I have written here, in the past, about how I have suspected that some of my International Pen Friends, who have sent me "rejection" letters, after a few back-and-forths, might have done so because I chose to come out to them as a lesbian. I have no ACTUAL proof, of course. No one has ever written to say, "I'm sorry I can't write to you any more; you are a disgusting queer." Mostly, they say, "Oh, jeez, look at the time. I committed to writing to you, but suddenly I can't because.... uh, BUSY. HONEST." Yet, these letters (I've gotten two) would IMMEDIATELY follow my telling them that, yeah, actually "Shawn" is a lady, and my wife.
Now, I should be clear, I've had a number of success stories. My pen pal in Netherlands who loves "F.R.I.E.N.D.S." has a lesbian daughter, so coming out to her was a no-brainer. Both of my Australians could care less. Another one of my German pen friends is clearly a LITTLE prickly about it, but my sense is she's kind of prickly about a LOT of things. :-)
But, here's a new piece in the puzzle of "What is up with the conservative streak in pen friends?"
A couple of entries ago, I explained FB
s (Friend Books). Several days ago a random person in Maryland who found my name on a FB, sent me a pile of them. Most of them were half-way full and this Maryland correspondent had included her name in all of them, like you do. However. One of them was from that someone I shall call "Cass," who started one for herself. She had a long entry on her front cover about the various things she was interested in and things she'd be willing to swap, all very typical stuff. Then she adds, "I am bi, open-minded pen pals only, please."
No one had added their name.
Not one soul.
Not even the person who sent it to me, who had put her name in literally every other FB.
Despite a plea from Cass that the FB be "passed quickly."
I know I live in the era of Trump, when people boldly and proudly wear their bigotry on their sleeves. Yet, pen palling, by its nature, seemed to me to be the sort of hobby that would naturally attract people who were interested in other people. It's a hobby that requires you to talk to strangers. The entire POINT of pen friends is to reach out, sometimes across international borders, with a hand out in friendship
Of course I wrote to Cass. I sent her a picture of my family, a short introductory note that suggested that we could be pals, and sent her a pile of FBs to "swap," hoping that somewhere in all of them, she would find someone else who would write back. I added my name to the FB that she started and sent it on to a friend who I know is open-minded, even though she isn't part of the pen palling community.
But, I don't entirely understand it. I mean, yes, pen palling is an old-fashioned kind of hobby. I guess maybe that 'old-fashionedness' lends itself to certain stereotype of a stay-at-home mom, who is lonely... but I still don't see how that lends itself to "eew, gay!" Also what are these people worried about? That we're going to write long letters detailing our sex lives? No, I'm just as boring a pen pal as anyone else. I talk about my failed garden projects and my cats. Do you suppose other pen pals are worried about being hit on? Even though I explain I am MARRIED with kids.
It's weird and baffling, and it makes me sad.