Fannie Fierce

Communing with Queers

Filed By Fannie Fierce | May 16, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: advice column, bisexual, coming out of the closet, gay identity, identity politics, labels, queer

Dear Fannie,

I go to a notoriously queer friendly university yet I came into the queer scene late in the game. I am out as bisexual and am involved in the queerest classes as you take. I find the scene to be incredibly clicky and hard to glide into. To the queers, I am basically straight, and to the straights, I am queer. How do you smudge into a world where solid identity is so very important, yet an extreme social necessity.

Sincerely,
--Not Queer Enough

NQE,

First off, congrats on the coming out! Closets are for clothes, not queers. You're question resembles one I answered almost a year ago, where Queer & Proud, a lesbian who occasionally slept with men, was getting a lot of negative from her hetero-friends, trying to label her as bisexual. Well it's clear from your question, NQE that those same hypocritical sentiments can come from homos as well.

The way the Gay Liberation movement from the '60s panned out, despite great leaps and bounds in terms of civil rights and all that jazz, is a deeply marked boundary between homos and heteros. Another binary has been constructed so that one's sexuality is either directed exclusively towards one sex or the other.

I hope I don't have to go into the many flaws in that thought process (i.e. assumptions of only two sexes to be attracted to, assumptions that sexualities are fixed and unchanging, etc.), but while it's really easy to complain and call out the homo haters and the hating homos, maybe it's best to remember that homos are humans too, and make the same stupid ass mistakes as their straight mates.

NQE, while I commend you on your entrée into the world of queer-ociousness, you've got a lot of learning to do about queers... especially homo folks (as opposed to pansexual, bisexual, omnisexual, etc.). Homos are bitter, quick to judge, and slow to trust. Wanna know why? 'Cause we have a long history of getting burned by the heteropatriarchy.

You name it, we've seen it: from electro-shock therapy from our doctors, to exorcisms from our preachers. Granted, after so many years it's water under the bridge... but it's pretty turbulent water. So when the queers on campus see your non-exclusively-homo queer self bounding into the fray and wanting the respect and acceptance of the hard-line 'mos, there's naturally going to be some skepticism.

You see a social clique of nasty gay Plastics acting as gatekeepers to this bounding fields of queer elysian bliss. But from their point of view, they see some budding homo who's too afraid to jump in cold-turkey for the friends of Dorothy, and can claim some hetero privilege. They're skeptical and waiting for you to earn some queer credentials.

While that may not be true in your case, you can't blame them for erring on the side of caution; especially when that caution is informed by years of homo-for-now-hetero-when-it's-hard case studies. I won't deny that it's wrong of them to make you feel excluded just because you don't play by their rules. But this is something that's developed out of self-defense and self-preservation.

While I'm not trying to justify any mistreatment you may have had at their hands, I'm trying to put things into perspective. I absolutely support your right to go against the grain, even if it's the gay grain, and to enjoy your non-gender-specific libido. So if you want to know how to run in the homo crowd while maintaining your truly queered existence, I'd advise being patient and building relationships one by one.

If you want the queers to accept you, you've got to demonstrate that while you may enjoy a variety of partners, you're still an ally, an asset, and a friend.

Fiercely,
Fannie

send your questions to fannie@bilerico.com
Read more of Fannie's writing at www.belowthebelt.org


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first off, i'm curious to know about the "notoriously queer university" referred to. do tell! then i'd say that coalition building is what the so-called liberation movement is all about.

that said, i'd recommend anyone in an institution of higher learning to quickly either find or create a social environment that is both compatible and supportive, as well as educational. (if it helps, i extend a hand.)

i encourage you to look into your own particular situation a little more closely and seek out those working and loving along similar lines. i'm sure you don't have to be told that getting an education is about networking. othewise, what's the point?

if one doesn't already exist, would starting your own student organization be of interest as well as a help to you? there just might be a handful of others who are at least thinking your thoughts, and feeling similarly disenfranchised.

bottom line: we need you and your perspective, so please make it happen! and all the best of luck to you!!

If you want the queers to accept you, you've got to demonstrate that while you may enjoy a variety of partners, you're still an ally, an asset, and a friend.

Well said, Fannie. I've seen plenty of guys that don't mind getting their dick sucked by either gender, but sure as hell wouldn't be "supportive" of any gays other than holding the back of their head.

Wouldn't it be great if when we are born and the doctors assess the gender (M or F) and general health (APGAR score) of a new-born that they could administer a test (let's call it the Q-score) to determine just exactly how queer are and write it right there on the birth certificate next to Name, Mother's Maiden Name and Father's Name (Hell, some babies come into the world not even knowing that). It certainly would take all the painful guesswork out of growing up, coming out and living life in this increasingly complicated world.

Since the debate continues over nature vs. nurture (doesnt it?) among the scientific and psychiatric communities and since the Human Genome Project hasn't yet identified the allusive "gay gene" with any certainty, such a test isn't yet available. While we might welcome the certainty because it would take all the painful guess-work involved in the nature of sexual identity, our history has any number of lessons about how humans just love to use obvious differences between people to create fairly nasty institutions and practices--slavery, genocide and even bans on same-sex marriage just to name a few doozies.

