Land Owning Lesbian
ⓒ christina starr
Xtra! January 13, 2000
                                                                                                christinastarr.ca
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What do you call a lesbian who owns a house and has tenants? A landlady? I never was a lady so how can owning property turn me into one? I mean, outside of starring in a Merchant Ivory production alongside Helena Bonham Carter where my land ownership might in fact earn me the title of lady and grant me access to Ms Bonham Carters boudoir.
          Besides, the term landlady carries certain connotations. Like
: drab housecoat, constant cigarette dangling from yesterdays lipstick, faded curlers, chipped nail polish, an unwillingness to fix anything thats only slightly less annoying than her chihuahua, and the distinct possibility that she doesnt actually own the place but lives there in exchange for sexual favours. Its just not me. Well, except maybe that last part.
          But am I a landlord? I don
t have a dick (well, not one thats ever limp), I dont own a tweed coat or nice loafers, I didnt grow up expecting to own property, it wasnt handed down to me, I definitely dont own more than one building and Im not travelling to Tahiti on the profits.
          Landwoman sounds neanderthal. Landdyke sounds geological. Land manager sounds hierarchical. Landlesbian sounds birkenstockeral.
          I joined the ranks of home owning homos last summer. There seems to be a growing number, at least of lesbians, who
ve crossed the floor from tenant to owner. Were tired of shelling out for someone elses mortgage and of being on the evictable side of the arrangement.
          But we
re a new breed of home owneras evidenced by the lack of a term to adequately name us. Were adding a new hue to the spectrum of those who own and rent property, not only as women but as out queers. So far I prefer the term landlord if only because, outside of the possibility of intimate access to Helena, Id rather be mistaken for a lord than a lady.
          My reasons for buying had little to do with investment and much to do with securing affordable housing for my daughter and I. Selling your life to one of Canada
s major banking institutions might not be the first definition of affordable that springs to mind, but in the month to month economics, paying a mortgage with the assistance of rental income was cheaper by far than paying for equivalent space in the rental market. I decided it was time to put the savings I had towards keeping my monthly living costs low and giving my daughter the security of knowing that, in the coming teenage years, she has her very own door to slam.
          Though it
s eliminated some stresses, owning a house is not exactly the worry-free, got-it-made state of living I imagined it might be. First of all, the safety net of savings strung under my impulsive existence as a writer and performer has been sold to the bank. Now Im dependent on someone elses solvency to meet my mortgage payments and Im on the hook for any and all maintenance.
          The plumbing, gas, electricity, roof, walls and even the gorgeous giant elm on the front lawn become not just the elements that make my home sheltered and comfortable, but potential costly problems. Who knows when the furnace might sigh its last and quit? If the sewer trap can collapse (and it did), how sturdy are the rest of the pipes? How long before the snow or rain sneaks in between the shingles?
          On bad days I can identify with the floating ducks in an arcade. It
s not a matter of whether Ill get shot, but when.
          On the other hand, I
ve also learned how to successfully put together a do-it-yourself garden shed and that I have the rare advantage of friends who can decipher the instruction booklet. (Im still thankful we didnt recycle the cardboard panels we later found out were the door insulation.) I know how to fix a leaking water tap, and that the guy at my local hardware store is happy to talk me through the steps of minor home maintenance (which is way better than at Home Depot, where you could dehydrate and be sold as lumber before you got an associate to help you.) Ive got my own yard, my own front porch, and my own dreams about renovation.
          And I
ve got the freedom to be as out as I want. I dont have to fudge facts on a housing application, dont have to worry I dont look girl enough to be a trustworthy, dont have to experience the pitiful gratitude that my landlord knows and is okay with it, dont have to navigate the judgements or curiosity of co-tenants in the same building.
          It
s my place. The tenants, if straight (which mine are), and sensible (which mine sort of seem to be), cant risk being openly homophobic. Whether or not they hold the conventional opinion that its too bad I cant get a man, they at least have to be polite, even friendly, when I show up with cropped, unevenly bleached hair and no nonsense glasses, in baggy work pants and a sloganed sweatshirt, with a wrench and a package of washers, heading for their bathroom.
          And if I kiss a girl in the front hallway, in the backyard or on the porch in front of their living room window, they better consider it part of the scenery. In fact, I
m thinking of making it clear that Im not going to tolerate too much openly heterosexual behaviour.
          Why don
t we call that, a welcome change.

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I'm thinking of making it clear that I'm not going to tolerate too much openly heterosexual behaviour.