Affirming What’s Essential ❥ Love in Western MA

Mash Notes to Paradise by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Note 13, Civil Rights in Lesbianville

The other day I was at our co-op and listening in at the checkout on a conversation between friends about exercise classes. The two women were lesbians and here, where we live in the town that earned its Lesbianville moniker long ago, that’s unremarkable. It struck me that I really like lesbians. Considering where I live, this is a good thing, right?

For 18 months, my dear hubby and I lived in London. It wasn’t until I began to fabricate lesbian status for a couple of fellow gym-goers that I realized I’d attempted to fill a quota I understood as true ratio of lesbians in the population, period, rather than true ratio of lesbians in the population, Northampton, Massachusetts. I missed my lesbians.

❥ No question, our little corner of the earth cheered when President Obama uttered these simple words: “At a certain point, I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

No question, we have many stories (I shared some in a recent Mash Note) about the ways our kids already demonstrate full embrace for love-makes-a-family.

No question there will be more great photographs and memories from Northampton Pride 2012.

Sometimes, I think to myself that I’ve opted for such a gentle, little (read, unreal) spot to live. I have to remind myself that for all the ways we feel relatively safe here and cushioned by the lush green landscape and the earnest students and the even more earnest longtime lefty activists (and by the way, my kids’ school has someone they’ve dubbed “resident hippie” in the building, with a car he painstakingly continues to paint a psychedelic design), we have this amazing ahead-of-the-country’s-curve understanding here, too. We get it: to love whom you love and to be who you want to be is truly, deeply essential.

Eventually, we’ll look back upon all the questions about gay marriage or transgender identity and realize civil rights are just that. Our jaws will (and won’t) drop, much as they do when we realize black and white heterosexuals could not always take marriage for granted. And again, I’ll be very glad to have lived here, with the lefties and the hippies and the lesbians and the F to M’s and the M to F’s and the not checking the gender box folks and the farmers and the professors and the artists, lawyers and therapists and bicycle trash service workers.


Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah is a writer, who lives in Northampton with her husband and four children. She contributes to Preview Massachusetts Magazine, as well as other publications and writes a parenting blog Standing in the Shadows at the Valley Advocate. She moved to the Valley to attend Hampshire College—and found the Valley such a nice place, she stayed!

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