Well, the title is just a sarcastic joke. I don't mean to write about people who inspired me to be more evil. I mean to write about people who inspired me how to be healthy, happy, and gay. Gay people who inspired me to be gay, to be exact. I got this idea from Fried Durian's "5 gay characters that had big influence on my queer-ness" post. I think it's about time I paid them their tribute, for guiding me through the most confusing part of my teenage days.
TV Series: Xena: The Warrior Princess
Here's where everything good about me begins. When I first saw Xena's trailer on TV, I never once gave it a second thought. The trailer was 'dark' and full of violence, and I automatically decided it was not for me. If I have to fully confess my sin, Xena's trademark of short skirt made me think she was just a girly warrior who won wars by seducing men - making her no better than a whore in my eyes. Ouch. Was I wrong. Yes, given the wrong producers and the wrong writers the series could have easily turned out that way. But one day I watched one of the episodes (because I had no choice), and I fell in love right away. A love that still burns warmly until now.
The first episode I watched was 'Miss Amphipolis'. I was amazed at how Xena transformed from a tough warrior into a beautiful princess. I was amazed at how she helped each of the contestant to find their way of life so subtly. I was amazed at how the show made me laugh and cry and even frightened all in one episode. Little did i know that the best was yet to come.
Xena is my beginning in every sense of the word. I was only 11 year-old when I first knew her, so she basically mentored me through my growing up phase. I took lessons of life in almost every episode, either from her or from Gabrielle. And I took a lesson of love. It's no secret to anybody that Xena and Gabrielle's friendship is one of a kind. I envied them a lot back then, and wished I could find a 'friend' just like that. Then I was introduced to internet, and there I found a whole other layers to the Xena episodes I'd been following. All the lovey-dovey subtexts were clearer when you look at them as pictures and words, not as a fast-moving video. Strangely enough, I was so excited by the more intimate relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, but I was disgusted every time someone started mentioned the word 'lesbian'. It was when I discovered fan fiction and found Ryan that all these changed.
2. Ryan O'Flaherty
Fan-Fiction: I Found My Heart in San Fransisco
Author: SX Meagher
No picture, of course, as she is an uber fanfic character, but you're welcome to imagine Lucy Lawless in her role. Before I read IFMHSF, there were two other fan fictions that helped me open my mind about lesbianism: Blue Fire by CE Gray and Hesed by Mayt. When I read Blue Fire I was still in denial. I loved the fact that Blue Fire and Alice loved each other, but I kept deny the fact that they were in love until the part where their society condemned them for being together. I was outraged! They did nothing wrong and they were such good people, how could those people wanted to kill them just because they loved each other? And to my chagrin, I was so happy when they were married in the end. Then I read Hesed. I learned about God a lot from that fiction. Before I only thought about Jesus, and what was written in the Bible as taught by the church and my school. When I read Hesed, I was amazed. 'The Da Vinci Code' and 'Angels and Demons' were nothing new for me cause I've read 'Hesed' a long time before that. It opened my mind about religion and its connectivity with homosexuality. From there I realized, believing in a religion is one thing, believing in God is quite another.
Although my problem with homosexuality and my conflict with religion had been solved, there was one more trouble I needed to solve before I could even admit to myself that I'm gay. It was about how gay people live nowadays. I was in senior high school by then, and I was very close with this girl. I definitely felt something more than friendship for her, but I didn't want to admit to be a 'lesbian'. All my life the image presented to me about lesbians were that they were boyish, arrogant, violent, alcoholic, drug-abusers, crazy, psycho, and predators. In the fiction Ryan and Jamie were both in a lesbian study class, and Jamie was straight so Ryan had to explain to her almost every aspect of lesbian life for their classes. It was there I learned about being a lesbian. Figured there was nothing much different about it than being a heterosexual. Heh heh.
Ryan helped me settling in my new identity. Not only that, I learned a lot of being a human from her. She was a flawed, but otherwise almost angelic person. She was playful, smart, kind, fun, charming, considerate, oh well, if she was nearby, Edward AND Jacob would have no chance of winning Bella. Even when Bella is straight. Heh heh. No kidding. I wanted to be like Ryan in a lot of ways, but mostly in her compassion. In one arch of the story some guys hijacked her car and almost killed her, but then she risked her life trying to save them instead. Blue Fire did that too, and Xena did that too. I guess I'm just a sucker for women with a heart of gold. In case you were wondering, that's where my nickname came from, and I'm proud of it.
3. Ellen DeGeneres
Okay, she's literally the most famous lesbian in the world, so it seems a little bit cliché to add her here, but I must stay truthful in my tribute, mustn't I? Most people know her from her current talk show, except maybe American, but I'm one of the few people who start liking her from her sitcom days.
I first knew about Ellen when I had already admitted to myself that I was gay but was not comfortable with it just yet. I googled 'lesbian women' with a red face and trembling hand at a warnet, and I found out about her coming out. What intrigued me the most was the cover of 'Times' magazine on where she came out. I had some kind of deja-vu about that cover but I couldn't remember where or when. I was deeply inspired by her coming out story and what she went through before and after the 'Puppy Episode' came out. I ran into a transcript of that famous episode, and it was so brilliant I had to watch it. Luckily, youtube was available. I watched it and I loved it. From then on I watched nearly every episode of Ellen's sitcom, continued with her failed sitcom, her two stand-up comedy specials, Finding Nemo, and of course, her current talk show.
