I’ve always wanted to call myself queer.
The first time I heard the word “queer,” I fell in love. I was about six, and it was one of our spelling words for the week.
At the time, though the word was gaining ground as an insult to gay people, to a child’s brain it only had one meaning: weird.
I was definitely weird. When my friends were spending their time playing Hide and Go Seek, or using the empty plot next to my house for a barely-legal game of baseball (seriously, we changed all the rules because we could), I was often curled up in my imagination, watching the cheerleaders on Fear Street spew split pea soup, or pretending I was Jessica at Sweet Valley High, or sneaking looks into more adult authors that I wasn’t supposed to read, like Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I loved baseball and my friends, but when you love so many things, as I did, you have to divide your time wisely. I occasionally forgot there was a world outside my books.
I dressed all in black, all of the time, but rarely owned black shoes until I finally talked my dad into a semi-girly pair of combat boots from Payless. It wasn’t goth. I loved to watch the goths in high school during lunch. I loved how comfortable they were in their Victorian clothes and heavy makeup. I wished I had big enough cojones to do something that drastic with my wardrobe and makeup. Not necessarily goth, but something.
This was not how girls my age were behaving. Girls my age were spending every weekend at slumber parties, dressing in faded Guess jeans and Hypercolor t-shirts, and doing each other’s makeup.
In middle (private) school, I tried to “normalize” myself. There, it should have been easy. I had to wear the same thing as everyone else, and there was not a stitch of black in the school wardrobe. Everyone came from all over the county, so no one lived close enough to play baseball in the afternoon. They did still arrange themselves according to perceived beauty and social status, though.
Even in a school uniform and a school-issued winter coat, I stuck out like a sore thumb.
No one knew my family. They didn’t know that I was middle class. They didn’t know that I got there by my father joining the military straight out of high school and my mother busting her hump in an office job. They didn’t know that my mother acquired her genius with money by doing the books for the commercial fishing company my grandfather (the son of immigrants; that side of my family hasn’t been in the states very long) built from the ground up. They didn’t know that pretty much all of that middle class money went out in bills, tuition, and feeding the four of us. And they didn’t know that the only reason I was in private school was because the school board was threatening to shutter all the public schools due to monstrous amounts of debt–to the tune of $2 billion. So they had no idea which class I belonged to.
And while I wasn’t Barbie beautiful like MFB (who we liked to call Mother Fucking Bitch because she was a bully), I wasn’t ugly, either.
No one knew where to classify me, so most of them just pretended I didn’t exist unless I made them acknowledge me (which I did often when the popular kids tried to bully the kids they perceived as poor or ugly). Literally. And that word came up again. Only this time, it was some kid in 8th grade who had just read some English lit piece or another that had the word “queer” in it. And then a vice principal.
“Rayne has a good head on her shoulders,” she wrote. “She has high hopes, but is very down to Earth, if a bit queer in her opinions.”
I didn’t understand that she was saying the fact that my opinions were different was cause for concern, so when I first heard “queer” used in a blatantly derogatory way, I didn’t understand the insult. And when I finally caught on, I was sad that one of my favorite words had been twisted this way.
Then there was this giant “take it back” movement (I love these things, by the way; they’re so empowering, which I guess is kinda the point), and a whole bunch of people ranging from bi to demisexual, from cis to transgender to gender fluid, started calling themselves queer. “I’m here, I’m queer!”
I was so excited! How cool is that? We get to use the word again. Maybe I could start using the word! I’m bisexual, right?
Then I watched this woman I knew get lambasted for supposedly taking on the queer label because it was currently the “cool thing to do.” Then it happened to another one. Then it happened to a guy I knew. I already get lambasted about my sexuality without calling myself queer. Did I really want to add another nail to my coffin?
Dude, let me tell you…if I was going to do something to attain some level of social coolness, it would totally not be pretending to be a sexuality I am not; and especially not bisexuality. Because bisexuals are confused. Bisexuals aren’t really bisexual; they just say they are to be trendy. Not only do bisexuals get to deal with harassment (sexual and otherwise) and disapproval from the anti-LGBT crowd, but they also get to deal with disapproval and mistrust from the pro-LGBT crowd.
