Okay, y’all: I’m gonna do something new. I’ve never used National Coming Out Day as a vehicle for coming out before. I tend to be pretty out in my life all the time, so while I appreciate this day (which happens to be today) for raising awareness of and prompting conversations about gender and sexual minorities, I haven’t personally observed it differently from any other day. I had no plans to do anything special to mark today. Then a conversation with Pandaqueer changed my mind.
If anyone is unclear about who Pandaqueer is, just know that he’s fabulous. We discussed recent conversations he’d had about femmephobia as it is incorporated into notions of “visible queerness.” Not sure what I’m talking about? When searching for a queer community or queer friends, to whom do you look? What signs tip you off? What does it mean when you describe someone as “looking so gay”?
If your visions of queer people are exclusively
- thin, white, feminine men
- non-binary folks whose genders you can’t “figure out”
- androgynous and masculine women with “alternative lifestyle haircuts”
THEN YOU NEED TO FUCKING CHECK YOURSELF. Wake up and open your eyes.
Who gives me a hard time about coming out?
I feel way more pressure to come out and to defend my gender and sexual orientation around queer people than around straight ones. Non-homophobic straight peeps might not immediately read me as queer, but if/when I tell them, they usually just accept it without interrogating me. This is probably due in part to their unfamiliarity with the nuances of gender presentation and identity labels within LGBTQ+ communities. That figures. At least I don’t need to defend myself at length (we’re not going into homophobic douchebags here).
Queer people are a totally different story. Now, LGBTQ+ communities are many and varied, so these problems don’t occur in the same way across the board. I’m speaking directly from my experiences in queer communities I’ve lived in and visited.
I’m speaking about queer communities that prioritize masculinity over femininity–that value studs, butches, androgynous folks, and masculine trans* people, over femmes. I mean queer organizations in which masc-of-center folks are viewed as the best leaders, the most transgressive, powerful, and brave, the ones who really put themselves out there. These are the groups in which I have to prove my queerness again and again.
- If I talk to you for an hour about queer theory, will you take me seriously?
- If my relationships look queer to you, will you understand that I’m not confused?
- If I plan LGBTQ+ community events, will you get that I’m here to stay?
- If I explain myself and my choices to you constantly, will you accept that I didn’t put on heels and lipgloss accidentally?
- If I write enough of these blog posts, will you see that I’m not helpless or unaware of patriarchal oppression?
- If I teach you the word femmephobia, will you recognize your own behavior?
Let me be clear: there are some amazing, transgressive, powerful, brave masc-of-center queer folks and they should be celebrated. Gender non-conforming queer people (such as non-binary folks and masc-of-center women) face different challenges than those of us who are gender conforming (or perceived to be). The problem is when the attention paid to them eclipses everyone else. This happens particularly in the case of feminine-of-center and femme people. (That I feel I have to justify writing about femmes and explain that I haven’t forgotten about masculine queer people is indicative of the problem.)
If you think “queer” and never think femme, that’s a problem. Retrain your brain. If you think “queer” and every image that appears in your brain looks the same (think race, gender presentation, age, ability, body type, class, nationality), check yourself. Interrogate your assumptions.
Okay, Here We Go:
My name is Tamar and I am a pansexual, femme, cisgender woman. I am not “hiding” in femme. I’m here and I’m visible every day. If you don’t see me, that your problem.
Phew–now that that’s out of the way, have a lovely video.