1. Go to a liberal arts college.
Come to the uncomfortable realization that – despite being everyone’s gay best friend in high school, where throngs of girls thought you were a magical prince who shit rainbows and unicorns and witty comments – some of your opinions and jokes are totally sexist. Have a bitter argument about rape with some new friends, and realize midway through that you really have no idea what you are talking about. Start listening. Apologize a lot. Start learning.
2. Realize (mid-way through your freshman year at liberal arts college) that girls don’t like it when you grab their boobs when you’re drunk at parties.
Get mildly annoyed. You’re sexually liberated! It’s fun! You don’t actually want to fuck them. You wouldn’t care if a straight guy came up and grabbed your dick. Actually that would be hot! Reluctantly stop grabbing girls’ boobs when you’re drunk at parties after a close friend severely glares at you and tells you slowly and carefully not to do that at all, ever. Later, realize that a lot of girls would really rather be called “women” and most are so sick of having their boobs grabbed by strangers that they don’t really care how gay you are.
Continue to get drunk around women. Learn about objectification, sexual entitlement, consent, alternative menstrual products.
3. Find out that the dictionary definition of “feminist” is “a person who believes in equality for women and men.”
Start actively identifying as a feminist.
4. Be kind of femme.
Do messy fun drag and own your own makeup kit.
Slowly and horribly realize that while many of your female friends think this is hilarious and awesome, guys you are into are not that into it. Fail to realize, for an embarrassingly long time, that this is total bullshit. Closet your inner diva queen.
Eventually, realize in therapy that despite identifying as a feminist for years and writing endless papers on postmodern gender politics, you are still trying to be a Real Man. Watch Love Actually and all of the YouTube videos of couples getting engaged. Cry. Stop talking to guys on Grindr who have “masc only” in their profiles. Also racists.
5. Read an article that says that drag is inherently and unavoidably a parody of womanhood.
Read an article that says that drag is a vital and historic aspect of gay culture. Think very hard about whether you are parodying women when you do drag. Decide that drag can be a parody of womanhood, but isn’t always.
Continue doing drag. Carefully.
6. Talk to your mom about being a second-wave feminist when she was your age.
Find out that all the herbs growing in the back yard are abortifacients, and that she used to go out and water them every time George W. Bush appointed another Supreme Court justice. Find out that your mom had a job offer in New Zealand when you were young, but turned it down because she wasn’t sure if it would be a good place to grow up gay. Realize that your mother has been supporting you in ways you couldn’t imagine for way longer than you thought.
7. Get wasted with a friend, and listen with escalating alarm as she bursts into tears and recounts being raped in a youth hostel in Europe.
Feel totally unprepared to deal with the situation, but do your best to say comforting, supportive things anyway. Realize to your horror that she thinks it was somehow her fault. Know from what you’ve read about survivors of rape that this is actually pretty typical. Tell her it was absolutely not her fault, and that what happened to her was wrong. Know that 1 in 6 women is raped, but suddenly have a much more concrete understanding of what that actually means.
8. Facilitate a workshop on alternative menstrual products with your feminist friends at an LGBTQ
Help explain the Diva cup, the sea sponge, and organic tampons to a packed classroom. Internally find this process deeply absurd, since you have never actually had a period yourself. During the Q&A, listen to a man explain that since he started transitioning, he has a conflicted relationship with his period. Suddenly realize that trans men have periods, and that having a gendered body is way more complicated than you had ever imagined. Be proud to be part of your community.
9. At the same conference, walk into an elevator full of people with a bisexual friend and overhear them talking loudly about how bisexuality doesn’t exist.
Feel awful. Know she feels worse. Realize that the gay community is not as welcoming to some people as it is to you. Wish, too late, that you had said something. Realize that it is your job to say something, and not hers.
Slowly start calling people out when they say fucked up things. Struggle with this. Create awkward silences. Keep doing it anyway. Get annoyed when gay men are snide about lesbians or say that vaginas are disgusting. Be appalled at how often this happens. Become somewhat disenchanted with gay bars, and spend less time in them.
10. Hear from a friend that your mutual friend is pregnant and wants an abortion, but can’t afford one.
Make a joke about holding a bake sale to raise money for it. Do a double take. Lock eyes with your friend. She is thinking the same thing.
Hold a bake sale to raise money for your friend’s abortion. Love this idea, because it is absurd, and shouldn’t be. Delight in breaking a taboo. Tell a lot of strangers “our friend needs an abortion” when they ask what the bake sale is for and enjoy the strange looks on their faces. Respect the professor who says, “Well, I’m not sure if that’s a good cause or not” but buys a cookie anyway.
Hear from your friend that, on the last day of the bake sale, a someone came up to the table, asked what it was for, and walked away without a word, hearing her answer. And then came back with five twenties, crisp from the ATM.
Raise enough money to send your friend to the women’s health clinic that costs more than planned parenthood but is way nicer. Invent elaborate fantasies about why an anonymous stranger would do something like that, but never quite figure it out. Be grateful that he did.
11. Love your body. Love every fucking vibrating magical atom of it.
Wonder at your own capacity for consciousness, and love, and jealousy, and sperm production. Stare at your face for an hour in the mirror and be pleased to discover that you are kind of cute with your hair like that.
Turn 25 and realize that you are balding.
Freak the fuck out. Buy Rogaine. Apply the greasy liquid shamefully to your temples every morning. Stop after a month because it’s not working and it just makes you feel worse about everything. Pat your hair into a hairline-concealing shape every time you pass a mirror, storefront, or car window.
Shave your head. Feel lighter.
12. Date a younger man with blonde hair and pecs like pork chops. Have amazing, mind-blowing sex. Be incredibly turned on by his body.
Discover, postcoitally, that he only works out because he thinks that nobody would find him attractive if he didn’t — he actually thinks he should be more muscular. Find this laughably absurd, but also terribly sad. Try to convince him that he is preposterously attractive, even without all of his muscles. Fail.
Wonder why nobody in the gay community talks about male body standards in the gay community. Have new respect for women, who have been dealing with this shit forever.
Start going to a gym. Have no idea what to do, and make a lot of self-conscious trips to the drinking fountain. Become annoyed that simply going to the gym has not instantaneously and effortlessly given you the body of an underwear model.
Realize, after six months, that you look better and feel worse. Continue going to the gym. Feel deeply conflicted about this.
13. Refresh scotusblog.com several times a minute as the Supreme Court releases its rulings on DOMA and Proposition 8.
Feel conflicted about marriage, given its origins as a way to legally enforce ownership of women (and the assimilationist heteronormative monogamist rhetoric of the pro-same-sex-marriage movement) but also know deep down that you want to get married someday. Read the rulings. Cry silently in front of your computer at work.
14. Acknowledge that the feminist movement paved the way for the gay rights movement.
Wish that more people knew that. Remember that it was trans women and people of color who rioted on the front lines at Stonewall. Wish that the gay community today looked more like that, and less like a frat party.
15. Know that there are as many ways to be gay as there are gay people and as many ways to be feminist as there are feminists.
Speak out, but speak for yourself, and know that no one can speak for an entire group.