A Million Little Ostrichings

fiction vs nonfiction

When I was a drunk lesbian in college, I wrote a novel about a drunk lesbian in college.

When I was a drunk lesbian in college, I somehow managed to become attracted to a man, and thus started to question my sexuality. The main character in my lesbian separatist novel at one point finds herself attracted to a man and thus she questions her sexuality.

I wrote that lesbian separatist novel nine years ago. Nine years later, I look through that old novel and recognize how I should have just written a memoir.

And now I return to the novel fascinated by how through 322 pages of writing, I still never figured out what the novel was really about, mainly, me.

There is the novel. There are the true events that prompted the novel. I weave the novel and the experiences together now, here, and see how I stitched the real me into the fictional me, how I used to hide behind the fiction, how I ostrich-ed my realities—ducked down into the landscape of fiction instead of looking up at my life, facing my life. And I realize now that there’s a reason as to why I eventually turned to nonfiction, mainly because nine years after I wrote that first draft I find myself here, now, and knowing that I can no longer avoid life’s complexities with weak attempts at faux-creativity. This is not to say that all fiction writers are hiding from something. This is just to say that instead of dealing I make-believed.


“Maybe I should try guys for awhile, you know—see what it’s like so I know that I really am a lesbian.”

“That’s the dumbest thing I have ever heard before. Of course you’re gay. You don’t need a dick inside of you to prove it.”

End of conversation.

And yet despite what my best friend says, I cannot stop thinking about it. I don’t necessarily want to be with a man, but I have always had this little bit of curiosity lurking inside of me, wondering what it would be like to have sex with a man. I mean, the majority of the world is doing, or has done it, and I kinda want to know what I’m missing.


He looks too much like Eminem for me to not want him.

Best friend and I are at a gay bar. “Lose Yourself” by Eminem plays. This is 2002. This is when this lesbian (me) is 19. This is when this lesbian (me) is three years out of the closet. This is when this lesbian (me) knows she’s a lesbian, and will forever be a lesbian because she knows it. Really knows it. This is when I know this and believe this to be true.

The dykes surrounding me and best friend start bobbing their heads. We bob our heads. The beat is too good to not bob one’s head. And we ignore any sexist lyrics that have or will slip out of this white rapper’s mouth as he teeters that line of us hating him or loving him. Perhaps we do not know what to do with him, because his music is just that good that we disregard some of the lyrics. The beat vibrates our skin, thumps into our chests.

Those lesbians like his music.

This lesbian thinks he is absurdly sexy.

This is when I know this and don’t want to believe it’s true.

This is when I have sex with my girlfriend and can’t take my mind off of his male body.

I tell no one.


It had been two weeks since my apparent straightness was starting to shine through my gay little body and make people believe I was a dick-lover….I noticed that I started to dress differently. Some days I wore tight jeans and a cute little t-shirt with a witty saying on it. Other days I fashioned baggy knee-length shorts with a tank top and no bra. I was teetering on the edges of both extremes. I even considered shaving my legs.


It is 2003, a year after Eminem’s hit “Lose Yourself” first came out, and I still haven’t slept with a man, my body sticking to its declared desire for women.

But the attraction to men is still there, and I can’t figure out how to approach it or which guy to ask if he wants to have sex with me. It all seems so impossible. And then–

Idea: Being a “virgin” (no penis = no sex—as where society believes lesbian sex is not sex, as where I love lesbian sex, as where I am curious about what “real” sex is like, as where I do not know if I’ll like “real” sex as much as I love lesbian “sex”, as where, again, no penis = no sex), yes, being a “virgin”, being a virgin who happens to be a writer, the idea enters my head that I could send a letter to the absurdly sexy rapper explaining my predicament and offering him my quote, unquote virgin vagina. What man would turn that down?

A part of me wants a part of him inside of me.

A larger part of me tells me uh-huh, you’re gay.


I was basically born gay, and I wondered what it would be like to be straight for a day or a night or a week….

When I told the drunk frat guy that even though I was a lesbian, I was still wondering what it would be like to sleep with a man (wink wink), he said that if I ever wanted to experiment with it, then he would be there to help me. I laughed and went to toss my hair, suddenly realizing that I was bald and feeling embarrassed, but my little head shake made the drunk frat boy smile. I waited for him to make a move. He didn’t. I left the party feeling ugly and even more confused.


