queer problems

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You Don’t Know Me, I’m a Damn Enigma

Published April 25, 2016 by auddity

Please allow me this rant: You don’t know me, so stop misidentifying me.

I have recently been misidentified as a lesbian and as bisexual. The first instance was by a friend of a friend, to whom I’d come out as queer a few weeks before. Her flub was unintentional and well-meaning; we were discussing a coworker of hers and she said, “She’s a fellow lesbian,” and continued with her story. I didn’t think it was worth it to interrupt the flow of conversation to correct her, but it stung a little. I thought, “Well, at least she remembered I wasn’t straight,” but in reality, it just goes to show that lesser-known identities are often erased by the gay-straight dichotomy. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to explain what my sexual orientation means to me, and describe where I fall under the queer umbrella. Now, I don’t dislike talking about this stuff – in most cases I love it! – but it can get old sometimes, especially when the person I’m talking to has literally no idea what I’m talking about.

That was the case with a coworker, my teaching partner, of whom I am not a fan to begin with. She used the word “gay” to mean stupid, and instead of letting it go, I took it as an opportunity to speak up against that kind of usage. I asked her politely, “Could you not use that word in that way?” She asked me why, so I told her I found it offensive (even though me asking her to stop using the word should’ve been sufficient). She quickly insisted that she and her family didn’t have anything against gay people, it was just a word they used. This woman worked with special needs kids for several years before coming to my school, so I tried a different approach; I explained, “You using ‘gay’ in that way is like if you said ‘retarded’ to mean stupid.” I could tell she still wasn’t really understanding what the issue was, so I told her that it was personal to me because I’m queer. She looked blankly at me so I elaborated, “I don’t identify as straight, but I don’t identify as gay either.” Her face lit up, “So you’re bisexual!” I shook my head and realized I was fighting a losing battle. I asked her to please not use that word around me, and just left it at that. Our three year-olds were about to arrive and I didn’t have the time or energy to give her a lesson in gender studies.

What bothers me the most, and it was there in both cases, is that assumption of knowing. It’s like Amy Poehler in Mean Girls, “I’m not a regular straight person, I’m a cool straight person.” No. Don’t assume you know anything about me just because you’ve watched the L Word or you had a gay friend in college or whatever other asinine excuse you want to throw at me. You don’t know me, so stop pretending like you’re in on it, like we’re part of some club, like you’ve got me figured out. Until you put in the work to actually educate yourself, you can shut up about all of this. Just stop.

I can only imagine what genderqueer, genderfluid, and transgender folks go through. They no doubt experience this kind of thing on a regular basis. The same with people of color, especially those who are of mixed ethnicities and/or racially ambiguous. I deal with a small fraction of this and it drives me crazy. If you don’t know, don’t assume! Find an appropriate way to ask or do some goddamn research.

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The Woes of a Queer Virgin

Published May 20, 2013 by auddity

I’m not sure if I’m asexual or if I’m just a virgin.

Since I’ve never had sex, it’s difficult for me to determine whether I experience sexual attraction at all. How does one distinguish sexual attraction from plain old regular attraction? Or maybe you’re not supposed to be able to distinguish them? In that case, I’m almost certain I’ve rarely experienced sexual attraction. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t know what I’m missing. Maybe once I’ve had it once I’ll all of a sudden want to jump everyone’s bones, you know to make up for lost time. I’ll be a maniac! …Because I’m sure that happens. In all seriousness, I doubt it’ll happen that way for me. I’ve never been a sexual person (obviously), and I don’t see that changing if and when I actually do have sex, but does that make me asexual?

