Confessions of a Fairy Princess

I never dreamed of becoming a fairy princess.  Most little girls do, I know, but I never did.  I was always more interested in reading books, or getting “creative” with my dad’s art supplies, or riding my bike, or playing “Knight Rider”, “Cloak & Dagger”, or “A-Team” with my friends. When I got older, all that changed, as they often do.  I started high school.  I met a boy.  He was dreamy.  I was done for.

We started off as friends, but grew closer over time.  We had a million and one things in common:  TV shows, movies, music, politics, sense of humour…

Oh, and boys.  We were both attracted to boys.

At first, finding out that we shared this particular interest was difficult for me to swallow.  Not because I thought it was wrong for him to like boys, but because I just never thought that something like this would ever happen to me.  Once I realized that it wasn’t happening “to me”, however, and that what he was going through was far worse than anything I could have imagined, I got over it.  It wasn’t easy, but I got over it.  And I’m glad I did, because that was – and still is – one of the best relationships I’ve ever had.  Ever.

As I got even older, I met even more boys who liked boys, too.  I’m not sure how that happened, because it’s not exactly like I went looking for them.  I would just meet them through work, or through school, or through mutual friends.  These boys are as near and dear to my heart as that first boy is, and the relationship I have with them is like no other.  There’s a level of support, understanding, and unconditional love that most people never get to experience, no matter what type of relationship they’re in.

Mainstream society would refer to a woman like me as a “Fag Hag”.  It should come as no surprise that I find that term deeply offensive, because of its blatant homophobia and misogyny.  “Fairy Princess”*, on the other hand, is wonderfully subversive, because it cuts right through the heart of the patriarchy that enables the systemic oppression of queer people and women.

It should also come as no surprise that, as a Fairy Princess, I am absolutely heartsick about the six – that’s right, six – young gay men who have taken their lives over the past few weeks, due to anti-gay bullying at the hands of their peers:

As an educator, I’m outraged that this abuse – because it was abuse, not just “bullying” – took place at school.  Teachers knew about it.  Students knew about it.  Administrators knew about it.  Yet, they all let the situation escalate to a point that became literally unbearable for these young men.  Being in education, I’m well aware of the myriad reasons why homophobic abuse goes unnoticed and unaddressed in schools:  it forces people to examine the bigotry they’ve internalized, or defend the bigotry they’ve externalized; it creates tension between the school and (some) parents, who feel that discussions about homosexuality should be a private, family matter; it sets the stage for “Oppression Olympics”, wherein people claim that their religious rights trump the human rights of LGBT youth… in short, it creates conflict, and makes people uncomfortable.

I understand where these people are coming from.  I don’t agree with their positions, but I can understand why they might hold them.

What I don’t understand, however, is how they – especially the ones who are educators – can allow themselves to sacrifice the health, well-being and, in fact, the very lives of the young people in their care, for the sake of maintaining their own personal (and/or professional) comfort.  To me, that’s the opposite of what being an educator is about.  Our job is to support our students.  Period.  It’s too late for Seth, Asher, Billy, Justin, Tyler and Raymond, but it is not too late for all the other queer and questioning youth who are in our care.  Not only do we have the power to make their school lives enjoyable, enriching, and safe, but it’s our responsibility to do so.

Those who are unwilling, or unable, to accept this responsibility need to think about getting a different job.  Period.

* I must give credit where credit is due:  this term was coined by my friend B.’s “other” fairy princess, R.

5 comments on “Confessions of a Fairy Princess

  1. I am so glad I read this. It is educators like you, people like you, who will change the world so that we stop losing these young people, male and female, queer and straight.

    I am, as you know, a stereo-typical gay man. Many of my closest friendships are/have been with straight women. The idea of replacing that horrible epithet with “Fairy Princess” appeals to me on many levels. (Hi, R!) I would not give up my Princess friends for anything.

