how dare u call me heterophobic, i am 1/64th heterosexual on my mother’s side
Born This Way, and Reborn That Way: why are we, in both normative and queer cultures, so squeamish about phases?
In the LGB and sometimes T and Q world, there is a rhetoric of identity stasis: I’ve always been this way. I was born gay and I will always be gay. It’s an understandable reaction to the dismissive phrase so often lobbed at us from the normative world: it’s just a phase.
It’s just a phase and its companions you’ll grow out of it and I felt the same way when I was your age are hurtful because they dismiss our queer experiences as invalid. They equate impermanence with void – if you’re only gay when you’re 16, or when you’re at an all-girls school, or when you’re dating that “exception,” you’re not really gay. If you’re not gay forever, you’re not really gay. According to the normative world, your identity is not valid unless it is static.
We tend to retaliate with the born this way narrative, because an insistence on identity stasis trumps the it’s just a phase accusation. In order for our identities and experiences to be taken seriously by the dominant, hetero- and cis- normative culture, we say that we have always been, are currently, and will forever be this way. According to the normative world, if our identity changes, our identity as queer was a delusion – and by extension, we throw doubt onto the identities of everyone under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. If even one person in the LGBTQ+ community has an identity shift, the normative world views the entire LGBTQ+ community as shifty – as not credible and as not to be taken seriously. This speaks to the issue of tokenism, which is its own suitcase to be unpacked in a different essay.
In the LGB, and often T and Q world, we have internalized this identity stasis imperative. It’s like our queer solidarity is dependent upon our collective insistence that our identities are stable, because heaven forbid the normative world dismisses our experiences as phases. That’s why a self-identified lesbian gets so much shit from her own people for falling in love with a man (whether he’s cis or trans), and partly why so many people in both the queer and straight world are so uncomfortable with bisexuality. There’s a ridiculous murmur all around of If you switch teams, you’re betraying us. In seeking approval or at least recognition from the normative world, we totally buy in to the imperative of claiming a static identity. If we don’t claim a static (queer) identity, we are rejected from the queer community so we don’t taint them, so that they can continue being grudgingly acknowledged as extant by the normative world.
In the queer community, we have all of this anxiety about choosing the right identity label, as though whatever we choose for ourselves is going to be a permanent fixture for the rest of our lives. That’s one of the reasons why coming out is such a big stinkin’ deal – we’re expected to come out over and over again (to parents, families, friends, coworkers, doctors, neighbors) but only as one thing. Because if we announce the “wrong” label, we threaten our membership in the queer community as well as the queer community’s legitimacy in the eyes of the normative world. Plus, with the expectation that our identity is The One, our Forever Identity, it’s embarrassing to explain that “so actually I’m a pansexual genderqueer person now, not a butch lesbian,” because the queer and normative worlds both expect us to “get it right” the first time. Which is bullshit.
Here is my new manifesto.
Your experience of your identity right now is real and valid, regardless of what your experience of your identity was yesterday or tomorrow, the day you were born or the day you die. You are allowed to change. It is okay to unstick and restick your labels – that’s why they have adhesive backs, and come in a whole roll so you can write a new one each day if you want to! Just because you identify as a trans guy now, does not mean your experience of your childhood necessarily has to be an experience of boyhood, although it may be and for many people it is. Just because you were attracted to different people in high school than you are attracted to now does not mean that your experience in high school was a lie or deception. If it was right for you then, it is valid. If it is not right for you now, it is still a valid part of your past identity. You have permission to change.
Your current identity does not have to align seamlessly with your previous identities or future identities in order to be legitimate. If it changes dynamically, it remains valid. If it changes very little or not at all, it remains valid. Your identity, your experience, is yours.
- what i said: i wish we had more queer characters in media
- what that does not mean: i want gay characters to be the butt of jokes all the fucking time
The urbanization of Gay that started rolling after World War 2, while it has benefited us as Queers, has not really happened for, or specifically benefited Bisexuals in a comparable way. And no wonder! What’s the point of migrating to a “Gay City” if you are going to face the same stereotyping and rejection that you can get just as easily in Podunk? Why not just keep your head down and install new drapes in your closet?
If the rejection of Bisexuality by large elements in the Gay/Lesbian Community makes us look smaller by keeping us in the closet (and here I mean both the straight closet that we all start in and the gay closet where we give up and just identify as ‘Anything But Bisexual’), then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “Where’s the community to come out to? Nowhere. So I won’t come out, then, I can manage my feelings of threat better by remaining isolated.” Then along comes the next person, who can’t find the Bisexual Community either … Eponymous Fliponymous in Bisexual Identity Development, or, You’re Out Of Your Box (via bialogue-group)