Queer roots and ill-fitting boxes
Those personality tests that ask you to rate and probe and probe, the ones at are in essence horoscopes without the mystical cosmic rays, usually make me cringe. In part because they are so easy to gin, but also on the answers we tend to hang so much. For me, the ones that always get me are the self-reflexive ones that somehow always leave off the most essential elements, such as rejection, loss, loneliness, and the most basic human desires. Normally I would run in opposite direction when tasked with academic or work-place self-reflection, as usually I am very reflexive, but one the occasions I am asked to I find it hard to really answer, as what are those test really looking for?
In many respects, much like horoscopes, they are about trying to pigeonhole you into a whole lot of assumptions, that somehow the 12 or 20 or more outcomes are somehow indicative of the human race, or at least the western white perception of humanity. Boxes are useful in as much as you can tribe up and say this is us, yet all they really serve is to create circles where the Venn overlap is contested space. Indeed, when it comes to fears and self-knowledge those same boxes and circles as good at holding us back as they are as setting us free.
Politics, gender, sexuality, religion, fashion, music, cars, games, the list is boundless. Each is a circle, a box, through which we are judged and made to feel superior or inferior to someone else. Yes, I like this, and yes I will judge you for liking something else. Fears act the same way, things holding us back and in the silence people will judge you, because, why would they not? Isn’t that what we are taught from knee high that quirks and fears and differences are a bad thing?
Society views it as an act of courage owing up to fears, that it is somehow brave that you take ownership of your perceived weirdness and express it in public. Each of us is a bundle of our own likes, dislikes, fears, and personal motivations, often all of them driving each onwards. Intersectionality helps identify and accept this as part of who we are, knowing full well that even the deepest dive into ourselves can only produce a glimmer of our totality, for our lived experiences are as much in conjunction with the world as they are with our own inner monologues.
This understanding is hard to grasp, especially as a researcher, for what other way do we have to measure society than to place people into easy boxes through which to assess and monitor? It is fair to assume that the social Venn will overlap to a great or lesser degree, yet step outside the easy solutions and you have complex messy people who are a great bundle of being that is hard to tease apart.
This matters when discussing gender and sexuality, for human societies are very fund of lumping the gays and the trans and the lesbians into one rainbow swirled bucket without really seeing all the shades and the humanity contained within. Being queer is as much a personal journey as it is connecting with the community, with some finding peace and ease of life while others are confronted with brutally cut short experiences for nothing more than being themselves. Being self-reflexive is a common trait for queer folk, for while we do measure ourselves against other queers and the straights, often there are few people like us against which we can place ourselves in an adequate box.
By boxing ourselves in we find comfort, especially when trying to make connections, yet in translating who we are into the potentially narrow confines of those boxes we have to park our fears, tastes, and aspirations simply to fit into the safe spaces that the wider cis/het world allows us to have. Humanity is so much more than cis/het, yet when queer folk come together it is often in the dark with alcohol in a sexualised atmosphere. Within the confines of those spaces the world is narrowly defines, and whatever self-identity we may carve for ourselves is lost in the lasers cutting through smoke.
Queerness is as much exploring beyond the gate-kept walls of clubs, bars, and apps as it is who you sleep with. Deep roots are hard to put down without the quite conversations and slow moments, yet those are impossible in the throbbing heat of the night. Unless quiet is fostered all that is left is the used condom and ghosted text message. Those self-selecting boxes on your favourite app are as much gate keeping as the bouncer at the door or drag queen hostess and her barbs. All the tapestry that makes us, well us gets lost in the chem highs and fetishized ideals of what being queer commercially should be.
Is it ever possible to simply just be, to just exist as our best queer selves without the need to jimmy into whatever box will alleviate the loneliness? Of course it is, but to get there requires significant self-acknowledgement, an understanding that being yourself might mean you are rejected by all but the few who really matter, and that ultimately if you have four or five true friends in life you are doing really well for yourself. Life is as much as a race against yourself as anything else, and if you have a deep understanding of what makes you tick you are onto a winner.
Being queer is hard because society both resents/rejects queer folks’ basic selves, yet on the flip side commodifies and sells us back a corporatized ideal of what queer should really be. It takes time and energy to work through this, realising that those ill-fitting boxes are designed to lock us into things that can be harmful and serve only corporate/societal interests. Rejecting those things takes much willpower and the support of those around us, and to be one’s own self is often as much as stepping outside of the Venn diagram as it is taking the time to know yourself.
Queerness is impossible to package into one neat bucket. Indeed, every queer person has their own map of the world, and all the likes, dislikes, passions and fears that come with being human feed into the queer people we are. There is nothing shameful or wrong with being queer, regardless of what the world says, and we certainly are not a lifestyle choice. Rather, we are this messy bunch of folk who live, breath, enjoy, cry, dance, laugh, fear, hide, burst out, and do all the other boundless things cis/het folk do. Our Venns do indeed overlap, but as intersectional beings who as complex and simple as the world chooses to see.