Things I Love About Being Queer

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.)

Queer friendship

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.

Questioning 

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.

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For Boys in Glitter

This one’s for the femmeboys. The flaming softboys and the fearless sissies. The boys in glitter and nail polish and neon pink. The boys at dance camp who I let try on my pointe shoes, just for shits and giggles. The men who showed me how to tear up a dance floor in heels like its a job. The pop stars with full makeup and raging falsettos.

You offered the first form of queerness made undeniably visible to me, and I latched on without quite knowing why. No, it wasn’t a desire for a “Gay Best Friend” accessory that drew me in, but a deeper, vaguer sense that we somehow belonged in the same category.

And as we stumbled through adolecence together, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be with you or be you. (Like with the cool girls with half-shaved heads, leather jackets, and poetry blogs, it was probably some of both.)

As a babyqueer girl who would never feel at home with ‘butch’ or ‘femme,’ something told me that the sissy boys were my gender cohort.

I’ve often heard from butch women and female-assigned trans people that wearing dresses and makeup felt like drag. And I’ve felt that too–but in a good way. See, I considered drag fun: a way to be excessive and expressive and play outside the boundaries of who you are. (The only problem comes when people don’t seem to want to see me out of that costume.)

If some butches found their parallels in bros who would never be caught dead in a dress, I found mine in the bold give-no-fucks girly boys (who usually lived in patterned buttoned-downs–but actually might be caught dead in a dress). Beyond the style inspiration, I saw a form of femininity that could be part of me–a queer femininity that wasn’t passive or dainty, but aggressive, flamboyant, and subversive.

And then there were my occasional boy-crushes–generally falling into that same type. They seemed safely unrequitable–like all those straight girl crushes. (In reality, some were not as unrequitable as I had assumed–like some of those “straight” girl crushes). But in my head, they were a purely hypothetical illumination of my desires, without the more daunting possibility of action.

With my femmeboy crushes, I realized it wasn’t men per say that contradicted my tastes, but rather the stale normative masculinity that most of them came wrapped in. I came to own the nuances of my desires and understand how my sexuality might be made to function in a less staunchly gendered sphere.

So thank you, all the fabulous femme-leaning men who have rolled through my life. We’ve found our own places in the world and they’re not quite the same, but in seeing you be unapologetically you, I found some seeds I needed to be me.

*Just For Attention*

Usually I couldn’t stand attention
At least not from the people who gave it
But something the way you were
Made me start to crave it

So I pulled up a stool for a friendly chat
Making small-talk to pass the time
Like what kind of faces do you like your face on
And do they look much like mine?

You declared innocence like the default was guilt
As if that could ease our tension
But I thought once I faced you up front and center
You might choose to pay back my attention

I said guess I’m not such an attention prude
When I’m wrapped around you like this
Course it’s all for show (though I’m starting to think
I might be a method actress)

What a funny kind of play where I wear
My own face as a mask to pretend
That it wasn’t quite me that was touched
And I could pull it off in the end

But I tuned out the tunes and the boys making noise
Tried not to grant them a mention
Tried to shut out the guy in the side of your eye
So I could keep all your attention

A Cynical Queer Killjoy’s Mixed Feelings on the Rainbow Machine

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It’s June, which means that cynical, nerdy, political queer killjoys are spending the month rolling their eyes at the shiny whitewashed respectability spectacle of corporate-sponsored pride celebrations. I would know—I’m one of them.

But sometimes I fall off my high horse and remember: I didn’t start out thinking like this. Not even close.

When I sigh at the rainbow-themed sneakers and laptop ads popping up around the city, unimpressed with corporations’ willingness to co-opt symbols of a successful liberation movement now that it has been deemed more profitable than not.

But I also remember living in a time and place when public support of LGBT rights was more of a business liability than a strategy, and think of how much tweenage angst I could have avoided had I seen rainbow-plastered shoe stores then.

Read the rest on HuffPost

True Hero: Jeff Doesn’t Have a Problem With People Being Gay or Whatever

As pride month parades and parties roll around, it is only fitting that we take time to focus on the true heroes working to make it possible to freely celebrate LGBTQ identities. Meet Jeff, the straight guy who doesn’t have a problem with people being gay or whatever.

A proud and vocal straight ally, Jeff is almost as eager to talk about his approach to allyship as he is to talk about the fact that he is straight. “I mean I’m not gay or anything,” he clarified, “but I don’t have an issue with letting other people be like that.” This bold statement came as a relief to the many individuals anxiously awaiting Jeff’s personal approval of their sexual orientation.

Jeff’s support for the LGBTQ community is not just pollitical, but personal as well. Jeff has a self-reported “lots of gay friends,” though the only one who could be referenced by name was Patrick From College. Speaking on Jeff’s memorable place in his educational journey, Patrick recalled, “Yeah, I remember him. We lived on the same floor sophomore year I think.”

