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My Queer History and My Queer Dream

holsn39's picture

My Queer History and My Queer Dream

The Beginning:

In my junior year of high school my friend Chris convinced me to come to a Gay Strait Alliance meeting because they wanted to bring in more support from the greater community. My best friend had recently come out and my social circle at the time was accepting and inclusive of the queer community so it felt natural to come along and identify myself as an ally.  The meeting started with introductions where we all specified how we wanted to be identified, male female or neutral pronouns, and most people shared their sexual orientation. I realized as I was sitting in the circle waiting for my turn that I had never been asked how I chose to identify my gender and sexuality before in my life, it was always assumed since I never spoke out otherwise. My turn quickly approached and I instinctively said I was a strait female.  At first it felt good to have identified myself in this group because my identity wasn’t a given. I thought of my orientation and gender as something that reflected me instead of the body I was born into and social expectations of gender. But soon after this feeling of relief I panicked, I realized that maybe if my sexuality (gender came later) wasn’t a given to all of these people sitting around me than it shouldn’t be a given to me. After this single experience in this queer focused support group I began to experiment with my sexual identity by realizing that I really didn’t know what my sexual orientation was and there was no way for me to know without a wider range of experience. My experimentation at this point was purely mental; I mostly still identified as strait, but started playing with the idea of being open and not limiting myself.  At this point I was beginning to see sexuality as a spectrum, something that didn’t have to be so obvious and defining. I wasn’t questioning my gender at this point in my life but I was exposed to activism for gender equality but within the gender binary constraints.


From this point on I became closer to the queer community and allies and became more exposed to gender variance.  It had always been something I was aware of but never tried to understand.  As I became closer to the LGBT community socially I was exposed to a much wider range of gender identity that I wanted to comprehend.  I met people that were transgender, gender neutral, feminists, etc, in person and in pop culture. I read books like Middlesex ( Jeffrey Eugenides), anthropology essay, Fingersmith (Sarah Waters), and saw films like Boys Don’t Cry, the L word.  The realm of possibilities of identity expanded greatly from becoming a part of a diverse open community.  This new outlook on gender brought me to be more reflective on my gender and the implications of being “female.”  I was in a place where I needed new female role models, and was looking for a different image of ‘feminine’ that offered more freedom and variance. I began to idolize feminists like Bitch, Ani Di Franco, Kimya Dawson and pop culture that had meaning and implication in my life.  For the first time I was seeing that gender inequalities went beyond what my mother taught me growing up, that women are sexualized and objectified. I was seeing reinforcements of gender roles and images that I didn’t agree with everywhere and quickly being overwhelmed with the confusion and frustration from the process of coming to terms with this new perspective. What inspired me to take these ideas seriously was the effect they had on my own life and the people around me. Feminism was an act of self-protection and a resistance of negative connotations (mental or physical) of the female.  I wanted to be an activist for myself, which was a new idea, something I never realized I needed.  After reading books like “Cunt: a Declaration of Independence”, by Inga Muscio, I learned that we can be proactive, that awareness and intention are powerful means of personal and social change.

Fitting Everything Together:

This past spring I traveled with my best friend to India where we experienced a whole meaning of gender and gender roles. I was constantly consciously and subconsciously studying similarities and differences in Indian and American gender roles, gender variance, expression of sexuality, and where I fit in the structure.  This experience affected me greatly because I began to see clearly from first hand experience how gender is somewhat of an arbitrary concept.  The perspective on gender as a construct of our minds influenced from culture and society was slowly becoming evident.  In India I witnesses a different kind of sexism that I wasn't used to seeing here and I needed to find some way of fitting this information together with this new idea of "socially constructed gender."  I had questions, and it wasn't until I started taking this class (Interdisciplinary gender and sexuality @ Bryn Mawr) that my questions were being answered. So now I am learning how to think about gender in another way, to question its significance and usefulness.  It was easier for me to understand and embrace sexuality as something fluid than it has been to think of gender in this way.  It's been a challenge trying to internalize all the information I've taken in about the fluidity of gender and how consequential it is.  I am a very strong believer in self-care and awareness so I feel like I have a responsibility to myself and to my community to look into how gender identity is useful and/or harmful. After surprising myself from having blindly accepted a given sexual orientation before coming out, I learned that by not attempting discernment towards every aspect of my identity I was impairing myself.  Therefore, I want to learn how to apply new perspectives on gender to my own life.  

Dreaming a GenSex Course:

In the remainder of our class this semester there are an infinite number of topics I would love to explore and discuss so designing a prototype for the course has been a challenge.  After spending a long time researching online and thinking hard about my personal goals I found a common thread of interest, queerness. What does it mean to be queer? Studying subjects that I can apply to my own life are generally what I find most stimulating and worth while.  I think it would be valuable to look at gender in our own lives and in the rest of the world as ask ourselves, are we setting ourselves back? Or are we moving forward? To answer these questions there are many approaches one could take.  To begin examining the usefulness and harmfulness of gender we could look back in history and explore how it has served a purpose in the past. I don't think we would need to spend much time looking at this history because we already know a lot of it, it is our history, but it's important to not forget the significance of gender in our pasts.  When looking at the past and the present we can read narratives and/or watch films that portray a diverse perspective of people's experience with gender and how it has affected their lives.  We could learn from people who have chose their gender (or lack of) and how that experience has been positive and negative and for what reasons.  Encouraging self-reflection and experimentation can also a useful learning experience.  Can everyone be queer?  I think everyone could benefit from experimenting with queer identity.  This is a similar idea as with sexuality.  I never thought twice about my sexual orientation until I was asked to identify it, then I began to consider being a non-conformist and began to see my sexual orientation as undefined because I had never taken the time to define it myself.  I also haven't taken the time to define myself in terms of gender queerness.  If we're looking to reconceptualize gender as something fluid then it would be ignorant to avoid reconsidering our own gender identities.  
I want to be aware, be active, and learn about other active aware people in the world.  I think it could be really great to spend some time looking into what's going on in the world politically on the subject of gender and sexuality.  There are many global movements addressing gay rights, transphobia, gender identity, radical queerness, etc., all with unique agendas and approaches to their focus issues.  If we want our classroom to be in the for-front of gender and sexuality studies than we need to be aware of discourses that are going on in the rest of the world, bring in more perspectives from outside of the classroom.  It is really fascinating to look at these different movements and see where they intersect and where they clash. Sources for this kind of information are very diverse and range from news articles, history essays, online blogs, zines, progressive media (and other media), and multi-media expression (like narratives, film, novels like the sandman, art...). Our class can experiment with creating multi-media expression as well. I think it could be really interesting to get to work closely with some other people in the class (maybe one other person, maybe two, three) on some kind of creative project about gender and sexuality that reflects our personal interests and our community. Lets rewrite our story of gender and sexuality in a way that effectively applies to our lives and the lives of everyone else in our communities. Lets not conform to homogeneity, are we already being non-conformists? Is it socially possible to be a non-conformist?

I want to point out that when I use the word "activist" this includes action related to ourselves. By actively changing yourself you are changing the world, because we are the world.  Being a non-conformist doesn't mean you have to convince other people to be a non-conformist. The first step (and what I see as the most important step) is living with the intention to not compromise your individuality and contribution to diversity, and not to accept efforts/influences that might encourage this compromise. We are all entitled to revolt, despite what anyone or any system tries to say, and the extent at which every individual wishes to take this rebellion is up to them.

 Overturn Normality

Listen to this song: Nothing, by The BLOW.