"Queer cannot be done right", says a yellow neon post-it sticking to a mirror positioned just on the way out of my bedroom. It occurred to me, a slightly genderqueer bi woman, last winter, at a moment where I was mostly struggling with trying to be more visible as bi and/or queer, without giving in to a set of scene codes that do not match my femininity. It helped a lot and still helps – although the need to be visible despite anonymity has become less since I became more involved in the local queer community. Especially after my first experience organizing an alternative CSD last June, which I attended in an outfit that wasn't necessarily coded as particularly queer (I didn't even bring glitter), but where I was still referred as “they” for the first time. Anyhow, that's not the story here.
The story is about how I didn't realize that the sentence on my post-it could apply to situations that didn't primarily involve my wardrobe. It's a story of how bi and queer hatred and heterosexism and sexism invited themselves over in a queer relationship through the back door, while I was watching the front one.
I have a special person in my life right now (yay!) whose sexual orientation falls, like mine, under the bi umbrella. I identify as bi. She's not sure how to identify, exactly. Yet? Specific aspects of the orientation and 'out' status and intersections of my special person have been given me a lot of anxiety (which I am “gifted with” anyhow). Specifically, the importance of her attraction and experience with men and the fact she wasn't conventionally “out” nor envisioned a standard “girlfriend/girlfriend” relationship. Instead of taking this as a part of an articulated, complex and individual set of desires, I inwardly decided it must be a result of the heterosexist structures, and that she would surely someday deconstruct and escape as she entered queerness. Because it was either that, or that she wasn't that into me, right?
Not trusting her own accounts of her experience, nor the decisions she made on those issues, and instead blaming them on internalized heterosexism, was both biphobic and deeply sexist of me, a bi woman. Doing so, I was also missing the commitment she expressed to our intimacy and connection, and the potential of a relationship that could be freely negotiated, defined and validated by only us based on our needs and desires. I was missing the ultimate queerness of the potential bond. Because, as it turns out, I am not safe of (internalized) heterosexism.
Queer cannot be done right, and yet I was trying to. It's a bit ironic too, because I haven't prioritized being given the “girlfriend” title in most of my relationships with men. Instead, I insisted on putting the focus on the connection and dynamic between us, and I was in for bonds that didn't meet classical requirements of a “successful” relationship.
Still, the most difficult part of that is unchanged: It's being consistently perceived as eternally single and possibly unable to create bonds by my family and friends, especially by my parents. In the two years since I came out, my brother has introduced several of his girlfriends to the extended family. Partly because I live far away from them, partly because my relationships never fit the bill, I haven't introduced a partner to my parents and siblings for about ten years. For some reason, I have felt more strongly about changing that since I came out.
Maybe because coming out made clearer what my parents (and many of my friends) want for me. They don't really care whether I date a man or a woman or even anyone of a non-binary gender. Which I know is lucky, but they still care that I have what they think is a fulfilling love life – and that is necessarily one I can display to them and the rest of the world. One that, queer or not, fulfills heterosexist criterias and involves sex, commitment, monogamy, family planning and publicity. If I wasn't out to them, that'd be bad. If I was hiding partners from them, that would have to be bad. It'd mean something was wrong with me. It means something is surely wrong with me. My parents as western post-catholic liberals would never think they were putting any pressure on me, but while I can easily laugh off my grandmother telling me I should really get married now, failing at being validated as conformably sexual and lovable and cherished in front of my parents and friends, that hurts. THAT makes me feel like I'm failing hard at life. In the world and era of coming-outs and same-gender marriage, what excuses do I have for doing queer “wrong”?
So instead of blaming the queer hatred and heterosexism at the core of those expectations for making me feel like a failure, I turned to resenting my amazing special person for not helping me correct that trajectory because she can't do queer “right” (either), and I almost dismissed our bond.
It's shaking me that my own longing to secure a relationship that would grant me social recognition is a manifestation of queer hatred (amongst others like sexism and ableism) and I didn't realize it. That the reminder of this is of my own writing and has been hanging in my room for a year on a yellow neon post-it is just the cherry on the storytelling cake.
Next June, I will bring a lot of pride to our CSD, because yes, queer hatred is alive and kicking, right here in our lives, and I am learning that our resistance brings up resources in ourselves we've been told were unavailable, and creates bonds we've been told were impossible or undesirable, but are truly the best we've ever enjoyed.
Bi in Berlin but from other places in fact.