It’s Pride Month which is absolutely amazing and necessary…but it kind of snuck up on me this year.
I kicked myself when I realized I was a few days in to Pride Month and hadn’t even noticed it. After all, I am a very queer, pretty nonbinary individual. But, here’s the thing; it doesn’t necessarily show, nor do I necessarily have to justify my queerness on a daily basis as a result of this.
In general I look like your average person. I have a relationship that is coded heteronormative and, even when single, I look as much of an average coded-straight woman as most straight female individuals that you’d meet on the street.
Most of my friends know that I’m queer and they simply accept it. Those that don’t know either don’t care or just assume I’m straight and, either way, there’s no real disturbance to my life.
Heck, when I was at a recent race I casually mentioned I was queer and one of my friends who didn’t know simply responded with “I’ve got one of those new Ikea rainbow pride bags in the back of my car if you’d like one.”
I suppose what I’m trying to say is I’m fortunate and I’m aware of that.
There are, however, sometimes reminders of my queer identity that make me uncomfortable.
When not socializing with my normal crew and bumbling about my life I sometimes encounter prejudice; people cringing at queer individuals kissing, complaints about queer representation, or overly defensive responses to gayness (“I’m not gay, I’m just not” etc.).
These moments throw me for six. Not just because they’re outside of the normal acceptance that I see in my daily life but also because I suddenly become the elephant in the room. Immediately I become obviously aware that my queerness has become an otherness that those present are not in approval of, and my stomach lurches.
In such situations I look at my options. I can stay quiet, say nothing, and live with the brief discomfort; I can get angry, practice aggressive activism, and challenge the person/people very firmly; or I can simply exist, as me, being open about the fact that I’m queer, owning myself with a confident air, and answering questions only if they emerge.
I usually pick the latter, and it usually goes well, but it also makes me think about what my queer identity means to me.
There’s no question in my mind about my queerness.
When people ask “How do you know you’re queer?” I simply give the stereotypical response “How do you know you’re straight?” but that rarely suffices, it seems.
An interesting thing I’ve noticed is that my queer identity suddenly became a lot more valid the moment I was actually with a female partner, and that’s wrong too. It’s almost as if people wouldn’t believe me until I presented proof through partnership – as if my own identity and my sense of self was not enough and that my identity needed validation from an outside source.
That should never be the case (and wouldn’t be for straight individuals) so why is it for queer individuals?
The media has a lot to answer to
I think the media has a lot to answer to there. For a long time there was this idea in TV shows and movies that a queer individual would have to kiss or be with a gender that they’re not attracted to in order to realize that they are actually gay. This has pervaded in to the public notion of queer identity and presupposes a certain amount of experimentation and innate sexual exploration before queerness can be established.
And this comes with other baggage too.
The baggage, for example, that a bisexual/pansexual/queer individual cannot be satisfied with just one partner. Because, after all, if we like both genders then clearly being with one person and being ‘locked in’ to a single gender in a partnership will never be enough.
I cringe at the pure notion.
Firstly, anyone who enters in to a relationship is putting themselves in a situation of commitment with one individual who will then not be able to provide them with the traits and characteristics that others will. So, if anyone as a person (queer or otherwise) is happy being in a single relationship (or a secure poly one) then, by extension, they already know why a queer person won’t suddenly go bouncing around other potential partners. You like who you like in life and you choose to be with them. That commitment is about respect, not sexuality.
But, let’s put that concern in to another framework for a moment.
Instead of saying “I know you like men as well as women, are you sure you’ll be happy with just one gender?” why not ask:
“I know you like chubby chicks as well as athletic ones, are you sure you won’t leave me for a lovely plus sized girl?”
Or, to point out just how troubling all this really is:
“I know you like Asian people as well as Caucasian ones. Are you sure you won’t leave me for an Asian guy?”
Sounds a bit more unnerving and absurd when you bring race in to it, doesn’t it?
How do I tackle these concerns and questions when they come up? Honestly, I’m not sure I do.
I answer them, as logically and kindly as I can. Ultimately I want to promote understanding, respect, and human decency. But, usually, even with a fair explanation the person I am talking to is baffled and, in fairness, so am I.
Because, here’s the deal, my gender identity, my sexuality, and all that involves isn’t just a logical thing – it’s an emotional one. All things to do with identity are.
We attach so much of ourselves to these aspects of our lives that when we are presented with an opposing view the internal reactions aren’t logical ones – they are ones of lurching, clashing emotions which sometimes get easily mixed up and jolted by clashes of sexual identity.
I always struggle conveying my queer identity to others because, to me, it means normality. It simply is how I am and it’s a part of my life I rarely have to pay active, academic attention to. When I’m in a room it’s a given to me that both males and females are genders that I can be attracted to. When I go to public loos and there are options of sex I may sway either way depending on how I’m presenting on the day, and I’ve never really seen my sexuality as a hinderance to a happy relationship because relationships, for me, are about the person and not their gender.
To some degree I often question whether or not I’m partially gender blind, and it’s why I often refer to myself as ‘queer’ rather than ‘bisexual.’
On more than one occasion I have been the only lady in a room and not noticed until someone mentioned it to me – because, apparently, that matters to some people. But it’s never mattered much to me, and it rarely does.
So, what can I say of my queer identity except that I’m me?
Perhaps that’s enough.
Perhaps that’s why Pride slipped past me for a few days this year.
But, by god, am I proud of being a queer that simply and unapologetically exists in the world, and I don’t see the need to unpick things more than that.