I’m queer. You wouldn’t know that by looking at me, or so I’m told. Apparently there’s a “queer look” that I just don’t have, because all queers look the same or something? It might be the fact that I’m super femme that throws people off. I’ve faced femme invisibility for as long as I’ve occupied queer spaces. People seem to forget that gender identity and sexual orientation are two very different things and liking dresses and liking girls are not mutually exclusive. You can like both dresses and girls, I promise you that. I know from experience.
But the thing about being queer is I don’t just like girls. I like girls and I like boys and I like trans* folks and I like bois and I like studs. I like people so much that I don’t feel like my dating life should be limited to only one kind of person. And so it happened that I ended up married to a cis-dude. And if people didn’t think I was queer before, well now people really don’t think I’m queer. Being married to a man is a total mindfuck in terms of my queer identity– not so much what it means for me personally, but for what it means for me in society-at-large.
When I was doing the dating thing, I had a hard time meeting women. I have always been drawn more to women and gender non-conforming people than to cis-men but I usually ended up dating dudes because it was easier. I don’t mean easier in the sense that society treated me better (which yes, they did), but easier in the sense that men didn’t doubt whether or not I was really into them. I was perpetually known as the “bisexual” girl in queer spaces and was told time and again that I didn’t belong there. “Who brought the straight girl?” was a question often asked in my presence. I was also told that I’d end up with a guy anyway so people didn’t want to date me and risk having their heart broken by “yet another bi chick.” This was insulting and frustrating and I got sick of trying to defend myself and would end up dating men simply for the fact that they didn’t make me try to prove that I really did want to be dating them.
And so, while I was used to being fairly invisible before I got married (the world has always read me as a straight woman, regardless of how I identify), I wasn’t prepared for what would happen when I began seriously dating, then living with, and then marrying, a man. The world has completely erased my queer identity without my permission. When you ask me to describe myself, “queer” is a very important part of that description. It is a large part of my identity and something that I feel very connected to. But when I try to occupy queer spaces with my husband, we’re made to feel like we don’t belong there. It’s like the fact that we’re in a heterosexual partnership currently trumps everything else about us and invalidates any other part of our identity. And so queer spaces are now even more hostile to me than they were previously.
And in the rest of the world, I navigate it seamlessly. When my husband and I go out, the world sees us as a straight couple. My community does not see me; they do not know I am there. And there is a huge part of me that feels a ton of guilt about the fact that I am given this heterosexual privilege that I don’t feel that I deserve. When I dated women, I feared for my safety quite often when out in public. We were treated very differently than I am treated now, with my male partner. And sometimes I want to yell out that I am not straight and I wish people would stop treating me like I am. I feel guilty that the world accepts me and my relationship when so many of my friends do not have that luxury. And then I kind of hate myself for even complaining about the fact that I’m treated with respect by most people that encounter me because that’s such a privileged thing to complain about.
Then there’s the part of me that feels like I proved all of those women right– every lesbian-identified woman that said that I would end up with a man anyway can now say, “I told you so.” And I hate that. Because I feel like they see me as just another girl who was experimenting or dabbling in queerness, only to eventually settle down in a heterosexual relationship. I feel like just another cliche. I feel like I let the queer community down in some way. But the truth of the matter is, I’m just as queer as I was when I was dating other queer people. I married my husband because he’s the most amazing person I’ve ever met– his genitalia never came into play when I made the decision to be with him.
And so I’m stuck in this limbo. I’m here and I’m queer and nobody knows it. I don’t need to shout it from the rooftops, but it also feels like no one truly sees me for who I am because they’re missing such a huge part of who I am.