The Fracturing is Necessary
The lies I dismantled in order to fully accept myself as a gay woman have been rebranded and are being preached to LGBT youth as the truth.
My partner, Valerie, and I recently got a flagpole for the exterior of our house so I could support my home team, the Philadelphia Eagles, during the Super Bowl. I convinced her on the eyesore by saying we could put out the Pride flag in June and the American Flag in July. But we never put the Pride flag out. Instead, we fought.
I wanted the OG Pride flag, you know, the one with the simple colors of the rainbow. She wanted the new one, the Progress Pride Flag. I told her I wasn’t sure why we would hang the new flag, which now includes black and brown stripes to include racial diversity, as well as pink and blue stripes to represent the trans community and white to include the intersex community. The original flag holds a place near and dear to my heart and was the one we donned while marching for gay rights in the early 2000s. That flag in every coffee shop window reinforced the idea that love is love—that I, as a woman, had the right to fall in love with and marry the woman of my dreams. The movement and principles that flag represents eventually led to the legislation that allows gay and lesbian people to marry in this country. To me, it is sacred.
However, the expansion of the LGBTQ+ umbrella to include race, gender identity, two-spirit, and intersex conditions doesn’t make me feel like we are being more inclusive. Rather, it feels like we are pushing gay people, specifically lesbians, further toward the margins of the flag. My partner said we needed to fly the new flag to support our trans friends, as they are facing insurmountable dangers from the far right. I gently pointed out that they get plenty of support from every corporate boardroom, nonprofit organization, and screaming billionaire celebrity imaginable. I even recently saw the trans flag in the children's section of a library in Lafayette Hill, a suburb outside Philadelphia.
She got angry with me, said I was “being transphobic,” and would not budge. I wouldn’t budge either, so we settled on flying no flag at all. This isn’t like us; we can usually meet somewhere in the middle. It’s what I love so much about our relationship– in fact, it’s what has made our relationship work so well for well over a decade now. We both acknowledge that the gorgeous, complicated middle is where we get to grow together and learn from each other.
My opposition to the modern LGBT movement did not arise out of nowhere. To the contrary, the journey I have been on my whole life, gradually becoming comfortable with the complexities of humanity as a lesbian woman, has given me the perspective to see how destructive these current trends are to other young gay people.
I never understood the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” because coming out fractured me into a million little pieces that I’m still picking up and examining today. It turns out that what I thought was internalized homophobia was just a cultural flattening of my own identity, which arose from deeper issues.
I was the child of a single mom. When my mother left my father, he abdicated all responsibility of raising me. My mom accepted it without one complaint. It was a badge of honor for feminist women in the 70s to enter the workforce to prove they don’t need men at all, except for sex. In fact, the more women pretended to treat sex like men did, we were told, the better off we would be. That was the engine that drove second-wave feminism. We all got in the car because it felt liberating, but the ride came with an unspoken cost: increased burden and both physical and psychological exploitation, which we saw explode in the #MeToo movement. In the 70s, my mom talked wildly and openly about sex, trading in long skirts with taupe stockings for shiny polyester flares. But underneath her boasting, I could see that this new persona and way of life was chipping away at her humanity, her womanhood, bit by bit.
My mother was my only family. Deep down, I knew she wouldn’t disown me when I came out. But I also felt an obligation to her because, in my still-developing brain, I repeatedly told myself that she made the ultimate sacrifice: she gave up her aspirations in life for me. In my childhood, I developed a deep bond with her as I sporadically navigated my father’s world and his wife’s dizzying verbal attacks on both my mother and me. Instead of spending my childhood being nurtured and supported by both of my parents, I was forced to become a fierce protector of my mother and her reputation. It gave me purpose and meaning.
I was a tomboy growing up. It was a natural fit. Besides hating girls' clothes and beating up boys in the schoolyard, I also developed a crush on a girl. During the first few years of my life in Catholic School, I was taught to pray every night. After I developed that first crush on a girl, I started to include a little request to God in my prayers: that he make me a boy– because I knew that was the only way I could be with that girl in the world I saw modeled for me.
I straddled the fault line between staying silent, accepting the burden of secrecy as the culture instructed, and suppressing my true feelings. I filled in the echoes in the canyon of my mind with narratives to survive, to fit into the boxes society wanted me in. It turns out these stories I created of who I was and why I was here gave me some sense of stability in the madness. I believed it was my duty to give my mother the family unit that she always longed for herself, which was a good man and a stable home. I succeeded in many ways, and fell in love with a couple of really great guys in my late teens and 20s.
But then I met someone, and everything changed. In the early 90s, I fell in love with a woman, June. For the first time in my life, I saw my soul reflected in her eyes. I didn’t know a love like this was possible, and I could never look away again. However, those childhood lies were lodged deep in my flesh and were visually supported everywhere I looked. But my soul cried out for June. All those mixed messages without any modeling of constructive dialogue eventually exploded with a fury that devastated both of us and our relationship.
In writing my forthcoming memoir, “The Fracturing Is Necessary,” I explore how the current cultural civil war has ignited pieces of long-lost shrapnel in my skin, still deeply embedded from a breakup I never recovered from. One that would inform my every move from 1997 to today. But it was the summer of 1993 that truly changed the structure of my being. It was when she asked me the simplest question, “You want to kiss me, don’t you?” I replied, “Yes, yes, I do.” But those false ideas in childhood, now entrenched as beliefs, would not go down without a fight. They had control for over 30 years and eventually won. I left the woman I loved. It was a madness that had seeped through my pores. I let those storm clouds roll through my head, the haze giving shelter to the lies that eventually destroyed the one thing I knew to be true, love.
