Growing up in purity culture and then finding a home in patriarchy-smashing intersectional feminist spaces can leave one with a lot of cognitive dissonance.
Trying to live authentically in my queer identity has been a liberating experience, and I decided to share that experience with the communities I grew up in by coming out. Here are a few things I have to say.
This is a coming out post: I’m queer. What that looks like for me is that someone’s locations on the spectra of gender and sex don’t factor into whether I’m attracted to them: I’m interested in women, men, and non-binary folks.
Coming out is often seen as a necessary rite of passage for non-hetero or non-cis people in order for us to live full happy lives and legitimize our identities. It isn’t. Nevertheless, I do have some reasons for wanting to be out more broadly. Read the Q&A for more details…
Q: Why are you coming out?
A: There’s something nice about putting everything on the table and being transparent. Society is heteronormative, which means that opposite-sex attractions are seen as the default. People make assumptions about each other. I feel more fully seen – and hopefully accepted – when I can simply announce that the assumptions people may have made about me don’t correspond to my identity.
It’s also about visibility. I’m sure there are people in my world who don’t feel safe being out and don’t have the privilege of living in circumstances where they can inhabit their reality transparently. I want people to know they’re not alone. There’s also the element of wanting to be in solidarity with my trans friends and colleagues especially given the chaos happening now at U of T, and also wanting to increase pan/bi/etc. representation in the LGBTQ+ community.
I recognize that there’s a lot of privilege here. I’m fortunate enough to have communities where I study, worship, and exist that see me and validate me as I am. My experiences with homophobia have been almost negligible. (Shoutout to the waiter who threw some serious eyebrow sass at J. and I when we were out for dinner.) For countless of people in the LGBTQ+ community, things aren’t so simple. Racism, transmisogyny, colonial violence, ableism, and lots of other ‘ism’ factors make people’s lives more difficult to navigate and pose threats to LGBTQ+ folks that are truly about life or death.
Q: Is this a phase?
Q: Is this just about sex?
A: No. It’s much, much, much more about identity.
Q: Why ‘queer’ and not something more specific?
A: ‘Queer’ is an umbrella term that describes people who fall some place within or around the LGBTTIQQ2SAP community (the letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, intersex, queer, questioning, 2-Spirit, asexual, and pansexual). I prefer to use the umbrella term, because my precise location amidst all this is fluid, and right now there isn’t one label that fits me perfectly.
Q: Are you still a Christian?
A: It’s a coin toss on any given day whether I wake up as a Christian or an agnostic. I guess I’m both. In any case, I’m on a journey with dear friends at my church, many of whom are also gay/lesbian/queer.
And I believe that Jesus loves and affirms people who don’t conform to societal expectations around gender/sexual identity and expression – and that same-sex relationships, like any relationships, can be sacred spaces, so long as they have the elements we’d expect from any relationship: mutual respect, love, genuine concern for the other, communication, consent, etc. I’ve witnessed displays of radical, counter-cultural love in queer and intersectional feminist spaces in Toronto that have reminded me a lot of Jesus, and it’s been a stressful but beautiful process to come to terms with all of this.
Thanks for reading. And thanks to C.T. and J.B. for sharing your lovely company with me and helping me to navigate my first experiences with homophobia.
Photos: a San Diego co-operative bookstore that I wandered through with C., Toronto Pride 2016 with N. and R., and a Thanksgiving with queer and trans folks at my pastor’s farm.