Look, I have no idea what I am doing. That’s kind of funny to say a few blog posts after I start posting about gender, but to be honest, I have no idea if any of this is true.
I was talking to some close queer friends recently, and the following is our experience. Perhaps it will resonate with you, but I do not claim to speak for all queer people. When I say “we”, I mainly mean “me and my two friends”.
There are many questions that I am afraid to ask and internalised opinions that I am afraid to talk about, and will only cautiously acknowledge with very close queer friends. Make a baby queer (or someone who falls somewhere under the umbrella but doesn’t feel like they can access the label) feel really safe and the self-doubt will start spilling out.
Yet everyone in the “queer community” seems so sure of themselves. To be honest, I feel pretty intimidated by “queer community” and “established” queer people1. I feel like I might say the wrong thing at any moment and be revealed to be a fraud and “actually cis”.
I think that a lot of queer activism now is about aggressively tearing down hurtful misconceptions, which is well and good, except that this has also built so much fear and guilt and shame around the things that I have internalised. Seeing people shout down opinions that I might have is scary. Thinking that I might say something that will “hurt the cause” is scary.
I think that when you label yourself as queer, especially if you are anything other than “straightforward” lesbian or gay, there is a lot of pressure to immediately put up a breezy “I-know-exactly-what-I-am-doing” façade, and there are ARMIES of non-queer people waiting to discredit you if you are at all uncertain about anything. How do you go from thinking that you are cishet to immediately knowing everything there is to know about social justice?
I take a lot of comfort in the term “baby queer”. I am still learning. To some extent, isn’t every queer person a baby queer?
Please, in our safe spaces, let us allow ourselves to be vulnerable and uncertain and questioning. Speak freely and let us trust one another to listen instead of gate-keep. Here, let me start: I have no idea what it really means to be non-binary. I was not born knowing that I’m not a woman. Maybe I AM ActuallyCisHetTM. Maybe in thirty years I will laugh at the suggestion that I am a woman, or maybe I will be a woman. I don’t know, and THAT IS OKAY. There is no wrong way to be queer2, and this is my truth.
1: Side note on queer community: Some of my queer friends are not involved in queer community at all, for various reasons. “Queer community” appeals to a very specific subset of queer people and it’s okay if that’s not for you. But I also think that it really really helps to have at least a few queer friends whom you can talk to about things and who can validate you and make you feel less alone and who have got your back. I would encourage people to go for low-pressure queer social events. Try to find like, two friends, and then you don’t have to interact with queer community ever again.
2: Some ways are less politically expedient than others. I, and many other people before me, have several problems with the “it’s not a choice/born this way” argument. This probably deserves its own post at some point (edit: here), but briefly, it’s an easier position to defend and there are definitely genetic components to being queer, but ignores self-determination and identification and ownership. We should be fighting for the equality of queer relationships, not casting same-gender relationships as the lesser option that people are only take if they have no other choice.
The “being trans is really hard and we wouldn’t do this for fun” strain of this argument is a super convincing argument to cis people, but it also makes me feel like I’m not valid unless I’m suffering, and being trans is a last-resort kind of thing, because “who would want to be trans if they could be cis”. This is problematic because literally the only requirement for being any gender is to choose to identify as that gender. Please refer to my posts on self-determination of gender here and here.
For some of us, the way that we are is not a choice, but identifying as queer is a choice we are proud to make.
“Obviously, no one sits down and makes a rational decision about who to fall in love with, but I get frustrated with the veiled condescension of straight people who believe that queers “can’t help it,” and thus should be treated with tolerance and pity. To say “I was born this way” is to apologize for the person I am and for whom I love. It’s like saying I would be different if I could. I wouldn’t.”