My fitness class lets me tune out life’s chaos and tune in to my body. Like me, the other women here focus on the workout, all of us sweating and grunting to the beat. Our group ranges from new moms to long-time widows, and all ages in between. A lot of us, like me, are in our 60s. As far as I know, I’m the only homo. But you wouldn’t know that to look at us. Except for a few ponytails and pinned-back buns, everyone has pretty much the same short haircut. Dykey. I fit right in.
This troubles me. Not because I begrudge all women the freedom to wear their hair however they please, but because the dyke-do is the norm. Like other LGBTQ people in the long liberation struggle, I’ve dedicated my life to queering the dominant paradigm. Now that the dominant paradigm is shifting, queering it is getting harder to do. It’s not that I’m tired or assimilated or resigned, but looking and acting like a hardcore lesbian doesn’t wallop the status quo like it once did. At least in my neck of the Pacific Northwest woods.
Sure, women in politics and media and otherwise in the public eye gussy up and comply with a certain standard image of how a woman is supposed to look, but where I live, lots of women have liberated themselves from that confining standard. These gals do crunches with generally keep their hair short, wear sensible shoes, and don’t tolerate shit from men. Those traits used to evoke assumptions of being “that way.” Not any more.
Based on what I pick up from locker room chatter, these aging fitness buffs don’t obsess on attracting or aggrandizing men. Like me, they just want to stay healthy and keep enjoying life. We all pump and stretch, shower and dress as part of the same tribe. I can mention “my partner, she” and nobody blinks an eye. Apparently these gals have met out lesbians before, if not in person then at least on TV (Thank you Goddess Ellen!). Times have changed. My queerness doesn’t rock their boat in the least. They walk out of the gym in sweats or jeans and sneakers just like I do. No biggie.
I’m still the same out and proud dyke I’ve always been, but I don’t look much different than the straight, bi, and who-knows-what women at this club. Is this a sign that we’ve made it, queered the paradigm so much that being a big ol’ lesbian is no longer all that queer?
Or is this the price of winning equality under the law? Oh, I know we’re not all the way there yet. We still have to overturn DOMA, pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and finish conquering aversion therapy, for starters. But the balance has tipped. Public sentiment favors marriage and workplace equality and ending gender-bullying.
Victory seems inevitable and imminent.
Of course we’ll keep pushing for full human rights for everyone, We’re in this for the long haul. Meanwhile, how am I supposed to keep queering things up? I like being a pioneer and a ground-breaker, but the ground here has already been broken. What are my marching orders now? Do I have to find a more homophobic setting to work on my abs, quads and lats? Or can I just enjoy having one more place I’m free to be myself?
Sally Sheklow is a freelance writer who has been a part of the Eugene community since 1972.