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Pet Sins September 2007

'Coming out' as an intravert in the lesbian community

When I first moved to a big city as a young gay woman, I lived the 'typical' lesbian lifestyle expected for someone of my age - going clubbing a few times a week, volunteering for the community, etc. Gradually, I lost interest in these activities. Community volunteering was well and good, but at some point, the apathy of the local lesbian resource center got to me. If they did not care about how they run things, it was hard for volunteers and donors to maintain commitment. One potential donor even reported that no one ever called her back. That was their level of apathy and professionalism. Many of my friends who had once volunteered or donated to the resource center eventually ended their involvement with the organization because of said reasons. Thus, my choice was not unique. I found other ways to contribute to the communities I was a part of.

My interest in clubbing and partying waned as the years passed. I came to realize that I really did not enjoy group activities. One might think it odd that I would take so long to know I was a loner, but isn't it just like how some people realize they are gay after many years? I had no problem coming out as gay to a supportive family, but it did take me a while to admit I was an intravert in a society that highly values extraverts. After a workplace training on reconciling different working styles, I realized I am what was termed an intravert - someone who got energy from herself rather than from a group, someone who drew inspiration from time alone rather than from interactions with other people. It made sense. The parties and clubbing felt empty to me - draining rather than satisfying. So I decided to be myself and stay home and do the things I really enjoy, like reading and writing. A friend of my ex-gf would derogatorily refer to me as a 'homebody', and a kindhearted acquaintance X would talk about drawing me out of my 'shell'. They did not seem to understand that I was happy the way I was.

At some point, I did have a talk with the well-meaning acquaintance X about her condescending language concerning drawing this 'poor thing' out of her 'shell'. She said she understood and never raised the issue again. But she was not the only one who tried to impose her extraverted lifestyle values on me. Another well-meaning acquaintance M, who did not know me during my clubbing/partying phase, and who has never bothered to get to know me before taking on the role of concerned older sister, was always pushily asking me about how I spent my weekends and whom I spent it with, all with the intention of prodding me to go out and 'have a life'. I did not feel obligated to detail my personal life to someone whom I don't know very well. But once when I did mention that I would be going to the movies with my ex-girlfriend over the weekend, M's response was one of great surprise. She said, "I never knew you had a girlfriend!" Well, she never ever asked if I had a girlfriend. So it was apparent that M assumed, just because I had intraverted interests, that I had never dated in my entire life. She just made assumptions based on her stereotypes of intraverts. I did tell her my opinion as nicely as I could, and we have never spoken again. I have no regrets about losing touch with her at all. Nice as she was, her approach towards me was condescending and based on assumptions about a group - intraverts. When she looked at me, she did not see me, she saw a stereotype.

I find it an irony that people who demand respect for their identity/lifestyle can't give the same respect to others within the same community who just happen to have a harmlessly different lifestyle, that is, being an intravert.

L.J.
2007