I have only just barely exposed myself to the concept of asexuality, but in my understanding it is the lack of sexual attraction. You can be physically, emotionally, romantically attracted to someone, but generally you’re not interested in sex, at least not as the ultimate act of intimacy. Sometimes that attraction may manifest in the act of having sex, and sometimes not. Some asexual folks may have sex on a semi-regular basis; some may not have it at all. Like everything in this big queer world, asexuality lies on a spectrum. Anyway, for a few months I’ve been wondering if the term applies to me. My sister wisely advised me not to get too “bogged down with ontological worries of but now who/what am I? just let it happen.” Words to live by, for sure, but it is so hard to do in practice. She also asked me, when I expressed my doubts, if I had ever been sexually attracted to someone. She is also a virgin, and so I chuckled, “Well, have YOU?” She said yes, of course she had. That made me really think, had I ever been sexually attracted to someone? The fact that I couldn’t immediately give a definitive answer speaks volumes, I think.

Had I ever really been sexually attracted to someone? I thought back to all the crushes I’d had in the past. None of them were really sexually driven. And the few hookups I’d had were even less so. That alone doesn’t necessarily make me asexual, but I guess I’m thinking more of asexuality as a lack of sexual attraction, not a lack of the actual act of having sex. So for me, I may end up having sex and it may be great, but until that happens, my interactions with people I am potentially attracted to are generally not sexually driven. But again, is that just because I am a virgin who, by society’s standards, is older than is typical? The bottom line is that I’ve been wondering if maybe the whole time I thought I was just a prude or inexperienced, I really was just asexual.

I also feel a bit ridiculous because for a while before this I identified as pansexual. To go from pansexual to being asexual seems a little silly, almost like a 180. “Pan-” means “all” and “a-”means “non” or “lack of,” so linguistically I went from being attracted to all people, to being attracted to no one. That is not totally accurate, but it doesn’t make me feel any less foolish. The way I understand it, pansexuality is more about attraction, be it sexual, romantic, emotional, while asexuality is specifically about sexual attraction. Using those definitions, it’s possible to be both pansexual and asexual, even though it sounds impossible.

I’m Not Your Queery Godmother, So Move Along Buddy!

Published March 12, 2013 by auddity

A while back I was out with my parents and we ran into a family friend. Even though he’s only about five years older than I am, he’s really more my parents’ friend. I tolerate him when I’m with my parents, but honestly I’m endlessly uncomfortable around him. Anyway I was with my parents and we ran into this guy and as he was leaving he told me he wanted to talk to me specifically because he knew I was queer. (He did not use that word, he probably said something more like “since you’re…you know [awkward chuckle]…because you also love the honeys.”) Through a long, drawn out, politically incorrect conversation, he admitted to me that he might be bisexual. He asked me not to say anything to my family, and he also told me to get his number from my mom. I did not do either of these things. Until now I guess, but I’m omitting his name and I doubt anyone reading this will figure out his identity so hopefully it doesn’t count as breaking my promise.

The point is, while I’m glad in a way that he felt comfortable coming to me, I do not want to always be that person other people go to for advice. I hate how sometimes being queer forces me to be an ambassador for questioning people. I have enough shit going on as it is, I don’t want to be the bearer of someone’s deep dark secret as well. As much as I’d like for everyone who’s questioning to be taken by the hand and ushered under the queer umbrella, it is not the responsibility of queer people to be the hand holders. That’s part of the reason I started this blog, to be a role model and give advice in a way that didn’t creep into my private life. That night I really just wanted to spend time with my family. Instead I spent a good ten minutes smiling and laughing and reassuring someone who already makes me uncomfortable that this really intimate part of himself that he chose to share with me was normal, awesome, something to be celebrated. All I really wanted to do was run away because I don’t particularly want to picture him having sex with anyone – animal, vegetable, or mineral – and he is certainly the last person with whom I want to discuss my own sex life.

It may sound like I’m being insensitive; surely I had people that I dumped all of this onto when I came out. But just because I’ve been there myself, does not mean I need to pay it forward, at least not for everybody. I have a right to be selfish and I should not be backed into a corner all in the name of queer solidarity. In the end, I did my best to be open and genuine in my advice and my encouragement of this person, but I must admit my skin was crawling the whole time.

