By Joseph Varilone, LSA Senior at the University of Michigan
I know what it’s like to be harassed because of how you look. Whether I’m riding my bike down a busy road on Ann Arbor’s south side, walking down the street I live on, or talking on the phone in front of the campus library; if I’m wearing clothing that marks me, a male-identified and male-presenting individual, as “feminine,” I am immediately subject to staring, taunting, and harassment.
I embrace my femininity. So-called women’s clothing has been a part of my wardrobe since I was 18, and I have come to love skirts, leggings, hair clips, and some other traditionally feminine things. I would probably wear dresses if I felt more comfortable in them. The labels genderqueer and hard femme describe me well; and although I don’t really identify with the labels gay, bisexual, or pansexual, heterosexual doesn’t seem to fit my experiences either. Regardless, sexuality is fluid and subject to change, but however I choose to label my experiences, I feel undeniably, unapologetically, irrevocably queer.
I think of queerness as not something limited to sexual orientation, but as taking on the realm of any significant departure from norms regarding gender expression, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Queerness is fluid and dynamic. Queerness does not look like one particular thing, and means different things for different people. Queerness questions compulsory serial monogamy and marriage. Queerness questions binaries, especially the gender binary of woman/man, female/male. Queerness is fierce, confrontational, uncompromising, and political. Queerness creates space for transgender experiences and narratives. Queerness questions the little boxes that gender norms make people fit into. Queerness is not hostile to heterosexuals or people that otherwise fall within gender norms, but only to those that seek to delegitimize those who don’t. Queers ally themselves with other struggles against oppression, recognizing the intersectionality and inter-connectedness of our struggles. Queerness is anti-assimilationist—we make no apologies and don’t try to legitimize ourselves based on supposed similarity to mainstream lifestyles. And we surely don’t apologize for being “born this way” (if that even describes a particular individuals experience)–as if alternative sexual orientations or gender expressions constitute some sort of disease. Continue reading