The Power of the Internetby Beverly Greene
When I came out my sophomore year at a small, Methodist college in the middle of Georgia, there didn't seem to be another lesbian within a 300 mile radius. Of course, that was not true. In fact, there were two in the next dorm room, it just felt that way. I think we all felt that way. It was all so new to us that we just didn't know what to think or feel about it and we were too afraid to just say that. So, no one said what they were feeling, and no one listened to what we didn't say.
Just knowing that there were other lesbians on campus, even having the special privilege of knowing about those who hadn't completely come out yet (you know, the old homo grape vine) just didn't help me feel a sense of community or belonging. In fact, I quickly realized that I was the only single lesbian on campus. Talk about being left out!! Geesh!!
I did start going to the only gay bar in Macon, which is just a warehouse-looking building with no signs on it. You'd think it was used for storage unless you knew. (Of course, in Macon, that was smart not to advertise it. That way, all the bigots could just unknowingly drive right past it and continue down the road on their way to the big family restaurant, HOOTERS.) I was hoping to make more friends in the lesbigay community and possibly even get a date, but unfortunately for me, I look straight, or so I've been told.
I'm what some call a "lipstick lesbian." I enjoy wearing makeup and doing my hair when I'm going out, not for a man, not even for a woman, but for me. But, some people still don't get that lesbians come in all different packages and don't all look like k.d lang (not that the world would be a bad place if we did.*wink*) So, the point of this is, I didn't get any offers for a date, even after adorning myself with pins such as "G=Good A=As Y=You", but it just didn't seem to be enough. Of course, there is a shortage of single lesbians in Macon anyway, so maybe that had something to do with it, too.
With no support from the lesbian and bi women around me, I went looking on the net. I searched for every lesbian site I could find on the world wide web, which led me to find out about email groups for lesbian and bi women. I browsed through the list and found one that was for lesbian and bi women who write poetry, one of my true loves. So I quickly joined and found a home for myself. I looked forward to reading my mail everyday. I got to meet such nice women, most of who were extremely supportive.
For me, poetry is my way of dealing with things. I began writing more poetry to help me sort through my feelings about coming out to myself and now I had a perfect place to share these feelings and could get supportive responses from women who had been in my shoes. It was incredibly comforting to know that I wasn't the only lesbian who had ever doubted her sexuality or worried about the implications of it. I learned just what a hard process it is. I also learned that it's a process I'll be going through for the rest of my life.
Eventually, I joined other email groups, those only for women and a few for any type of fag. All of the groups brought me support and a feeling of finally belonging in the lesbigay community that I just didn't get in the area around me. Despite all of the wonderful women I met and became net friends with, I still felt so isolated, so I began looking further on the net for other ways to meet other lesbians.
I'd been frequenting chat lines for months before I came out, and it was still a while before I was comfortable enough to come out on line. But thank God I finally did, because gay people started crawling out of the woodwork. I was not on a lesbigay chat and so I was very surprised to find so many gay and bi men and women there. Olohof (telnet 22.214.171.124 2993 (or 2994)) and Rick's BBSes helped me to meet my first girlfriend. (aawwwww *smile*) Although we never meet in real life, we talked on the phone and grew very close. Eventually, the relationship did end, rather painfully for me, but it was over all one of the best experiences of my life. I got to find out for sure that I could feel such strong romantic feelings for another woman. I found out that I could love another woman, and that I could be loved by another woman.
I became more comfortable with myself and with my sexuality over time with the help of all of my friends online, fags and non-fags, and I want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of them. (I'd mention all of their names, but that'd be a whole other column's worth.) I did have other relationships online with women, both as friends and as net lovers. I still talk to a lot of my friends (including ex's) online, and they mean just as much to me as my real life friends. When I have a problem, I know that I can send them mail or catch them on line and they will be there to listen.
Of course, there are those online, just like in real life, that have their opinions about what they call the gay "lifestyle" or "choice." I did encounter many prejudices, but this too was a good experience for me. Being able to be somewhat unattached and shielded by the computer, I learned how to deal with these type of attitudes, and those lessons have carried over into my real life.
