A sales assistant was trying to usher me out because the store had closed 10 minutes ago. I told her I was waiting for my partner who was using the washroom. So the sales assistant dashed over to the men’s washroom entrance and started calling out “Hello? Hello? The store is closed!” I blushed and shuffled over to the women’s washroom and softly called out to my lady partner. The sales assistant looked me up and down with that “Who are you kidding? Does your girlfriend know you’re gay?” look that I’ve become so accustomed to.
The sales assistant hadn’t even seen my partner, so it wasn’t that my partner was being misgendered as male, it’s that I was being read as gay. Sometimes I wonder how people know I’m queer. Then I look down at my outfit on any given day. It usually involves something like: pink leopard print necker-chief and matching pocket square, dangly fake pearl earring, tight shorts, bright pink socks and studded boots. Oh… that’s right, most straight people can’t differentiate between effeminate men and queer men. And mostly it’s only queer men who have the guts to express femininity in a culture like mine where femininity is punished and devalued. Patriarchy devalues both women AND femininity. I feel very sad for all those straight (and queer) pansy men who are in the closet about their love of lace, ruffles, pink and dangly earrings. For that matter, I also know a lot of women who choose not to present their feminine sides because of the harrassment they get from dudes. Ugh, more reasons why the patriarchy is not only horrible and violent, but incredibly boring as well. The world will be so much more sparkly, frilly and joyous when we throw down the racist, able-ist, colonial heteropatriarchy!
I love that people read me as gay/queer. I am queer, and that’s very important to me. I feel so grateful that I’m queer! Yet I find it incredibly awkward when they assume I have a boyfriend. They are often being really sweet by trying to affirm to me “hey, I can see you’re gay, and that’s fine by me!”. And I want to celebrate their open-mindedness without embarrassing them, so how do I respond? My “closet” looks quite different than some other queers I know. For me, coming out of the closet involves declaring to the world, “my boyfriend is a lady!”. Sometimes I say this directly and then they assume I’m straight, or more likely closeted, and look apologetic like they’ve just insulted or outed me, when in fact, I see being read as gay or queer as a compliment. Just as commonly, they get a betrayed look on their face and say something like “but you said you were gay?” to which I’m a little baffled because generally this is people I may have known for 2 minutes or less and probably only talked about the weather. Many people are so compelled by their stereotypes that it’s as if before I even open my mouth, a loud speaker announces “this is Sunny. He’s Gay. Gay…. Gay gay gAy GAY gaaaaaaaay”. Other times I just avoid using pronouns about my partner for as long as possible and let them continue with their assumptions that I have a boyfriend. But then I feel like fraud who’ll be discovered at any moment and also I want to honour and celebrate my wonderful lady partner.
My partner and I get stared at a lot in public. We sometimes make a game of trying to figure out why. Maybe we make each other look trans? My partner is not trans, but she is quite tall and has a somewhat deep voice for a cisgendered woman. And I’m a short dude with some of the tell-tale signs of a trans-man (at least to the trained eye). Maybe we’re just a sight because she’s so much taller than me. Maybe it’s because we’re often both wearing dazzling, sparkly outfits. Or possibly they’re worried about my partner- “that poor woman, is she the last one to know that her boyfriend is so clearly gay?”. I feel like yelling “she knows I’m gay and she’s hella gay too!” Well, we’re both queer with an affection for the word “gay”. We’re both attracted to queers of all genders: women, men, genderqueers, including both trans and non-trans people.
Whereas my queerness is hyper-visiblised, my partner’s queerness is often invisiblized because she’s a femme cisgendered woman and therefore doesn’t fit people’s stereotype of queer women as butch. She’s only read as queer when she’s being sweet with someone who’s being read as female. Or when she’s with me–because they’re reading me as gay, they’re reading her as something-other-than-straight.
I’m considering making a t-shirt or a pamphlet entitled: “My boyfriend is a lady and we’re both hella queer!”
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