You’re blatantly gay.
Anyone heard this little gem before? Because I got it a lot growing up.
My uneasy relationship with masculinity was a likely cause. I’ve never ticked off many of the acceptable masc traits: I chose books over sports; I’ve a longstanding penchant for weekends spent baking. I’ve naturally had many meaningful friendships with girls. And my vaguely camp manner’s had me compared to Stephen Fry more than once (‘course, I’ve always taken this comparison for what it is – the ultimate life validation.)
But outward behaviour has little to do with sexuality. I’ve met very few people who’ve authentically satisfied all of the traditional masculine or feminine roles – roles which are themselves intrinsically contradictory. Historically determined and arbitrary. The course of binary genders never did run smooth.
What was more telling, probably, was my resistance to being open about sexuality. And I’m not just talking about the closet, here – I’ve always experienced a profound discomfort when it came to sharing any sexual aspect of myself. With anyone.
l went through school and university without experiencing a serious relationship. Which, in our sexual society, is a massive queer question mark over my identity. To those custodians of normative behaviour, by which I mean, every fucking person who’s never interrogated what sexuality and gender actually mean, I was a problem. An enigma. Outside of the norm.
What frustrated me the most was knowing that I didn’t fit others’ expectations. Bolder friends would suggest, in conversation, that they ‘knew I was gay.’
When I didn’t want to kiss a female friend at midnight one New Year’s Eve, a male friend labelled me as ‘blatantly gay.’
Now, finding myself in a place where I’m able to share and discuss my queer identity more widely, I’ve discovered how others have speculated about me – a truth I’d tried to ignore as I resisted expectations to be openly sexual. Hearing these speculations has made me feel intensely vulnerable. There’s something horribly intimate when someone else reads your identity – especially what you struggled to shield or hide.
The pattern, here, is that others felt they were entitled to know me. Based on a cursory assessment of my performance of gender and my sexual history, arrogant claims were made of my identity.
In a sexual society, there’s a pressure on us to define our sexuality, and to perform it. For some, it’s a double-bind: you’re compulsed to accept a sexuality, providing that it’s safely heterosexual.
The injustice is that for those who experience queer desire – or identify as asexual – society becomes obsessed. What’s routinely erased or denigrated becomes bizarrely fetishized. The queer other is read and defined from the powerful position of the normal. The faultlines of queerness, present in us all, are projected onto a target. Their agency – like mine, in previous settings – is shut down.
I’ve been extremely lucky that, when I’ve discussed my non-normative sexuality, the evolution of my identity and my choices have all been respected on my own terms. I haven’t yet had a condescending ‘I knew you were X’ – but, as I continue to grow, I’m sure I will. But I’ll be ready.
Sexuality belongs to the individual alone. Not gender, nor any aspect of our identity, owes anything to another’s approval. I can’t bear the arrogance of defining someone else. I’m repulsed by the superiority of pre-cast judgements.
My sexuality is not your property. You do not get to define me.