As the Pride festival nears, I’m spending a lot of time pondering my queerness. Specifically, where my queerness fits into my life as a person in a “straight” relationship.
Being bisexual has always been a bit of a struggle for me, identity-wise, because ever since I came out I’ve always hated the idea of being mistaken for straight or gay (both of which have happened to me countless times). I wish people would just “read” me as bi, but it rarely seems to happen.
And now that I’ve been dating a man for over two years, and have a gender presentation that’s as cis and femme as ever, it seems my queerness always gets lost in the shuffle. Even in queer spaces, I don’t always feel understood or seen. I’ve gotten booed for kissing my boyfriend at Pride events, I’ve had people try to explain basic LGBTQ concepts to me as if they’d be totally foreign to my mind, I’ve had people give me stares that say “What are you doing here?” It makes me sad.
Bleeding-heart complaints aside, I know that there are other people who feel the way I do – people whose identity straddles some line(s) between hetero and queer, and who feel skewered on that fence. Here are some suggestions for how you can re-access the gay side of yourself, if you’re feeling like you’ve lost it a little bit.
1. Volunteer for an LGBTQ organization. There is surely one in your area, so get Googlin’! I’m using the word “organization” broadly here – you could do fundraising at your local nonprofit, get in contact with school administrators to see if you can help set up GSAs, join the street team for your city’s Pride festival, or even see if your local LGBT yoga group needs help washing mats. It can be enormously nourishing to meet new people from your community and to do good work for that community. (And baby, if you ain’t got no time, maybe you could give some money instead.)
2. Consume queer media. If you do this already, do it more! Some recommendations: books by S. Bear Bergman and Ivan Coyote, porn by Courtney Trouble and Shine Louise Houston, documentaries about the LGBT community, and The L Word in its entirety.
3. Wear a queer talisman. Granted, plenty of LGBT folks think it’s tacky as hell to wear a rainbow bracelet or gay suspenders or what have you. But, honestly, when I’m going into a situation where I absolutely do not want people to mistake me for straight, sometimes it makes me feel a whole lot better to adorn myself in one or two loud-and-queer accessories. My talisman of choice is usually my rainbow wristband – it goes with every outfit!
4. Re-read old journals/blog posts/love letters from when you had your first same-sex crush. Remember how weird that felt? How scared and yet excited you were? Remember all the concerns these new feelings raised for you – how/when/whether to come out, what label(s) fit you best, what it all meant? Those seminal experiences paved your path into a queer identity and (hopefully) community, so they’re worth revisiting if you’re feeling a little cloudy on those topics.
I know there will inevitably be people who want to tell me something like, “Just be who you are! It doesn’t matter whether people think you’re straight or whether you’ve ‘got enough gay in your life.’ Just live your life.” And they’re right, to a certain extent… but hey, queer folks should know better than anyone that sometimes you gotta engage in some self-care in order to feel okay about how people are reacting to you. And this is some of mine.
Photo credit: Sue Maguire.