‘So, who wears the pants in the relationship?’
It’s a question I’ve heard more than once and one that always makes me cringe. The misogyny of it, the homophobia of it. People so stubbornly cling to their distorted views of heteronormativity, that two women dating still must fit the so-called gender binary.
It shows how far there still is to go when people code queer couples as straight.
You see, I’m a femme queer woman and I’m attracted to other femme and androgynous women.
When we step out in our dresses and bold lipsticks, there are no pants involved, and that’s kind of the point. (Not that I’m against a reliable pair of jeans, because I’m definitely not.)
Being straight-passing is a privilege
Identifying and expressing myself as femme, a lot of people assume I’m straight. There are definitely privileges to this. As a cis white woman, I don’t have to face the discrimination and harassment people of color and non-cis people in the community do.
This is the most important thing to remember, but I find myself constantly feeling like I have to prove I belong here.
It gets exhausting.
I identify as queer and bisexual. When I’m with a man (in any capacity, really), it’s easy for people to erase my identity and simply assume I’m heterosexual. While I realize this is more of a systemic societal problem — positing heterosexuality as the default — it doesn’t make it any less irritating.
Often there are conversations that one’s sexuality should be private and not ‘flaunted’. But this has never made sense to me. First, because of the double standard with straight people getting to be as open as they want. Second, it assumes sexuality is something of which to be ashamed. (I do understand, in certain circumstances, keeping your sexuality private is a form of self-preservation for your own safety.)
It’s the same as politics. It’s seen as being polite, but since when did being polite mean you have to hide your authentic self? Politeness and truth aren’t mutually exclusive.
Being queer and femme is just as much of my identity as being a graduate student, loving dogs, and getting sorted into Gryffindor. Why should I get to proudly proclaim these as part of who am I but not the other?
Breaking out of the mold
Perhaps the biggest struggle is learning not to blame myself. There’s an element of self-persecution that happens when you struggle to fit in. It creeps up on you like a malevolent black cloud, twisting and wrapping itself around you, until suddenly you’re asking: Am I the problem?
It’s all at once the pressure of society — built upon centuries-old foundations and contorted views of normalcy — and the thoughts we ourselves internalize.
It’s understood now more than ever that sexuality and gender expression are fluid. I know this, I can apply it to others, but it’s still difficult to allow myself the same leeway. Still I pressure myself to do more to belong to the community, to feel like I deserve to be here, simply because I don’t always fit in with my own deep-rooted standards.
Biphobia makes it worse. I’ve witnessed it first-hand from multiple communities, including LGBTQ people. The stereotypes of bisexual people are alive and well. I’m not going to get into them because, frankly, they should disappear forever. But it certainly doesn’t help that being bisexual can often make one feel like they don’t belong anywhere.
There’s no ‘right’ way to be queer
It’s not like we have to make it through an obstacle course, pass a test, and then we get our queer card.
I like myself. My bag full of lipsticks (my favorite ones are bold colors, like classic reds, Barbie pinks, and lavenders) is something I cherish as part of who I am. I like flitting between dresses and boots and jeans with the cuffs rolled up. I like adoring Disney princesses, even as people decry them not being feminist.
So why isn’t me enough?
It’s an age-old question, one that has just as much to do with me as society itself.
The famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote has a lot of truth to it: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.’
I am enough, and I have to keep reminding myself of that. But it’s also long past time for society — the LGBTQ community and beyond — to dismantle some of its outdated ideas. If you’re queer, whatever that means to you and how you identify, you belong here. There are no qualifications. And it would do good for us to remember that, and welcome everyone (including ourselves) with open arms.