As I develop my queer identity, it is as if I am stoking the coals and fanning the flames of my queer rage so that it builds with ever more intensity each day.
While I have queered myself to the point of no return, the world of rigidity and rationalism around me maintains its concrete structures. I ache as I am relegated into a bathroom labeled by a gender with which I don’t identify; as I pull on a pair of pants to wear to my office job. The rage within intensifies each time I confront the reality that I live in a world of strict, rigid, institutionalized norms.
Because, as a queer-identified individual, I perceive the world of rigid norms to be a hostile environment. It was cisnormativity (the assumption that every individual identifies with the gender to which they were assigned at birth) and heteronormativity (the assumption that everyone is attracted to members of the opposite sex) that made me deny myself of my own experiences with gender and sexuality for 20 years of my life — 20 years that I will never get back.
Hetero- and cisnormativity — like all assumptions and norms — filter images, sounds, knowledge, etc., so that we are left with an understanding of our surroundings and our own subjectivities that entails only a limited set of possibilities of being. And the only being I perceived to be possible for myself under these conditions was a straight, feminine, girl.
In a heteronormative world, it was impossible for me to understand the attractions I felt toward members of my own sex, because everything around me reflected the experiences of straight people only. In a cisnormative world, I could not comprehend the humiliation I felt, at eight years old, when I received a “girl” bike for Christmas, because everything around me reflected the experiences of people for whom the color of their bike somehow aligned with their genitalia.
I had no model of being before me that embraced gender and sexual variance — no celebrities, no family members, no one. In a world of strict norms, any variance cannot be accounted for, and so those experiences of variance are rendered invisible. With no model, it was impossible for me to comprehend my own deviance from the set gender and sexual script, and so I ignored it. I erased those variances so that I could walk the path I knew, the cis and hetero one laid out by every dominant movie, book, word, in my purview.
But then, I began my freshman year at Cornell, and in an effort to make friends, I found the queer community. Within those queer spaces, for the first time, I was surrounded by individuals that reflected my own variances. Variances that hetero- and cisnormativity removed from my consciousness finally became visible to me. Attraction to all genders became possible. Not wanting to have sex became possible. Gender neutrality became possible. Anything at all became possible to me in these spaces without gender and sexual norms, or the structures, labels, and expectations they produce (’twas my initial reaction. I am not blind to the discrimination within Cornell’s queer community).
I felt liberated. I felt like I came into the person I had always been but whom I had beaten out of my mind. No, not the person I had beaten out of my mind, but rather the shapeless person that I had battered down to fit into one of my culture’s designated possibilities of being. I became queer — beyond categories, beyond labels, beyond expectations, beyond normative restrictions.
And yet, how quickly that joy of liberation transforms into rage when you consider the shackles that prevented you from achieving that liberation for 20 years of your life. When you remember that in spite of your internal liberation, those norms are still concretely shaping the reality around you; that it will not be easy to create a different path and to burst out of your gendered box — you will have to persistently resist the forces around you.
And so I rage. I rage because everyday I walk the streets of a culture that has and will continue to deny me. I rage because we all deserve better — we all deserve limitless possibilities of being. I will be loud and aggressive about my queer identity because I refuse to let my experiences be invisible anymore — invisible to myself, and to the people who are without a model for gender and sexual deviance. I will be seen so it is known that my being is possible.
In my rage, I demand an end to the rigidity of the world around me — I demand the queering of the world. Within queer spaces, you can be the shapeless being that existed before rigid labels and expectations hacked away at your being. By queering spaces we begin to recognize what is not possible under normative logics and make spaces for those beings — whether they vary by gender, sex, sexuality, race, class, ability, age, etc. Queering spaces will make my identity — all identities — possible, legitimate and valued. And I will demand that because there is space in this world for everyone.
The revolution will be feminist. It will be old. It will be hairy, black, differently-abled, genderfucked, left-handed. The revolution will be queer.