We’ve all been there, right? Cat-called from a car on the street, gawked at in public, or sexualized by complete strangers. Objectification is an ongoing problem especially for women and LGBTQIA people. We are constantly “other-ed” into sexual and physical fantasies instead of being seen, at least immediately, as human beings. We’ve all been there.. or have we? Do you know what it feels like to be harassed, even in the seemingly friendliest-of-situations?
I express my gender in a fairly unique way. I’m very feminine. I wear make up, heels, and use handbags. I cherish the jewelry I’ve collected over years and wear pieces I’ve inherited from my grandmothers proudly. I sit at my mirror and apply bronzer and rouge as if I’m creating a painting: an expressive experience. I’m not attempting to transform into a character; I’m being Will. It’s not an act or a game. It’s not a performance. This is me. I feel most myself when I am this way. I am artistic, creative, complex. There are other people like me (specifically within the ‘T’ and ‘Q’ spectrum of ‘LGBTQIA’) but society has done little to recognize our legitimacy so far. Being genderqueer/gender non-conforming isn’t so complicated to express, but it sure can be difficult to navigate in rigid heteronormative structures, especially dating.
I’ve been single for the past few years, which has certainly allowed me to grow as an individual person and discover my wants and needs. And while being single has it’s perks, I hope for a long-term relationship. In a way, I desire a very heteronormative future when it comes to love. I’d like to get married one day and have children. This isn’t always so for many LGBTQIA people. The concept of marriage does not appeal to a lot of people who view the institution as oppressive or not fully encompassing the sexual and emotional human experience. I understand and stand up for my queer brethren who express love and sexuality outside of these institutions, but I still want this for myself. The problem is that I’m not taken seriously.
Living my life at a Derby party
Sometimes it’s by a stranger in passing. They’ll say “you look gorgeous!” and then quickly recant their words and offer a new statement, “You’re so handsome!”… I’m wearing a jumpsuit and lipstick. Do you really think I look handsome? Sometimes it’s a text from a potential date “Well, I prefer you with facial hair.” Well, I don’t. My expression is rarely recognized as authentic. I’m seen as a spectacle, even by friends. Constantly being referred to as fabulous, fierce, “out there”. These words can be compliments but more often than not inform me that I am not seen as a real person but as an object for entertainment. My body is real. My soul is real. I’m a human with ideas, hopes, and dreams. I’m not an accessory to glamorize your life or a potential hookup to fulfill some strange fetish you have.
I am attracted to men – er – to masculinity. Cisnormative? Yes, I know. But I cannot help that’s what I want. I can’t say that this attraction is reciprocated in a way beneficial to me or my circumstance. Gay men are usually just as confused by me as straight men are. I’ve dated gay men who express their desire for me to behave and present myself in a more masculine way (don’t wear make up, wear men’s clothes, don’t shave, etc.) and these conversations oppress me. They confine me to a cage where I am set to play a role not made for me. Then on the flip side there are straight men, many of whom have expressed their desire, but cannot seem to grasp the fact that they find me attractive. This is where I am fetishized the most. I do not want to be anyone’s weekend secret or evening fantasy. I want to be a partner.
Life as queer is difficult to navigate, not because of our identities and expressions, but because of the limitations set on us by other people. So before addressing someone who doesn’t fit within the gender binary or a heteronormative role, remind yourself that they are valid just as you are. See us as people. We breathe and love and feel just like you do. And we deserve love and respect, just as you do.
ab imo pectore,