Claiming the identity ‘Queer’ for myself is among some of the smarter things I’ve done. I didn’t know that at the time though.
When I first came out to my parents at 19 – not that this is some universal marker of claiming a realised sexuality – it was as a lesbian. They were pretty calm about it, really. I’m thankful for that. I wholeheartedly dived into the world of being a dyke, and maybe I was one for that short time. Sexuality, I’ve learned, is pretty fluid and can change.
I know there’s a lot of people who find that idea confronting, unacceptable. Essentialism – that belief that we must be ‘one thing’, at our core, that we must reduce to basic parts that don’t continue to dissolve – caters to the vigorous yearning we all have that the world be stable. A need for stable boundaries around our own sexualities, and that of other people, can manifest as a destructive force. I think that wish for surety, though, comes from an understandable insecurity and fear.
Understandable until you try to fuck with me and legislate my existence. Right up until then.
Later, as I grew into a twenty something, I decided to march under the banner of bisexuality. I still wanted to have sex and relationships with male-identifying people. At that time, my understanding of the world was that ‘male identifying’ and a traditionally male-bodied person were the same thing. Now I know better. Now I know that gender is a complex, personal, political, beautiful, painful, dynamic playground that has no rules.
Again, fluidity. Learning.
When I started participating in student life at the University of Newcastle I ran across the term Queer for the first time. I’d had some inkling of it; it had tripped my radar when I was really young. But I had never investigated it.
At first, I thought Queer was a word for other people. I was still happy to call myself bisexual. Then as time trickled on I thought I could maybe claim it for myself. I wasn’t sure why, I wasn’t sure what it would mean for me, but I tentatively tried it on like a new and fabulous hat that seems different to every other hat you’ve come by so far. I thought at the time that you couldn’t be both bisexual AND Queer. Yeah, I know better now.
It felt ok.
At that time, I still though the word ‘Queer’ applied only to sexuality – who we fuck. But as the saying goes, Queer is not about who we fuck, at all – it is about how we fuck. And how we fuck with the world. And how it fucks with us.
I’ve now spent a little more than a year participating in an active, thriving Queer community in Sydney. It isn’t perfect; like every community, it has major flaws. But oh, the strengths too! I’ve learned more than I thought I could about gender, sexuality, love, consent, kink, relationships, etiquette, work, money, equality, dissent, resistance and mobilised anger.
I’ve learned that sex workers are fierce and amazing and mundane people, not cliches and punchlines. I’ve learned about rope and saying yes and saying no and standing firm and giving way. I’ve learned that personal pronouns are sometimes everything. I’ve learned to admire the muscles of a friend taking a scary, amazing journey with T and to stand with support and love beside those who don’t want to go there. I’ve learned about privilege, hugging, chai dates, strapping, packing, piercing, snuggling, melting, laughing, bad fashion, why bows and beards belong together, flirting, and dragging pretty girls into public restrooms. I’ve learned what pansexual means, and what genderqueer means, and why they are who I am.
I’ve learned that lipstick does not a lipstick lesbian make. And sometimes it does. And you can’t tell by looking, sorry, you just can’t.
I’ve learned that for me, being Queer means being fuck-you different, in some way, and how you deal with that. It isn’t always fun. Sometimes it is ugly and hard but sometimes it is glorious and hilarious.
I have so much left to absorb and internalise and work out. I don’t know the fullness of what it means to be a square peg in our round hole world, but I do know that I’m in good company.
The best, actually.