My week has been filled with conversations about identity and sexual preference/orientation. All the hubub started with me getting upset and venting to my friends after someone jokingly referred to me as a “cute little straight girl”. For me the comment was a bit of a jab and dismissal of me for not being very good in a game of pool. One friend responded, “but why does it matter to you what other people think?” So I spent a lot of time really thinking this out, perhaps because I study identity and the concept plays such a large role in my research so I have the tools to think this type of thing out where many may not.
I realize that what truly matters are my own feelings about the subject and how I feel but I also firmly understand identity as a dialectical process. I think that deep down we don’t want to admit that it really does matter what others think and perceive you to be. In Western society we want to believe in individualism so much that its sometimes hard for us to accept that others influence and perception is perhaps equally important to our identity as our own thoughts and feelings.
My ways of thinking about sexuality began shifting back in January of this year and have only grown more complicated. Somehow I managed to read “The History of Sexuality” by Foucault, land an assistantship at LGBTQ Resources and start my first lesbian relationship all in the same semester. Considering all of this I have had a number of experiences that led me to think more and more about identity and what it means in the world. Over the months I’ve struggled with comments that push me into the “straight” box, those that label me a lesbian as well as a few that consider me bisexual.
The other day my friend LuLu and I were talking about this dilemma that zi and I have been experiencing. We don’t identify as straight or heterosexual yet we don’t fully identify as lesbians or with the lesbian community, however, we prefer “women” (I’m using quotes because I want to problematize the term and how we think about it). During our conversation LuLu suggested the term Queer Feminist, which I have given a lot of thought to recently and fully intend on using.
Queer Feminist, a working definition - The term “queer” acknowledges an attraction to a multiplicity of gender performances, not simply those who fall within the gender binary. This is where the “feminist” comes in. “Feminist” accounts for my appreciation and love for things considered feminine. However, I do have issues and concerns with “hegemonic femininity” but this is an attempt to appreciate as many things as possible associated with women and what it means to be considered “woman” in order to express value of/for femininity - since we devalue it in so many other realms.
This is where the personal becomes political in true feminist fashion. I want to make the point that at this moment in time (because identity and authenticity of identity is so reliant on the concept of time), I prefer to pursue relationships with women. This is where reality comes in- I do fully understand and anticipate that for many and most, in (over)simplified terms that I will be labeled a lesbian. And for me that’s more than acceptable because you can’t completely control others perception but you can certainly help influence it. My concern is that people simplify sexuality and box it into something without considering the complexities or one’s own thoughts or feelings about their lifestyle.
**Many thanks to all the wonderful people in Women and Gender Studies and at the Center who have allowed me to share my experiences in a safe space and challenged me to think about sexuality, feminism, and identity in new ways. Much love.**