Saturday, June 27, 2015

Queer Thoughts: Thoughts on Queerness

It's nearly 3am and instead of allowing me to sleep, my brain is racing around having all sorts of thoughts and feels about all sorts of things. So, the usual. And I came to a very odd realisation.

I'm very open about my mental illness and my history of self harm, because it's important to me to do so. We can't keep breaking down the (better but still quite strong) stigma surrounding mental health unless we talk about it. So I talk about it.

But I've never completely and openly talked about my queerness in the same way, and in a lot of ways that is so much harder for me than speaking about my depression and my anxiety and even my self-harm. Which is strange, no? In general, it's more acceptable to be queer than mentally ill. The fight against physical and mental ableism has a very long way to go, and just tonight the US has declared that same sex marriage is a human right.

So maybe the news has me thinking about my sexuality. I don't exactly hide it or lie about it. (It is in my bio on this page, frex.) It doesn't define me, but it certainly is an important part of my identity. I mean, I'm pretty open about it, but at the same time I'm not. It's difficult to explain. Part of it has to do with my family and the life I left behind in California. They know (at least, I would be more surprised if they didn't) but it's not a topic of discussion. Ever. And part of it has to do with the fact I married a man. I mention having a husband and that is that, I'm just another straight lady. I don't think it's a thing to shout from the rooftops ('Hello, I just met you, and I'm married but I'm not really straight' is very difficult to work into casual conversation), but it's definitely easier to hide behind face value assumptions. For a long time, I've felt I haven't deserved my queerness because, for all intents and purposes, I appear hetero (but more on that below).

I guess if you are reading this and didn't know or realise... um hi? This is an extra official coming out?

Anyway, I was also thinking about how I recently re-read one of my absolute favourite books, Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey, and how I might write a review on what it means to me; What it meant for me as a queer young adult coming to terms with my sexuality after a conservative childhood when I first read it about a decade ago, not long after it came out. One of the core themes of the book, 'Love as thou wilt,' felt revolutionary. I'd read other queer literature (Sarah Waters comes to mind in particular), but as exciting as it was to read about girls in love, it was even more so to read about love with no categories or gender boundaries. I saw something of myself in Phedre that I'd never seen in a protagonist before then. Something we still lack in a lot of media today.

Inside and outside of the LGBT+ community, bisexuality is looked down upon. (I call myself queer for 'gender is not a binary' reasons but I identified as bi for a long time so I'm using it for simplicity's sake.) 'Pick a side.' 'You're really <insert straight/gay>, not bi.' 'Bi is a test run for being gay.' 'You're not oppressed because you can 'blend in' as hetero.' 'Bi people are twice as likely to cheat.' etc. etc. Those of us who don't fit into the neat categories of heterosexual or homosexual have heard it all before. I'd say it's almost worse within the queer community sometimes, and I've seen a lot of angry tumblr posts about 'BI PPL DON'T BRING YOUR HETERO PARTNER TO PRIDE CAUSE IT'S NOT FOR YOU' which makes me conclude that we haven't come very far, either. It's why I spent a good amount of time before getting married as a 'lesbian', cause it was just simpler and easier all around. Marrying a cis man kind of put the brakes on that, and after that I felt ashamed to be one of those queer people who have the advantage of 'blending in'. So I've spent all that time mostly doing just that.

I'm not magically straight now that I'm married. I'm not any less queer than I was before. But I've let a lot of stigma silence me into complacency. I know I was essentially excluding myself, but I've felt that the queer community was not my community since my marriage. And maybe those tumblr posts have struck a nerve, because I've let myself be silent for too long. It may feel powerful for LGBT+ folk to exclude others after they've been excluded from so much for such a long time, but that doesn't make it okay. Biphobia is just as bigoted as homophobia and transphobia (another thing the queer community needs to work on, to be fair). (I've seen some other vile bi-hate in the form of 'if you haven't had sex with the same sex, you aren't really queer so don't come to pride' also. ugh.)

Yeah, I've benefited from heterosexual privilege. That's a given. I will acknowledge my privilege all day long, but I'm tired of being ashamed of it. And I won't stand for hatred in what should be my community also. My queerness is just as valid as anyone else.

So, this is me (terrified and sleep-deprived) talking about it. Just as I talk about my mental illness, stigma be damned.

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