Originally posted April 11, 2017. Tonight I went to a Queer Seder at my school, called Exodus (get it? coming out… of Egypt and the closet and so on) and the event holds a very dear place in my heart. This holiday is one of my favorites (mostly because of Prince of Egypt, let’s be real) and in this Haggadah, we have members of the community share coming out stories at each cup of wine. This was what I shared.
My name’s Léah and I use they/them pronouns.
(Look at that, I just came out! That’s it, I’m done! Just kidding.)
I had been in a rut trying to think about what I wanted to say when I got here because I don’t really have an eventful Coming Out™ moment that fits into a clean narrative. Which I think is fine, for life, and it reveals the truth of how coming out isn’t one big moment but rather a process that happens in big and little ways every day. But that doesn’t make for a very exciting story. And this holiday is all about exciting stories.
Perhaps instead of retelling a story of a closed chapter in my continuing coming out book, I can just come out to you now, as who I am today. Mah nishtanah, ha-laylah ha-zeh, mi-kol ha-leylot (Why is this night different from all the other nights?) This night is different from all other nights, but only as all other nights are different from each other, because my identity is never stable and the words are never adequate nor complete. In the right contexts, I am a firm believer in the utility and the benefit of labels, but only so far as they are allowed to be flexible and impermanent.
I don’t see myself as being one thing that I narrate to others, my self-ness is very relational and depends on social and cultural context, and sometimes conscious choice. In that understanding, I have various self-narrations that I shift through kinda like Hannah Montana’s remote control closet.
I am gay when I joke with my friends about gay memes and the gay agenda. I am not really that gay when the “gay rights movement” centers homosexual rich white men and their marriage in the name of all queer liberation.
I am queer when I am angry, when I am witchy, when I’m too tired to explain other words, when I am taking academia into my own hands and language. I’m just generally queer as heck. I am cautiously queer around my elders because I can hold simultaneous truths of liberation and deep pain held tight within the same word hurled like bricks or gleefully sewn on denim jackets.
I am bisexual when I want to fit into the LGBT acronym comfortably or when I want to make a political point about bisexual erasure and biphobia. I’m not bi when it means only men and women.
I am ace because I connect to the asexual community and parts of their conversations are deeply resonant for me. Identifying as ace was immensely socially and psychologically helpful for a spell, and parts of it still are, but I can feel myself shifting away from the usefulness of that narrative now.
I am panromantic polyintimate because I like shoving prefixes and suffixes together to make meaning. What else are words? I made these words in my first year of college, and they still fit pretty well, but I only really use them as conversation starters/enhancers, and less as fill-in-the-blank form responses, because they aren’t really legible without a deeper conversation and sometimes I don’t feel like going there. Pan for type of people, aka lots. Romantic for romantic attraction, aka squishy heart feels and deep care. Poly for amount of people, aka lots. Intimate because sexual doesn’t feel right, but I feel a deep-seated need for physical and emotional intimacy, aka lots of snuggles and deep talks.
I am kinky when I go to makeout parties in Brooklyn because I NEVER grew out of wanting to play spin the bottle and let’s face it, Berlin is a great place for coming into yourself as a sexual being. I am kinky even while also communicating the boundaries of my asexuality.
I am sexy when I blues dance. This one isn’t really a label I put on myself, but it is still something empowering to claim and I love playing with normative gender roles and desires within the safe confines of a dance. There is no doubt in my mind that my dancing is related to my queerness, to my gender, to my sexuality, and that dancing has actively healed wounds and opened doors into confidences and skills intimately intertwined with my intimacies.
I am nonbinary even when I don’t say anything about pronouns. (Or am I? Ahh!) This one has a lot more to do with visuals than language, for me though. Visibility is a double-edged sword, especially for trans and nonbinary people. For some, like trans women, hypervisibility can lead to violence on the daily from psychological micro-aggressions and invalidations to potentially fatal physical injury. On the other hand, I often feel entirely invisible in my nonbinary identity because I don’t look like the traditional thin, white, masculine androgynous model–I’ve only got one of those: I’m very white. I always joke that I’m going to title my autobiography Unintentionally Femme, because the oppression of beauty standards under capitalism or whatever means that pants don’t fit my body shape and I compensate with lots of floral dresses and fun patterns. Which I love, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t love crying from frustration in Target dressing rooms, because I just want ONE pair of pants that fit comfortably enough–just enough!–for when I work in theatre or just want to leave the house in a tshirt and jeans with no purse. Am I still nonbinary as I grow my hair out and don my violet lips? I think so, but it’s hard to feel that way out in the world. So even as I feel comfy in how I personally understand my identity, I know that my gender isn’t able to be legible to others in the way that I want, which can wear on me.
There. Those are some of the words that feel right today. (Or at least, on Sunday when I wrote this). Maybe next year I will tell a coming out story about today.