Admittedly, queering everything does not necessarily mean one is queer oneself. (And it would be more accurate to say I sexualize everything, though there's definitely a queer bent to it.) I very explicitly come out as queer in my LJ UserInfo, though it isn't the very top line and I'm sure some people get intimidated by the sheer amount of text in said UserInfo.
I haven't had serious girlperson crushes in a while, and I don't have any exes period (one of the easy ways to reveal that one is interested in a particular half of the population is to slip mention of an ex into conversation).
Why is the possibility of "passing" so insistently viewed as a great privilege ... and not understood as a terrible degradation and denial?In Monday Night in Westerbork, Bear talks about the importance of telling/sharing our stories. My story is full of boring and safe, but for anyone who cares, here it is:
-Evelyn Torton Beck, Nice Jewish Girls
For most of my adolescence I probably would have self-identified as asexual. I really wasn't interested in anybody. In fifth and sixth grade I picked a boy (a different one each year) to try to have a crush on because being interested in boys was what one was supposed to do. (I don't think it occurred to me to try being interested in a girl -- in large part because this was not about exploring my own sexuality but about becoming a societally normative individual.)
I first actually had a crush in 9th grade -- the first of two male persons I would crush on in high school. I didn't talk about either crush with almost anybody, but there was a definite feeling of relief of, "Oh, this is what that feels like."
Around January of my senior year (12th grade) I realized that I had a crush on a girl that I knew.
I had recently read Lauren Martin's zine Quantify #1 (published in 2000) which included an essay entitled "The Mixed-Race Queer Girl Manifesto." I quote the following passage from it a lot:
For the past few years I have just considered myself queer. To me, queer merely means I don't fit into the dominant heterosexual paradigm. It means I can be attracted to people of various genders, or to no one at all. It's a large, fluid category that goes beyond hetero/homo/bi/asexual. If I were asked to "check one sexual orientation," I'd either leave it blank, check off "Other," write in a new category, or defy the rules and check all that applied.My reaction to this crush on a girl was "Oh, okay, I'm queer."
I self-identify as queer. I will, however, often identify myself as "bisexual" because it most effectively conveys that I am not attracted to just one particular type of secondary sex characteristics. I dislike its implication that my attractions are split exactly 50/50, plus it implies that everyone fits into a gender binary (if I fall for a genderqueer person, what does that make me?). I have since come to enjoy that "queer" can also encompass other aspects of my sexuality (e.g., fanfic, the way I queer/sexualize everything I encounter) -- though I am also very aware of how it's problematic to "dilute" the term "queer" by increasing its umbrella scope. (This also relates to the problematics of including gender identity and sexual orientation under the same umbrella for activism/identity politics purposes.)
I reread the essay while writing up this entry, and I'd forgotten how much emphasis there is in it on fluidity and upsetting the binary. ("As a mixed-race queer girl, I am an example of one who can slide in and out of identities and communities, either by choice or through others' inclusions and exclusions.") I'm very white, so I almost feel like I'm co-opting Martin's identity in claiming affinity with what she's saying, but some of it really does resonate. The idea of parts of one's identity being unwelcome in certain communities, especially. It was also nice to hear her say that she will never have a community of people who are exactly like her but that that doesn't preclude her from having a community. "I will connect with those who share a common bond, who know of where I'm from, of what I speak, of how I live."
One thing I found interesting was that she said, "I hated that people would ask what race I was because I had no issues with it--I knew exactly what and who I was--but I desperately wanted someone to ask me about my sexuality because I didn't have an easy way to talk about it." While I am forever talking about the complexities and problematics of everything, I hate not having an answer for something/anything. I've gotten fairly good at pithily identifying myself, but especially in the arena of politics I'm still figuring a lot of it out and feel really uncomfortable when I get into a discussion (or am around a discussion) where I need to articulate a definite/stance identity (this is only in part because I complicate everything and largely because I don't have enough information to have definite stances on a lot of things).
I think it was my junior year of high school that I researched The Bible and Homosexuality. I know I ended up writing a paper on Same-Sex Marriage my senior year and basically drew wholesale from the zine piece I wrote on The Bible and Homosexuality for the section on the religious aspect of the debate.
I knew my sexuality was an inherent and nonsinful part of me and had no problem reconciling it with the Bible. If I hadn't been able to reconcile it, I would have just rejected the Bible. I grew up in a low church non-denominational Protestant church, and I remain attached to that tradition despite myself, but I have also strongly inherited my father's rational scientific approach to everything (not surprising given that he was the primary caregiver my entire life), plus I privilege the reality of lived experience over lots of other things.
I could do an entire post on my faith history/identity/journey, but suffice it to say:
* I believe in an All-Loving Omniscient Omnipotent Omnibenevolent Creator God largely for my own peace of mind, and am clear on the fact that I am creating a God in my own image.
* I have difficulty making leaps of faith beyond the God one. (I know that belief in Jesus beyond belief in the historical person requires some leap of faith, but I'm gonna want a lot of historical corroboration, textual continuity, etc.)
