Tag Archives: lgbt

Evolution of Identity, Part 1: Coming Out Again

My identity, like that of most folks, is a complex, multi-faceted thing. It is never static and is often confusing. Sometimes I feel like I’ll never truly find myself. And sometimes I never want to. I have learned so much about myself in the past couple of years, and about love and community and solidarity and letting go and moving on. Every time I think I finally know my truth, I learn something new. It’s scary and exciting.

I thought I was pretty settled on queer as the best identifier for myself. Queer femme to be specific. But after some really insightful, thoughtful and often volatile discussions on Tumblr regarding the queer community, labels and misogyny, I realized I had some deeper digging to do. I was ‘queer’ but why? Why ‘queer’ and not something else? Was that really the best fit or was I avoiding deeper introspection?

It took a while to get to this place but I had to finally admit that having a romantic and/or sexual relationship with a man (cis or trans) held no interest for me. I wanted my relationships to be with female-identified people. And yet, I shied away from using ‘lesbian’ as an identifier. I’m not sure if I did it consciously, certainly not in the early stages of my evolution. But when those discussions appeared on Tumblr, I realized that I, too, was guilty of shunning ‘lesbian’ in favor of ‘queer.’

Queer just seemed so much more radical and as is pointed out in the links above, lesbian tends to be seen as passé and associated with more mainstream politics or less politically aware in general and therefore lesser in the radical queer crowd. But where did this idea of queer as a monolith come from? Why has the larger queer community decided that there’s a specific set of rules to follow in order to be The Best Radical Queer. Why do we keep setting up these hierarchies amongst ourselves? These are important discussions we need to be having.

Lesbian identity also has been marred with the existence of a transphobic radfem history that obviously cannot and should not be glossed over. However, radical lesbian feminists were certainly not all MichFest loving transphobes so the damnation of an entire identity based on a small subset is truly unfair. Those who choose lesbian as an identifier are also frequently accused of propping up the gender binary. I disagree. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to want to center your relationships around female-identified people while still supporting those outside the gender binary. Some people are binary-identified and some are not. One does not negate the presence of the other.

I agree that, as others have more eloquently asserted, telling women that centering their relationships around women is somehow less radical is straight up misogyny.  But in a culture so entrenched in misogyny , I think the most radical thing I can do is to reclaim ‘lesbian.’ I want to rescue it from the unfortunate parts of its history and honor the important, groundbreaking parts. I refuse to let the insecurities of others in the queer community keep me owning an important part of myself. Because this is about me and my desires and those desires do not include men and I’m done caring about their feelings being hurt over it.

I’m a lesbian. A dyke. A femme dyke to be specific. Deal with it.

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Whose Pride?

Pride is mercifully over! I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Pride month is like Gay Christmas. So many events all packed into a few short weeks, all culminating in a loud and gloriously tacky parade for most folks. It’s exhausting being so proud.

This year I was going to skip the parade to attend a belly dance festival out in the suburbs. The consensus amongst my queer circle is that the Pride parade is an overly commercialized party that gives people an excuse for public intoxication, not to mention the insane crowds full of frat boys and Glee fans. They’re over it. I fully agree on all counts, but there was still a part of me this year that wanted to be a part of the celebration.

Unlike most of the queers I know here, I was not born and raised in an urban environment. I’ve only been living in a big city for just under 4 years. As a small-town Appalachian girl, the novelty of Pride hadn’t quite worn off yet. See, where I’m from, there is no Pride*. And if there were, very few politicians and local businesses would be brave enough to participate. I do hate the gross pandering that occurs with Pride but I also can’t help but still be amazed that businesses, corporations even, recognize the gay dollar. And it still moves me to see the massive numbers of queers take to the streets each year. (So massive, in fact, that things got way out of hand this year, after getting off to a very rocky start.)

So I changed my mind, with a caveat. I decided to go to the Pride parade but this year I didn’t just watch, I marched. (Er, rode, rather.) Join the Impact Chicago had planned a Take Back Pride activist contingent and that’s where I aligned myself. As important as Pride is, it’s more important that people understand where it comes from. With my partner, I rode in my friend’s pedicab carrying a sign that read “Remember Stonewall.” I was humbled to hear some elders in our community yell “I do remember!” A sign can’t teach a history lesson but it was important for me to stand with fellow activists, especially at a time when I’m trying to find my voice and a place for myself within Chicago’s queer activist community, to remind onlookers why there is a parade in the first place. Sadly, our activist contingent was followed by an L.A. Tan float. Because the gays love tanning? Not exactly something to take pride in.

Wading through the crowd trying to get home and hearing stories from friends of just how bad things got this year (drunken fights, property damage, non-consensual groping, straight dudes hitting on ladies) finally tipped the scales for me, though. Note that earlier I said that the novelty of Pride hadn’t worn off yet. Past tense. It’s done gone now, y’all. I’m angry and sad about what Pride has become. It’s part of the machine now and has evolved to something unrecognizable from its humble beginnings as the Christopher Street Liberation Day march.

There is hope, though. I’m inspired by the fantastic work done by NYC’s Quorum. Rather than just boycotting the parade, they engaged community members and raised awareness about the corporate presence at Pride. There are people out there who remember what Pride is about. We just need to shout louder than the vodka companies and tanning salons.

*I am beyond thrilled to edit this post to add that there is now a Pride celebration in WV, thanks to Rainbow Pride of West Virginia, Inc.!