Samantha Jean-der Bender

It’s true that some people in life will surprise you, for both better and worse. It took me ten years to see the depravity and sheer conniving nature of an old friend who never deserved the time and energy I spent allowing her to manipulate me. Likewise, I saw fault in a kindred soul whose unconditional love for me never wavered in spite of even our greatest differences. Not only has she been a relentless ally through out my life, she is a warrior of mediocrity and a patron in the battle for equality.

Now this leads me to a story I must tell about her, my cousin, Samantha Jean– and a disagreement she recently had with her stepfather who lives in Florida. Micheal, her step-dad, has been sick and Sam and her sister Katie (who I will undoubtedly include as one of my heroines of mediocrity at a later date) have arranged to fly out to see him. Sam sent a text to Micheal’s phone asking if she could bring her girlfriend, Jill, to visit. His answer? “Yes but if anyone asks, just tell them you’re only friends.” Her response: “If anyone asks I will tell them I’m a raging bull dyke in a monogamous lesbian relationship with a consenting.  adult.” Brilliant.

She has always been a walking stereotype of the lesbian community- a gay cliche, if you will, but her image was never a deliberate statement on her part, for the sake of “visibility” or as a proud member of the gay community. She and I shared similar qualities as children, both expressive of our typically male born interests, both outright defiant of the gender roles impressed upon us at birth.I can still recall her long, tangled mass of thick, blonde tresses and clear,  blue shining eyes hidden behind a pair of smudged, thick rimmed glasses. She was four years younger than me and yet seemed to adorn my exact reflection as the ragamuffin, ruffian, tomboy lost in a sea of ‘girl’.

Still the brunt of family jokes, we were both known to show up at parties and holiday events wearing a torn, dirt stained Easter dress, with over-sized snow boots and an army helmet. This was never a direct attempt to challenge the rules established by society in regard to sexuality or gender; it was an issue of comfort  and personal preference…. These were characteristics which became a part of our individual affect, and later served to further unite us.

As an adult, she has only grown more comfortable as a member of the male gender, her personal characteristics an icon of visibility for butches of all race, color, and creed… and breed. In that way we have grown to be nearly as different as we are the same. Just as we share 12.5 percent of the same blood, we also share 12.5 percent of the same gender-identifying persona; hers being more aesthetically obvious than mine.

I have grown into an adult who lacks visibility, in some ways, having sacrificed the option to fulfill the ideal lesbian appearance for a more tough but unmistakabley feminine exterior. To some gay women, I am lacking the physical requirements set forth in the lesbian community to disturb the socially acceptable confines of the heterosexual world in which we live. But to me, I have sacrificed nothing else, as forging my image for any other reason than because I am loyal to myself would be nothing short of a travesty. And to Samantha- Jean, I am the spawn of my own creation, the physical reminder that people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, none of which determine the extent of our self worth or inner beauty. She is a prized member of my personal community– one to whom I can look to for stregnth, motivation, and courage.

She is the other half of my very soul, the better part in fact I am convinced, and the one who moves fearlessly through each day, literally wearing part of her heart on the sleeve of her shirt. She can not likely chose to deny her sexual orientation as it is plainly obvious upon sight that she is different. Adversity presents itself daily when you must walk through life embellished by the visual representation of the very thing some people have come to hate. But what makes me most proud of her is her ability to pull off the mask created in a cloud of judgement and misconception in favor of a more austere version of her physical identity. And this has remained true- even in the face of great criticism, a constant living affirmation that soon we will all have to make the choice between what is right and what is easy.


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