For the longest time, I relied on the narrative that I had internalized homophobia as a crutch. It was the Hollywood version that we’ve seen repeatedly. Blame it on those Christians, those horrible gay-hating Republicans, for making us feel so much shame. It seemed every movie or tv show reinforced this narrative. But the funny thing was, if I had just learned to harness those thoughts a bit and cut through the haze, I would have seen the truth: this narrative I relied on didn’t really fit. I betrayed June and myself because I wanted to give my mother the life she wanted for me. But if my mother saw gay couples married, living happy and fulfilled lives, she would’ve never said to me when I came out to her, “Michelle, I don’t want this life for you.” That statement set in motion the false path I laid out in childhood.
It is madness when we believe something to be true when it is not. But it is also very human to search for and construct a narrative inside us that explains why we are the way we are. Something that helps us fit in because we all long for connection. But what if what feeds this narrative has been placed there by a culture that has gone awry? It is this very strain of madness that I see plaguing society, and young gay women, today. What was once a call coming from outside the house is now coming from within. Rather than defying puritanical edicts from the far-right, our movement is swallowing itself whole, devouring its own in an attempt to be inclusive. It’s even eating away at the very fabric of our flag. We’ve somehow embraced what those who oppose gayness writ large have always been telling us: there’s something wrong within us that needs fixing.
Even though my heart broke at the loss of June, that fracturing was necessary to show me what lies I had ingested and, in an algorithmic way, kept alive the wrong message about who I was. It was love and eventual grief over the loss of it that set me free.
A set of false ideas is taking over the gay community, the medical establishment, and our K-12 schools with an almost religious fervor. This set of ideas teaches young people to choose their identity from an ever-expanding list—with options to go with every feeling, emotion, sexual orientation, and others—rather than to go through the difficult and often painful process of self-discovery. It teaches them that “misgendering” someone is akin to physical violence, and that people who have no same-sex attraction neatly fall within the LGBT spectrum as “queer.” And, perhaps most destructively, it teaches that there is no such thing as biological sex. The idea that biology doesn't matter destroys the core of the gay community, which is entirely based on same-sex attraction. It was that sexual awakening in my 30s that broke me open so I could challenge the false beliefs that had a grip on my soul.
The children who will grow to be the adults of the future are watching us. They are seeing what's happening, and if we stay quiet, we will begin to lose parts of our souls. The notion that biology is not real and that human sexuality is endlessly malleable is causing immense physical harm today with the sinister practice of so-called gender-affirming care. Under this practice, children who identify as transgender (many of whom turn out to be gay later in life) are being subjected to irreversible medical interventions. I have no doubt that if I were a kid now, I would be telling my mother that I was born in the wrong body instead of just secretly praying to God about it.
I can no longer stay silent about the LGBT community’s current movement towards an ideology that has the potential to eradicate gayness from public life and replace it with a nefarious form of self-identification.
I can no longer stay silent as gay kids are prescribed hormone blockers to stave off the uncomfortable part of childhood we all have to face in puberty, which eventually informs who we grow to become as adults. As writer Ben Appell states “These same pills a decade ago were used to render gay men asexual.”
I can no longer stay silent when courageous whistle-blowers like Jamie Reed put their lives and careers on the line to detail the tragedy of what is happening at medical institutions across the country, not just to gay kids, but autistic kids and kids with other mental health issues that go unattended to.
I can no longer stay silent as more and more detransitioners like Chloe Cole find their voice in the public square and fight back despite the fierce political denialism they face from the mainstream media and lack of legal recourse to seek justice from those who decided that surgery was the solution to their “problem.”
In my memoir, I had to go back in time and remove the layers of beliefs that masked the core truths of who I was. And the layers were thick. The fracturing was necessary for me to look inside myself to fix the borrowed belief system and find the courage to share my story, to find my voice, the one that was screaming to come out.
Getting your heart broken, just like tearing your muscles, enables growth and potential. We learn valuable lessons when we fall flat on our faces– when our hearts are broken by the people we trusted, and when we are betrayed by the people we revere. When we realize we were wrong and betrayed ourselves.
We cannot turn back the clock and change what happened to the children already victimized by this ideology. Those who believe in “gender-affirming care” are convinced in the righteousness of their cause, and we will not make progress on this issue, or any issue, as a country simply by attacking the people who disagree with us. The way forward must be compassion and forgiveness.
Just like June forgave me, I had to forgive myself for destroying something so beautiful. I had to move on, and I did. But I also realized that fracturing was necessary to uncover the bad ideas lodged in my being and change them. They will, too, in time.
Humans are social creatures, our interdependence is necessary for our survival. But we do not grow without each other. As Syl, a self-described witness to the Internet, wrote on Shannon Thrace’s substack, “Grace comes from recognizing and appreciating the indispensable relationships in our lives. Not only are we interrelated, our individual existence is indebted to one another. This realization of interconnection and indebtedness allows us to be more understanding, responsible, and selfless.”
Grace was June’s middle name.
When July came this year, I brought out the American Flag and placed it in the front of our home. This Flag is about government by and for the people, and that means different ideas coming together in the middle to find a way forward. This flag is the one thing that unites us all, and it needs to be flown proudly today to push back on the contempt and division that have forced storm clouds over the skies of America. Meaningful change comes with a fury that cracks us open and enables us to see the truth in ourselves.
For Valerie and I, there was no fight over this flag. We both have a deep love of life and liberty and fully believe in the soul of this nation, although we both know it has its flaws, as humans do. We must find compassion within ourselves to forgive our past transgressions to forge ahead. In fact, it is the only way to move forward.
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