“Are you going to the (queer mixer, queer dance party, queer pajama swap, etc.)?” I ask.
“I’m not sure,” my friend says. “I’m not sure I’m queer enough to go.”
I’ve had this conversation a lot lately, particularly with people who are cis-women. In response, I usually ask what “queer enough” means, and these are some of the things I hear back:
- I benefit from straight privilege because my partner presents as the opposite gender as me.
- I feel safe in my day-to-day life, and I don’t want to take away from a space designed to allow others to have that same safety.
- I identify with the gender I was assigned at birth.
- I just don’t look very queer- I mean, I don’t have any tattoos or a funky haircut or piercings or anything like that, and I just wear normal clothes.
- I don’t want other people to feel like I’m invading their space or not being respectful.
What I hear from this is, in order to be welcome in queer spaces, you must first experience active oppression because of your queerness.
And I think that’s bullshit.
“Queer” is so often used as a synonym for “homosexual,” which is a gross misrepresentation of the concept. “Queer” is an umbrella term that simply means “outside of the usual; strange; odd; a deviation from the norm.” It can be how you choose to describe your sexual orientation, but it can also be a way of describing gender, mindset, sexual practices, or life philosophy. I have known plenty of heterosexual queer people: queer in the way that they view the world, not queer in who they like to fuck.
The idea that we have to pass some sort of “oppression test” to get into the club is ridiculous. If you can live your life authentically, find some joy and happiness in your relationships, and not get fucked with on the daily, then fuck yeah! It would be fucking great if that were possible for everyone. Why should this mean that you are excluded from a community with which you relate?
A part of me gets it. I’m queer, and I look queer. I have the tattoos, the funky haircut, the indeterminate gender. I get catcalled, asked inappropriate questions, stopped on the street, followed, etc. I’ve dealt with non-queer “tourists” in my queer little world: people who treat me like I’m a sideshow act at a circus. Sometimes, I want to escape from all of that and just be a person in the world. I get the wariness toward people who don’t have their queerness blatantly written on their bodies, because it’s an aesthetic that is associated with the type of oppression I am so often trying to escape. So I get it. But I also get over it.
I believe queer is a verb. It’s a living, breathing act. It’s part of how we define our relationships, how we navigate life, how we fight oppression, how we interact with others. It’s about questioning the idea that everyone has to go about life in a certain way, following a certain path, reaching certain milestones in a certain order. It’s about recognizing our own privileges and understanding that the world is incredibly biased and skewed in a way that benefits some more than others, owning our place in that, and working against those stereotypes in our lives.
For me, when I see someone questioning whether they are “queer enough” to enter into queer space, to me, that is a sign of queerness. To recognize that a person holds certain privileges that others don’t. To want to be respectful of a space and make sure that they are not taking away from someone else’s ability to be in that space. I want that type of queerness in my queer space. I don’t want us all to look the same, walk the same, talk the same, act the same. I want my queer spaces to be a place where people with funky haircuts and tattoos can come, where stay-at-home moms with husbands can come, where femmes and butches and genderfuckers can come and feel like they have space to be exactly the kind of queer person they are.
I don’t like identity policing. I like the growing visibility around what it means to be a queer person, and I think it’s important that there is space for us funky-looking, genderqueer folks to be able to exist safely. But I don’t believe that space needs to come by excluding those who hold similar identities, even when those identities present themselves very differently.
I want those who ask if they are “queer enough” to come on in. I want that type of thoughtfulness, that type of analysis, that type of care to be a part of my community. I just don’t believe it’s about being queer enough, because I don’t believe there is such a thing. I think it’s about recognizing the ways in which we navigate the world, the ways that we take up space, the ways that we benefit from this society, the ways that others are oppressed, making sure that we are not contributing to that oppression.
And to me, that kind of thoughtfulness, that kind of awareness, is the queerest thing of all.
(cross-posted on FetLife)