Amy Bronwen Zemser — “writer, squirrel hunter, breastfeeder, homosexual” — just launched her new, provocative blog,Â AmyBronwenZemser.com. We have the honor of publishing an abridged version of one of her recent hilarious posts about coming out, homophilia, and cases of mistaken sexual identity (read the unabridged version here). Enjoy!
Iâll tell you a secret.
I still have some internalized homophobia. Â So I get squeamish when I have to come out.
I donât have to come out very often, but the situation does arise if I have to say, switch opthamologists.Â Or if Ray wants to play with a child whose parent I do not know.Â Just recently, after I told the mother of a child in Rayâs Suzuki violin class that I was one of two moms, she looked at me with a completely straight face and said,Â âThere was a girl in my daughterâs class who had that.â
Had what?Â The malaise of homosexuality?Â The disfiguring disease of conjoined motherhood?
Once, when I was adjuncting at St. Johnâs university, the topic of homosexuality came up.
âOh yes,â I chimed in.Â âMy brother and I both inherited homophilia.Â Havenât you heard?Â Itâs very catching.Â Do you want your spoon back?â
I donât want to be labeled, see.Â Who does?Â Even if only a portion of the lesbian population have wiffles,Â I still have trouble coming out with it in ordinary conversation.Â I hate the word âlesbianâ because it makes me think of a bunch of women wearing patchouli and making out with each other on some Greek island.Â Gay is generally a term for the boys (although I do use it) and queer still means strange to a lot of people.Â I do love the word homosexual because thereâs a whiff of the scientific there, and itâs funny, but admittedly I say the word in a humorous way as a coping mechanism.
Hi, Iâm Amy, and Iâm aÂ homosexual.Â A HOMOsexual.
To call oneself any one thing â a homosexual or a writer or a parent or a squirrel killer, for that matter, is just plain reductive. Nobody want to be any one thing.Â I am the sum of all my complicated and contradictory parts.
But sometimes, as with the Suzuki violin mother, introductions occur, and you have to come up with something better than same-sex touchmonkey or Zena warrior.
I have found a solution to this issue, though.Â I have my own special little stock phrase that I integrate into a conversation, when I have to let someone know that my spouse is female, and so far it has worked out beautifully:
My husband has no penis.
This is a very effective strategy.Â It is funny, it is fast, and you donât have to use the words transgender or queer.
Fine, I give you that itâs a lot longer than the word gay, but itâs infinitely more original, especially when you are at a gas station having a cigarette and you can casually blow smoke out the side of your mouth and say, oh, you know, my husband has no penis, so we just use the same rest room at the truck stop.
When Lynn and I were first trying to get pregnant, we spent a lot of time at the fertility clinic.Â We spoke to many physicians at the outset who tried to convince me that we needed to use medical intervention in order to get pregnant, even though we had no idea whether, at 37, I was infertile or not.Â Conversations would invariably get to this point:
Me: I’ve never tried to get pregnant before. I donât know if Iâm infertile.Â I mean, do you have any statistics?
Fancy Fertility Doctor:Â What kind of statistics?
Me: Like, how many women come to the infertility office to get pregnant not because of low sperm count or advanced maternal age, but because, you know, their husband has no penis. Â Ha ha.Â HA HA HA HA HA.
Me: My husband has no penis!Â HA HA HA HA HA HA
I canât get pregnant, Iâd go on, pointing to Lynn.Â We try and try but something must be very wrong with him, doctor, I really do think something is terribly wrong.
At this point Lynn turns purple and looks out the window.Â Sometimes sheâll smile meekly and say this is Amy from the Catskills Resort, and her next joke will beâŚ.
For some reason I find my little joke absolutely hysterical.Â I realize it sounds inane and embarrassing and puerile, like Iâm in the seventh grade in Gloria Vanderbilts and feathered hair.Â But every time I say it, it just gets funnier. Â More importantly, it also makes real sense.Â What could be a more banal, a more pedestrian and reasonable way to work into a conversation that you are gay than to say that your husband has no penis?
Since my husband has no penis, we donât have federal marriage protection under the law.
My husband has no penis â of course we love the Indigo Girls.
Sure do wish my husband had a penis.Â If he did, he surely wouldnât need to adopt his own three kids.
Since my husband has no penis I had to drive all the way to Mt. Kisco to get my ovaries fluffed before Tuesdayâs insemination in Manhattan.
Usually nobody laughs at my private joke, but I am always happy to have it.Â It means I donât have to say lesbian.Â Gay. Â HOMOsexual.
I hate the label, so I make a joke.Â I donât want to be reduced, so I make a joke.Â I make a joke, I make a joke, I make a joke.
One time, at one of my poker games, my friend Melissa, a dentist, told me that after I had gone in for a cleaning, her administrative assistant shook her head sadly after me, saying, âThat poor woman.Â Did she tell you? Her husband,â and here she lowered her voice to a whisper, âHer husband has no penis.â
It took Melissa a while to explain to the woman that I was a lesbian, and that I didnât have a husband at all.
âBut what about the penis,â she insisted.Â âWhat happened to it?Â How did it come off?Â How terribly painful that must have been.Â For both of them.Â In different ways, of course.â
Melissa said they had to go around a few times before it was all straightened out and the next patient could go in for his bite wings.
At this point most of the women around my Texas Hold âem table were wiping their eyes and crying over this poor office assistant whoÂ seriously thought the reason I was having trouble conceiving was because, despite vigorous attempts, my penis-less husband was unable to squeeze any seeds from his fruitless loins.
I must admit that I would love to know if any of you use different terms to get around the discomfort of coming out.Â If you are reading this and you are not a homosexual, then try and drum up a gay memory or two, perhaps the time you made out with your best friend in college.Â Please share your experiences and thoughts on my very public forum.Â What do you have to lose?Â At worst youâll be deeply humiliated. At best there is always deep shame.Â Itâs all good.Â Everybody wins.