This weekend I had a glorious time with my family. We went to a couple local events, walked around, ate food. It was simple and lovely. There is however, still a shadow that hangs over me, at times like these, an unsettled anxiety over something that is difficult for me to parse sometimes.

Every time I step out of my home, because I carry a baby, have breasts, and am partnered to a man who reads as hetero, everyone views me as a woman. While I do understand why they assume that I am simply an odd, assertive female…it’s simply not true. That is not my truth or reality.

The assumption of my gender identity as womanly not only strips away my gender reality in and of itself, it also strips away the queerness of my relationship, the queerness of my history, and the queerness of my life. For a person who has spent a life time both connected to and relating to queerness, it’s deeply alienating, leaving me feeling meaningless and empty of my own self.

 

-*nothing to see here just a straight woman, her straight husband, and her straight kids*-

Ouch

My identity ripped away from me in one fell swoop.

Breathless

Empty

How can I be me, when all people see is themselves reflecting in my eyes?

No matter how loud I scream

or shout it from the roof tops

I’m not what you assume I am

I’m not her, I’m not she

Don’t take the depths of my queerness from me

This is my life

Queer as Fuck and Complicated

Maybe I should get that tattoo’d on my arm

or have it carved on my headstone

maybe then I wouldn’t feel so isolated and ghost like

haunting my own life with whispered stories

 

They’re probably light years away from acceptance or understanding

so for now I

will just grit my teeth

and keep telling people over and over and over

“Hi my name is Selissa…or Salem. Thanks but I’m not a girl, I’m a dude more or less, here’s a pile of labels. No mom is fine, not really but hey it’s fine it’s fine. I understand your confusion, please refer to the pile of labels.”

 

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18 thoughts on “The Invisible Closet

  1. i cannot comprehend what you must go through, so my effort to speak with you will appear naive, perhaps even awkward; but i am interested to understand what it is like for you to be a complex person in a complex society of people who don’t really know society is complex at times.
    you offer an idea in your blog of how you feel, but i wonder how you want people to behave when confronted with someone they don’t know & something they know little about. i am not forgiving people whose behaviour is just wrong, but for many it may be that they think everyone is entitled to their own choices, but don’t know the correct etiquette, as they are unfamiliar.
    please don’t think this is an attack, i am just trying to speak plainly & understand how you think society, in general should look upon queerness/gender etc. i have an idea of what you expect though i would like to elicit an answer without my first, possibly, awkwardly & thus perhaps erroneously, presupposing your answer.

    1. I don’t expect any specific sort of behavior from a person other basic respect for a person’s fundamental human dignity. I didn’t post to “fix” anyone’s response and don’t need heteronormativity explained to me, as I mentioned in the post itself, I get it.

      I posted primarily to process my own feelings around the situation and secondarily to hopefully help broaden people’s perspectives to the potential harm their binary concepts of gender and sexuality can be.

      1. but to be understanding a person must behave in an understanding way. so you don’t expect them to do anything, but respect you. but that must be difficult if they do not know that you are suffering with gender issues as they don’t know what they are. i am a an average person, or heteronormative & i am trying to understand, terribly, i can tell from your response, but nevertheless i am trying.
        i suppose labels, though, you are quite right to express, are limited, have their uses in the preliminary stages of understanding something. Language is the house of being after all.
        Do people become uncomfortable if you talk to them about you gender?

        1. goodness yes, so uncomfortable. I mean I only really talk to people about my gender, if it becomes relevant or if I know someone well enough that it is by default relevant because it is relevant to me. I am out, but don’t particularly enjoy talking to strangers in person enough to go about introducing myself as trans in the first sentence. Again i think maybe you are focusing on the idea of a fix, it’s not a matter of a fix, other than an entire shift in how our whole culture thinks about gender…that takes time. You are thinking about it, that’s great! maybe because of this conversation in the future you will not assume people’s gender, perhaps this conversation will help you be more open to other people’s non-binary gender identities or gender presentations, if so that is fantastic! but if not that is ok, because it is most important for me to be able to proclaim, to take up my own emotional space and just have these feelings, and secondly to reach out to other people who have also experienced similar in hopes of helping them feel less alone…then after that yes, i absolutely hope that some people read this, and think, man i never thought of that, it never occurred to me how that might feel. that sounds really frustrating/upsetting/hurtful, i wonder.