#QueerProblems

Published February 26, 2013 by auddity

The following is a conversation I had with one of my students today:

“Ms. Audrey you’re nice.”

“Thank you! You’re nice too.”

“You and your sister are nice. And you look just like her!”

“I know! That’s because we’re twins.”

“You both have long hair. You used to look like a boy and your sister looked like a girl because she had long hair. But now you both look like girls because you have the same hair!”

…Not the first time I’ve heard that, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Disrupting Gender: A Cisgender Experience

Published November 23, 2012 by auddity

Let me paint a scene for you. It was April or maybe even May, but the night was still a little cold so my friend and I were walking rather briskly from one engagement to another. It was dark and the city was coming to life around us and we were headed to a drag party. She’d gone all out, her recently shaved head completing her exquisitely dapper look.  I was dressed in a friend’s button-down, jeans, and tie, all of which were too big on me. I was literally playing dress up. Much of what we talked about escapes me now, but we started talking about gender fluidity and I finally expressed to her what had been floating around in my subconscious for months:

“I have explored my sexual orientation and feel like I really know who I am in that respect; I have begun to explore my sexuality and even though it’s definitely still a work in progress, I’m feeling more and more comfortable. But how can I really know myself if I have never dared to question my gender as a woman? I know I am a woman, but how can I disrupt and analyze that part of myself if I stay within the confines of that label?”

Sexual orientation was (relatively) easy to disrupt. When I felt a shift in my orientation, I went with it. I followed my own internal tide and let it take me where it would – from straight to gay to pansexual to queer and beyond. Each new chapter brought new growth and self-awareness that could not have been achieved with a static orientation.

Sexuality was harder. Becoming a sexual being required shedding my wallflower tendencies and putting my money where my mouth was, so to speak. I have a long way to go for sure, but this bird’s got to fly eventually and all the false starts in the world won’t stop me from trying.

But gender identity, man that’s a hard one. I was fortunate enough to witness several of my friends’ transitions from female to male, and the way they blossomed into happier, more confident, truer versions of themselves is truly inspirational. I feel almost blasphemous for saying this, but I am a little jealous. I remember walking home one night and looking at the stars (I do that a lot when I am contemplating something big), and I thought, What if I am trans? How do I know I am a woman and it’s not just something I do out of habit because that’s what I’ve always been told I am? It was just a passing thought which I immediately dismissed and didn’t speak of out loud until that conversation just before a drag party. But really, how can I achieve that transition into a happier, truer version of myself without the actual act of transitioning my gender?

Let me tell you how.

I didn’t think of this as applying to my gender identity crisis until much later, but I secretly had already begun to push the boundaries of my gender identity. I used to wear B-cup bras with a little padding in high school, but I switched to A-cups with zero padding around the same time I came out as gay, so around freshman/ sophomore year of college. I initially considered this a side effect of my changing orientation, but I think it can also be viewed through a gender lens. As I’ve already said somewhere in another post, sometimes queers want to express their queerness by appearing more androgynous. I specifically remember explaining to a friend once that, “No I do not need a bra with this top because it’s different when you’re queer and sometimes you want to look more flat-chested.”

But it wasn’t just that one time when I was going out, I made a choice to diminish the size of my boobs because I was no longer comfortable with the way they looked, felt, and what they communicated in a B-cup. While previously the fact that I had the biggest boobs in my family with a B-cup (I’m serious) was a source of pride and envy amongst my mother and sisters, I slowly began to hate the way they protruded grotesquely from my body, like flashing neon lights saying, LOOK AT ME I AM A WOMAN AND I HAVE BOOBS AND THEY ARE ON DISPLAY FOR ALL OF YOU TO LOOK AT. Breast size may be a superficial judge of femininity and this may not seem as significant to anyone as it does to me, but I intentionally changed the definition of my own femininity. I followed the shift in my gender identity and it led me to an unpadded A-cup and subsequently a more androgynous figure. I am 100% okay with that, but do you know how difficult it is to find an unpadded A-cup bra these days?? #queer problems

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