Identity is Complicated

Writing about my own queerness is bizarre to me. Much of this is because I don’t like writing about myself (great for someone who has a blog, right?) and a lot of it is because I don’t know what to say. But I wanted to write something this month that explored myself too and this is an attempt to do that.

I’m queer, both sexuality and gender-wise. Non-binary. Femme. Leather. It took me a while to get to here though.

When I was younger, I thought that girls were pretty and nice and basically better than boys, but it never occurred to me that it was abnormal to think that way. I knew my friends liked boys and we talked about boys but I never thought about why we didn’t talk about girls. It just didn’t happen.

Eventually I learned the word bisexual and mentioned it once to a friend whose response boiled down to “cool”. I never came out.

It didn’t occur to me, is the thing. Perhaps this was a result of some privilege or that it wasn’t relevant unless I started dating a girl, or something else. I just never thought about mentioning it to my family.

I got interested in BDSM and ended up dating a trans man long-distance. Eventually, we moved to the same state and lived together for several years, but both of these things opened my eyes to a large portion of the world I’d never had access to. I learned a lot about gender and dysphoria and how my body related to his and vice versa. BDSM introduced me to the fluidity of sexuality, the expanse of what “sex” could really mean to someone. I became friends with a handful of queers in the BDSM circle in my city, mostly older than me.

Leather opened more doors for me too. The first convention I went to, my ex and I walked into one of the common areas and there was this beautiful femme kneeling on the ground in a bright pink skirt, cute top, makeup and hair, nails, the whole nine yards, with a boot in her lap as she polished it. It was mind-blowing. Iconically, Leather is masculine. It’s male sweat and dicks and beards and masculine energy. So seeing a high femme bootblacking at a Leather convention was revolutionary.

This became part of my sexuality too, although I didn’t begin bootblacking earnestly for a few years after that.

I moved from bisexual to pansexual for a long time. Gender became ??? and I just didn’t think about it. I spoke with a friend who lived in a similar gender space as me – AFAB, cis passing, but didn’t really feel like a woman but didn’t know what that meant. I was attracted to all genders and liked dressing a little masculine sometimes. Gender became a thing to try on, an energy to project to others, a space to play in.

I wondered if I had just internalized misogyny to the point that I was rejecting the idea of womanhood. That maybe my experiences as an AFAB person had just traumatized me enough that I no longer wanted to be seen as a woman. But I used femme to describe myself and wasn’t that the same as feminine? (No, it isn’t. Read this article for more info).

I don’t remember when I slid into non-binary but it felt welcoming and I decided it wasn’t a rejection of womanhood but acknowledgment I didn’t belong. I used she/her/they/them pronouns for a long time. It made it easy for me, I suppose. She/her pronouns meant I didn’t have to correct anyone. I didn’t have to deal with the open misgendering I had watched my ex go through multiple times.

Except I was. I was being misgendered despite being okay with she/her pronouns. I was lassoed into “ladies” and “women” and other phrases. I spilled over into they/them only pronouns and my femmeness slipped away the last few years (there were many other factors with this but it still happened). Being non-binary, being genderless, became my refuge.

My queerness has just gotten queerer over the years. More Leather, more non-binary, more everything. It seeps into every element of my life. Gender is very ??? again but that’s okay. I have chosen to use they/them pronouns in most of my circles (I am not out to biological family about my gender ID) and have started to push back on people. I’ve had moments of feeling erased because I am owned by a cis queer man rather than a visibly queer person (one day I will write about straight-passing and erasure cause, ugh). I’ve had moments of wishing I was a butch dyke instead of a femme enby and couldn’t be mistaken for straight. I’ve had moments of wondering if I was straight since I’ve only dated men.

It’s been a long wandering path. Things still trip me up. I get misgendered. I get erased. I’m lacking a thriving BDSM/Leather community at the moment. To be around people that I have to explain not just my gender but my sexuality, my dynamic to is frustrating at times. Folks in my Leather club didn’t need Leather explained to them. Queers understood how Leather wove into queerness and wove into dynamics and my every day. Giving pronouns wasn’t a second thought and people worked hard to get them right.

Sometimes I wish my queer identity wasn’t tied to community but I think that’s impossible. Even if I wasn’t into BDSM or Leather, queerness is inherently about belonging, about community on many levels. We gravitate towards each other, unknowingly even. Some of my close friends in high school came out to me after I shared I was dating a trans person. Queer, gay, bisexual, we all clung to each other without knowing it, lost teenagers bonding over things we couldn’t share. We knew we were different and that was enough.

I’m sure my queerness will continue to fluctuate and shift and change as I grow and learn and explore new things. It’s comfortable most of the time, a part of me in the same way my hair or collar is. And other times it’s frustrating and a language barrier and it’s easy to slip into wouldn’t it be easier to stay quiet?

But part of being queer is honesty and authenticity and Leather adds in integrity. Values anyone should have but were instilled in me via particular roads. So I’ll continue to be queer and non-binary and remember that the days I struggle are the days I fought to find answers for. And I have them.

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