I’m not sure how proud I feel during Pride Week.
Let me cover my ass real quick. I’m not saying I’m not proud of the events on offer, or of the people who work tirelessly to put them on. Pride Week 2018 looks cool. I’m just saying that there are still internal conflicts in the queer & questioning community. Like how do we make people feel welcome in spaces they aren’t sure they belong to? And how can we stop that leap from ‘coming out’ to joining queer spaces from feeling so much like, well, a leap?
I have some real internalised-biphobia shit going on, and I am definitely not the only queer on the spectrum that feels it.
I came out to close friends and family in late 2014 as pansexual, after turmoil over whether or not my romantic feelings for one woman in 19 years meant that I was even queer at all. It felt like this one experience didn’t really count, and therefore I didn’t make any moves towards queer support or the queer community. Why take up space someone else might need more? Fast forward to 2018 and the situation has completely flipped. I fucking leap at the opportunity to say that I am a lesbian and that my cis boyfriend is my “exception”. My sexuality is no longer a quiet epiphany, but a loud and sometimes desperate expression of my identity. Which makes it really damn hard when you still don’t feel “gay enough” to have a queer identity at all.
The critiques of this problem are obvious. Why do I and the rest of the queer community even care about labels? It’s the same reason that LGBTQIA+ is such a long acronym. Because visibility is damn important. You need visibility to change policy, to change attitudes, and to change society. Only a few decades ago being gay was a straight-up mental illness, and “acting on it” was a criminal offense. Which makes my conundrum in 2018 comparatively selfish, but no less valid. No one should should have to unironically demand themselves to “pick a fucking gender, already” for their ticket into a community that they have every right to belong to.
It is easy to turn the blame outward, and wonder if it’s a problem that our queer community (or maybe the Dunedin community in general) has as a whole. How do we unlearn this bi/queer-phobic shit – internalized or not? How do we reach out to and engage with the queer and questioning people that groups like Queer Support have existed for years to support?
It’s something worth thinking about this Pride Week. Every queer journey looks different, and moves at different paces. The important thing to remember is that changing societal norms and so on is a group effort, and every last confused gay-but-not-gay counts.