I want to say “I don’t know what to write about this week,” but as usual that isn’t true. I know exactly what I want to write about this week, but I’m not sure how to relate it to writing, which is the subject I picked for all my Friday posts. I’ll try anyway.
See, up until this week I was rather coy about my gender and sexuality. Not secretive exactly – while there are a lot of people in my life I’m not “out” to yet, I wasn’t really ashamed or frightened either – but also not open about it, just sort of dropping hints here and there or flirting. I thought that as long as I wasn’t in a relationship with someone other than a man, I didn’t really have to talk about it.
Then the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando happened.
Afterwards I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d been doing that weekend. The very night that happened, I was with my friends at a punk show. We had all come to see a particular band, and while the band’s lyrics don’t usually address LGBTQIA+ issues, the scene surrounding the band had become rather queer-friendly. Their shows have always felt like a space where I could safely express my gender and sexuality.
While I most frequently wear dresses to shows I have also comfortably worn suits or similarly “masculine” clothing and even gotten compliments. I have waltzed with and kissed both men and women there without any fear of anyone causing trouble about it – or at least known that if some asshole tried to cause trouble, I’d have a number of friends there who would protect me and back me up. I waltzed with a woman I’ve known since my very first show and my only worry was that the bouncers would throw out my friends who were crowdsurfing or swinging from the rafters.
The next day, after the initial shock and sadness upon hearing the news, I was sick with fear. I kept going over the night in my mind, going over memories of all the shows I’ve gone to. The dancing, the flirting, the impromptu drag ball protest (of an opener who’d previously made homophobic comments) at another show, and all my friends in the scene who are on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.
Had we been in danger this entire time? Would we be in danger if anyone found out about the accepting atmosphere we’d tried to create in this scene? Would that acceptance be revoked by others trying to save themselves? Was I putting my friends in danger by dancing and flirting with them? Would I be putting them in danger if I wrote about them?
You see, the same punk scene I’ve been talking about here is the focal point of the fiction book I’m writing. I mention people at the shows wearing suits and dresses regardless of what gender they appear to be, and one of the secondary characters – Em – is genderqueer and referred to with they/their pronouns. While that character isn’t based on any specific real person, they are partially a reflection of some of the genderqueer people I’ve known in the scene.
While I won’t delude myself into thinking many people are going to read this book, what if one of them disagrees with this accepting atmosphere – maybe even violently? I know it’s a small chance, but the thought that I could even potentially put my friends at risk makes me wonder if I should stop entirely or change what I’ve written.
But at the same time, wouldn’t trying to hide all this to keep us safe – such as changing Em to a cis person and using just he or she pronouns for them – be bad too? I can’t pretend that any of what I’m working on is revolutionary or anything, but trying to erase one of the things I love most about this band’s scene – erasing the existence of my friends – would be unforgivable. Maybe I can stop entirely, but I can’t change things just to make this story more palatable or “safe.”
And that brings me back to being coy about my gender and sexuality. As far as that goes: I’m fucking done. I can’t keep coasting by on other people’s assumptions that I’m a straight ciswoman. I want to be more open about it if I can – both to others and to myself. I know not everyone is able to do that, and that’s okay; I’m not saying anyone else has to. We all need to do what’s best for ourselves, whatever that might be. But as far as I’m concerned, enough is enough. I might be putting myself at risk but I’d rather die as myself than live as someone else. I’ve finally looked inside myself and said: “What am I willing to put up with today?”
Not fucking this.
Header photo by Doug Kavendek