Perhaps the most important thing I got from my experiences on line was meeting Jamie Michelle Michael. We had been friend since I joined the Olohof bbs, but had lost touch for a few months while she was frequenting other BBSes. Eventually, she did come back to Olohof after the other BBSes she went on had been disabled. We quickly renewed our friendship and I told her about my recent coming out and first net love relationship with a woman. It all took her completely by surprise, but not as surprised as I was when she confided her doubts and curiosities about her own sexuality.
I was involved (sort of) in another net relationship at this time, but we became extremely close friends. She began calling me often and we got to know each other very well. We talked about how we felt, about how hard it is to come out, and found comfort in one another. We both learned, or at least reaffirmed in each other, that there was nothing wrong with us. We were just fine the way we were and no matter what anyone else said about being a lesbian, it really was okay. My relationship with this other woman had been rocky from the start, and I was constantly sad or depressed as a direct result, but Jamie was there, always comforting me and telling me that I did deserve real love and shouldn't hurt so much. She eventually told me that she was in love with me. I was both scared and flattered, but I knew I felt something just as strong for her as well.
I was not ready to get involved with another woman just yet online. I longed for a relationship that didn't involve 3000 miles of distance and a computer or phone. Eventually, though, I couldn't deny how strongly I felt for her. I told her that I was falling in love with her, too, after months of talking and being such close friends on April 29th. That summer, I came to Canada to visit her, to see if we were meant for one another, or if it was only a dream on both of our parts. I feel in love with her all over again when I saw her standing there, one foot up against a column in the airport, wearing a tie and a vest.
I spent one week in heaven with her. She showed me around her province. She treated me like I had never been treated before in my life, and I loved it. It wasn't just the things she did for me, it was the respect that she gave me as a person and the love in her eyes when she looked at me. We both spent the last three days of my trip crying, dreading my departure.
On the way back to the Seattle airport, which had brought me to her, and was now tearing me away from her, I nervously searched for a radio station that would come in and wondered if I'd ever see her again, or if our relationship would just fizzle out due to the stress of the distance after I returned to my native Georgia. I finally found a station that came in clearly, and Madonna's song "Crazy For You" began filling the uneasy silence between us where no words seemed to fit before. Almost subconsciously, I began singing along and playing with her hair, while she steadily drove toward our probable end. Soon, we were both in tears again as we listened to the words of the song, and realized how perfect for us they were. We didn't want to have to let go of that week, that moment, or that feeling.
We said our tearful goodbyes at the airport, not caring who was looking at us or who was disgusted. We weren't flaunting anything, we were just lost in each other. I took my seat on that airplane and wondered if I was losing my soul mate. I called her at the Atlanta airport, still crying. I missed her so much, and it had only been seven hours since I had last seen her, but now we were 3000 miles apart again.
Well, all of that took place in June of last year. The day after my return, I came out to my mom and found her to be surprisingly supportive. I even told her about Jamie and how much I loved this woman. No one was sure if we could make it with so much against us. Well, that was then, this is now. On February 14th, 1996 (Valentine's Day) we celebrated the one month anniversary of our covenant ceremony.
The point of me relating this story is this: if you're not getting the support or the love that you need, then look out further than just your neighbourhood, or town. Of course, net relationships don't work out for everyone, not even for most people, but net friendships can be invaluable. You don't have to suffer through coming out, or other problems alone. There are places on the net that can help you. There are people out there that care. So, the next time you are sitting there and feeling lonely, reach out through your computer. Despite the new censorship laws, there are still plenty of sites that can help you find the help you need. All you have to do is reach out, and you will find someone to listen eventually.
Unfortunately, not all lesbigay teens or adults have net access. But if you're reading this, you do, and I just want you to know, you are not alone out there. We're all over the world, and we have to stick together. The suicide rate among lesbigay youth is unacceptable and there is help out there. So, when you're alone or just need someone to talk to, find someone. Don't retreat into yourself. You can find information on line about PFLAG, and many other groups that can help you and your family deal with your coming out. If you have trouble finding the help you need, I know that there are many of us volunteers here on Oasis that would be glad to help you, myself included. You don't have to suffer alone because you have friends out there...you just have to come find us.