I recently went on a book buying spree. Having time off form my day job allows me to engage with books in a way that I do not have the mentality for usually. To my surprise among my purchases were Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness and Sissy by Jacob Tobia. Now I am sure you are asking, why would it be surprising that me, a queer identified individual, would buy books form other queer identified individuals.
Let me tell you something. I have a particular weakness for individuals who ‘look’ queer. I know. The concept of looking queer is ridiculous on its own merit, and who would want to look queer when looking queer can lead to more discrimination and violence… Yet, my femme invisibility leaves me yearning for visibility to a point where I have grown jealous of those who are able to live and be seen authentically. I so long to have others see these parts of who I am. I want to be seen as something other than a girl or a lesbian (Which I don’t even really think is how I would identify my sexuality to be honest) without having to do the things that reinforce society’s ideas of what a nonbinary AFAB individual looks like.
That is what really get me fired up with I think about reading these two books. Jonathan Van Ness gets to own his body and wear femme clothes and be seen. Jacob Tobia gets to rock earrings and glitter way better than I ever could. Their differences between their appearance and their expected appearance based on their assigned sex differs in a way that allows them to be visible in a way that my preferences don’t. Yea, I could cut my hair and don cargo shorts, but that isn’t me.
(I also think the fact that their bodies are not sexualized in the same way that mine is also adds another layer to my feelings but that is a whole different topic)
So I am left feeling shut out from the queer community. Feeling like I don’t fit. Don’t belong. Like my gender is less valid than all the other Queers out there.
So I am going to read these books and get to know these two individuals in a way that will allow me to empathize with their struggles instead of being jealous of their “success”. It is a step. Perhaps is we were more willing as a community to seek out the personal stories of those who are different from us in a way that causes conflict, the community as a whole would not be so disjointed. I don’t want my jealousy and negative feelings to ever be a reason that I would not support another Queer individual. So I have to work to move past those feelings. It won’t change my struggle but it will allow me to be more empathetic towards people whose experiences with visibility cause me to be more callused and narrow minded.
Ideally I would end this saying something like, maybe by reading their experiences, I will be able to find my own path to visibility. I am not sure that these books will do any of that. However, I am hoping to come out of these books with a new perspective that will allow me to move through my stuck jealous feelings; and that is all I can ask for.