So, as anyone who follows me on Twitter knows, I’m currently obsessed with the TV show Wynonna Earp. Or if you’ve talked to me. Or texted me for a recipe, I probably mentioned it, too. (Also, if you’re not following me on Twitter, you should. I’m reasonably funny sometimes.)
I mean, not really obsessed. Like, my wife still takes priority, but she’s very understanding and lets me do things like watch the live broadcast a few hours before we have to be at the airport and live Tweet it and then maybe join the video hangout and participate a little and encourage me when I talk about it even though she doesn’t watch it. Because she’s nice like that.
Also, super hot.
But you’ll watch it soon, right, honey?
Anyway, back to topic.
I’ve been a big TV fan for ages — for as long as I can remember, really. This is not an exaggeration. I was born in 1977 (representing 39, bitches!), and I remember watching Days of Our Lives with my beloved grandmother in 1980. Like, Marlena and Roman and the Salem Strangler. It even got a shout-out in her eulogy I somehow managed not to cry through.
The thing is, I never saw…myself on TV. Everyone was pretty, worldly, thin, confident, and, well…straight. Especially in Salem.
Because Jennifer Horton Deveraux.
Growing up, I remember latching on to people who seemed…familiar. Similar, maybe, even though I wasn’t honest with myself about why. I bought a Rolling Stone with Melissa Etheridge on the cover (and promptly purchased all of her CDs after Yes I Am came out — pardon the pun), read the parts about her over and over. I kept it in my closet (ha!), the nearness somehow making me feel not as alone. For every step forward, though, one backwards. I won tickets to see her in concert…and took a guy with me so “no one thought I was gay.” (I wasn’t the only one worried about that, though, because I remember running into two ladies that my brother graduated with, one of them telling me, “If I see any women making out, I’m going to be sick.” The other looked at me and shrugged. Now, almost 20 years later, all three of us are in long-term same-sex relationships. Hopefully she doesn’t throw up a lot.) I bought a concert t-shirt but was always too afraid to wear it. It’s still in a plastic bin in my basement, never worn.
That was a different Monica, you know?
Onscreen portrayals of lesbians were few and far between, and even the ones that existed weren’t anything like me. I’m no Carol and Susan from Friends. I remember saying (jokingly) that I “identified with the black lesbian” in Boys on the Side, though only half of that was (secretly) true. That Ellen puppy episode was in 1997, Roseanne kissed Sandra Bernhardt before that, and Rosie came out in 2002, after I was totally, completely, fully out.
In 1999, something changed.
I had graduated from college, was comfortably mumbling “I don’t know; I might be gay” to some select people (and had been for four years), and had finally been talked into seeing a therapist. After I told her about my nervousness about lesbians, she half-smiled, raised her hand, and said, “I’m a lesbian.”
Clearly, my gaydar was not fully functioning at this point, because she was as granola as granola gets.
Anyway, she recommended I see a movie — a movie called “But I’m a Cheerleader.”
I don’t know if you’ve seen this movie, but here’s a brief synopsis (if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading). Super-girly cheerleader Megan (a pre-OITNB Natasha Lyonne) is shipped off to gay-deprogramming camp (where she finally realizes she’s gay), where she meets some other gays, most notably Graham (an ever-perfect Clea Duvall), with whom she falls in love and probably lives happily ever after, maybe. They ride off into the sunset in the back of a pickup, so…
It is not an exaggeration to say this movie changed my life.
I sat in the theater surrounded by two friends an an intern (sounds like a rom-com), nervous but excited to see this movie my therapist thought would do me some good.
There’s a scene in which Megan is insisting the things she feels and does (checking out other women, pictures of girls in her locker, etc.) are normal and everyone does them. She slowly starts to realize that it’s not as normal as she thinks, ending with the exclamation, “I’m a homosexual!”
“Holy crap,” I thought to myself. “I’m a homosexual.”
And that was it — my “aha!” moment, where I finally accepted what I had suspected since I was six and known, deep down, since high school. I’m gay.
I went to my next therapy appointment, telling my therapist (named Chris, of course) that I was a giant lesbian. “So, you giant lesbian, what’s next?” she asked.
What’s next was, a few months later when that movie came out on VHS (!), I rented it once a week for several weeks. Watched it multiple times. I think this coincided with my brief period of unemployment, so I watched it a lot. Made other people watch it, including that girl who was also a friend who I had a raging crush on (because there was always one of those). “I don’t get it,” she said about Clea Duvall. I shook my head. I ran outside to do something while they kept watching — I think I had a flat tire or something — and when I came back in, after they had watched the scene in the dance club where my beloved Clea looked like how every even-a-little-butch girl wanted to look and kissed the super-hot girl, she looked at me and said, “I get it now.”
Every time I watched that movie, my heart swelled a little bit. I got nervous in anticipation of watching it. I rewound my favorite parts and watched them over and over (literally rewound — remember it was a VHS tape). I was sad when I didn’t have it; inexplicably happy when I did. It was like that magazine in my closet — keeping me company, reminding me I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one. I wasn’t wrong or evil or awful or something to be ashamed of. I was worthy of love and a relationship (those would take a while to find — one much longer than the other, too).
So when I find that TV show or movie that makes me feel this way, I go a little bit nuts. I want to watch it over and over again, my favorite and not-so-favorite parts, engulf myself with the warmness that spreads throughout when I’m reminded that I’m not alone. Not that I need as much reminding as I used to, but it’s still nice to be reminded.
This also applies to people, as I try to surround myself with those who make me feel safe, warm, happy, not alone.
This lady in particular.
And maybe this doesn’t make sense to you if you’ve never been affected this way by a show or a movie or a song, but if you have, well, you’re not alone.
I felt this way with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and much to my surprise, Wynonna Earp hit me the same way. How and why and how is another post for another time, but when I was thinking about how to explain all of that, I kept coming back to Graham.
Not this one, but the cat’s out of the bag (ha!) as to where I got his name.
So, thanks, Clea and Graham (and Melissa) for making me feel like I’m not the only one. For making me feel like there was a light at the end of the tunnel. For showing me that there are other people like me. For helping me to hold on just a little while longer, because my pickup truck and sunset were waiting.
*photo credit to Laura Kathleen Photography