Best friend and I are at a lesbian party a year after we bobbed our heads to the sounds of a man whose penis I wanted to feel bob inside of me. This is not an official lesbian party, but we are only friends with lesbians, so every party is a lesbian party, though at this lesbian party there is one man here.

He looks like Eminem.

I cannot resist.

In a tree at this lesbian party, a group of us shot-gunning hits off the blunt, it is his turn to shot-gun the smoke into my mouth. His lips press against mine to pass the smoke over to my throat. And I enter my tongue into his mouth. He agrees. We do not grab each other, but continue to hold onto the tree as our tongues continue to find each other. My bevy of lezzies turn their heads.

It is later, it is not soon enough, it is the night I can feel his penis trying to poke through his jeans, poke through my jeans, to poke into me.

It does not.

He knows I’m a lesbian. I know I’m a lesbian. And then there is this situation of us on his couch, his hips on top of mine, his specific body part that sparks so much curiosity inside of me humping up against the crotch of my jeans.

And then the night ends. And our clothes never come off.

The day before this situation, I stood kissing him, and did what I knew to do when kissing someone who keeps grabbing at my boobs, who wants me closer, who wants to sleep with me. I pressed my thigh between his legs. Erection killed. I forgot he wasn’t a woman. Women is what I know, am used to. He is not a woman. I realized this as he yanked his body away in pain. Oh, right, he’s got something hanging around down there. I unintentionally kneed him.

I need him.

But I don’t want to need him.

How can this lesbian say she needs a man?


“You should know what a penis represents, therefore you should know why you don’t want one inside of you.”

“Ok, yes…I know all about patriarchy and the way that the phallus forces itself into my life in every second, but I’m not talking about politics, I’m talking about sexual desire,” I explained. “I mean, how do I know if I’m a lesbian if I’ve never been straight?”

“How do straight women know they are absolutely straight without ever giving it a go with us dykes?” She had a good point.


The Eminem look alike fades away from my life when college starts back up. I replace rap music with Ani Difranco. I shave my head. I get a gay pride tattoo.

The self-stigma builds itself inside of me. I try to box up my questions of identity, of desire, of the fact that this lesbian obsesses over the penis that she actually thinks is disgusting, but wants to know the feel of it inside of her. I do not want to look at it, just feel it. But I box up those curiosities and lock them away. I look at them inside of their cells, keep watch over them, monitor the heterosexual desire.

My judgments stand guard. I panopticon myself, stationed in the middle of my desire, standing watch over the opposing gangs of homo and hetero, ready to stop a fight, to intervene if heterosexuality starts to get rowdy.

“Quiet!” I scream to its cells, the cement walls trying to contain the possible connotations of those persistent questions.

The favored homosexuality does push-ups, strengthens itself in preparation to kick hetero’s ass back into its place. What I have always known to be true of me—a stalwart fourteen-year gold star lesbian identity—needs to remain in power. I am the dictator of my own desire, the warden of my rivalry wants.


“Isn’t a penis plunging inside of you oppression?” My best friend asks me.

Always being the advocate for arguments that I am, I retort “isn’t being ignorant an oppression?”

“Alright—you want to go fuck a man and go against everything you believe in, then you go ahead and do it.”


And I do.

It has been nine years since I wrote that lesbian separatist novel, wrote those scenes about a lesbian wondering if she was straight or gay. Not coincidentally, it is also nine years after I really did talk with a frat boy about my confusing sexual feelings that said frat boy is now, well, my husband.

Some shit you just can’t make up.


Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in The Rumpus, Atticus Review, The Coachella Review and Make/shift among many others. She received the Nonfiction Editor’s Pick Award 2012 from both Revolution House and Cobalt, as well as a Pushcart Prize nomination. Clammer is a weekly columnist for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as the assistant nonfiction editor for both Eckleburg and The Dying Goose. Her first collection of essays, There is Nothing Else to See Here will be published by Thumbnail Press in Fall 2013. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.


