You know what’s frustrating?
Carrying around femininity like it’s branded on to my skin.
These days, I have been trying to avoid ‘typical’ binary identifiers. I no longer want to pour dresses over my skin, lift my breasts with a concoction of wire, elastic and lace, or paint my face like an oil spill.
I want to project how I feel inside onto the way I move, dress, look, talk, breathe. I speak about this a lot, and I think that’s because it’s something I am always aware of. I am on edge, ready to be jolted back into reality.
The days when I most feel like myself are the days when I am inhabiting my own ‘grey area’. My hair will be big, my buttons will shine, and my selfie game will be strong. I will be riding a wave of butch-queer happiness, all the way until I have to open my mouth.
I consider myself to be a polite person, and like any person with manners, I will say ‘Hello’ when I am introduced to someone.
(Sometimes that is substituted for ‘fuck off’ - depending on what the person has said).
I’m a sure a lot of queers will relate, when I speak about that moment of ‘vocal clarification’. That person who kept looking from your face, to your crotch, to your chest and back? As soon as you speak, you see a gleam in their eye. You can practically hear the ‘kaching’ as their internal judgement slots move into place, with each other screaming ‘IMPOSTER’. They always seem to look pleased with themselves. You were placed in front of them just so that they could discuss your gender, so they could go home feeling proud of themselves, for distinguishing between the ‘weird one’ and the normal kids.
There have been moments in coffee shops, where I have gone to speak, only for no sound to come out, so worried I suddenly am about ‘passing’. (Not that I even know what I would want to ‘pass’ as, but that’s another story).
My voice is not the only ‘gendered’ thing about me however. I have ‘riot grrl’ tattooed above my knees. I have the venus symbol on my ankle.
My body hair, which I will to spread like ivy across the mortar of my skin stays resolute and well, cute. My pit hair, in particular, seems to grow in little ovals. I am the owner of ‘kitten pits’, when I’d much rather just have pits.
I didn’t tend to notice this until I spoke to my token cis-het guy friend, and got him to flash me his. They were majestic. I wanted to shave him and use double-sided sticky-tape to fix myself.
Unlike some other people I know, I don’t feel the need to run away from my past and childhood. Personally, I am happy with the dress I wore to prom, my first pair of heels, the eyeliner I used to apply using watercolour pencils, my first thong, the time a lover told me I was the most beautiful girl he had seen. These things may make me cringe slightly when I recite them, but no more than anyone else would cringe whilst looking at photos of themselves, mid-puberty, looking greasy and unfulfilled. Despite all of the things that have happened, I am happy with my past self. Please don’t presume I am not. The next cishet to ask me if I was ‘born in the wrong body’ is going to get punched by a butch with sparkly purple fingernails.
And finally, for your amusement, my old self.
(the one that is super femme and not a shameful secret)
Recently, the two of us joined OKCupid- Jasper, in search of
love fuck, and I, in search of lolz. Also because filling out questions makes me feel special. Anyway, after several hours of hetero men rushing to my profile and sending me tediously visceral messages about how much they’d like to ‘taste me’, I ticked the option to hide straight users (I only wish real life had that option too) and went on to admire my queer online family.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years now, and at times I’ve dabbled in veganism. I don’t actually have any strong ethical reasons any more, I just get grossed out by the idea of eating flesh. But a startling number of fellow queers were listed as vegetarians and vegans, and I suddenly recalled a conversation I’d had a few years ago with my dad, who had been standing in the staff kitchen at the publishing company where he works, microwaving a mushroom risotto while his colleagues asked if his vegetarianism was his way of ‘coming out’. Last week, we attended a LGBT barbeque and laughed at the number of vegetarians and vegans (there were sh*tloads).
It’s a popular stereotype- the hemp-wearing, hairy-legged lesbian who washes her hair in a vat of rainwater and makes her own seitan. Jute bags and mooncups. It’s a stereotype favoured by dirty hets who think that there’s a causal relationship between dietary requirements and sexuality & gender identity- usually the kind of brutish hetero men who think that eating steak is an integral part of masculinity. I’ve wondered if the supposed correlation between queerness and veg*anism has something to do with the assumption that LGBT people are somehow ‘right-on’. There’s a scene in the first series of the BBCThree lesbian drama ‘Lip Service’ where blonde hottie Frankie chastises a naive hetero girl for assuming that gayness = moral fibre. I’ve met countless gay and queer assholes.