Asked to speak about the personal impact of Jeff’s allyship, Patrick explained, “Having come from an environment people were openly hostile towards my existence, I guess it was nice to be around people like that who were pretty indifferent to it.”
“Yeah, that must be nice,” murmured Cara From Work, Patrick’s token trans friend.

Nearly unlimited in compassion, Jeff’s message of acceptance spreads to all except those who are making a big deal about it and shoving it in his face. “I mean you can be gay or whatever, but some people get all weird and make their whole personality about that,” Jeff explained before noting for the fifth time today that he is a heterosexual.

The community is lucky to have Jeff as role model to show what it means to be so open and proud of one’s sexuality. Nonetheless, as he is always willing to see beyond the labels and categories that divide us, Jeff doesn’t even let his heterosexuality stop him from making appearances at a local local lesbian bar.

For his modest-but-not-unnoticed efforts, Jeff can certainly expect to be a top ally award candidate with major advocacy organizations, as soon as his music career takes off.


Note: since the initial release of this article, Jeff has contacted the publication asking us to clarify that he is heterosexual.

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Bisexual Visibility Tips

Are you a chronically invisible bisexual struggling to have your sexuality acknowledged by mere mortals? In honor of Bisexual Visibility Day, here are some never-before-used bi visibility tips to try:

Disclaimer: these strategies have not been tested on humans, animals, plants, fungi, or unicorns, and I take no responsibility for any consequences

  • During any attendance call, stand up and shout “I’m queer and I’m here!”
  • Preface every statement you make with “In my bisexual opinion . . . “
  • As you lean in to kiss someone of the same gender boo, say “no homo.”
  • As you lean in to kiss someone of a different gender boo, say “no hetero.”
  • Generally interject “no hetero” into conversations at random intervals.
  • Stop the drive-through at McDonalds to critique the employees’ use of the phrase “choose a side.”
  • If you hear someone throwing around the phrase “That’s so gay,” call them out by saying “Actually, it might be so bisexual. Don’t assume.”
  • Talk to the guy on the corner with the “Gays are Destroying America” sign and ask that he also acknowledge the role of bisexuals in destroying America.
  • When someone tells you “good-bi” smile and say “I know I am.”

It’s entirely possible that after using these strategies, you’ll still be received with the same old “But you’re not like actually bi, right?” At this point, it might be time to give up and accept your invisibility. On the plus side, invisibility is a great addition to your LinkedIn “skills” section when applying to corporate spying jobs (I’m guessing that’s what “analyst” actually means, right?).

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Pro-tip for observers: bifocals are the only glasses with guaranteed bi visibility. Put them on and you’ll be seeing bisexuals everywhere.


Note: This is a joke, I think, but bi visibility isn’t, so I recommend checking out this for real information and suggestions on for fighting erasure.

 

Dancing in the Face of Violence

Some of my semi-coherent thoughts and feelings in of the recent shooting at Pulse. Love to the families of the victims, the LGBTQ and Latinx communities of Orlando, and anyone else who’s been having trouble making sense of world lately:

In an otherwise meh performance I saw on Saturday, there was one image that stuck with me all night: a cloud of smoke meant to resemble a bomb with people dancing tirelessly through it. The coexisting images of dancing and bombs, as if there were nothing contradictory about them, seemed as strangely affirming as it did absurd.

When I read the news on Sunday, the only thing that made sense to do was nothing. The next morning, the only other thing I could do was dance. It’s a pretty useless thing to be doing, but maybe that’s what made sense about it.

Some people have expressed shock that people could be shot in a place where they came to feel safe, have fun, and dance. But the truth is that queer clubs have always been sites of dancing in the face of danger. Maybe some of us are in a time, place, or social position that lets us forget it, but queer clubs around the world have grown up in the face of violence, whether from criminal attackers or law enforcement.

In this space, with this history, there’s no need to check the shooter’s race or religion or background to recognize a shooting as an act of terror—especially for queer people of color, it’s all too clear that targeted violence meant to invoke fear isn’t only something that comes from Muslims or brown people or immigrants.

And yet the very existence of clubs like Pulse—filled with dancing—is testament to everyone who has refused to let their body be paralyzed by that fear.

In the face of violence, dancing is a pretty useless thing to be doing. But maybe that’s kind of the point. Even when they’re after your life, you refuse to let them reduce your body and your movement to the bare functionalism of fight or flight.

Refusing to let them tell you what not to do with your body. Refusing to make it quieter and smaller as a plea for tolerance or safety. Asserting your will not just to survive, but to live. Demanding that your community be defined not just by oppression and death stories, but also by dancing and life stories.

Dancing through guns, through bombs, through tears, through fears. Keep dancing y’all.