staying queer

January 17, 2013

This week I spent a 1/2 hour reading a book review in the New Yorker – the subject being twentysomethings and a handful of new books about what that’s like. I’m not sure why this interested me, maybe the pictures or pull quotes; most likely, it looked like the kind of mildly interesting thing to read before falling asleep, as in something that wouldn’t keep me awake. Anyway, somewhere in the last part of the article, probably when the author started in on the topics of delaying the decision to get married and/or having kids, it struck me that this was a review of books for straight twentysomethings. (And probably for straight, white and middle or upper class twentysomethings, too), and  the author, who was calling himself a critic, wasn’t even going to comment on that. That pissed me off. And then I got pissed that I’d wasted my time reading the stupid article in the first place. And then, after that, I got pissed about all the shit I read like this, that really is so herteronormative at its heart. And then I thought maybe I am still a “raging” queer, which made me sigh and say “whew.” Because at some point in the latter part of the 32 years I’ve been out, it seemed like I’d just stopped getting outraged*, which seemed kind of fucked up because fucked up stuff is still happening.

Looking back at the last 16 years, I can see what happened. Mainly, I got tired of dealing with the difference of being different and I just wanted to stop being the lesbian co-worker or lesbian classmate or lesbian neighbor or lesbian friend or the dyke you served coffee to or the dyke you bought your bike from or the dyke you sat by on the bus. I wanted the luxury of not having a bunch of wrong assumptions and stereotypes foisted on me. I wanted the privilege of not having my whole complicated and nuanced self distilled down into playing softball (which I never played) or listening to Melissa Etheridge (who I was never a huge musical fan of). I am exaggerating. Kind of.  But hopefully you get the point. Also, I didn’t want to be policed for how good a dyke I was being, as in how well I represented and how much I was or wasn’t like your lesbian cousin or your best friend’s dyke sister or some magazine article in the Sunday Times, etc. I didn’t want to be somebody else’s version of who I actually was or am (paraphrasing Toni Morrison here). But of course I didn’t stop being different and of course me being different didn’t stop making a difference, and even if I did at times kind of convince myself I’d stopped caring about it, that really wasn’t true. No matter how much I tried to be heads down in my tech career and my relationships and for a while, my band, and owning a house. I think I thought I could maybe assimilate into the larger culture, but I couldn’t and I’m really fucking glad about that.

Don’t assimilate. That’s my message today. Assimilation means giving up on queer subculture and conforming to the mainstream, where queers will always be outsiders anyway. Because we don’t fit in the mainstream. Because the mainstream is about the gender binary and gender conformity. And the mainstream is about male privilege and misogyny. And mainstream is about exploiting race and class to feed capitalism and bolster up entitlement. And the mainstream is about commodification of everything, including your queerness, if someone can make some money off of it.

*I did have some serious outrage over how It Gets Better Project became the de facto national campaign for fighting bullying queer youth in the schools. It’s such bullshit that’s its best we can — make videos telling kids to wait it out.


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