Queer Identity From Outside the Queer Aesthetic

#30daysofpride: day 7: Going off book

Today I want to talk about being queer when you don’t fit into the accepted idea of what queerness should look like. 

To begin with I want to step away from the idea that queer culture or queer people are beyond reproach, or that our attractions or social politics exist in a vaccum. We do not, our subculture is just as rife with problematic aspects and oppressions as mainstream culture. As such the expected and accepted visuals that embody queerness are inherently just as problematic and othering as they are in broader mainstream heterosexual colonized white culture.* 

Now that I have touched on that, I want to turn back to something a bit more reflective on my own personal experience. 

When most of us think of or talk about mainstream queer aesthetic what do we mean? Typically within mainstream white american culture queerness is expected to be young, white, thin, abled, neurotypical, cute/sexy/attractive, androgynous, stylish, fun/funny, and hip….however that may be defined at the time. 

So what happens when we actual flesh and blood queers don’t fit that stereotype? We are rendered invisible. 

That invisibility can be complex and is experienced most aggressively, most violently by PoC, and especially multiply marginalized black queer and trans folks. With a huge portion of that violence focused on black trans women and femmes.  

The invisibility, othering, and dismissal that I personally experience starts because I am not young, thin, neurotypical, or able bodied.  

Our local gay and lesbian center, which has a wide range of support groups, is small and extremely smokey from years of second hand smoke. I can’t really go in there without giving myself an asthma attack…so i end up shrugging it off like everything else in life. Most the local community is centered around bars or kids. Bars are also outside of my abilities at this point…and in a different way play groups are as well. Movies and coffee shops are about all my tired body can handle…and even then I am likely to have to cancel.

Because my health so often reacts poorly to exposure to anything and everything out in the world, I’ve developed anxiety about leaving the house, anxiety about negatively impacting my health when I have no easy access to doctors or more medication, when an ER trip would be at least several hundred more dollars in debt. No body wants a friend or lover that can rarely leave the house. This means I carry my invisibility even more heavily. 

Because chronic illness has swept away my body’s assertive swagger, because it has swallowed whole my ability to breathe and bind at the same time…

because my body is to round, soft, and old to be seen as queer, androgynous, or masculine…

because I can’t afford and don’t particularly want a flashy turquoise undercut, geeky bow ties, a universe of button up shirts and sweater vests. It is a fine style, it reminds me of my childhood actually…but preppy geek chic or conversely Desperately Seeking Susan meets Morrissey wide brim hats and suspenders are just not my personal style. (honestly I’m not sure that there is much available right now that is my style but even if there is, I can’t afford it)

because I do not “pass” as male and have a cis male nesting partner who also doesn’t fit the queer aesthetic stereotype…

Because I have children with that nesting partner, whom I grew and nurtured inside my body…

Because my Nonbinary partners are to far away away to touch…

because I am ethically non monogamous…

My experience is often dismissed as heterosexual (or having passing privilege within the cis gay community), an assumption that inherently misgenders me. The cis gaze deciding that because they think I look like a cisgender heterosexual woman to them, that my experience must be that of a cisgender heterosexual woman.**  

 I am told to be greatful for being misgendered…and I do appreciate that I by no means have it the worst. There is so much work to be done, I need to do my part as well to help my more vulnerable trans family live in a world that wants them dead or decimated. 

But I am not a woman, my experience is not a woman’s experience, full stop. My experience has not ever been and never will be the experience of a woman. Because I am not a woman. Being perceived as a cis het woman not only directly misgenders me because I don’t fit that stereotype, it also means I am denied my own community in many ways…repeatedly…exhaustingly. Perpetually outsider, I am further isolated. withdrawn. further stressed and depressed. 

humans were not meant to live alone, without community 

But I don’t pass the rigorous testing I don’t guess. 

I don’t pass. 

Because I don’t pass or fit that stereotype I am subjected to constant microaggressions from people who don’t think I look trans “enough” for them to bother remembering that I am. 

A constant message of never being quite enough 

inadequate

It presses down on me rendering me sensitive and jumpy, quick to defend myself and impatient with well meaning but harmful allies. 

I am far from the only person who is socially othered by the wider queer community for not looking “right”. It is a problem that impacts many queer people, across many identities. 

I know I feel it in my bones. 

Queer inclusion needs to change…and if we are not truly doing the work, to change how we think, how our communities work, then we are leaving people behind, doing to them what was done to us. 

*for more information on the oppressive politics of sex and friendship please follow and fund Rhizome Syndrigast Coelacanth Flourishing who’s wisdom and work has forever changed the way I think and talk about social politics. 

**There are indeed some legal protections for being in a legal marriage with a person whom the government sees as being “the opposite sex” regardless of how meaningless that term may be to a nonbinary person. I’m also less likely to be attacked physically if I am misgendered heavily enough-consistently enough that I do not appear to be a threat to those cis people, basically if seeing me cis people think they see a possibly strange fellow cis person. (Whiteness also emphatically protects me from physical reprisals even for being visibly and noticibly trans or gender nonconforming) It is important to acknowledge the complexity of the situation.

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