* The idea that continuing to wrestle is the definition of faith is the first thing in a while that has made me feel comfortable identifying myself as a person of faith (though I'm still very uncomfortable identifying myself as such because I really like being a v. v. rational person, and also because it would be so much easier if I could just reject this whole religion/faith thing; my stubborn self-reliant streak is probably showing here as well).
I am so confrontation-avoidant.
The summer before I went to college I was corresponding with my roommate-to-be and she said I really should come out to my parents before I went away to school. I absolutely knew my parents would be fine with it, and yet I literally had my mother sit with me on my bed for hours before I finally managed to say "I'mqueerintheLaurenMartinsensethatIlike
I would like to think I would have been better, more mature, more confident, at 18... but I'm sometimes not sure how much better I am at 23.
I understand the idea that someone's sexual orientation is pretty much none of your business unless you want to date them [insert joke here about how I consider dating most everyone I encounter] , but it's also true that most people default assume that everyone they encounter is heterosexual, so in coming out to someone I'm not so much forcing irrelevant knowledge on them as I am correcting knowledge they think they already have.
I also understand people wanting to keep their private lives private (though it can be difficult to tell how much this is influenced by societal pressures; i.e., would they be so private were they heterosexual?) but it's also this huge defining aspect of a person, and being known is so important to me. So I definitely have angst about coming out because I feel like I'm making a Big Issue out of it (especially if I'm not coming out in a way that's very organic to a conversation already in progress) but have angst about not coming out as well.
Yesterday I put my Bi Pride (Swoon Press -- yeah zine nostalgia!) button on the black messenger bag I am almost always wearing. I look like a boring straight white woman, so it was really weird to me to know I was so blatantly coding myself as queer (see also above issues about being in people's faces about my sexuality) though at the same time I knew one would have to actually read the pin to realize it was queer and being on my bag (rather than say, a t-shirt I was wearing) it wasn't super-obvious. I originally put it on the strap of the bag but decided that having it right in my cleavage was too attention-whore-y.
Definitions and other stuff
I define sexual orientation by attraction not experience.
rivendellrose recently commented that she thinks this idea that bisexual must equal promiscuous comes from people's idea that your sexual orientation is defined by who you are currently with, so of course one can only be bisexual if one is with both a man and a woman at the same time. This makes a lot of sense to me.
I would like to think it goes without saying that bisexuality and nonmonogamy are completely different. I don't think any one person is capable of being Everything for any one other person, and that doesn't change depending on the range of body types one is attracted to. I forget where I first encountered it, but I really like the idea of constantly choosing the same person -- that commitment to one person doesn't mean you suddenly stop being attracted to anybody else, but that you don't have to act on those attractions and that they don't necessarily have to destroy the relationship that you're in. [This is in no way meant to denigrate people who are nonmonogamous.]
I used to be one of those people who insisted that everyone is at least a little bit bisexual, but I've grown enough as a person to grok that insisting that someone is wrong about their sexual orientation is a horrible thing to do regardless of what sexuality you're trying to convince them of -- though I still believe that sexuality is more fluid than a lot of people would like to believe (again, not that this means some people aren't alltheway straight, or gay).
Returning to the idea of desire vs. experience....
The first time I really kissed anyone was a guy in a club one night while on a six-week summer program in Oxford, England the summer before my junior year of college.
Despite spending four years at a ragingly queer college (graduating Spring '05) I didn't get any play. I attended a fandom conference Summer '06 in Atlanta, Georgia, and made out with four women (whom I'd met at the conference -- though I knew of most of them previously via LJ) in a strip club, and that was my first ever girlkissing.
I also get really uncomfortable around the idea that if one is grossed out by the idea of doing sexual practice X that one therefore doesn't really like personset Y -- though I do understand where it comes from. I think a more accurate barometer would be if you are averse to the idea of being naked with a similarly naked generic member of personset Y (in terms of ick factor, not "I have body issues and worry that women would judge me" or whatever).
In her post this year, Ari self-identified as both "dyke" and "femme" which I found interesting because we both look very similar (and would thus be similarly coded by strangers) but we have different reactions to certain identity terms (though she has been more obviously out than I have in assorted not-necessarily-queer-friendly environments, due to various factors including actually having [had] girlfriend/s). This is in no way to be construed as an attack on her opinions or identity; I just tend to riff off other people's words/thoughts. She wrote:
I identify as a dyke because I choose to reclaim words that have been used against me. I am not a bulldyke or this thing you call "butch," but I have been called a dyke, and the word is mine.The idea of me being "butch" now always makes me think of one of my favorite Eric stories -- in which he commented that wearing button-down shirts I would look like a butch dyke. I very much disagree but adore the idea. "Dyke" conjures up images of butchness as well as aggressiveness (not necessarily negative) that just are not true to how I live in the world, but I definitely have sympathy with the idea of reclaiming language and might well have a different relationship with the term "dyke" as a self-identifier if I had actually been called it.
