This is about gender (and general) nonconformativity, lifelong love for women, assorted repercussions for those things, and finding some measure of freedom. The title refers to my confusion over being shoehorned into a box, either that of “feminine” or that of “straight.”
I’ve never been a cheerleader. I’ve never wanted to be a cheerleader. Which I mean both literally and figuratively: I’ve never been hetero and for some reason, I’ve never taken to femininity practices.
When I say “for some reason”, I actually mean, because women are not stupid: even when I was a child, I understood that women who practiced femininity were not taken seriously. My mother may not be a feminist, but she was and is a relative badass: we were proud country people, and she taught me from a young age that revealing my body to people I didn’t expressly feel comfortable with seeing my body was unnecessary, wearing makeup was akin to wearing a mask to hide who you really are, and acting stupid is for people who want to be treated like they’re stupid. Also, that I didn’t need a man.
Part of her ethic, and thus mine, was based on the fact that we didn’t have money. We couldn’t afford to buy new clothing to keep up with trends. (For perspective, I grew up in the late 80s and early 90s; I was eleven when the Spice Girls, Britney Spears, and ‘girl power’ hit the world.)
Nor could we spend money on makeup (my mother had a makeup kit “for special occasions”, but it was quite basic and sparse; I think she still had it as recently as a few years ago, and she hadn’t used up any of the original makeup, if that gives you any idea of how infrequently she used it), up-to-date haircuts, mani-pedis, waxing, tanning, whatever.
We led solidly working-class lives and didn’t have anyone to dress up for, so we wore practical clothing and shoes almost everywhere.
Of course, because we live in a woman-hating society, I did have a lot of scorn for women who did dress up, do their makeup, and play dumb. I assumed they were catty idiots who were not my friends, and while that was true in practice, my analysis ended there.
Even despite my internalized misogyny, I’ve always loved other girls. I knew from constant cultural propaganda that I was supposed to love boys, and that I would grow out of my girlcrushes and “mature” into finding boys preferable instead …
but damn, boys were nasty, mean little fuckers who only ever crossed my path by way of intruding into, often wrecking, my isolated rural paradise of solitary play and peaceful thinking by means of their noisy, destructive ATVs. And constantly harassing me at school and at friends’ houses, and physically abusing my friends and me without any repercussion from the authorities. My best girl friends (who I will mention in a moment) and I always got in trouble for the boys’ harassing, abrasive, abusive behaviors. Including the time the worst bully broke a girl’s arm and harassed me with name-calling, fat-taunting, and threats of violence until I fell off the bleachers trying to escape him. When we were in first grade.
I had two best girl friends, we were inseparable, and we were all nonconformist rebels. I loved both of them. I had a love-hate crush on one of them from the time we were in second grade until we graduated from high school.
And I always knew this was probably different than what I was told — that it was “practice” for the hetero relationships I’d presumably desire once boys stopped being abusive assholes (or until I was “mature” enough to understand that abusive assholishness was what I either wanted or had to learn to tolerate in a partner, I’m not entirely sure, because damn near all of them never grow out of that). I had a baby doll when I was four and five, but the idea of having a real baby never crossed my mind, and the idea of getting married held no appeal. I wished, if I had to get married, that I could marry my friend “Man”, the “bad girl” who lived in a shack, refused to dress in female clothing, and beat up boys for being mean to us.
However, once I hit teenagehood, to my great surprise, I found a boy attractive. Over the next few years, there ended up being several I liked physically. Several of them, in fact most of them, I didn’t like personally at all; I certainly recall looking at the first one, who was three years older than I was, and thinking (my exact thought, at age seventeen), “Damn, you’re so much dumber than I am, but you’re real cute and I suppose you’ll do.”
Most of my heterosexual encounters were with men I didn’t find physically attractive — I thought something about their personalities were interesting, and then they wanted to fuck me, so I thought that was what I was supposed to do and I just needed to “loosen up.” The fact that I had to close my eyes, and that I was terrified most of the time, I chalked up to some kind of “prudishness” I needed to overcome.
The fact that I assumed that was what hetero relationships were about — allowing yourself to be fucked by someone you barely even like and are aware does not really like you, because you think you have to — is sad but amusing for many reasons.
So much for the myth of romance.
That being said, throughout it all I always liked women and consistently found them attractive. I assumed I was “bisexual”, a term that I hate because it’s porny. “Bisexuality”, as it’s popularly conceived, means “I act straight by pledging allegiance to men/hating women, but I retain my right to objectify anyone, and if I’m a woman, I’d also probably fuck another woman so you can watch!”
Which is also a fact I figured out, not being stupid and all. I called myself “straight” because I quickly found out from observation that “coming out as ‘bi'” meant “all the skeeviest dudes, mostly Nice Guys [TM], overt liberal douchebags, and older pervs, would crawl out of the woodwork to see if they could watch you make out with a girl, and/or coax/cajole/coerce you into a threesome.” Not what I wanted, thank you. I’ve never liked porn and never considered my sexuality (whatever it may have been or may be) to be a display.
In my hometown, coming out as lesbian meant the same thing. To my dismay, it meant the same thing in New York City as well: other “lesbian” women would assume you were game for S&M, and men would crowd ’round to see if they could watch the action and/or “reconvert” you.
At some point, I discovered “queer”, and assumed it meant “different.” Queerdom quickly outed itself as hypocritical, circular, and nonsensical, which I will talk about in the next post: it was my funfeminism, and I found my way through the portal into radicalism. The nonfeminist radicals in anarchism, which I passed through concurrently to and immediately after queerdom, were fine with me as long as I stayed thin and wore enough tattered-to-the-point-of-revealing clothing, but didn’t want me if I was going to be starting all kinds of antiporn, anti-shaving, anti-beauty mandates shit — so I stopped giving a shit about them and came all the way over to the rad side.
It’s been almost three years. As time has worn on, I’ve become more and more separatist, to the point that about a year ago I found that basically whenever a regular dude talks all I hear is “blah blah misogyny fail, blah blah mansplaining blah.”
It’s almost amusing.
So here I am, and here I’ve always been: a girl, now a woman, who as a general rule and principle doesn’t artificially alter her appearance, and who loves women. Regardless of what else I do or may be, these things are true.