I like Ellen a lot, and she is the person I respect the most in gay society, hands down. She is classy, funny, smart, kind, generous, and she had been through enough to make her wise. My ultimate wish for the younger generation is that there will be someone like Ellen in Indonesia so that people can see that gay people are just people. Ellen was not the first one to come out, but hers made the biggest impact in America. She risked her career and she lost it, but not before she saved some lives and opened some minds. I'm among those who - given the chance to meet her - would thank her for showing me that I can be 'normal' and gay. When you look at Ellen, although she does meet the 'boyish' stereotype about lesbian, you don't see a stranger. You see a sweet, pretty girl next door. I'm also that kind of girl and when I admit of being a lesbian, my biggest worry was that I had to change in order to fit the community. Knowing Ellen made me realize that I am who I am first, and I just happen to be a lesbian, not the other way around. That made all the difference.
4. Melissa Etheridge
I told you I knew Ellen from her sitcom days, right? And her famous coming out. Who sang the sitcom's opening theme in that episode? Who was one of Ellen's closest friend those days? Who bugged Ellen about coming out along with other celesbian? Yup, Melissa it is. I was so curious about this Melissa person, whose face I couldn't even see from all of Ellen's reference. I knew she was a musician, so instead of googling her picture, I searched for her music. I was never a rock and roll fan before Melissa. Sure I loved Rent, but I thought it was because of the message behind the music. And sure enough, when I got 'Bring Me Some Water' and 'Breathe' I couldn't like them, I only took the pride that a lesbian singer sang them. It was a turn of fate that a chatting friend of mine was a fan and she sent me some of Melissa's other music. I wasn't really interested, but then I heard a sample of 'This Moment' somewhere, and I fell in love right away. It was incredible. I searched in vain to get the full version of that song, and along the way I found Melissa's other songs. I searched for the lyrics of each song and listened to them while reading the lyrics. I was instantly hooked.
When I like something I want to know as much as I can about it. After I fell in love with the music, I started to find out what Melissa looked like and who she is. No kidding, I searched for her in youtube, and the first video I watched was 'I Want To Be In Love', and I remember being frustrated because I can't see her face in that video! Heh heh. Google was no help. I can't remember why, but I remember how hard it was to get a clear shot of her face. But because of that I stopped searching for her pictures and searched for videos instead. I remember the nights I spent in warnet just downloading her videos (I could even find some of my blog posts from those nights here). It was a good thing, but you know what? Melissa's music maybe awesome, but her performance live is just beyond words. Until now her 'Live and Alone' DVD from 2001 is still my favorite (I have THREE of them!), along with her Dutch PinkPop performance of 'Like The Way I Do' in 1989, her duet with Dolly Parton, and of course her 2005 Grammy performance - yes, the bald one. I can't find words for the way I feel about her music. I always say it's like I've been dating with lots of girls and finally find the one I will marry. Yes, I like lots of music, from jazz to dangdut, from classical to rap, and I find out later it's not that I fell in love with rock and roll, I only fall in love with Melissa's music; her songwriting, her voice, her trademark guitar skill, and her passionate performance. Period. I know I'm not biased because when I persuaded a homophobic friend to watch a video, she said, "It's a waste she's gay, she's so hot!" and "Damn, she sings like she's having sex!" No kidding, that's exactly why I love her performance. When you're having sex you put all your mind and energy into it. When you're having sex with the person you love, you add your bare soul to the mix and it's all the more incredible. Whenever she performs, she also puts all her mind and energy into it, and on a good day, she bares her soul along with it. I love it especially with 'Like The Way I Do' - that song has the flirting phase, the seduction phase, the foreplay, the intercourse, and of course the climax, followed with one or two after-climax phases. Phew - no wonder that song can last about 19 minutes non stop.
Of course, along with the music, I fell in love with Melissa herself. I like Ellen and I respect her a lot, but it's Melissa that I love. She's fun, mostly soft-spoken, thoughtful, compassionate, and what I like most: painfully honest. I have to cringe sometimes. Ouch, how the heck can someone say something like that in public? But she is committed to telling the truth, and it often gives her many backlashes. She's someone who follows her heart more than her mind, and although she's not dumb she's not often being accused of being smart. Thankfully, her coming out in 1993 (four years before Ellen did) didn't hurt her career.
There were some smaller influences in accepting my gay life, Afterellen.com being one of them (I found it in 2004, I think, and had been following ever since), but not one come close to these four icons. Because I knew them I changed for the better and I can't thank them enough. I still have one problem, though. All of my influences, and even real-life lesbians I know are Westerners. I'm not complaining, of course, but because of that I still can't find my place in Indonesian lesbian community. My writing this blog in English doesn't help, but it's out of habit, not for showing off. In fact, I started writing blog in English because I want to exercise my English and end up not being able to write properly in Indonesian. Ironic, huh?
So, well, I think my lessons are to be continued. :)