I had the not uncommon coming out experience for many kids of my generation:
Boy finds out in middle school that he likes boys. Boy represses all of that until he comes out in a flurry of dramatic over-the-top fabulousness in high school. Parents disapprove, cue angst. Shortly followed by reconciliation during college years where boy learns to be himself and not a stereotype... which can ironically be pretty stereotypical. A few years of dating men and living the good ol' gay life and I'm set for the classic narrative of boy meets boy, cue sunset... right?
Or so I thought. Until I fell... for a woman.
I met her in one of my Gender & Sexuality studies classes (the irony does not escape me). She was short, Asian, funny, smart, and had a great laugh. She was also the thing I thought I wasn't supposed to like: a woman. And on top of that, she was a lesbian!
Her andro-lesbian demeanor and her humble yet confident swagger had me weak in the knees. Sure straight women and gay men have had a long-running symbiotic relationship, which has often resulted in unrequited feelings. But gay men and lesbians? The only thing they have in common is that they both like people of the same gender, Romantic feelings aren't supposed come into play... or so common sense would dictate. But against all possible odds, me and my andro-lesbian got together, and had a brief but passionate relationship.
Being with her was unlike any of my past relationships with men. I didn't know what role to play, what I was supposed to do. With guys, I'm pretty comfortable being the pursued and not the pursuer. I know what to expect and how to act. But with her, all the rules went out the door. She was more man than I could ever be, but at the same time she was more woman than I could ever hope to emulate.
Many will be surprised to hear that our relationship was just about as far from heterosexual as you could get. I increasingly found myself thinking less as a man and her as a woman, but more of us as two people. We weren't gay, we weren't straight... we were queer.
While our relationship was short-lived and I went back to dating men after we had parted ways, I continued to hold onto the queer sense of self that I developed with her. However, when I would tell friends, gay and straight, about my queer relationship, I'd get baffled non-responses. No one knew what to do with me. Most wanted to claim that I was bi, but I firmly denied being so. I was not attracted to hetero- femme-performing women. All the women I found myself drawn to had the same androgynous confidence that she had.
And the more I lived in gay male culture, the more I felt removed from it. I became uncomfortable with the obsession with youth and beauty, the racialized hierarchy which positions Asian men on bottom (metaphorically and physically), the valuing of butch and "straight acting" gender over that of femme performance to name a few. I really began to see how mired in patriarchy gay men were.
I'm one of those new breed of non-hetero men and women who are hesitant to identify as gay or lesbian. Those are 20th century political and cultural identities for a 21st century sexual politic. What exactly does that mean? I'm not entirely sure... but I do know that I'm excited to find out.