Confronting My Queerness: the Internal Feud Between My Femininity and My Soul
I came out when I was 14. The tail end of my 8th year in public school was exhausting and frustrating. A time during which my mother would later explain, my “grades declined out of nowhere” so “obviously something was up.'' Not that beginning my own journey of coming to terms with my identity and my truth made a difference in the way I was loved or treated or seen by either of my parents, thank Goddess. I speak in terms of “beginning” here because though I may had begun to enter the era of realization and discovery of my identity, I had no idea how much of the part of my psyche that housed my complex identity was unlocked.
Growing up queerness was never practiced or represented in a way I could or would learn to grow close to. In fact, “queerness” as a term hadn’t been adopted into my vocabulary. It wasn’t until my 12th year of breathing the fleeting oxygen being un-willfully supplied by Mother Nature that I met or formed connections with queer people. When I was 12, the fun thing to do in the small town I grew up in, only miles outside of Nashville, was to go roller skating. An antiquated, and dare I say unpleasant, notion now given the collectives raised awareness to health and wellness. It’s almost as if we hadn’t all been required to suffer through a semester of education that pandered to a male dominated and heteronormative way of thinking, even about the wellness of our own bodies. When we would go skating we would just meet people, some people didn’t even skate. When we were 12, it was the closest thing we had to any kind of club or party. After a year of weekly nights out here, countless slushies, and meeting people, what was once my close circle of friends from school had grown to an eclectic, endless group of friends from all over middle Tennessee. Straight, gay, bi, pan, trans, and countless other identities filled my weekends with normalizing stories and accounts of life.
I like to think that everyone we meet has a reason for entering our lives and sharing their energies. The problem is that when you grow up without any queer energy around you and eventually discover you own queerness, there is no sense of freedom in how to discover that very part of yourself, as I would learn during my 16th year of walking on the gentrified grounds of my home reluctantly taken from Mother Nature.
I had my first boyfriend when I was 16. For nine months I pretended I felt safe, comfortable, and that everything about him was okay. For the most part is was, at least in my 16 year old brain. After we broke up, I fell into the trap that most queer kids are taken into: an endless sea of “Masc only,” “no fems,” “no fats,” and countless other pre-requisites I apparently did not fit into. This is where the battle began. Up until then, I thought I was everything my soul was forged to be. I thought, “how can I be too gay for gay people,” “how can I not fit into a community that doesn’t fit into the majority”. I would struggle for the next three years with my own identity and walk around pretending I knew I deserved to be here rather than convincing myself that I did. Whether it was making sure my wrist wasn’t too “limp” or holding myself back from painting my nails (both things that, in retrospect, were such minor notions to think about), I tried to keep myself from fitting the “feminine” stereotypes that I had retained from who knows who.
What I did not realize at the time, is that my fear was not rooted in being outcast from the mainstream in which I grew up in, but rather my fear came from an internalized place of sexism and homophobia. I speak here of the product that results from years and years of consuming shows, movies, plays, songs, and books that demonized and de-humanized both women and fem men. I would watch countless beloved childhood movies and see fem men portray evil (Hercules, Lion King). It’s no wonder I grew up to fear the feminine and want to run from it.
Another aspect of my internal fear and need-for-escape from the feminine was rooted in my own internal homophobia. Which is something that I am working to continuously uproot and decolonize. There were very few representations of queer people my eyes could find growing up. I say that as a cis, white man. There are even less chances for queer, trans, people of color to see themselves onscreen even now. The only few representations of myself I could think of feel both unaligned with queer freedoms and distant from reality. I think of Kurt and Blaine from Glee, or Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, or maybe… nope that’s about it. Most or all of these representations, I was shown fear, terror, and unhappiness. So again, in retrospect, it’s almost no wonder I grew to fear my own identity as a queer person.
To discover one's identity can be one of the most beautiful processes to occur in one's life. It is a journey of freedom, discovery, and power. I have recently been reading “The Selected Works of Audre Lorde,'' and have not been able to put it down. Within her poetic and powerful prose, she writes about the power of the feminine. Though she is writing as a Black lesbian feminist and to the point of and for women of color, I read these words with my own identity in mind, and they speak as loud as fireworks to my soul. Her words provide the ability to recognize my own internal power and my own feminine existence as a queer person. Her power lives through the Earth and, with every word written and page turned, finds its way into every cell within me.
My journey continues, every single day. I work to decolonize and redefine my own mind as well as my identity. Learning that gender does not exist, sexuality is fluid, and with the discovery of one's identity comes power. And power can not be taken from you. Only your perception of your own power can be altered.