By BAILEY DINEEN
Queer. To be queer is to be you in the most genuine, honest way. I’ve been basking in the joy that is queerness since I discovered it about two years ago. A whole new realm of possibilities for being and acting I felt had eluded me my whole life was suddenly open to me. While embracing queerness has allowed me to look to the future to discover whatever it is that I want to be, it also has allowed me to look to the past to realize what I have been all along — beneath the clothes, behind the actions, despite the façade.
As I discovered queerness and embraced it, it is as if I unleashed this flood of memories, sensations and thoughts from my past that I had repressed my whole life because they complicated my heterosexuality and cisgender-ness (my identification with the gender to which I was assigned at birth). For the first time, these memories became chances for me to understand myself as a naturally queer person, rather than existing as anomalies to be ashamed of and to silence.
Now, as I come in to my queerness, it is important that I return to those past experiences and read them and interpret them for what they were — manifestations of my queerness. To continue to ignore them would be to allow my future to be based on a heteronormative and cisnormative understanding of my past. And if I allow that to happen, I run the risk of continuing to deny myself freedom.
In terms of my gender and sexual identity, I identify as an asexual, polyromantic, gender neutral transwomyn. Coming to identify with those labels was definitely a process, and I am sure the labels I use will continue to evolve. I’m constantly trying to understand myself while resisting the pressures to identify with the heteronormativity and cisnormativity projected onto my body. It’s tough shit! Understanding myself will always be a work-in-progress, and I am totally content with that.
The reason why I appreciate this torrent of memories and sensations from the past so much is because a new memory is always popping up. And with each new reading of my past, I come to understand myself differently and may choose to identify with a new gender or sexuality.
To give you an example, most recently, I revisited one of my favorite memories from my childhood; but this time I read it differently. I’m really happy about what I’ve learned from it, so I’d like to share it with you. Humor me.
It’s summer camp in the year 2000, and seven-year-old me was hanging out on the playground, talking to this older boy. All of a sudden, though, I got pissed off. I had never remembered what he did, or why I got angry but for whatever reason I. Was. Pissed. So, I took my pink Barbie lunch box and I started beating this guy up. It was great. My counselors had to pull me away from him, and I put up this huge fit in which I refused to apologize and give in to the injustice of it all. Triumphant little Bailey walked away from the scene feeling like: “Fuck yeah, no one’s messing with me and my pink Barbie lunch box again.”
I love that memory. It says a lot about the parts of my personality I’ve always been very proud of. But, in discovering queerness, I am only just now reading it in a new way. During my most recent recollection of this memory, my new-found queer perspective finally exposed to me why I was so angry and why I chose to beat this kid up.
He was totally treating me like a girl! I’ve only recently learned to regard interactions from my childhood as gendering techniques. Like my family telling me that I shouldn’t get facial piercings because that’s not pretty (and I’m a woman and women are supposed to be pretty) or my mom getting me a sparkly bike with streamers for Christmas (because I was a girl and girls are supposed to like that). In this case, this boy was teasing me about my pigtails and high-pitched voice in a way that assumed that because of these characteristics, I was this dainty girl who could be pushed around.
And there was no way that was happening. No, I didn’t realize the gendering at the time, but I knew that this wasn’t how I wanted to be treated. Being treated as a dainty girl got so under my skin that I had to beat this kid up. That just wasn’t me. I have the words and understanding of gender to describe that now, but I guess, then, I just felt it. It was the truth. I just never bothered to remember.
So there you have it. I’ve been a hard femme genderqueer my whole life and I’m only now just recognizing it. Damn. I wish 20-year-old me and seven-year-old me could get together in our combat boots and denim vests to exchange lipsticks and stories of tearing down patriarchy. The playground would tremble.