Queer normativity has long frustrated me – and played to my insecurities. I’ve written and ranted about feeling too hairy and butch to be a ‘normal’ hetero woman and too feminine to be queer. I’m not trying to be queer. I am queer – at least according to myself.
Masculinity is read as more serious than femininity in the mainstream. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this also happens in queer communities. When I hear my queer, anarchist lesbian friend advised to cut off her long hair or have to scour a queer party for people presenting femininity I feel unseen – and sometimes, unreal. Based on my admittedly anecdotal experience and sharing with other femme-identifying queers I can safely argue that Copenhagen has a particularly masculinity-preferencing queer scene.
You know the profile – mostly black, grungy clothes covered in patches, asymmetrical hair, masculine androgyny on DFAB people, age 22-32, and white. Even more vital than the look is the social knowledge. You should be highly at ease at Bumzen and friends with at least one member of Queer Jihad.
Queer spaces can’t be safer spaces for everyone. I hope they never are. Macho bros should feel out of place and uncomfortable in queer environments. Still, I want room for folks brimming with counter-cultural queer politics who simply don’t pull off the Copenhagen queer look. Maybe they don’t have the social capital to know which piercings and styles are coded as queer – or maybe they’re like me and feel most themselves in a look that might not be typical queer.
There’s a reason gender nonconformity and sexualities resisting heteronormativity are queer. I get that. And I want to be careful with my words because there’s nothing fake about assigned female at birth people finding liberation in masculine gender expression. I can’t speak from a personal perspective to important norms like whiteness in the queer community. For me, my femme identity and desire to present my femininity has felt illegitimate.
Gender presentation and identity clearly relate to queerness. Markers of non-conformity – but they aren’t queerness or non-conformity in themselves.
My insecurities about queer normativity have evolved from how I look to who I fuck. I feel a bit neurotic for complaining about these feelings of being unaccepted. When I’m dating someone whose identity is understood as more queer than mine I’ve felt that established queers give me a double take. As if to say – oh, I see you – you’re legit. Am I reading too much into things? Does everyone struggle to be taken seriously by CPH queers? All I can report on is this sensation – distorted by my feelings of queer inadequacy though it may be: I am only as queer as the person I am fucking.
In the past half year I’ve been falling in love with a woman. I’ve been struck with the distinct sensation that because she’s trans I am being read as a more real queer. I’ve long known my sexuality includes attraction to non-binary people, women, trans people, and the occasional unicorn of a cis man. Now that my queer desires are manifested in a relationship I feel more visible.
I’m not queer because my girlfriend was assigned male at birth. Or am I? I have in fact reflected more consistently on transness and queerness and felt more other to society in the course of being with her. Our sex is super queer. When we walk down the street hand and hand we always confuse someone trying to find a legible label.
Do I need to eat my words? Perhaps I’ve gained knowledge and perspective. But I don’t want to be ‘cool’ or ‘legit’ on the basis of who I fuck and love. That would make my girlfriend some sort of special category of woman. Her transness doesn’t make our love freaky.
So I’m back to ‘what makes one queer”.