Add to that the fact that I married a man? Boy, howdy, I am one lousy gay person.
For a while, I really was one lousy gay person. I never really went through the bullying and such that most people dealt with because when I was in high school, it was okay for women to be bisexual. At some point, my high school became very tolerant of all gay people which was pretty cool. I have no idea the state of things now, but I like to hope it’s still the awesome high school it once was.
I did deal with a bit of shame over my sexuality because I grew up Christian, and my brand of Christianity considered homosexual behavior a sin. Beyond that, for some reason society views a cisgender person’s attraction to transgender people as a “fetish”. Some consider fetishes (and this one in particular) “dirty”. So it was a very long time before I would even consider the idea that I was attracted to transgender people. (I did say that one of the biggest obstacles in my career has been overcoming my own sex negativity.)
But when you find yourself wishing your husband would let you buy a subscription to a trans woman’s porn site, it’s time to stop hiding from your sexuality.
So I said to a friend, “I think I may have to stop calling myself bisexual. I was surfing some trans porn this morning to find out who this trans woman was that everyone was talking to, and I realized I was really into her. And then, when I started thinking about it, I realized I’ve always been really into trans people. I think maybe bisexual doesn’t really fit me.”
And she said, “Well, I always assumed you were pansexual, anyway.”
Huh. Apparently, I’m transparent.
M’s reaction, as it usually is, was pretty much, “What difference does it make?”
And he’s right.
I’m more likely to beat a gay basher’s ass (intellectually, unless they swing first) than allow them to make me feel bad about my sexuality. I don’t “look gay,” whatever that means, and I never travel alone, so the likelihood of me being attacked because of my sexuality is slim. I work in a field in which my sexuality literally has no affect on how people see me as a person (except in the small circle of folks who think LGBT folks are cooler than straight folks, and the other small circle of folks who will most likely accuse me of being a poser), because there are tons of LGBT folks in the adult industry and most of the straight people in the industry are LGBT allies. My family has long since learned that I am not their breed of normal, and has learned to just accept and love me for who I am. And I am a cisgender woman in a monogamous relationship with a cisgender, heterosexual man. Who I’m sexually attracted to makes absolutely no difference in my life because, right now, I don’t act on it outside of acknowledging the attraction.
But the best part about M’s reaction is he obviously doesn’t give a fuck, either.
I’m used to the typical push back from heteronormative men. The idea that being attracted to trans people is “dirty” or a “fetish” runs deep in those types, and I can remember denying my attraction as a teen and young adult because the people around me had expressed discomfort and disgust with trans people.
Thinking about that makes me feel like an asshole. I’m really happy to be so much more comfortable in my own skin than I used to be. I owe that largely to the sex pozzie community. Without you folks, I would still be having sex in the missionary position with the lights off and hiding my masturbation in the dark.
When I realized “pansexual” fits me better than “bisexual,” I started thinking about that queer label again.
I’m attracted to anything beautiful (brains, opinions, art, faces, etc.), and don’t buy into conventional beauty standards. I am still weird. But does the label “queer” fit me?
I read a post the other day by someone I respect and have been following for quite some time. It was something about the difference between queer and gay men. And it just really drove home the feeling I’ve had that “queer” is this super elite gay club you have to be invited into. If you’re “queer,” people just know the difference by your behavior.
And hey, maybe it’s true. I’ve also realized I don’t know a whole lot about being “queer”. So before I decide whether I even want to be associated with the super elite gay club, I guess I should do some research.
You bet your ass I’ll be pouting a lot if it turns out I still can’t call myself queer.
P.S. I’m pretty sure I said something about being pan-flexible awhile back. What does that even mean? Maybe I’ll be attracted to people of other genders, and maybe I won’t? Like, maybe I’ll be attracted to any person in the world and maybe I won’t. Duh?!