Before I begin to write anything about my experience with queerness and gender I feel I should write that I may slip into territory where I seem self-aggrandizing. This isn’t my intention but may be inevitable. After all, I’m also a drag queen and what could make a person look self-aggrandizing more than getting on stage, dancing and lip-synching under a spotlight? Perhaps spending hours on one’s own appearance with a myriad of expensive liquids, creams, powders, pencils, stains, glue, false eyelashes, tape and a menstrual pad? The last two items on the list are for what is known as a “tuck”. We drag queens are known for our secrets so I will keep this one. I’m hoping you readers don’t mind. Now, with my self-aggrandizing tendencies described, let me describe to you my queer thoughts on my queer self.
I’ve often had difficulty conforming to gender expectations and finding a place in the little box in which all things “boy” reside. Obviously, this made my life difficult growing up but this isn’t the time for a sad story. This isn’t a time for a coming out story either, at least not from me. This is a time for a story of coming to pride. Not the kind on George Street either.
What it is time for, if you will indulge me, is a story of how I’ve always had an intense need to be me. This is not to be a boy or a girl. This is a long story – 20 something years long. I won’t bore you with my earliest memories though. The story picks up pace at about the time when I was picked up and employed in my hometown of Thunder Bay. One day, there was a customer I was about to help and when she looked at me, saw my face, hair and frame and heard my voice, her face dropped a little. She stared and said “I don’t know, I’m sorry” when she realized she wasn’t sure which pronoun to use for me. She wasn’t sure which gender I was. This wasn’t the first time this kind of thing happened. Typically, these types of moments would upset me to some degree. But, for whatever reason, on this day things were different. I gave my typical response saying “It’s fine!” with a big smile and I helped her. Good customer service often involves not saying what you’re thinking. Some time later I thought about what happened. I realized something special. I realized I didn’t care. This was a pivotal moment in my life. I felt very liberated.
Cut to some years later when the importance of not caring about how I’m perceived really sinks in. Surely, for some time I never really did care about how people gendered me, but what is really so important for me and my life about being indifferent? Obviously, I’ve spent a great deal (maybe too much) of my time thinking about me, the gender binary and my place in it. I’ve come to realize one special thing about how I perceive it and myself. For me, gender is much like a tool people use to understand people, things and the stuff that makes up our world. This is a flawed tool and its uses miss the complexities of people, but at the end of the day, how one uses this tool for their understanding doesn’t necessarily affect how I see myself. Moreover, it doesn’t need to. I’m not a boy or a girl. I’m myself. How anyone chooses to label me doesn’t change how I think of myself.