October 12th, 2013


gonna build that wall until it's done, but now you've got nowhere to run

I will write a thing for National Coming Out Day this year too.

I'm gay and ace. It took me several painful years and painful experiences before I knew that I was, and that I was allowed to be either of those things. But you probably already knew that about me. It's not the point of this post, really.

Here is the thing: coming out, for me, is a choice. And not an irrevocable, one-time thing, but a thing I have to do pretty much for each new person/situation I meet. I'm femme-presenting, and my body is in the range of shapes judged acceptable to be presented in that way. It's pretty easy for me not to "look" queer. And that can be incredibly frustrating: it's an endless social dance around oblique questions to new acquaintances to try and get a handle on their views, and bosses who ask casual questions about my assumed-male partner, and the moment of baffled confusion from every single estate agent when my girlfriend and I, who walked in holding hands, assure them that we're looking for a one-bed not a two-bed place.

(For weeks last year I was being harassed on my way into work by a group of young teenage boys. Their insult of choice as I biked past was "lesbian!". When I eventually mentioned this to the office boss he was horrified to learn about the harassment -- and also that I was being insulted specifically like that. But he was very very Christian, so I didn't feel I could say anything.)

But usually it's in my control. And that is a privilege, one that I can depend on and that keeps me safe.

For many, many others in my QUILTBAG community, it isn't a choice. She's too butch, he's too femme, she's too obviously trans*, ze's read differently by different people in the group ze's talking to.

Those of us who pass can hide behind those who can't. We use them, intentionally and accidentally, as shields between us and those who would harm us. (He looks queer, not her.) We talk about generalised statistics of violence against our community as if the burden doesn't fall with obscene disproportion on trans* women, and trans* women of colour at that. And it's not fucking good enough. It isn't.

This is one of the reasons I support the philosophy that those of us who can stay hidden should try to be out, assuming it's safe for us to do so (and what comprises "safe" is exclusively for an individual to decide). It can feel frightening and uncomfortable. But. We can help everyone by widening the umbrella of who's seen as queer, and by widening acceptance. We can help by boosting voices too much ignored, and by sharing resources, and by showing that ze's not alone in this group of people, in this room, in this company.

If we're going to claim community we need to be a community. This means no one gets thrown under buses because their needs are different, or more complicated, or less photogenic. This includes things like education and support -- those of us who get passing privilege need to take our share of this.

We talk about wanting better allies. We need to be better allies.

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