Graphic by Jade Lee.
“Oh, you’ve never been to a GSA meeting?” my friend said to me as we sat in the hallway eating lunch. “That’s…interesting.”
I laughed at the judgment dripping from her tone. It was a typical kind of comment for her to make, and I knew her sense of humor, so I didn’t take it too seriously at the time. She was joking.
It was only later on that I really thought about what she’d said, and what it meant for me. It was true, I’d never been to a meeting of my high school’s Gay-Straight Alliance club in all my four years there, and I couldn’t really put a finger on why. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been aware of it; I can’t remember not having at least a friend or two who were in the club. It wasn’t that I’d been avoiding it, either; I’d been out since I was 11, and I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed to go. In my mind, I thought that I already had a great group of queer friends, and that was good enough for me.
But maybe, deep down, it was because I didn’t feel queer enough to belong there.
It wasn’t uncommon for my friend to call me a “fake gay.” To her, it was just playful teasing, but I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe, as a genderqueer pansexual, she had the right to make that judgment about me, a cisgender bisexual woman. I had always heard that sexuality existed on a spectrum, so didn’t that mean that some people were more queer and some people less?
I never really talked to anyone about these feelings. I didn’t feel particularly alienated from the community, but nevertheless, these thoughts were there, as an undercurrent in my mind.
Coming to UCLA, I no longer had the same group of queer friends that I had during high school, and I didn’t immediately find a new one. I found that at such a big school, it was more of a challenge to find “my people.” But I still made some great friends during my first year, most of whom were straight. I remember some of my high school queer friends saying that they felt a disconnect when talking to straight people, and that they found it easier to be friends with other queers. Was the reason I found it easier to befriend straight people because I was “straighter” than them?
There are other things that have made me wonder if I was less queer than other people, too. I’d only ever seriously dated boys. I like to let my nails grow. I don’t stan Hayley Kiyoko. Instead of flannels and boots, I wear dresses and heels (I’ve been told this makes me “straight-passing”). I didn’t have a dramatic coming out story, and I struggled relatively little with accepting my identity.
I’m aware that these are stereotypes, but when you want to believe you fit into a community, you look for the things you have in common. I started to feel like I had relatively little in common with the queer/wlw communities as a whole, apart from the obvious.
I wanted to join OutWrite because I wanted to finally be a part of a queer community, to try out something I’ve never gotten to experience before, if nothing else. But once I started to think about the reality of it, of actually writing for the magazine and being a voice that speaks out in representation of UCLA’s queer community, I was, well, terrified. Terrified because I suddenly wasn’t sure if I was qualified to play that role.
Is my voice even a voice that people would be interested in hearing?
From the fact that you’re reading this article right now, it seems I’ve made up my mind about that. So what was it that led me to realize that I could, in fact, make a valuable contribution to this magazine?
I realized that the reason I was having so many doubts about belonging here was precisely because I hadn’t heard enough voices like my own. It was because I hadn’t seen enough people talking about how even though they’ve only been in heterosexual relationships, that doesn’t invalidate their queer identity. I hadn’t seen enough people speaking up about bisexuality not being any less queer than any other identity. All at once, my doubts transformed into a sense of duty. Not only could I write, but I had to write.
I know there are already people who have shared their experiences with the same things as me. I can’t act like I’m the first person to ever go through this. But I also know that maybe, by adding just one more voice to the incredibly diverse and complex queer narratives out there, someone will one day read something I write and feel less alone. Maybe I can help someone see that it’s okay to be queer in whatever way they are, and that there’s no checklist of interests or clothing or activities that somehow gains you more queerness points.
So yes, queerness does exist on a spectrum. But is not a spectrum of “more” to “less,” and I will no longer allow any thoughts of myself as “less.” I am queer enough. You are queer enough. We are all enough.