November 11, 2011

PDA and Powwows

[Editor's note: Please welcome our very newest blogger, Ye'tha'thne. We are thrilled to have her! Ye'tha'thne is the first Native American writer for this blog.]

I took her to my hometown and she met my family – as my friend, of course. We were careful to remember that our hands shouldn’t touch and that we shouldn’t stand too close to one another. I forced myself not to look at her for too long, thinking that this might help to temporarily weaken the natural pull between my body and hers. Anyway, everyone loved her. Every room she walked into got a little brighter and a tad warmer than before. She was a conversational artist able to talk to anyone about anything, and her smile… her smile was like an all-access pass to the best stories and funniest jokes we had to offer, and she drank them all in. I kept thinking, How would they feel about her if they knew?

It’s such a strange feeling to be elated about something that some people won’t want to hear about. The very thing that makes you ecstatic becomes a secret that you keep for someone else. Suddenly she was this beautiful spectacle that I could watch and hear, but only from an “appropriate” distance. It’s as if someone had taken everything I want and put it in a museum with a “Please do not touch” sign and guards standing watch. I literally had to clasp my hands together at times to keep from reaching out for hers, and I hated it. At times it felt like my heart was pounding out of my chest, and it probably was, just trying to get me to get closer to her.

This isn’t the first time this has happened, but I’m still not used to it and I don’t ever want to be. Everywhere we go, I wait for cues as to whether or not it’s a safe space. By safe, I mean a space where we both feel comfortable about being ourselves and being publicly affectionate. Neither one of us is big on PDA, but it’s more about this captive and weirdly instinctive feeling that you have to monitor your emotions and expressions in certain places. That feeling usually triggers a lot of other feelings and thoughts for me. For instance

Why am I playing this game? So what if some people are uncomfortable? I’m SO happy, and so is she. Why should we have to mute this amazing feeling to save someone else from their awkward moment? Why does discovering one of the most important, beautiful and liberating aspects of my identity automatically put me in a place that I have to “come out” of? It’s ironic that we both want to change the world, but we buy into its stupid unspoken rules depending on the situation. I get it though – sometimes it’s not easy and/or safe for someone to be “out” at a job or in a certain social arena. But you know what? She’s the kind of woman that makes you want to tell everybody what color really looks like and how music really sounds. She makes me want to sit down and have the talk I never thought I’d have with my small-town, sweet, southern Mama. She inspires me to be as strong as my Native name says I am. I’m not sure how much longer I can contain all of this...

We’re going to a powwow together this weekend, and a lot of people from my Native community will be there. Most of them don’t know that I’m attracted to women, and most of them probably wouldn’t be okay with that. I keep imagining what it will be like to introduce this beautiful, incredible woman to so many people as my “friend” when I really want to tell them how alive she makes me feel. I’m dreading that lonely distance that we’ll keep from each other, the inhibiting hand-clasping, the nervous eye aversions…

But what if I didn’t do any of that? I live by a lot of little sayings and mantras, but one of them has become especially salient as of late. Don’t apologize for how you feel. As humans, love and emotion are the most organic, genuine, worthwhile, and purposeful experiences we can have. Why would I apologize for actually being able to feel something that some people never feel in an entire lifetime? I only get one shot to live my life and do it the way I want to do it. And honestly, my happiness and her smile are most certainly worth a little discomfort.


  1. "Why does discovering one of the most important, beautiful and liberating aspects of my identity automatically put me in a place that I have to “come out”"

    so true. good anaylsis!

    and yesssss for our first native american writer-it's really, really awesome to talk about this kind of identity intersectionality on the blog! it adds a lot of value. also, you said there was a native american (beauty?) contestant winner who came out and had her crown retracted recently, right? do you remember that name? that also sounds like a really interesting story for sure.

  2. That was really beautiful. I teared up reading it. I feel honored that you shared it with us!

  3. @megan: Thanks for your comment. =) The woman you're talking about is Miss Nizhoni. She was crowned princess of the Dine/ Navajo tribe, but her title was threatened when tribal dignitaries found out that she identified as lesbian. In Indian culture, Princesses are elected to serve as representatives of their tribe, so they must be knowledgeable about tribal affairs and have an interest in Native issues. The fact that her crown was being threatened implies that indicates that although she was qualified to serve in this capacity, identifying as lesbian completely negated that aptitude in the eyes of some tribal officials. I'm hoping to screen the film at Duke in the near future, so I'll keep you posted on that.

    @anonymous: Thanks, I'm happy that people enjoyed it, and hopefully they can relate. =)

  4. I like your comment: "It’s such a strange feeling to be elated about something that some people won’t want to hear about. The very thing that makes you ecstatic becomes a secret that you keep for someone else." It's really unfortunate that other people can't be happy with even just the mere fact that someone they care about is. Why should being in love with the same gender be any different than the opposite? Love is a universal feeling, and it's sad some people can't see that. In any case, thanks for writing. :)

  5. Beautiful. It's excruciating to stifle that pull to kiss your girl or hold her hand because you're afraid of how others will react.

  6. I don't come from the same background as you, but you speak my story just the same. And put it much more eloquently than I ever could!

  7. I have never felt comfortable with PDA--but this weekend, I visited SF and while in the Castro, I held my date's hand and even shared a quick kiss in public. And I didn't freak out!

    I wish I could feel so liberated everywhere!--it was incredible to be in an almost homonormative space. Oh well, we can dream, right?

    and now, getting back to the real world, I'm so excited about the weekend but feel like I can't tell people why--even though I can, but because they might not want to hear about it, as you said. It's... weird. And feels somehow fake, like I'm lying. I hate it.

    Thank you for this--I'm going to be figuring out our relationship status soon and I don't know how to share that with people. It's certainly a good thing we're sharing. Good luck/congratulations on being so courageous with the powwow! You inspire me--hopefully I'll be out to my classmates soon.