This is our truth, tell us yours
Once there was a child who didn’t fit anywhere, in a world that demanded they chose a nice neat box and stick to it. Every box they looked at though was full of rules that did not apply to them. The child grew, and people showed them new boxes, shiny and covered in enticing wrapping paper, and each box raised a hope in the growing childs heart. A hope that was dashed as they discovered this box was not theirs either.
They could not spend their whole time looking into other people boxes though. Life happens, largely when you are least expecting it. Some boxes arrived unexpectedly, such as the one marked motherhood. It was large and full of lists of rules, the first being that the box must be carried everywhere and be the first thing shown to anyone, who would then use it to define you.
That box grew heavier and heavier, and the world insisted that you can never put it down, for it now defined you. It was a box without a lid, not so you could ever empty it, but so anyone you met could fill it, and at times it weight meant you could barely walk. People stuck their own labels onto the outside of the box, woman, sexless, straight, conforming, vanilla, acceptable, respectable.
Over the last 2 days my fellow blogger here has produced two stunning blogs exploring the idea of queerness as a way of being for those at the margins. Queerness is a verb, something you are, however in the outside world it is also associated with a certain way of looking, with youth, with unconventionality, with a whole host of new boxes that resemble the old ones in all but the label on the top. This morning Carter wrote this;
Queerness, if it is to be different to what has gone before, has to always be the community of the margins, wherever they might be,and always conscious that the past is only that; passed. Those rivers have flowed,and the new margins are to be found where the river is now, not where it sprang from the ground.
I feel as if am in an empty house, surrounded by boxes others have given me, screaming “none of these are mine” One box is marked “queer as in fuck you” the standard box of queerness, the box that wants to make it static, and another binary. What about those of us who cannot say fuck you? What about those of us who look at the idea of being alternative and think if only? What about the privilege which comes from being able to look different, or set up your household differently because your life has not already taken you down paths which have their own responsibilities?
Part of this is, I am aware imposter syndrome.
Impostor syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist even in face of information that indicates that the opposite is true. It is experienced internally as chronic self-doubt, and feelings of intellectual fraudulence.
The world has its own preconceptions, and perceptions, and gatekeeping is ever popular. So it is that those who most look the part get to be heard, despite the fact being able to look the part is in itself a privilege. It is part of my issue with ideas like national coming out day. What would I come out as? A sex worker, queer, femme, sub, genderqueer? How can I say which of these is out already, since that is about your perception of me, and which are not? Furthermore the very concept of coming out suggests an end point, a finality which says this is your box. Queer, if it has any meaning to me as a gender and a sexuality (and its usefulness is that it steps beyond the binary of sexuality and gender ) is about trying to leave the neatness of nice tidy boxes behind not simply find a new bunch of boxes to divide people into.
I had tears last night, as I imagined the child that I was growing up now, with the opportunities that were inconceivable to me in my youth. However, as Carter so wisely said, who we are now is all we have, we must accept the death of those other possibilities, even if we take a moment to mourn them. I am who I am, even if that is a multitude, made more complex by the need to present one way for my work and the assumptions of those around me. This is further complicated by the fact learning to like who I am has involved learning to like how I look. While in those sublime moments with Carter I am naked, and thus whole layers of assumptions removed, the world would object I think if I went to tesco in nothing but a dog collar.
A lot of words have been produced this weekend around the idea of queerness being fluid, being what you do, not how others perceive you. My words could perhaps be summed up by a plea for those with a voice not to make queerness just the Q of LGBTQ, not to define radicalism as how people present, not to fall into the trap of saying this is how I am queer, so this is what queerness is.