I’ve been on a bit of a queer rampage again lately: telling stories, sharing histories. Explaining why I have such strong feelings about the term “partner.” Trying to explain that I feel a little like I’m navigating a foreign landscape because really, this whole year has been an adventure in renegotiating my relationship with my own queerness, my own sense of self and identity. Who I am, how I move through the world, how I express myself, how I relate to and express desire.
I used to joke that my queer looks really straight. It’s partially a joke, but not wholly inaccurate. The majority of my relationships have been queer in a particularly visible way; the most subversive, non-normative thing I could do within the context of my own life was try to navigate relationships with cismen and/or people who are assigned male at birth and routinely navigate the world from a place of male-passing experience.
Because I’m comfortable in a specific type of queerland. I understand those rules, that way of interacting and navigating. It’s how I grew up, how I came into my own as a sexual person, the communities that raised me, the people that mentored me, the people I was most able to communicate and understand reciprocal desire. The most confusing dynamics for me have always been ones with people who are assigned and socialized male because it’s where I have the least experience and the least practice.
At least, that used to be true. That was true a year ago. I wish I knew how to explain how it felt then; I’m still not sure I’ve found the right words. I felt…torn, a lot. Wanting to believe the best in people while still seeing the worst come out. Wanting to believe that someone whose entire life challenges expectations of gender and sexuality could exist, as a whole person, with someone whose life did not necessarily require that they examine these things. Struggling with concepts of domination and power and social narratives while not fully understanding those narratives because I hadn’t lived them in the ways other people had.
That was a year ago. I look back on the last year and recognize that there is a part of me holding on to an outdated narrative I haven’t allowed myself to outgrow. So much has changed in the past year, and I am grateful for every time I closed my eyes and jumped. It’s brought incredible people and incredible relationships into my life, some which have sustained, some which have not, and some which remain beautifully nebulous and poorly-defined beyond mutual affection.
I am such a different person from who I was last year. I find myself talking about histories more, perhaps because I’ve been in more situations where those histories are not a part of someone else’s daily experience. I find myself thinking more about myself as a queer person and what that concept means to me, now. About subversion, about fear. About fighting and fighting back. About living. Living fully, living like I am wiping the drippings of my days from my lips because I sunk my teeth in and truly committed to the experience of being alive.
I have fallen in love this year, in the myriad of ways that I fall in love with other people. I have fallen in love with a hidden darkness stitched inside a golden skin and I have fallen in love with a halo of stars and fire-burned eyes. I have fallen in love with a wild mane and a hawk’s glare and I have fallen in love with a razor’s edge and a steady hand. The light and the darkness, the contained and the chaotic. They are all different, and different kinds of loving. Different kinds of openness and vulnerability. Different kinds of knowing, seeing, sharing, opening. Distinct and unique. But each a kind of love.
And so here I sit, parsing through old histories and new ones, old memories that have healed like scars and new ones, still fresh and getting picked like scabs. Partners and lovers. How I connect to pain and what that means to me. Explaining and exploring. Maybe it’s all free association now, but there are threads that weave through these past twelve months that I am braiding and unbraiding in language and thought, over and over until they lay flat and smooth against my skin.
Maybe the old things I have clung to for so long don’t fit anymore. I sink into them because they are familiar, not necessarily because they’re accurate. I have to allow myself to grow within and through my experiences; otherwise, am I truly sinking into them, living them, incorporating them?
So perhaps I’m not a masochist, but my relationship to pain is more complicated than I have allowed it to be. And perhaps the evolution of my queerness means letting go of the idea that I am utterly clueless and have no idea what I am doing. Maybe I have a more complicated relationship with power dynamics and exchange that I need to parse out. Maybe I have to let go of the idea that wanting is unwelcome. I am more jaded than I was, but I am happier, too. My queerness has evolved in its own complicated and convoluted way because we never stop shifting and changing and reexamining our perspectives, our desires, and the ways those things fit into the world and ourselves.
I want to say more things that scare me. I want to push through the boundaries of my own discomfort to experience things that make me nervous to think about. I want to explore my own complicated relationships with pain, and power, and sex, and language because that’s what’s next. Without letting myself grow, without letting the ways that I’ve shifted and changed sink in, I just keep reinventing new ways to learn the same lessons I already know and call it growth.
But this is what’s next. It’s not a resolution, exactly, but a sense of resolve. To push past the narratives that I have clung to because they are familiar. But it’s time to move forward. I am not who I was a year ago, and I have new lessons to learn in the coming year. So here, pushing the edges of 2017, I am learning, once again, to let go.