Playing the Queer Card

I spend a lot of time with straight men. It's in my job description. I've experienced every pickup line, every little grope, every lean-in-too-close-and-breathe-on-my face. Granted, it's refreshing when I'm at work or even when I'm bumming around campus in street clothes and some immediately attractive guy surprises me with better conduct. I am not as jaded as some of the more experienced dancers; I don't think that all men are dirty pigs and that they're ultimately out for only one thing.

But. I've had to learn a lot of ways to fend off unwanted advances from men. My job, as I often tell my girlfriends, is really to reject a guy, make him like it, and furthermore make him pay me to continue rejecting him. It's a fine tightrope to walk.

I tell people all the time at work that I am bisexual. There, it works in my favor because of the prevalence of girl-on-girl porn and the lovely stereotype that any bisexual woman must want to have a threesome with the next available guy. I wear the label as something to make me attractive.

But outside of work I use my queerness in an entirely different way. When I dress myself in the morning, I half-consciously try to wear clothes that I know look a little gay. My pants are not quite as tight. I wear a bigger, thicker belt. I add a necktie randomly, or something with a subtle rainbow. I know that if I dress like a lesbian, if I present myself as queer, I'll be treated completely differently by straight men and everyone else.

Openly queer women are lucky in one sense. By broadcasting their sexual "deviance" to the world, they announce that they definitely are not a part of the heteronormative, sexist world that those who sleep with members of the opposite sex inhabit. If I cut all my hair off, I'm less likely to get stepped all over by a man in conversation. They assume I'll fight back because, of course, queer women are always strong and aggressive. If I have an eyebrow piercing, no man is going to come up to me and ask if I want him inside of me. He'll wait until I give some sign of interest because queer women aren't automatically into anyone who shows the slightest interest in them. If I wear combat boots, people who meet me are less likely to comment solely on my appearance and more likely to listen to what I say. Queer people don't care how they look, so their personality is more important.

Of course, I don't fit completely in the queer community. I do like sleeping with and having romantic relationships with men. I am not a lesbian. When I present myself as a Gay and then I tell some other lesbian that I'm actually bisexual, there's an immediate turning away. I am not really allowed to use a queer identity to protect myself, because according to many people I'm only queer half of the time.

This, of course, is confusing and really annoying. I am everything that I am all of the time, not straight half the time and gay half the time. I need some way to be, some public identity to claim for myself, that lets people know who I truly am. I wish I didn't have to hide in queerness to get away from little everyday sexisms. I wish I didn't have to play down my interest in men in order to participate in the gay community.

But then, I guess I'll have to carve out my own bisexual identity for myself.


Myca said...

I think that we, as a culture, are incredibly shitty at dealing with in-betweens.

Bisexuality is certainly one example, bi-raciality (That's a word, right?) is another.

A lot of the time, I try to understand things by analogy, and I think that the analogies here are interesting and useful. My fiancee is 1/4 Japanese and some fraction Mexican, but is able to pass for white if she chooses. She's had to think a lot about things like ... Is it 'fake' to put down that she's interracial when she looks mostly white? Is is ethical to claim white privilege when she's not, really? Isn't race just socially constructed anyhow? If yes to that last one, what would that tell us about sexuality?

For myself, as a cisgendered white male, my take on it is to respect self-identification whenever possible, but I do understand why someone who's fully Japanese or obviously lesbian might balk at what they see as an appropriation of their stuff.


On living, loving, learning, and fucking with the materials I've got at hand.

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