For me, being queer has been an experience defined by fear and yearning. The fear is of being attacked for what I am, the yearning is for an undefined “more” that I don’t think I’ll ever obtain.
These two forces make themselves known in my day-to-day life, trading off on dominance.
Did I bike to Lake Ontario and dip my fingers in the chilly autumn surf, did I think about how I am built for so much more than I’ll ever be able to fully express? That’s a yearning day!
Did I stay in bed till four and reluctantly groan my way to the kitchen once my stomach got too loud to ignore? Fear day!
This is never more true than when I’m getting dressed. Every morning (or, you know, afternoon) I’m faced with the problem of figuring out what to wear. Some days it’s easy (high-waisted corduroy bell-bottoms go great with almost anything), but other days it’s really overwhelming.
Maybe it’s just my executive dysfunction talking, but the idea of twenty minutes every morning trying to find the optimal blend of aesthetic and functional purpose in my outfit for the rest of my life sucks on its own. The knowledge that, depending on how I dress, I could be painting a massive target on my back is just additional pressure.
I don’t mean to imply that I, a white transgender person at a private university, am among the most endangered members of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m saying that when I dress the way I want to, I often become either a punchline or an object of disdain.
When I’m out in public, I can feel the stares on my skin. I can hear the way people talk when they think I’m out of earshot. The world isn’t kind to those it perceives as having chosen not to be male, and I — with my long, unstyled hair and Adam’s apple and femme clothes and broad shoulders — stand out.
Standing out like that, day after day, is exhausting. It’s grating. I find myself wanting to avoid standard paths. I’ve seriously considered going to class through the woods so I don’t have to see the specific blend of confusion and second-hand embarrassment drivers tend to express when they see me walking (or biking, or skating) past them at the intersection of Brooks and Genesee.
This temptation to hide, to protect myself from the judgmental stares of passerby, is a powerful one, but I overcome it every time I leave my house looking queer. And I do that pretty frequently.
My desire to not hide, to show all the way up, is rooted in a determination to be unafraid, to unapologetically embrace and display who I am irrespective of the people around me.
It’s a desire to be more than I am, to exceed my bounds and be more than just the body and the self I’ve been handed. This yearning to become the person I know myself to be, the yearning that wins over fear, is all I need to keep going.