Gay Ankle

gay ankleI have a gay ankle. That is not a typo. It is not supposed to read as “I have a gay uncle.” I don’t even have an uncle. So, no, there is no gay uncle. But my ankle is very, very gay.

How this happened: I’m seventeen and know, like really know, that I am a lesbian. It’s just one those things you know. And so in order to confirm my sexuality I find a woman to date. She’s not that attractive. She’s not that smart. Her sense of humor is weird. She’s a cowgirl and I don’t know anything about horses or barns or farm animals or any of that. But she’s got an essential element to her that is what makes me want to date her. She has a vagina. This is my only standard for people whom I want to date when I’m seventeen. Congrats vagina-totin’ cowgirl, you meet the requirement to be my girlfriend.

First girlfriend cowgirl is a big dyke with a shaved head and Wranglers sucking onto her legs and a dingy white t-shirt that is always smeared with things found in a barn. She is my first girlfriend. She is my Cowgirl Dyke.

Upon dating Cowgirl Dyke, though, I realize I need something more than her pussy that I lick in order to confirm to me that I really am gay. I need something on my body that shouts my sexuality to the world, some daring thing that declares that I am, always have been, and will forever be a dyke.

I get an upside down rainbow-colored triangle tattooed on my ankle.

And because I’m seventeen when I want this tattoo, I present Cowgirl Dyke’s driver’s license (because she’s eighteen) to the tattoo artist in order to hopefully dupe him into believing that I am old enough to get this tattoo. I look nothing like Cowgirl Dyke, and I know the tattoo artist is not fooled by this ID. But I can tell from the big sigh that erupts from his lips and his dramatic shrug of the shoulders as he looks at the ID that he just doesn’t have the heart to turn down this baby dyke’s request for a gay pride tattoo. She looks so desperate, so obviously in need of something to confirm her sexuality.

I get the tattoo. It will be the first of twelve tattoos I get in the next twelve years.

So this is it. I am permanently stamped as a lesbian. I have a gay ankle. A part of my skin will forever prove to the world that I am gay.

I am branded, like one of Cowgirl Dyke’s cows.

Funny story: twelve years later and I’m the beautiful gushing bride to my beautiful boy husband. I didn’t think boys could be beautiful. And I never thought that what was between a person’s legs would not be important to me one day, because here is a person that I love regardless of his gender and I don’t need to confirm and/or explain my sexual orientation to anyone. I am me, a lesbian who is married to a man. Some would call me a hasbian. Some would call me straight, bisexual, undecided, whatever dumb label one feels as if s/he has to put upon a person who goes through a little sexuality shift.

And while I may not identify as an absolute, never-going-to-be in-a-relationship-with-a-man, because hell no women-are-for-me gold star kind of a dyke, I do still have that gay ankle that reminds me of what was important to me at one point in my life. Just like how when I was nineteen I just had to get that tattoo of the sun and moon on my lower stomach because I thought I would forever be a hippie Wiccan, and like how at twenty I just had to get that tattoo of an owl on my shoulder because I wanted the world to think I wise. Identities change. Because now I’m an atheist who takes pride in the fact that there are many things in life I know nothing about.

I am tatted up and while my current self really doesn’t need that om sign on my foot, it, like all of my tattoos, is a mile marker for what was most important to me at one point in my life. Big gay ankle. A wise bird on my shoulder. Hippie-Wiccan art on my stomach.

All of this is to say that while I may have out-grown the desperate need to confirm my sexual orientation by branding a gay pride symbol on my ankle, that part of my life will never leave me. Because even with this husband dude in my life, I still think of myself as a big dyke, as someone who takes pride in her sexuality—whatever that might be.


Chelsey Clammer received her MA in Women’s Studies from Loyola University Chicago. She has been published in THIS, The Rumpus, Atticus Review, Sleet, The Coachella Review and Make/shift among many others. She received the Nonfiction Editor’s Pick Award 2012 from both Revolution House and Cobalt, as well as a Pushcart Prize nomination. Clammer is a weekly columnist for The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, as well as the assistant nonfiction editor for both Eckleburg and The Dying Goose. She is currently finishing up a collection of essays about finding the concept of home in the body, as well as a memoir about sexuality and mental illness. You can read more of her writing at: www.chelseyclammer.com.