I think we humans, by are very nature, are social creatures but that our sociability is built on circles of trust and mistrust--lovers, family, friends, clan, tribe, ethnic group, political party, nation, alliances, etc. Using the only major asset that we have--our minds--we protect the rather clumsy, weak and slow creatures that we are by creating ideas that build herds even among our own species. I'm sure this adaptability once served us well on the savanna to protect us from marauding tigers and to bring down woolly mammoths to sustain the tribe but now-a-days it's the same survival instinct that results in some pretty ugly outcomes like ethnic cleansing, hate crimes and on a micro level the kind of barriers that exist even on a "notoriously queer university." We humans--queers and straights alike--just naturally like to form groups and make judgments about who is "in" and who is "out" of our group.

I experienced this first hand when I finally came out of a 21-year marriage (straight) and began my own road to recovery from crystal meth addiction. I would attend local 12-step meetings that were largely straight as well as an occasional largely gay crystal meth anonymous meeting. I always felt uncomfortable talking about "the gay thing" at the straight meetings and felt embarrassed about being a "breeder" at the gay meetings. It took some time before I realized that 90 percent of that feeling (if not 100%) was just old garbage still floating around in my own head. I remember when I finally told my whole story at a "straight" meeting that a little old librarian came up to me after the meeting and confided, "Oh honey, I'm a lesbian and nobody gives a shit here." I had a similar experience at the "gay" meeting when an extremely hot (sorry, he just was) naval officer shared with me some of the same feelings he had about his son. Damn! Where were these people when I was sweating it out in my closet? Unfortunately, I imagine, they were sweating it out in their closets at the same time.

Ultimately, by its very nature, sexual identity is how YOU identify yourself not how society or the local tribe identifies you. Tribalism is fear-based and usually, in the night sweats of anxiety, a tribe will err on the side of exclusion before it recognizes overwhelming similarities instead of a handful of differences. In our quest for belonging we always hope to be recognized for how we are the same as the rest of the group but the group is always checking to see if there are any differences that might be hiding a weakness or a "trojan horse."

Sadly, the Queer Nation is often as balkanized as the former Yugoslavia--using sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV status, even clothing and cologne preferences at times to identify members in or out of the tribe. Bi-sexuality is a particularly difficult topic. I've had arguments with gays and straights alike about what it really means--are you bi- if you are in any way attracted to the same sex? or are you bi-if you are equally attracted to both sexes? Under the first definition there are a lot of bi-sexuals floating around the world; under the second definition there are fairly small number of sexual ambidextrous individuals, who I might add, could have a spectacular career in the porn industry.


I know on my own coming out journey I spent some time considering myself bi-sexual (in my mind) because I was the married father of two children but also found myself attracted to men. Ultimately I came to identify myself as gay with the help a therapist who put the question to me--"who do you fantasize, dream about, check out on the street more?" I used to do what I call The Metro Test. I would sit on the train and check out all the passengers in the car and found that 9 times out of 10 (maybe more) I was checking out the men. It didn't matter (though it was indicative) how much of what kind of sex I actually had. The question was what was my orientation--what direction was I pointing. Today I'm pretty confidently aimed due North and consider myself gay. In fact, do woman still ride the metro any more? I never see them. Hmmmmm.

I'm not trying to make light of what is a very serious painful concern of yours and a concern that we in the Queer Nation need to also take very seriously--we need to get over our internal tribalism to protect the Q-Nation.

My advice is to start with yourself and reflect on just how and in what way you identify with each tribe. Your sexual identity is YOURS to decide; not theirs. Then, as others have suggested, work on developing the trust of each group. Share the feelings you have that are similar to theirs rather than those that are different. Soon, I hope, you will find greater acceptance. The one thing that the Queer Nation has going for it--if it can overcome its own internecine battles--is that we are a nation of refugees. Our struggles to come out and come forward as different but special can make us a more welcoming and inclusive group if we don't give into narrow (and dare I say "straight" thinking).

To reverse-paraphrase Rousseau, (I think it was him) we are born straight (no marks on our birth certificate) but have to learn (sometimes through bitter experience) to be free (as queers). The straight world will usually see differences as a threat (somehow) long before they will understand them as something that adds to health, beauty and integrity of the species.

Now wasn't that an incredibly tribalistic statement.

Hmmmm.

Yeah, that's right on. I rememebr a lot of those queers who just couldn't accept that there were bi people around, as well as a few "boys who read too much fuko" who were so busy tearing down boundaries that they forgot that those boundaries provided some good for those who were on the outside as well as those on the inside. I remember a couple of straight boys who thought they were doing a world of good by telling me that I'm not gay....

Still, let's just have some understanding and focus on the most important thing - our support of one another. Great answer, Fannie!

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | May 18, 2008 10:02 AM

Dear Not Queer Enough,

The advantage of your company is wasted on those who do not value you. Your college years are brief. I know they seem like forever, but they are brief, and you will shortly discover that there is a huge world outside where you can be yourself free of any worries. Meanwhile, excel at your reason for being in college which is preparatory knowledge to carry you through life.

In other words, learn so that you can offer proof to the world that you can learn.

Enjoy sex when it comes to you on terms that preserve your self respect and, by all means, be the person you are comfortable being. Phony conformists are a dime a dozen. The people you may think are having a great time probably envy you.