. I’ve lived in the US and I can’t really stand it. I don’t know how the US feels free to people. It doesn’t feel free to me. Every moment in policed.

And then at home every moment is endangered. Is dangerous. Someone somewhere might say something.

But I have to live. We all have to live. So how do we live a life?

This is a queer problem. There’s no life if you’re hiding. Being smart, yes, strategic, yes, but hiding, no. Hiding no longer works. Or rather, pretending. Pretending that if I conform, behave, act like a proper citizen, a proper Pakistani woman, look enough like it, become a facsimile, it will be fine. They won’t notice. I’ll be able to slip by. I’ll survive.

This does not feel like survival. This feel like slow suffocation.

So no. We don’t do this anymore. I’m queer. I am a queer person. I do not fit. I will not fit.

And that is how I must live. Acknowledging that is what will make life liveable.

4

Anxiety Dreams

i woke up at 4:30 this morning from a dream in which, for the sake of some activisty project, my partner and i were moving into a new house, kind of in a garden, but not with other houses. Sort of aeon flux-y. Max from the L-Word is there and while i know my partner is there, shes’ not in the dream. she’s always just around the corner. As night falls we start closing the walls which are open, and made of canvas. and then slowly they materialize into glass walls and doors. But as the walls got more solid i realized that there are people coming in towards the house to out me and they have my real name and will out me to everyone in my life. Max is there to protect me but he can’t do too much because the house is made of canvas. My partner never comes out from around the corner.

There are things in my life other than my sometimes-closet. I mean, it’s really a small, though significant, portion of my life. And yet somehow it features regularly in my anxieties. I don’t know why.

3

Coming out again and again and again

I’m visitig family these days and my cousins, all of whom are younger, all have significant others. The youngest is 16 and he’s got a new girlfriend he’s terribly excited about. The oldest is 20 and has bee with the same guy for at least 4 years. All my cousins, despite my secret predictions, are straight (so far, anyway). And the whole famikly is really open to them being in relationships that are probaby quite physical.

I’ve been feeling awkward and strange since I got here because I can’t talk about Lovely to any of them. Not that I couldn’t come out to this side of the family: I could. But my mom doesn’t want me to because I’ll leave and then she’ll have to deal with making sure my aunt doesnt’ blab to my grandparents (who really can’t handle it and shouldn’t have to, I guess) and the low grade generica homophobia that is going to come from them. It wouldn’t be fair to my mom and it would be a huge family event and so, yeah, I shouldn’t tell them.

And yet. My aunt, my oldest cousin, her boyfriend and I went out for a late night dinnery snacky thing last night and my aunt asked me if I was being fixed up back home. I talked like it was completely normal and I talked about not having a boyriend and not wanting to get married any time soon (not exactly true, the marriage thing, but what can you say if you haven’t got a boy). In short, I acted totally straight and it didn’t even ruffle me, I didn’t even stumble over it. I just had a deep urge to say, well, I do have someone and she’s awesome. I had a deep urge to say, well, my father does try but the reason he’s being as weird as I’m describing to you is not because he’s old fashioned but because I came out to him and he wishes I wasn’t in a relationship with a woman. I wanted to say all these things and I was unable.

I suppose it’s easier. Or better. Or something. I feel like I’m betraying Lovely every time I hide our relationship from someone. Because, barring the most difficult, dangerous situations, she would want to be out. She is less out than she wants to be because of me.

Once upon a time, for a very short time, we were living abroad and we were out to everybody. And that was good. I didn’t understand a year ago when I finally made contact with some queer women in Lahore why they felt like it was so hellish to live there, even when they had some support, like we do. Now I’m sort of getting it. Maybe we should move.

Anyway. I wish I could tell my family. I think they’d take it in their stride. Weird stride, but still.

4

Full Disclosure

I’m a big fan of full disclosure. And honesty. I think honesty is great, particularly when your loved ones are involved.

However, I’m also becoming a fan of the doctrine of need-to-know. For example, does a parent need to know that the child’s first kiss was in the pre-teen years? Not from the child’s perspective, no. Does a lover need to know that, far back, before history was invented, you slept with six people at a time, and liked it? No. Why? Because it makes your tummy rumble in a bad way and causes incontinence and lack of sleep.

