Do I get to call myself a lesbian or am I queer because I identify with being genderqueer and date a non-binary human and I don’t rule out a possible attraction to men (Inc. trans/cis/a-gender whatever) further down the line of my life? Why is it that most of my bi friends don’t want to call themselves bi and try their hardest to present gay? Is it because loving a woman after having loved a man is comparatively easier or more rewarding? Is it less scary to love a woman? In a world of ever changing terms and fluid labels do we look for the easiest route to happiness, unburdened by labels or do we hide behind the slight nuances of terms? Were labels once a tool used to entice our oppressor into acceptance and now a comfort blanket to hide behind in our own little corner of the LGBTQ+? Why do gay men have far less infighting over sub-labels, and why are their circles and spaces nearly always exclusively cisgender gay men? Is lesbian culture still ‘a thing’ in our circles, relationships and friendships, with it becoming more and more queer as we speak? Are labels needed to pull together groups of humans that share experience so they don’t feel alone?
In discovering my queer/lesbian identity I must say compared to a lot of my friends, most of gay history and the stories shown in TV and film, my baby-gay adolescent period seemed to happen smoothly and pretty painlessly and so for that I will be forever so, so grateful. However what I found was that I felt the need to be and present like the typical dyke. I cut my hair and pierced my nose and yes, I love those parts of me and yes, that was the product of not feeling like I had to conform to what men liked and for the first time discovering what I want to look and present like. However the urge to then conform to what I thought other lesbians would find attractive was a strong factor.
My friends at school once called me a lesbian for being too handsy and touchy-feely with them. A quality in me which was squashed physically by this homophobic slur however that urge to connect with people with an open heart is the basis of my whole career (as an actor) and my personal life ethos. Looking back now I believe they had just locked on to a vibe that I didn’t even know I had at that point, I remember flinging back “Being a lesbian is not a bad thing” but still being upset. I grew up the rest of secondary school idolising the popular girls and the incredibly fit slim girls in my swimming team. Okay so my reaction to these girls I swam with and competed against was the catalyst to my mental health deterioration but also my sexual awakening. There was these swimming costumes that were in fashion at the time and they rose right up from the crotch over the hip, exposing almost, if not all, of your side hips – which basically formed one big arrow pointing to the start my gay fantasies. Trust me, this would spark up the gay fire of any young, innocent, potential-lesbian. The way they would tuck their hats and goggle straps up under the hip bit so they didn’t have to carry it, GOSH, it was a lot, okay, it was like, WOWEE. Here’s the big but, literally my big butt, I felt because my skin never quite stretched tight over my wobbly-bobbly flesh and bones, the same way the size-too-small high-hip swimming cosy fit the pretty girls, I couldn’t wear one. I was tall which made everything bigger, had larger hips, a wee puffy middle and the threat of love handles. (Let me tell you now, those love handles aren’t threatening anymore, they fully here, queer and making a damn home up on my hips. Heck. Muffin top? Nah, I have a cake shelf.) But I’ll explain that story elsewhere. Anyway back to the point, I thought I wanted to be them, when really I want to be in them ;). Later on the problem came when I want to be and do both. I didn’t want to be a lipstick lesbian along with all the stigma that holds for many lesbians, if I was going to be a lesbian I was going to have to be very obviously that – otherwise in a small town with a very small gay scene how else would I find and attract other gays?
Perhaps this was the side of me that wanted to prove that being a lesbian is not a bad thing, like I had said in school. To do that I was going to be the loudest, most visible, gay there is. While this is still a part of my mentality (in the way we must keep pushing and fighting for acknowledgment, acceptance and the right to love) it no longer governs, or at least I’m try not to let it, my personality and presentation.
After I moved away at 18, it started to become more than just bouncing between the stereotypes of lipstick-hyper femme lesbian and tomboyish dyke. It became less about my sexuality and more about gender. Some days I’d wake up and love and relish putting on my face, with some damn fine brows, contour to kill bitches and lashes that scraped my hair line. I’d wack out some figure hugging (I was also learning to love my body more at this point) dress, in beautiful prints and soft colours and flounce out the door with my hair flowing in light curls behind me. By lunch I hated it all. I felt not ugly but wrong, stiff and uncomfortable. Almost like a man in a dress. And another day, the opposite. I wanted to hide my chest and pull my hair up to show my shaved undercut, wear caps and harsh angles in blacks and grey. Until meeting my girlfriend, I wasn’t familiar with the term non-binary. From that point on, through their teachings and inspired by their pride, I slowly realised that I was too was genderqueer. I discovered that you don’t have to be one thing or anything, you can be you. I understood the reason I felt so uncomfortable, it was because I trying to push myself into one or the other. When I found I can be fluid and opened my mind to the possibility that even a dress and boobs can be masculine, I found comfort and I still am discovering the depths of that genderqueer realm now. My pronouns are not binding, call me what you want because each human has a unique understanding of what gender, masc and femme and everything in between, is. I know who I am, I am me. And that is all I need to know. I will encompass and love and stand for what I am, however nuanced and however blurry-grey the shade is, without ever trying to make that shade whiter or blacker again.
Fab. So then this brings me back to the question: Do I get to call myself a lesbian or am I queer because I identify with being genderqueer and date I a non-binary human and I don’t rule out a possible attraction to men (Inc. trans/cis/a-gender whatever) further down the line of my life? In this world of labels what in the heck do I call myself? What clubs am I invited to? What zines can I submit my poetry too?! I don’t want to renounce ‘lesbian’ because I do still feel such a strong connection to being lesbian. If I’m not does that mean I can’t be associated with the lesbian spaces and culture because that was and still is a huge part of my life, however queer also works for me as its useful to describe not just my sexuality but my gender.
I guess my conclusion to that question is: Who is to say I can’t be both at the same time. Fluid and changing and encompassing everything, all at once. If I am asked to label myself I’ll give myself space and permission to feel, at that exact moment, what I connect to the most – even if it changes in the next second or in the next 50 years’ time.
I am just human. I love who I love. I will fight for all and any human rights by being the loudest, proudest me I can be.