Sent to you by moya via Google Reader:
No, actually, keep Sir. I'm flattered by it. It means I'm doing something right.
Now what that "something" is can range from day to day. Like many of us, for the past five years or so, I've been coming to the conclusion of just what my gender identity is. I've equated the process to writing a poem, balling it up, throwing it on the floor and starting new again. I occasionally wore short skirts and booty shorts for three of those five, and then realized at no given time did I want to give off "the wrong idea" (heaven forbid anyone think I'm femme!). Last year, I finally landed on the perfect words to describe me: black queer womandrogynous. I know that's a mouthful, so instead I truncated it to androqueer. The reason I choose to identify as this rather than genderqueer is the fact that I still greatly identify with my woman-ness, but understand and embrace the impact of my masculinity with my identity as a woman.
I've been in a lot of conversations lately with black lesbians who don't identify as queer, and don't understand what it means. Granted, they're a bit older than those of us in the 20-29yr old range, or regionally in places where queer isn't a prominent identity. Some still see it as a derogatory word, others think lesbian suits them just well, and remember what it was like having to fight for that identity alone. Who am I to deny them of that, or completely dismiss their herstory? Don't get me wrong, I am EVER so thankful to be in a city where I can completely unleash my queerness, and be around like-minded folks, but sometimes I feel like we forget that there's a world of us who aren't included in this queertopia, and don't necessarily want to be. I explained to them that "Queer is the grey", the area of run-on sentences about our identities, the land of "I wear what I want and date who I date", the absence of norms. It knocked the wind out of my chest getting to a solid definition, because I realize that I'm not used to explaining it. One of the women even said, "Oh wow, I never thought about it as being that complex…I'm just a lesbian, you know what that means." Understandable.
How did I get here? Well, for one, growing up in B-more, I felt like I was viewed as too butch to be femme, and too "bitch" to be butch/dom/AG. Hence, I never dated anyone. I was never "on the scene" – all of my best friends were straight. Sure, I wore the bagg(ier) pants, big tees, but something was off. I didn't feel hood enough. I was too much of a weirdo to be accepted, to be down. Then I get to Hampshire College, and EVERYBODY'S queer! There's queer theory, queer community alliance, queers on the lawn, queers dating queers, no restriction of identity (butch/butch, femme/femme, genderqueer, etc). I was extremely overwhelmed. Yet felt completely at home. I realized that my problem wasn't that I wasn't hood enough. I was, in fact, a weirdo.
I'm here. I'm queer. I'm getting used to it.
After a while though, everyone kept asking me what my pronouns were, and I'd say "she". Maybe it's just my fears, but the majority of folks used "they", and I feared that my "she" was too normal. One of my friends said to me, "you seem more genderqueer than anything." I edited my SGO box on Facebook immediately from "queer" to "genderqueer". But, much like heterosexuals making blank assumptions about our identity, I started feeling like some of my friends were doing the same, based on theirs. No bullshit, it really felt like we began one-upping each other in terms of who's the queerest of them all. This continued beyond Hampshire, and into the community of queers that I exist in. I love us because we accept who we are no matter what, and are some of the most encouraging and compassionate people I've ever met, who are very careful about the terms we use, and the assumptions we make. However, I can't help but feeling like sometimes, I don't feel fully comfortable saying I identify as a woman because it doesn't legitimize my queerness enough.
I know this isn't true. But I cannot deny the certain looks I get when I say "she" is my pronoun, or how I tell people "I'm a lesbian" in a circle of heteros that don't understand queer, and sometimes I just don't feel like explaining it to them. I don't think this makes me ANY less queer than who I say I am. I've come to the conclusion that we ALL have a right to identify ourselves based on who we truly feel we are. And because of this, I know that I'm a black woman. I stand firm in this identity because of my mother, because of my grandmother, because of the herstories of black women before me who fought to be seen as human, caring, powerful, anything but savage, hypersexual, and disposable. I also know that my definition of womanhood is an attempt to expand all of our perceptions of what womanhood is – it is not monolithic. I can have a masculine gender presentation, but not have to feel like adapting a masculine role in a relationship, or (for me at least) "put-on" masculine behaviors in order to be validated. I'm ya dude, ya bruh, ya boi, and ya girl, too. I'm at peace with them all. In addition, I keep rolling out these drag king AND queen alter-egos that are just itching to burst at the seams onstage. (Stay tuned.)
I've worked this all out in my head, and have finally come to these solid conclusions. Who knows, they may change in another five years (gender is fluid!!) but as for now, I embrace where I am.
But God knows, I just wanna slap the next cashier that calls me "ma'am".