Thursday, 9 June 2011

I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it

Tonight is Queer the Night here in Wellington, a chance for people who agree with this:

Everyone has the right to express and explore their queerness without barriers, including fists and bottles on the street.
to walk through the city in solidarity together.

I'll be there. As a female teenager, I had crushes on Paul Weller and Billy Bragg, plus the odd cute boy that I went to school with. When I went to university, I became involved in all kinds of political activities, all of which are still part of my life now. And I met queer people. Beautiful strong stroppy lesbians and bisexual women who so challenged my ideas of attraction and relationships that it changed my life.

I came out when I was 18, as bisexual. At this point, what that meant for me was that I acknowledged the possibility of attraction to women, that I'd come to think that attraction, for me, was more about qualities people have than gender. I knew I liked kindness, and compassion, and the intellectual capacity to take apart an idea. I knew I loved sparkling eyes and wicked grins and people who were comfortable and playful with their bodies. And I didn't think many of these things were gendered only and always ever male, or only and always ever female.

When I came out, several things happened. Despite not having a sexual relationship with a woman until I was twenty, the following year I was demoted from the captaincy of a representative cricket team. We'd won a national tournament, but the word was that an out queer shouldn't be captain of an Under 20 team. The (straight) captain that replaced me led us to coming last of eight teams.

There were all manner of repercussions in my family, still the place in which not being accepted was the most painful. These continue, as for many queer people, to be ongoing. My parents, after some very difficult years, are now not exactly going to be on the march with me but are certainly supportive in a way which was unimaginable when they were threatening to stop me seeing my younger brother in my early twenties.

Being out has affected by employment. I've been bullied, in a feminist organisation, for being bisexual rather than lesbian, and told repeatedly that bisexuality doesn't exist (apparently it's a 22 year phase I'm still rather enjoyably stuck in), and that I just need to be brave and come out "properly." I've been turned down for a job I was imminently qualified for when an existing born-again Christian member of staff said she would leave if I was hired. Everyone interviewing for the position had been informed of this before my interview.

And lets not forget the streets. I've been spat at, yelled at, and threatened with violence on the street, for kissing women. Rather memorably, one night in Newtown as I walked home holding hands with my then girlfriend, we were targetted by a bunch of teenagers, who after shouting abuse at us, starting throwing things. After catching one, we realised the missiles were potatoes, from a huge sack they were carrying. This stopped only when I started throwing them back - thanks to cricket, I had a much more accurate and longer throwing range than any of the strapping boys in their group.

I mention these experiences - over a truckload of others - to give some flavour about why I will be marching. And I'd love to see others there - whether or not you're queer - who agree that people should be able to love who they love, fancy who they fancy, dress and act and be in all the wonderful varied ways that human beings express gender - without any threat or reality of violence.

See you there.


cjmax02 said...

That I will!

Julie said...

Thanks so much for sharing this Luddsy J, very evocative. Hope you had a good time tonight.

Melimalle said...

I was very open about my 'non-straightness' from the start when I begun working at my current job. The manager who hired me was very comfortable with that, she had even hired a gay male around the same time and our 'alternative' sexualities was barely mentioned.

Until a few months down the track when she started making comments about how bisexuals are greedy and just can't make up their minds and other unpleasant derogatory comments as these to me, unaware that (if I had to label my sexuality) I was bisexual. Obviously she had thought I was exclusively lesbian.

I've been lucky. I've never experienced the kind of discrimination or public hatred that you have, but on that day when she said those things, I felt so low and disgusted with both her and myself. And that is not okay.

Scar said...

I marched last night because on the march route was the place where my partner had his nose broken in a vicious assault for daring to hold hands with a trans woman.
I marched because the march route went up the street where I was pushed down a flight of stairs by a with a glass bottle in my hands - I still bear the scars today.
I marched because just around the corner from where the march ended is the park where I was sexually and physically assault, then stabbed in the leg.

All these incidents happened in the last 3 years.
That's why I marched last night - because I'm still alive to march.

Mel said...

I am generally a lurker but really enjoyed your post - partly because so much of you post could be me. The difference being is that I'm out as Bi to only a very select few people. That probably explains why I've rarely had the level of abuse or discrimination you have received.
You'd think I wouldn't be fearful given there are plenty of openly queer people in my life - family and friends... but ultimately I worry about being judged. The comments about "not making mind up", about being practising or non-practising one direction or the other, about being non-committed.
I wanted to be there at the march - sadly live out of town but do work in Wellington.
Keep upt eh good posts - enjoy them immensely.

Scar said...

Can you please remove the term 'trannies' from the other thread on Queer the Night - it's a slur and it's transphobic (as is saying that using the term 'cis' is 'stiring shit').


I will be addressing what has happened in that other thread on my blog.

Scar said...

Addressing the nonsense

Maia said...

Scar - I did delete that comment. Although generally we wouldn't delete comments that refer to transphobic views, rather than express them (Unless I missed a comment George didn't use the term 'trannys' to describe people - but to indicate that other people used that term).

I do think this raises some of the issues that need to be addressed about safe space. I'll probably be writing a post about that this weekend, although I am trying to finish a demo report about last night first.

Ludditejourno's post shouldn't be dragged further off-topic with this. So if you want to discuss it more you'll have to wait.

LudditeJourno said...

Hey all,
yep, loved the march - fave chant "1-2-3-4 Open up your closet door, 5-6-7-8 don't be sure your kids are straight"

Closely followed by "Hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go, hey hey, ho ho, transphobia has got to go".

Awesome, wish I could be at the follow up planning meeting, but sadly I'm about to go hide in the blue mountains for some zen time.

Kia kaha organisers - you did a beautiful, inclusive job.