I sat down to write about body image and disordered eating and I ended up writing about my experience growing up female, queer, with breasts, in a patriarchal society. Typical.
You are not made up of parts. You are one whole person.
I don’t always hate my body. There are times, mainly when my clothes are off, mainly in the afterglow of really good queer sex, when I lie in bed, exposed but not feeling so, with someone else’s head resting on my chest, and I don’t feel anything but happy and contented in my body. Grateful. It is a marvelous thing, this cohesive organism that continues to do a thousand things on my behalf each minute, this body that is working for me even as I go about my life. There are times when my body is just my body.
Queer visibility is not the work of a moment. It’s the work of a lifetime — and every single day counts. Do I have the energy for this?
Everyone’s been asked The Question at one point or another. “If you could either be invisible or be able to fly,” they say, “what would you choose?”
But in reality, it’s not really a choice. Because even though I’ve always flown in my dreams, in real life, I’ve always been invisible. Specifically, an invisible queer person.
Mostly, honestly, this is fine. Not reading as queer makes me feel safe at rest stops and when traveling to new places. And during all of those years when I was in the closet, looking like a straight girl meant one less thing I had to worry about — at least nobody was accusing me of anything as I hid, trying to untangle the threads of my sexuality, desperately clawing towards a place where being queer would feel acceptable, feel a little more normal. At least nobody was calling me out. At least nobody saw me.
But that was a double-edged sword if ever there was one. Because: nobody saw me.
I was writing a response to this post last week, which a family member had liked on Facebook, when I realized suddenly how much time and energy I have expended over my life, refuting claims that have no basis in reality, claims which are patently ridiculous.
This blogger, a conservative white male with no expertise in sexuality, gender, genetics or anything else he was writing about, had once again conflated LGBTQ+ people with pedophiles, rapists, and adulterers. He explained that “the progressives” would have us be a slave to our urges, no matter how harmful those urges were. I was in the middle of meticulously crafting a point-for-point rebuttal when something I had been hearing other people say lately, in one form or another, pop into my head:
These ladies are kicking ass and queering spaces in ways I don’t yet have the tools to do.
So I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito over the weekend. The show was great. It was also very, very gay. And as I watched, I realized that I haven’t really spent that much time yet in queer spaces, at least outside of our little community center here in town. I haven’t been to a big Pride weekend or even an Indigo Girls concert. I’m still kind of a baby gay, my skin is all fragile and new.
So during the show (when I was trying not to look at Rhea Butcher’s butt in those jeans, because she’s taken, but DAMN), I was watching this middle-aged straight man seated a few tables down from us. He was at the show with his much-more-attractive lady date, and I don’t know how they got their tickets, but I don’t think he realized what they had gotten themselves into until it was too late. (Maybe it was court-mandated comedy service for homophobes.) The show started with Rhea Butcher talking about how much she loves her last name (“that’s what I am. I am butcher than all of you”) and progressed into Cameron Esposito’s “TED talk” on what lesbians do in bed (“those women in porn aren’t lesbians. Just look at their fingernails. And if you wonder why I say that, would you keep sharp objects at the end of your dick? I’m holding the mic with my dick right now”). And throughout, this guy just got purpler and purpler. I only saw him chuckle once, and it was pretty forced.
My partner is out of town this weekend, which means you’ll find me this afternoon at the movie theater during 50 Shades of Grey, a little drunk, peering down at the poor hapless actors from the very back of the theater, laughing as loudly as I want. I expect the movie to be, in essence, the sexual version of Sharknado — a cult classic that’s all cult and no classic. But come on. I mean. We’ve all gotta see it, right?
Anyway. That is not why I am writing this post.
I am writing this post because it’s Galentine’s Day Weekend! And that means love.
Can I reclaim a bisexual identity by painting over the world’s assumptions with the brush of my own truth?
Let’s talk — some more — about the B word.
If you’ll recall from last week, the comments section of an AfterEllen roundtable discussion about bisexuality got me thinking. I haven’t identified as bisexual in years and years — but is that truly because the label doesn’t fit? Or was the rejection of ‘bisexual’ just an attempt to avoid the stereotypes and misinformation I knew I would be saddled with?
AE commentators can tend to be a bit more civil than the rest of the world wide web, so at times, the resulting discussions are actually illuminating. As I started to engage with the other readers’ takes on bisexuality, I started to think more intensely about the labels I attach to myself.
At this point in my life, I’m a 5 on the Kinsey Scale. Before I had other language for it, I used to describe myself, on any given day, as 65-80% gay. And yet I don’t identify as bisexual. Why not?
#QuestionsForMen is trending on Twitter, and some men aren’t very happy about it. But the hashtag isn’t about misandry, and it’s not about hating men. It’s about the systematic oppression women experience growing up in a patriarchal society. So let us speak.
Have you heard of the #questionsformen hashtag on Twitter? It takes common experiences women share and flips them, asking for men to consider what their lives would be like if those were their experiences. For instance:
#questionsformen do you walk home with your keys placed in between your fingers? are you constantly looking over your shoulder?
Can I write about the people in my life without using them or stealing their agency?
So, there’s a dirty little secret about writing, particularly personal essays:
When you chronicle your experiences, and the people with whom you have shared or created those experiences, you are in many ways reducing those people to something less than human. To some degree, they become props, fodder, puppets that you can move across the stage of your own memory.