Being queer can involve struggle, fear, and discrimination. This is not a post about that. Because some things are really awesome too. Here are some of my faves right now:
Relationships models outside of a (failing) hetero script
M/F relationships come loaded with a set of cultural defaults of who does what in initiating dates, finances, sex, housework, emotional labor, big/little spoon positioning, etc. Turns out this doesn’t always reflect the needs and desires of the individuals involved (for example, it usually leaves women sexually unsatisfied, and men emotionally repressed).
Fortunately, in gender pairings where this script doesn’t apply, you have to collectively build your own script by understanding, explicitly communicating, and negotiating your desires. These are great relationship skills to have, regardless of gender or orientation.
(For background, I’m bi, most of the people I’m attracted to are women or non-binary people, and my previous relationships have been with women. It’s not out of the question that I would date a dude, but because of the expectations I’ve developed, I don’t have much patience for some of the gendered expectations that many straight men bring to relationships. Thank god.)
Not all meaningful queer relationships are romantic/sexual. There’s something wonderfully affirming in having a squad of LGBT-identifying peeps there to understand, validate, and fight for you, as you do for them.
Better media consumption
So I was reading Autostraddle, appreciating the gently subversive commentary, quirky ingroup humor, and supportive comment section–and I thought, “Wow, thank god I’m not straight–I would probably be reading Cosmo right now.”
As a queer person, you are usually not the target audience for most mainstream TV, movies, news, magazines, art, music, and fashion (perhaps more of a niche side-group to be pandered to on special occasions).
But on average, I think the media that is made by and for us is much more thoughtful, creative, interesting, and…better. Stories that don’t assume one type of happy ending or path to getting there. Advice columns that don’t idealize one relationship model. Fashion that doesn’t center around one beauty ideal per gender. Nuanced personal narratives that aren’t forced into a simpler and more comprehensible for cis/het consumption. You kind of have to find this stuff yourself, but damn, it’s worth it.
Getting to be the representation you want to see
It sucks if you didn’t get to see yourself reflected in mainstream entertainment, literature, and news growing up. (This remains true particularly for QPOC and other people at the intersection of identities.)
But the cool flip side of this is that you get to be that representation for other people. In whatever capacity you are publicly visible, you showing babyqueers a possible future that they might not have seen before.
I’ve had some moments particular where I realized just how true this was: A 13-year-olds at a dance intensive I was working at felt comfortable talking to me about questioning his sexuality; A blog reader told me that my goofball bi visibility post seriously helped her feel valid in her sexuality; I’ve gotten some messages on social media from people who were excited to see some form of representation they were missing, whether queer female dancers or queer Arab people.
Now I’m obviously not a celebrity and my online presence isn’t particularly designed to be inspirational, but the awesome truth is that just by living your life openly and unapologetically, you can give other people license to do the same.
Adopting a LGBTQ identity generally involves a period of questioning. For some people, that questioning starts and ends with figuring out what there own gender or sexuality is. For those willing to expand their minds and hearts a little, it can be a door into questioning the cis/heteronormative systems of the society they were raised in, and questioning other systems of oppression that might not personally affect them. For example:
- When I accepted that queer sexuality was okay, it only made sense to question other sexual norms I had encountered, from slut-shaming and victim-blaming, to kink-shaming and sex-worker exclusion.
- For me, coming to terms with my sexual in-betweenness helped me better understand my racial in-betweenness and how concepts of conditional passing, erasure, and choices in identification play into both. For some of my white queer friends, accepting their queerness was their first experience with being the Other, and they used it to become more empathetic and motivated allies to POC.
- Because I’ve had to validate and explain my sexuality to those who refuse to see it, I’ve developed better empathy and allyship for those who are forced to justify their gender identity or non-visible disability.
- While I’m in a place where I feel relatively comfortable and safe in my queer identity, I feel a sense of solidarity with those who don’t have that privilege, nationally and internationally. I am navigating how to support these movements, while knowing that they are not mine to lead.
I don’t see “Questioning” as a transitional phase, but rather as a mindset that I hope to keep with me as I learn and evolve.