But the fact is that there are a lot of queer and LGBT vegetarians, and I’m one of them. The only correlation between my sexuality, genderqueerness and vegetarianism is the correlation imposed by others. But I’d like to hear from other queers. What have your experiences been with queerness and veg*anism?
knitting in the conservatory
drinking in the conservatory.
Busy day in the gendersquire ‘office’
The boy stands in front of the mirror
and pulls his shirt over his head
in a way he’s practiced
until he can do it like
A worm crawls across his chest
(this is not a metaphor)
a worm crawls across his chest inching
between mountains he wishes were molehills.
His chest is covered in fading bruises
his lover left with her mouth
because he asked her to
because he can bear the sight better
when there are signs she was there.
but can’t imagine them gone
so he stares at the yellow and purple mark
over his heart
until it is all he sees.
We stay up until 3am, sometimes early enough to hear the birds and have that grey dawn light filter through the blinds. We share photos and stories, not yet grubby with the stains of failed relationships.
We speak indirectly, unless we’ve been drinking wine.
I tell speak of others ‘like me’. Of their partners. How they do what we are yet to do. How those girls adjust - if they even need to.
‘I’ll have to come out, again’ she says,
‘when you’ve told your mother that you like girls and will be with girls, how do you then tell her you have a boyfriend? or a partner? When you’ve accepted yourself as a lesbian, how do you accept this attraction?’
I don’t have answers for her. I don’t have answers for myself either.
As 14 year old, the thought being able to call myself a lesbian enthralled me, it encompassed my every move. One day, I will have a girlfriend. I will be her girlfriend.
I will be able to reclaim my femininity.
The same femininity that was taken from me, before I even knew how to use it.
Alongside the rampant sexual frustration, little pubescent me dreamt of running my fingers through a girls hair, watching as she dusted her face with powders and blush, listening to the melodic inflictions of her voice as she said my name. Essentially, I was as much of a soppy romantic then as I am now.
The young me would do anything to be in the position I am - away from my childhood home, in a university town, a member of the LGBTQ society, with a semi-functioning gaydar.
And yet, here I am, the label of ‘lesbian’ tasting stale in my mouth. Because well, I’m not one.
I’m not a lesbian, I’m not gay, and I’m most certainly not straight.
I’m not a girl, I’m not a boy, and I’m most certainly not cis.
Trying to explain my gender identity to new people is tiring. My high, soft voice, hour glass figure and sloping shoulders ‘identify’ me before I have a chance to mention pronouns.
My (suspiciously square) bound chest, buzzed hair cut, and button-up shirts ‘categorise’ me before I could possibly tell you my ‘type’.
Recently, I was at a barbeque with a bunch of lesbians, gay guys, and bisexuals. Within minutes of arrival, I was ‘one of the lesbians’. A butch girl. My sexuality was presumed as quickly as my gender.
I feel androgynous on the inside, so in turn, I attempt to portray that in the way I look. This leads of people presuming I am a butch lesbian.
When I feel femme, people presume I am a cis het girl. Try as I might, I can never be the femme guy, I can never be androgynous.
Sexuality and gender are not one and the same.
But for me, my gender identity fucks with any encounters I may have, whether they are sexual or romantic.
The straight girl who thought I was a bi-guy. The girl who told me she’d ‘always wanted to fuck a girl’. Or the one who said that she wanted to know my ‘real name’, because she ‘doesn’t like nicknames’.
The ones who refuse to use gender-neutral pronouns. The ones who presume. Anyone and everyone who says that they will always see me as *insert binary here* and will never see me differently.
When I think about the word ‘lesbian’ now, I feel nostalgic, and jealous of it. I think about how much easier it would be, if I could just be her girlfriend. How much easier it would be if I didn’t have to tell each new person I met ‘no I am not this, yes I am that, no I am not that’.
Instead I tell them, ‘I’m queer. In every sense of the word. Call me they, call me butch. Call me your partner, your other, your sweetheart. Just don’t call me your girlfriend’.
Gendersquire is a new project, an online magazine (or blog) written by two mega-queers, who are exploring gender identity and everything surrounding it.
Gendersquire will feature articles, essays, creative work and stories. We are looking for contributors and submissions.
Queer stories bought to you by queer people.