          1. i don’t assume anything, i question something i don’t understand, i am Socratic about a subject.
            i had queer friends in university (i maybe would now if i wasn’t so closed off from people & Korea wasn’t a society so at odds with not just gender, but individuality), i used to chat with a transgender person in a bar i worked in, i never, in my naive, young-ness, quite knew how to talk with them about it, as they had been duped by a dodgy surgeon who really made a hash of their appearance & stole money from them leaving them to struggle with an already difficult choice. i think the best thing was my ignorance as i just talked with them about their day, likes/dislikes, the usual.
            i think the way you cope with other people is admirable. & i hope that people realize that non-binary gender is a product of our times, of its complexity & richness & that it isn’t something to be uncomfortable about.

            1. Well, non-binary gender identities aren’t actually particularly a product of our times, they have been around for a long long time. However our dominant white Christian culture has certainly silenced those identities for a very long time and our modern technology is making that more difficult. So we have more of a platform to speak about our existence, which makes it much much more likely for others to hear and know, at least casually our stories. These are all great changes as near as I can tell.

              Regardless, you are certainly right that other people’s gender identities are certainly nothing to be uncomfortable about. 🙂

  2. How are people addressing you in a way that makes you uncomfortable? You seem to suggest that there is a way people should address a man, that you’d like to be addressed that way, you aren’t being addressed that way, and you are troubled as a result. What mistake are they making? How do you suggest that they correct it?

    1. It isn’t that people are making mistakes. We live in a heteronormative and predominantly binary culture. I don’t post to ask people to fix the way they treat me or my family, but rather to show people that see love, gender, and sex in binary terms, that those binary and essentialist ideas may be unknowingly doing others harm.

      That there are many people, such as myself that don’t fall into those easy binary categories, that our experiences are real, meaningful, and carry weight. Basically that we, and our feelings are real, that this is how we have them, and that this is how that perception can sometimes effect us. (I am not everyone and of course can only speak for myself)

  3. Hugs, if you don’t mind them, Salem. I am pondering my own labels today, my overall queerness. Michon suggested I might be demi-romantic. I tried to fit that and noeti-sexual into the 3 labels I most often lead with. I think about how often I just want to be seen as a woman, no, as an adult. Not as “… not a day over 12”

      1. And there’s always those lines of self-determination versus others applying labels, and where labels help and they don’t. I’m still struggling over gender- I don’t feel gender in a significant way, but to think of calling myself agender just doesn’t feel appropriate either.

        1. I actually know several people who feel the same way, who do not feel a way about gender or feel specifically like they have none, but also don’t feel connected to the labels or just feel like themselves. Basically you are not alone and your feelings matter, no matter how or what they are, when it comes to your gender. 💙

          1. thanks 🙂 I do think that maybe gender is just somewhere I need to relax and be. I moved away from queer to use bisexual for many a reason- from “using queer doesn’t help bisexual erasure” and “there are trans people who use the label for themselves.”

  4. I hear you. I am a trans… person of some gender that has no Englidh-language name that fits, AFAB and transitioned to be a more ‘ masculine’-looking body for the last twenty years. The only fix for the fact that even being out as trans still earns me misrocognition on a daily basis would be a culture-wide conceptual and linguistic revolution around both sex and gender.

    And all I know to do about it is to keep repeating something like the above over and over and over, hoping that someone will maybe stop for a moment and think about how many times a day they assume “man” or “woman” immediately upon seeing complete strangers. And how this seemingly harmless act–or reflex–is a form of regulation, of discipline, of force, that they themselves are also subject to.

    Thank you for posting this.

  5. I understand the struggle of being lumped into a heteronormative society. I am queer cisgender female, my wife has just in the last two months come out as a transwoman but at this time presents as a male in public because that is the comfort level she is at. We have a son and I know we look like a happy heterosexual couple. That isn’t entirely the problem the problem is that my in-laws use it as a way to ignore their oldest child’s true gender identity.I would love to be is a society that gender is no longer perceived as black and white to mainstream society.

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