I identify as femme because, comparatively, I am. I don't do a lot of intentional work to construct my gender, but what shakes out is a feminine femme who doesn't care about clothes or makeup or her own appearance much at all. I am and can be attracted to both butch and femme women.
"Femme" is the one that really throws me because to me it implies participation in a highly theatrical binary (I was introduced to butch/femme in Les Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues) which is so not how either of us live our lives -- and even leaving that aside, it implies a very traditionally feminine costume, which is so not me. Butch/femme reminds me of gay/straight in that it's a binary I don't fit into. I'm definitely not androgynous. [I was born female-bodied and appear as such and have no problem with that.] Is "soft femme" a term -- like "soft butch"?
Returning to personal history...
What haven't I mentioned yet?
Looking back, I can trace sexual interest in women to 7th grade, which I find interesting given the truth of what I said back at the beginning of this about my personal history.
I tend to fall hard for people, and I tend to eroticise intense relationships. I crush about equally on male-bodied and female-bodied persons and don't especially have a "type."
I thought about talking about my personal sexual ethics but decided not to both, because I still don't have it figured out and also because it didn't feel especially relevant.
My mother commented recently in an e-mail to me:
I was thinking, perhaps we ruined you by messing with your socially designated boxes, such that when you needed something as a wee one, you called for "whoever's available." And now that you are grown, you are attracted to what's availableI realize this could sound like I have no standards, but that's definitely not how it's intended. One thing that my sexuality means, though, is that anyone I come across is fair game for possible romantic/sexual interest. Obviously I'm not going to force myself on someone, and I respect things like "i stand committed to a love that came before you, and the fact that i adore you is but one of my truths"; honesty is so huge for me that my sexual ethics have to weight it heavily -- and honestly, I don't think I could do poly 'cause I don't like sharing that much.
In Googling I stumbled across the information that the date for National Coming Out Day was chosen to commemorate the March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights: October 11, 1987. (The same year my younger brother was born.) According to wiki, the March protested the Bowers v. Hardwick decision* and the U.S. government's handling of the AIDS epidemic and was also the first public display of the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt. (I know I haven't done a writeup of Monday Night in Westerbork, but I had meant to informally poll after seeing it because one of the audience members expressed concern that her college kids wouldn't recognize the AIDS Quilt allusion in the show. I think of it as an obviously known cultural touchstone, but I also spend a lot of time in queer/liberal circles. I remember viewing some panels in the NHS gym while I was in high school, though it wasn't a particularly moving/memorable experience -- though I absolutely cried during Bear's anecdote in Monday Night in Westerbork.)
* "Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986), was a United States Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of a Georgia sodomy law that criminalized oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults. Seventeen years later the Supreme Court directly overruled Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003), and held that such laws are unconstitutional."
I, of course, love Ani's bisexual anthem:
[...]I also have much fondness for the chaotic blurry queerness of Blur's "Girls & Boys":
some days the line i walk
turns out to be straight
other days the line tends to
i've got more than one membership
to more than one club
and i owe my life
to the people that i love
Girls who are boysAw, heck, musicspam (some more literally queer than others):
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they're girls
Who do girls like they're boys
Always should be someone you really love
How do I not have Ani's "In or Out" on mp3? Someone please remedy this for me?
All links are sendspace because YSI was giving me difficulty.
* Ani DiFranco, "The Whole Night" ("we can touch, touch our girl cheeks...")
* Dar Williams, "Iowa (Traveling III)" ("I have never had a way with women, but the hills of Iowa make me wish that I could")
* Billie Myers, "Flexible" ("She's James Bond in a dress...")
* Catie Curtis, "What's the Matter" ("This town was my biggest fan 'til I was who I am")
* Alix Olsen, "Cute for a Girl" ("I said, 'If it's dick you're after, darlin', try my top dresser drawer' ")
* Tori Amos, "Raspberry Swirl" ("I am not your señorita, I am not from your tribe")
* Holly Near, "Imagine My Surprise" ("Lady poet of great acclaim, I have been misreading you, I never knew your poems were meant for me")
* Melissa Ferrick, "Drive" ("I'll hold you up and drive you all night")
* Sophie B, Hawkins, "32 Lines" ("I want your hand across my belly, I want your breasts upon my back")
* Bikini Kill, "Rebel Girl" ("In her kiss, I taste the revolution")
* Loudon Wainwright III, "I Wish I Was A Lesbian"
* Phranc, "Bulldagger Swagger"
* Reel Big Fish, "She Has a Girlfriend Now"
* Jill Sobule, "I Kissed A Girl"
* Blur, "Boys and Girls"
* Two Nice Girls, "I Spent My Last $10 (On Birth Control And Beer)" ("I spent my last ten dollars on birth control and beer / My life was so much simpler when I was sober and queer")
* Peaches, "Gay Bar"