I Wish You Could See Me as Queer and Complete
Throughout campus, I’m tired of feeling like my existence is always a topic of debate.
I wish I didn’t have to come out—the first time or the innumerable times I have to do it every day. I wish I wasn’t the “queer” friend all of a sudden, no longer allowed to be the academic friend who happens to be queer. I hope that someday, I can theoretically interrogate queerness in my work, without needing to explain to people that I am queer.
I remember walking into my first gender studies classroom, confused about and wanting to know what it meant to be a “woman.” I could never find a space within whatever I knew femininity to be, and I figured I was going to enter a space of knowing what my body meant in the absence of femininity. On the contrary, the space I entered seemed to make my entire existence a topic of debate. I was taught mostly by senior academics, trained in understanding the problems of cis women, claiming to comprehend the complexity of gender. And I was told that feminism equally meant an assertion of femaleness just as much as it meant androgyny.
Androgyny in “female” bodies meant becoming male. I stood there, perplexed, wondering if my being was an inadequate resistance to the problems of patriarchy—were my hoodies a size too big and my jeans that slipped down even with a belt not enough as resistance, as rejection? Moreover, was I ever, in my nonbinary self, going to be allowed to exist? Would I ever be enough to no longer be seen as a “woman,” and would I be allowed a physical body that would ever be perceived outside an arbitrary category that I cannot understand?
I Came Out Over the Pandemic and Received Strange Reactions
I felt this line of debate continue into my coming out and after that, as well. In every instance that someone who knows my pronouns misgenders me or when I am told that I am “too sensitive” or when I am asked to educate the people who have the tools to do that themselves, I feel myself retreating into a corner I hope nobody finds me in. I remember coming out during the pandemic. I told a few friends, one of whom was with me. I remember her reaction: “Oh! Are lesbians averse to penises?” I do not think I will make as egregious an error as thinking this was a reaction borne from ignorance.
I came out as nonbinary and was asked about something not only unrelated but simply terrible. I remember this friend, months later, trying so aggressively to support me as a queer friend, they forgot the complexity of my living an entire full and composite life. They wanted to see me as their sad queer friend, one who came to them in times of need, despite this violence and despite their “educate me” attitude. It’s especially complicated when the actions that make you feel small and insignificant are performed under the guise of friendship, of someone wanting to save you and alleviate pain caused by them—and much more, by the world.
A friend recently told me about how even when their queerness is celebrated, there is something still alienating when it comes from cis people. The celebration is fetishistic, vile and makes you feel observed and policed again. You become, in these spaces, a queer body whose existence is breaking norms. But never are you simply allowed the right to exist, to breathe, to live fully. Your body, your thoughts, your “complicated” feelings, are always fascinating, a sight to study, a revolution. But you aren’t a revolution; you’re an early 20-something who wants to get drunk and dance at a party.
Queer People See Me Differently Than My Other Peers
I shifted institutions recently, and now I am no longer a student. I teach some kids, and I insist they use my name, but they call me “ma’am.” When the institute wants to renovate the living space, their first suggestion is to cram me into a cis women’s space, forgetting once again who I am. I should not have to tell them.
The onus to fight for space, for rights, for existing, should not always be placed on me. It’s exhausting and draining for queer people to have their entire mind, body and everything else understood as the other, the anomaly. Tokenistic and superficial fixtures do not make sense, when by design, by gaze and by “objective study,” we are sidelined and constantly made to feel like we have no right to inhabit space. We are not here to question the fragility of social codes; our existence is just outside of them.
In some moments, though, you find immense care. Queer people do have a unique way of finding each other and doing for each other the difficult work of hearing painful stories, of understanding what it is like to exist within spaces that do not let you be seen or heard. We extend to each other friendship and moments of immense vulnerability; we hold on to each other. We let each other know that while we cannot fix institutions or universities, we can see each other. We can lend to each other the kindness of knowing each other in full complexity, as people who are queer, complicated and existing fully in a world that disallows it.