I was going to fess up my relationship with Lovely to my beloved parent. The one that doesn’t know. And then, in the presence, as it were, I realized: the ways in which said parent does not need to know this! I mean, the ways! And I don’t need the pain and aggravation of arguing daily, weekly, monthly about what a terrible idea it is, how bisexual meant MAN, dammit! and all that stuff.

So I’ve decided, for now, that no one else needs to know. And after five days of insomnia, depression, crying fits and general pissing my pants, last night I slept like a baby cradled in the arms of this decision. Today I jaunted merrily with the parent. Tomorrow, we’ll talk philosophy. And if it ever becomes necessary to fess up, I shall. But not out of some random adherence to the integrity of the relationship. Not torturing the parent with things that the parent cannot control is also chock full of integrity.

8

“Friend”

When Lovely and I first got together, or were in the process of getting together (as you know, this took some time), good friends of mine would ask, “Where’s your friend? How’s your friend?” and they would mean her. I would answer and we would proceed with our evening. Usually, I was under some sort of stress because of something going on with her family or I was frustrated and confused about whether or not I should be dating her (we broke up, like, 5 times in the first three months). Having her called my friend wasn’t too problematic.

At one point, though, I said to one particular person who was making a little light fun of me and us, “Lovely. Her name is Lovely.” And possibly I said this a little sharply because he stopped dead and said, “I know.” And I said, “Yeah, okay.”

Some of my friends also called variants of ‘whatsername’ at the beginning, and then asked for the fourteenth time what her name was. It’s a common Pakistani name and hard to forget, but okay. With him also I eventually enunciated: LOVE-LEE. And then he remembered forever after.

Again, it was  time of ambiguity, my ambiguity about the relationship, so while these were minor annoyances, I was okay.

But I’m finding that it is wretchedly common for people to use “friend” about someone they know is your partner/girlfriend. It betrays discomfort with ones sexuality and choices. So, for example, when I was getting this apartment, I told the landlord that my partner or my girlfriend (using both at several occasions) would be joining me a bit later, he would always say, “And when is your friend coming? Is your friend coming for sure?”

Is this an attempt at politeness? If I’ve used girlfriend and partner, are you confused that I’m talking about my female best friend or my business partner? Is it a subtle protest against your characterization of yourself as being in a homosexual union, suggesting, ‘Well, you can do what you want, of course, and I’ll take your money, drink with you, be your friend, but I’m not sure I condone this relationship of yours by calling it what you call it.’ Is it a misguided attempt to include all possible permutations of the relationship? Is it doubt about whether, when you heard both girlfriend and partner, when you knew that snogging and sex were involved in this relationship, when you know that one person left a marriage to be romantically with the other, you’re not sure yet what the acceptable term for the relationship is?

How about the one I use, asshole?

That is what I am annoyed about today.

5

Fear volume 1 issue 2

Once again, it’s been nearly a month since I’ve written anything. Last time I wrote, it was about feeling like a crappy partner because I like to be alone sometimes, or because I just feel like a crappy partner. Now, I’m feeling very homesick and horrendous, so there is more whining afoot. Consider yourself warned.

I’m finding it difficult, also, to deal with negative feedback I get on this blog. There isn’t much. And it’s not overt. But there is the questioning of my life and decisions, occasionally, that makes me uncomfortable. Not because the questions shouldn’t arise, but because sometimes I wonder if I’m cut out for answering those questions. Questions such as

  • why are you whining about a relationship  when you went through so much to get it, and so did she?
  • how i read it: you broke up a het marriage, you ingrate, how dare you be anything but blissful after doing something so despicable.

This reading is my problem. It’s not what is said that I’m quarreling with here. It’s how I’m reading it. I must still feel guilty. Even though I haven’t go reason to, intellectually. I have no reason to because you can’t break up a marriage you’re not in. Lovely did that. Lovely wanted to do that.

But I feel the need to make a public defense of it because this is Pakistan and in Pakistan women should’t end marriages. Women should be grateful that someone married them in the first place.

