Deena Romoff – Identity and Awareness

“We’re not stuck in a spot.”

Some people, by the time they’re five and eight years old, they know: they’re a lesbian. Something is different. We’ve all heard those stories. For me, I think my theory is that sexuality is on a continuum and that you can be anywhere along that. You know, if you’re in the middle you’re bisexual. If you’re more towards one end, you’re heterosexual. If you’re more towards the other, you’re lesbian. And that, for some people, there is a conscious choice to live your life as a lesbian or a heterosexual woman. There’s also this chemistry that you have. Even if your chemistry is to be attracted to women, you may physically be living with a man because of religious reasons, because of family reasons, because of fear of God . . . [Rolls eyes.] Throughout the course of your life, you can move on that continuum. We’re not stuck in a spot.

I grew up as a heterosexual woman. It’s interesting that my first partner—the father of my children—was a bisexual man. My second partner was also a bisexual man, and much more on the effeminate side, you know? So, there might be men out there that have that quality that is comfortable for me. I can’t say, “Oh, I’m going to be a lesbian for the rest of my life.” You never know what’s going to happen to you. I see that whole thing as fluid, movable, as [does] my daughter. When I asked her if she identified as a lesbian, she said to me, “Mother: I don’t fall in love with body parts.” I thought, “That’s a great way to explain it.” Love is love.

Now, where some of the problems come in with that is—in this challenge to become recognized as a class of people that have been harassed, oppressed, and don’t have civil rights—the party line has been, “We’re born that way. We have no choice. Just like black people are born that way. They didn’t have a choice to be black: therefore, they get to have civil rights.” The [opposing] argument politically is, “Nah, [LGBT individuals] have a choice. They choose to be deviant.” For some people [making a choice] is true, I think, for a small but growing minority. But for most: you’re born that way. Your genes. Your psychology. Everything leads you to that.

My past [male] partner, who loved women too, we just started hanging out with a lot of lesbians. More and more I just started hanging out with women. Peggy, who was my neighbor, brought Meg Christian to Spokane. I went to the concert and I just was blown away. Little by little I started giving my heart politically, socially, emotionally, and physically to women.

I had a torrid affair with a woman from the temple, who finally realized she was a lesbian then. [She] had no clue, but she fell in love with me. Then, I just kind of made the leap over. I just have identified as [lesbian] ever since. [I went from “straight” to “lesbian”] in 15 seconds! When I first was intimate with this woman, it was like “Wow! This is really, really nice and comfortable.” And her body! All those sensual and physical things. Then it got more personal and emotional. Even though my partner was so sensitive in that way—as much as he could be in the ‘70s—it just wasn’t the same thing. It just wasn’t. This was ’75, ’76, ’77. I just couldn’t stop [moving towards women]. It just filled so many needs for me emotionally.

I think feeling so unconnected to a family when I was a kid growing up, that I just kept moving in situations that would connect me. As soon as I could leave New York, I left. I lived in abandoned houses with people. There was the hippies. You could identify yourself as a hippie, where the “straight” people were people who weren’t hippies. Then I moved to a communal farm in Minnesota, and Tolstoy Farms.

I have a need to identify with a group. Partly it’s because I feel that I have that sense of aloneness in my life. I think also because people call me a survivor. At times I see that: physically and emotionally I needed that support. I had a set of twins at 20. I had no money. Nowhere to live. I needed people to help me. So, [becoming a lesbian] was just another warm and fuzzy, for the most part, place to be at that time in my life. Things were happening and moving, and I could be a part of it in some way, and have fun. I’ve been a pleasure seeker a lot. Partly I just was wild. I wanted to not look at anything in my life, because it was too overwhelming, and too sad. So, there may have been things that drew me to [women]. But once I was there, I found it very enlightening, very emotionally and spiritually satisfying.

I have sold t-shirts at the Pride march since it began. Their best t-shirt is the one [that] says “I’m Proud to Be . . . ” Then you fill it in yourself. I have gotten more comments on that. So, it started out, “I’m proud to be a Jewish, lesbian, feminist, witch.” And then last year I added “Unitarian Universalist.” [Laughs.] A “lesbian, feminist, Jewish, witch, Unitarian Universalist.” It’s a white shirt so you could just keep going. God knows what’ll be next.

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Source: Interview with Laura S. Hodgman on 20 March 2013.