from evy's notebook
"Queer" - the adjective, the identity - is something I've long struggled to relate to in a definitive way. To some, "queer" is just another word for LGBTQIA+, and describes people who align with concrete labels like "lesbian", "transgender", or "asexual". For many, describing onself with concrete labels is unhelpful or frequently evolving, and "queer" is preferred as a more stable catch-all. For me, "queer" describes many of my friends and family, as well as many ideas that feel important to me - but as a fairly straight and cis woman, I feel uncomfortable using "queer" to describe myself.
For a few years, "graysexual" was a label I identified with as an attempt to help me feel more comfortable with how little I was desiring sex. Labels can be nice in the ways they validate one's experiences, and also in the ways they bring together people with common experiences. I was hoping that the asexuality community would help me learn more about myself, but I found that I couldn't relate to conversations on their forums as much as I'd hoped. I was unsure I was worthy of the label of "greysexual", and since this identity is considered part of the queer umbrella, I was once again unsure if I was worthy of the label of "queer".
I believe that exploring gender and sexuality is an important practice, regardless of how one identifies. I've had many conversations with cis friends about why we identify with the gender we were assigned at birth, in which we also talk about the ways we reject certain expectations of gender. I love twirly skirts and emotional vulnerability, and I also love to be ambitious and strong and in charge. Some gendered experiences can be quite enjoyable for me, but society's beliefs and conditioning around gender have also brought considerable suffering to many people I know.
Thinking about gender in a nuanced way has made identifying as "cis" more complicated - I both identify as the societal definition of "woman" and also reject many aspects of this definition. I love thinking about gender, and I love talking to friends about their experiences of gender, but I don't feel like these thoughts and conversations make me "queer".
When I told my sibling that I was dating a nonbinary person, they asked "so do you still identify as straight?", and I replied "I don't know if this means I'm queer, but I would probably label the relationship as queer". When gender is so complicated, what does being "straight" or attracted to "men" even mean? Is it that I'm attracted to masculine people? Which aspects of masculine presentation affect my attraction to someone - clothes, behaviours, facial features, physique? If I define my straightness as attraction to some aspects of masculinity, then dating a nonbinary person who possesses many of these traits doesn't really invalidate my definition - and yet "straight" still feels wrong. I can see why some people just avoid most labels and stick with "queer".
Last year, I read Queer: A Graphic History
, which introduced me to the academic field of queer theory and to the verb "to queer". In contrast with the adjective "queer", a word to describe a person, "to queer" is to question norms and challenge assumptions. When I think about which aspects of femininity I enjoy and which I discard, I'm queering
my experience of gender. When I question traditional romance and choose to pursue long-term partnerships but not practice monogamy, I'm queering
my experience of relationships. Questioning an aspect of something doesn't always mean rejecting it, but the process of questioning helps me distance myself from norms that don't feel enjoyable or useful to me.
Actively queering relationship and gender norms has been important to me for a long time, which has led me to connect with many friends and partners who identify as queer. I often almost feel part of the queer community, but I hestitate to label myself as queer. I'm even self-conscious about wearing Doc Martins and rarely shaving or wearing makeup, because it feels like I'm appropriating queer culture. Is it wrong to enjoy queer aesthetic and queer discourse while not being heavily marginalized because of the people I love or the way I express my gender?
The queer community is, among other things, a space for marginalized people to come together and support each other. Identifying as queer feels like taking up space that isn't meant for someone like me. I don't have a strong desire to label myself as queer. In fact, "I don't know if I'd consider myself queer" feels like the perfect label for how I relate to queerness. What feels important to me is questioning what queerness means to me, and queering - questioning, challenging - many aspects of my life.