    As for your main point, there’s not much I can add. I would add, though, that while the deaths of young men make the news, let’s not forget that we’re losing young women as well. It may not be as many, but it definitely is happening. That gets into the whole invisibility of lesbians in our society; gay men are shunned, lesbians simply disappear. Sometimes I wonder which is worse.

    Still, as heartsick as I am over the loss of these 6 boys, in general I think we have good reason to feel hopeful. As bad as things are, they are light years ahead of where there were just two generations ago. Let me tell you a story I’ve been relating to some of my younger friends lately.

    I’m 42. I was blessed to marry a man 21 years my senior. Now, I’m equally blessed with gay male friends 20 years (and more!) my junior. When I am around my younger friends of all orientations, I am always amazed at how much a non-issue sexuality is for them. (Granted, I’m in urban-ish California and a Theatre department, but still.) They take being “out” for granted. When I came out in 1984 it was still a big deal, and I grew up in a lesbian household for goodness sake.

    When my partner came out in 1968 or so, it was something that was, to most people, nearly unimaginable. He would tell me stories of going to the one gay bar in his large Connecticut hometown. He parked a couple blocks away, walked to it on the other side of the street and then, when nobody was looking, made a mad dash in to the bar. When I came out, I occasionally didn’t feel safe going to a gay bar, but I had a choice of them to go to, and I didn’t feel I had to hide. When the young men I know today think about going out, they simple choose a bar to go to, rather than worrying “Is it a gay bar?”

    So, things are changing. We can’t forget these young men, but we can honor their memory by making sure that we address the problems and do our best to help their brothers and sisters to grow up healthy and free.

    • Thanks so much for your comment, David. I’m glad what I said resonated with you. I’m especially grateful that you shared some of your personal history; it is a good reminder that things are, indeed, changing.

      Thanks also for raising the point that queer women suffer from homophobic abuse as well, and also attempt/commit suicide because of it. I suspect that the general “invisibility” of lesbians in our society has to do with the fact that women are allowed to have a much wider range of relationships, and ways of expressing affection, with each other than men are. So, for example, a lesbian couple in high school can “get away” with a lot more than a gay couple can, even though they still have to hide the truth, and suffer homophobia and heterosexism in silence.

      *sigh* I know things are getting better, but when “better” = young men and women suffering physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual and psychological abuse on a regular basis, to the point where some of them resort to self-injurious behaviour and/or suicide, well… “better” just doesn’t seem good enough, you know? *sigh*, again.

  2. I love that we’re having this conversation on National Coming Out Day. 🙂

    An acquaintance (a gay man) posted this video on his FB page today. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kGLaRsywm8

    Although he finds it entertaining (which is his right), I sat watching it with my jaw on the floor and ultimately found myself really offended for everyone involved. The song “Fag Hag” feeds in to EVERY stereotype you can imagine. And, for me, it really brought home how much we (gay men and straight women) have internalized the misogyny and homophobia inherent in that term.

    I know, I know, the singer/songwriter was trying to embrace the stereotype, turn it on its head, etc. Sorry, just doesn’t work for me. And, when you search YouTube for Fag Hag, WOW do you get a lot of hits. It’s all over the place.

  3. I’ve had a question about the term “fairy princess” since I first read this piece. I’m not sure what it means. You write that it’s subversive. I’d like to hear more about why. I ask because I’ve never heard it before.

    Great post, by the way!

    • Hey Tricia! Thanks for your question. To me, the term “Fairy Princess” is subversive in a couple of ways:

      – It turns the idea of a Fairy Princess (a la Disney) on its head, because the male with which a woman has a close, intimate relationship with is not the (straight) knight in shining armour he’s “supposed” to be.

      – Similarly, it reclaims the homophobic insult “fairy” by acknowledging that queer men can and do have close, intimate relationships with (straight) women. The fact that these relationships are not romantic or sexual is irrelevant. Furthermore, these women are not frumpy, ugly hags who have no chance of getting a “real” (i.e. straight) man of their own, but beautiful, gorgeous, desirable “princesses” in their own right.

      Does that make sense?

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