“You’re fine,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with your sexuality.” He meant well, and went on to tell me that I was a perfectly normal straight woman with a perfectly normal body. I was in my twenties and it was the first time I’d seriously tried to talk to anyone about being bisexual and gender-odd. I didn’t have any words like genderqueer or genderfluid to help me. The one thing I didn’t need was to be tided back into the hetro-normative perfectly cis box, but he was trying to help.
When who you are doesn’t match with who you appear to be, there can be a sense of loss, of invisibility, erasure, loneliness, not belonging.
I like long hair on men as well as women, I have curves. Making my body look gender-fluid would require me to do things that would feel like I was putting on a show, not being authentically myself. I don’t want to arrange my appearance to fit in with other people’s ideas about what someone like me should look like. I also don’t want to ‘pass’ as entirely straight and gender-uncomplicated. I wear what I wear, picking the things that make me physically and emotionally comfortable. That tends to mean leggings and either shirts or t-shirts. I wear skirts and dresses a lot because I hate having navel to thighs on display, I’m painfully self conscious in trousers mostly. Rare are the days when I’m ok about that section of me being easy to look at.
We put each other into little boxes all the time. We make judgements based on age, race, clothing, bling, makeup – or the absence thereof. We use clothing to signal identity, the cultures we belong to, status, wealth. I find it difficult when clothing is that loaded. I just want to be at a reasonable temperature, able to bend very without anxiety, able to move freely, and generally more obscured than not.
Alongside the clothes assumptions, we all have stories about what other ways of being mean. I’ve seen people recoil in disgust over polyamoury as a concept. There are still people out there who think all forms of queerness are aberrations, unnatural, deviant choices and problems to be fixed. There are people who will take my bisexuality to mean ‘can’t make up my mind’ or ‘greedy’ and there are people who, if I try to talk about lack of gender identity, will just tell me I’m being silly.
People are not, on the whole, terribly good at accepting that other people are not like them and that there’s no problem inherent in the difference. My bisexuality is not a rejection of heterosexuality, or an attack on it – this is simply who I am. To fit into some people’s stories, I will be labelled as a problem, and there are plenty of people who would be quick to put me back in the hetro box and think they’ve done me a favour.
On the whole I feel that I shouldn’t need to advertise who I am. In an ideal world, people would not assume they could infer my preferences or identity by looking at who I’m with or how I dress. In an ideal world, people wouldn’t think it was an issue unless they were angling to get in my pants. In an ideal world, there would be no default assumption about what a normal person is, we’d just not worry about it, and be interested in a friendly way about our friends, and nothing more.