Friday, October 4, 2019

Just Say No to Time Travel

Welcome to a Secret Subject Swap. This week 7 brave bloggers picked a secret subject for someone else and were assigned a secret subject to interpret in their own style. Today we are all simultaneously divulging our topics and submitting our posts. 

My “Secret Subject” is:

Imagine your life in the 1950s: In what ways would it be different?

It was submitted by:

There's a tough piece of fiction first and then commentary after. 

I'M GAY NOT FUCKING CRAZY is a constant echo in my head while I stand in line waiting for the cup of pills these people are trying to force down my throat. Well, truth be told they do force 'em. I've just gotten really good at sticking my finger down my throat.

The women around me tend to do the same except Joan. She takes them all. She's been here longer than any one of the others I've met and has no hope of getting out. Really. Her dad...well, he'd done things to her for years, but he is also mayor of the town she lives--lived--in, Arlington, and he shipped her up here threatening shock therapy if she don't keep shut up about it all. She had gotten tired of it and told her mom who refused to believe her, and when she told her teacher at school, her parents said she was hysterical and angry with her father about a boy, so they could save face burying the truth then told the school they would take care of it. She's been here since. I heard it's been 8 years. She doesn't have a clue what day it is much less the year.

Anyway, she doesn't want the memories or the nightmares or to care enough to fight off the orderlies, so she takes every last pill and lives in her own little world. Sometimes I envy it. I really do.

The rest of us ain't got there quite yet. Marcy, Barbara, Mary, and Shirley, that's me. We take turns watching out for each other and puking the pills back up in the bathrooms. Technicolor vomit. Sometimes if the wait is long enough for a clear chance, your vision starts to blur and clouds take all kinds of shapes in your mind, so a couple of the us will have to chance a distraction that often leads to punishment, but that's better than the alternative. Otherwise, one of us might end up pregnant through no choice of our own, and that means much bigger trouble. If the man responsible doesn't kill you to cover his tracks and say you charged him in "hysterics", then you face the wrath of the head nurse. And truth is being dead or carrying a rape baby on a mental ward was preferable to her.

She makes it so the lobotomy my parents keep promising me if I don't stop seeing Toni and being a "pervert deviant" so I can get married to a man sound alright. Her name is Bertha, and she doesn't want no marks on her record. It's pristine, she says. No babies on this ward, she says. Two girls have died since I been here from botched abortions so she can keep that pristine record. They got "in the family way" as she says, so she them for a special appointment they never came back from. We may be in a nuthouse, but we ain't stupid. Mostly.

What she ought to do is cut the dicks off those men she has working here instead of always finding time for a flirt or a smoke with them and wouldn't be no problems. But she'd rather see it as our fault for tempting them. We're the fuckups and the whores in her eyes, the troublemakers. Doesn't matter if we scream and fight.

Want in one hand and shit in the other though am i right? She won't ever see it clearly.

I'm not real sure why some of the other girls are here. We've learned already not to trust anyone. Ever. My own parents put me here. I'm 27, have my own job, and live on my own, and they still got me here. I haven't lived in their house since I was 16. They kicked me out. They turned me away. I didn't have no choice in it, but now that people talk about me and Toni, they want to hide me away if I don't live my life their way. They haven't so much as pissed in my direction in over 10 years now... What kind of world are we in where really just about anyone can say you're crazy or a danger, and you minding your own business and paying your own bills can get put in this kind of place? Of course being in love with a woman has something to do with it especially since I don't deny it out there, but not all of these people are gay. Some of these women are here just because they're women.

Mary, for instance. Mary was pregnant before she got here, but something was wrong with the baby, and she had a miscarriage. Wasn't her fault, and she knows that deep down, but she still felt all the things you might expect to feel. What she wasn't feeling though was desire for her husband. Who would? He slapped her around when she wasn't doing the laundry on time or when she didn't have his dinner on the table at the perfect temperature when he walked through the door even though he never came home at the same time. Who would want him? Really I'd like to know. So when she wouldn't put out and beatin' on her got to be more of a chore than fun, he sent her up here saying she isn't right because of the baby, so he can con some other pretty young thing into moving in. So woman loses the only thing she's got in this world bringing her joy, and she's supposed to hop right back on the dick and laundry without a hiccup or she winds up here. Seems real damn fair, don't it? That's the definition of being a wife and sane for the people making the rules, and the rules change whenever they see fit.

My turn in line comes up now. I take my cup with a smile because if you don't smile in this place you have to take smile therapy. It's made up by Bertha. Ain't no therapist or doctor doing the process. She puts you in a chair, straps you down, and puts this thing on your face that makes your mouth spread. I think it might be used by dentists, but she's got her own methods. Her own madness. You stay like that until she sees fit, and then you sign a paper saying you understand the importance of smiling for yourself and the other people on the ward. In other words, fake it or be punished. Fake it or be here. Fake it or die. Fake acceptance, fake love, fake being into men.