That is also subtext. I live a very privileged life. I’m out to my friends. I’m comfortable in my sexuality.  God is kind to me. In my life, there is no overt demand on me for a) marriage to a man, b) gratitude for the attentions of a man, or c) harassment on becoming an ‘old maid’ no one will marry.   But my father wants grandchildren and a straight daughter from which they issue, and my partner’s family wants her not to live like a married person with another woman. If she does, she’ll bring shame. No one will marry her siblings. We’ll be stoned to death. Ad nauseum. Ad infinitum. Soon my father will add to this  a mix of difficulties that I can’t even predict yet. And I’m afraid of that. So, by extension, every bit of feedback that isn’t utterly supportive and woman-loving flowery yayful stuff makes me feel like dying.

That is entirely my problem. But I wish there was a way to get past it with other people. I mean, other than just me and Lovely and this blog. I wish there was some way to form a community around it so it didn’t just always feel like the hysterical edge of an abyss of badness.

There. Enough whine for you?

The purpose of this blog has been to out some struggles without outing me in a context where me being too out will not benefit me even a little. Outing the struggles serves only one purpose – finding people to engage them and so, make it easier for gay people to be gay in Pakistan.

4

Why is everybody such a fucking victim?

The blogosphere is stupid place. It encourages stupidity. It did so way back when it wasn’t a blogosphere, but just a bunch of bulletin boards and chat rooms. It did so when all we had was listserves to wank on. But now, stupid has proliferated into a kind of art form.

My favourite stupid of the moment is the stupidity in using the term “safe space.” I learned it when I was in college, in my women’s studies classes, and I learned pretty much simultaneously that there is no such thing as “safe” space. There might be “safer” spaces, where you specify what constitutes your personal safety and can agree on that with a bunch of other people, without threatening them over some issue of safety that you haven’t discussed already because of your own privilege and blindness.

If this logic is not easily followable, it’s because I wrote it wrong. Suffice it to say that some contexts are safer for some people than other contexts; and when people are in the minority, then they will seek out similarly disenfranchised people, hang out together and feel relatively safe.

Well and good. But when feminists decide not to feel safe at the drop of a hat because someone else on another blog has said something disagreeable – I don’t know where to put my head.

So, two things that are pissing me off lately:

1. “I’m such a fucking victim and so in danger all the time because I have a cunt and the world is so unfriendly to cunts that, even though I spend all my time with other cunts, I’m in constant danger from the cuntless and the cunt-appropriator and the traitor cunts.” Fuck that shit. I don’t know what’s so  radical about only engaging the choir (she says as she refuses to invite her own non-choir to this post… sheepishness ensues). I don’t know what’s so radical about fighting with other people who are fighting for female power. I just don’t get it. What happened to engaging patriarchal discourse? Oh. This.

Shit, I linked it. Now I’m in trouble.

2. “You can speak here ’cause I say so and you’re annoying me and lalalala I’m putting finger in ears now, I can’t here you, OH SAY CAN YOU SEEEEE!”

On the one hand, I absolutely agree. It’s a blog. It’s owned by a person. It is not a public forum, it’s a private forum publicly available. The blogger has every right to throw whoever she wants off the blog.

On the other hand, it’s so ridiculous to start a controversial conversation, get a fuckload of negative feedback that argues with you, some of which is downright rude and obnoxious, and after a while, just delete the lot because you didn’t like how it went. The blogger is, I must point out, within her rights. But it’s just so… ridiculous.

I get the impulse. I’ve had some comments on here that really made me feel like shit. But people think like that. People have horrible opinions – of women, of queers, of sex-positive feminists, of feminists against prostitution and sex-work, of transgender folk, of bisexual folk. People are horrible.

But surely the purpose of blogging publicly is to reduce the horribleness of people, one’s own and other people’s? I mean, what’s a feminist intervention if you’re in a safe space all the damn time?

There’s a bunch of examples I could link, but I’m lazy and I’d rather spend the time weeding through the reference literature for my thesis than trawl through the web re-looking at things that pissed me off.

Yeah, I’m just that pussy.