Speaking of that whole thing, my parents were too ashamed to tell them here I like women, and I won't be the one to tell them either. It was the best thing they coulda done even if the goodness was unintentional. Bertha gets wind of any gay stuff, and she orders them two pride and joy orderlies to...well, you know...while she watches. Gotta make sure you get what you need to be straight as an arrow, you see. Screw the gay outta these girls. New girl came in about a week after I first got here. Her daddy wasn't holding back at all on why she was being sent here, and within an hour after he left, I heard it. Never heard sobbing screams like that in my life, and until the day I die, I will never forget them.

That's why no one knows about me not even the girls I talk to every day. Sometimes Bertha uses one to get to the other, you see. Most of us don't talk about why we got stitched up here. We only talk about being free, getting back home, or just out of here. We have to fake it. Lie. Hide. that's the only way to stay somewhat safe, and even then...even then...

Sometimes I stand at the window overlooking that creepy cemetery out back with it's tiny, cheap markers, and I long for death. It's been months, and I don't know how much longer I can fake it. I don't know if I can lie. I don't know if I can be the obedient doormat I'm expected to be. And maybe dead is better than a prisoner here or prisoner in a marriage to someone who won't let me work and makes me polish his knob so I can get grocery money. How long can I lie? How much longer until I'm back here, and this time with the truth of who I am out in the open? What kind of life is that anyway?

I'm not sure it's one I want to live.


This isn't something I like to think about. Or write about. It's not a time period I look back on wistfully hoping to get back to the real meat of the family. Any time spent in sociology classes will teach you that things weren't even as bad in the 30s for women as it was the 50s. The 50s brought in this need for women to be perfect Stepford wives in a way not seen in quite awhile. And it was its own animal. 

As a queer disabled woman, the idea of going back to the 50s makes me physically fucking ill. 

I came out when I was in high school. Just recently someone I had a message on facebook from a high school bully. This was someone I trusted who was supposed to be a good friend back then. What he sent me was some half assed apology talking about how he mocked me after I came out instead of celebrating my bravery. It didn't even touch the bullying, death and physical threats, and world shaking distrust that permeates my existence to this day that he and people like him caused. That was the 90s. I went through enough hate in the fucking 90s to last my lifetime, that still makes me nervous in public places, that even recently kept me from going to a concert I really would have liked to attend because it was a country singer at a small bar in Alabama. i didn't feel safe. Even going with a dude I still stick out like a sore thumb. or maybe i don't, but after years of being called "dyke" by perfect strangers, I don't feel like I pass. at all. 

I can't imagine living in a time that wasn't also all about grrl power and riot girls and people coming out all the time even in Middle of Nothing, Georgia. I had to imagine for this prompt... and please understand what I've written isn't an exaggeration. there is plenty of history to explore to prove me right. 

here's the thing...when Americans talk about how things are so much worse than ever under Trump, they're wrong. Yes, he's embarrassing. Yes, he's made things worse than under Obama. Yes, he's probably going to make things even worse before he's done. But the only people who really think these are the worst things have ever been have very little at risk. Marginalized people have lived in a world that we understood a long time ago would never fully accept us. We've always been slowly making progress if at all. we've always taken steps back for every step forward. Times are scary, yes. But they're not at all the scariest they've ever been for marginalized people, and even though I wish I had a pink tiled bathroom and I guess it's funny to think about tuna jello molds, the 50s would have meant my death in a very real way, and I don't want anything to do with it. 

Here are links to all the sites now featuring Secret Subject Swap posts. Sit back, grab a cup, and check them all out. See you there:

Baking In A Tornado


  1. Although you're right, both via your story and your dialogue afterwards, that things aren't worse than they've ever been under trump, they are significantly worse than they had been before trump. Many more people are unsafe now than they were even 3 years ago, and it is the giant steps backwards that are so painful.

  2. Very well written and unfortunately all too believable. I have many friends, male and female, who are gay as well as a couple of transexuals. It appalls me the amount of hatred that is spewed even today.

  3. Very interesting piece of writing. I have read stories about 'hospitals' where they did shock therapy and it is absolutely horrible to imagine. Something that should not have ever been allowed to anyone for any reason.

  4. I'm not gay, but I am so sick of the idea that they can "change that way of thinking". It's absolutely ludicrous and I totally believe that women & men were (and are in some parts of the world still treated that way). Men like Trump are dangerous because they are insecure, small-minded (& penis') and that adds to the "gang mentality" that because it's okay for him it's okay for all men. I see our rights going backwards instead of forward. Things that affect all women like Roe VS Wade etc. I don't things are as bad as they used to be, but they are far, far away from where they should be. (Rena)

  5. Can't we just love and respect people as they are and move on..?

    1. Speaking as someone who has lived life out since i was in my teens...never going to happen. There will never be a time for me or likely for my child either where we are not targeted, hated, or abandoned because of who we are. Things improve, but just today in our supreme court, there was a case deciding whether or not people can be forced by their employers to dress as the gender their employers see them as. No trans people, then. No men in makeup or wearing femme clothing. No women who wear more masculine styles. Our court is divided over this. Over whether or not employers can enforce how we dress. there will be more cases heard to determine if it's constitutional for an employer to fire someone for being gay. This is nothing new. That's the way we've always had to live. In hiding. scared. In the closet. Or forced to live by someone else's standards.