Unlocking the Queer in Me: my journey from Goldstar lesbian to all embracing queer

Posted on January 12, 2012

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Written by Avery Parks (also known as “Friend 2” in “Will Lesbian ever stop being a dirty word?”)

I now identify as ‘queer’ and I’m completely at ease with this description of myself. When I first came out I identified as ‘gay’. That was when I was 14 years old. When I got to university at the tender age of 18, I still identified as ‘gay’ but would qualify it often by saying, ‘I am a gay woman’, because it was important to me that people knew that I was identifying not only as homosexual but with my gender. Let me qualify what I mean by that in terms of my gender identity. As an adult I identify as female but as a child I identified far more with male. I wanted to be a boy but having since looked back and analysed this, it was more a case of trying to break out of a very strict, very narrow and prescribed socially constructed gender ideal of female. I wanted to wear boys clothes because I hated girls clothes. Boys seemed to have more fun and do more adventurous things and I wanted a piece of the action. I have since discovered feminism and have identified with myself as a female struggling against the impacts of patriarchy. I now live happily and strongly as a female. That is a quite a short summary of a big identity journey in my life, but I want this article to be focused on what I see as my queer identity. I’m doing this because I think in the UK we have not grasped the freedom that inherently exists in queerness. Let me explain…

I now identify as ‘queer’ when describing my sexuality, however I find that people often have questions over this; they don’t comprehend the description and would prefer me to use a more distinct categorisation, such as ‘lesbian’. I don’t altogether mind this request – not because I acquiesce to it by providing a more simplistic, rigid description of my sexuality –but because I get a chance to explain what I mean by ‘queer’.

I have pre-dominantly remained what many would recognise as a ‘lesbian’ for many years, only having relationships or sleeping with women. I have always been attracted to women. In my childhood I developed affinities ‘wanted to be close’ to specific women. This persisted into my teenage years, and yet it didn’t feel strong until I reached the age of 14. Prior to that I had experimented with kissing and fondling with boys, it was just what was done during those years and how I learned to kiss without bumping noses with someone. After that though, my feelings for women began to become stronger, and more sexually charged. It was quite literally one evening, after a particular experience- I was watching an episode of Bad Girls and saw my first ever intense, loving lesbian kissing scene, got turned on by it and masturbated over it. Before that I had always thought of boys in what I thought was sex and what was supposed to be good. sex. I always felt guilty after getting off like that. THEN when I masturbated over the idea of lesbians, and kissing a woman, I felt so good. There was no guilt and all of a sudden I thought, holy fuck I am gay! That is exactly how it happened that ‘gay’ was my first word in relation to this realisation.

A few things happened that really opened my eyes to the opportunities for attraction. The first was seeing a male friend after a long time and finding him incredibly attractive. The second was finding myself attracted to someone who was transgender.

In the first instance, this was not the only time I had found a man attractive, but it was different in that I wanted to take it somewhere. I wanted to explore a physical interaction with him and I wasn’t afraid to because at the time I was a sexually confident woman. There were many elements to this. I know what I like, sex doesn’t in any way scare me with new people and I stopped ‘chasing the orgasm’ a while before that. My focus in sex is often on the every single moment of pleasure and how to push that further. I also knew him well, he was a friend albeit one I hadn’t seen in a few years, but I trusted him as a person. That was key at that time. I initiated it and we had a really lovely, pleasurable sexual time together.

The second instance was when I was at a work meeting in a café in London and I was served by a person that I felt incredibly attracted to. This person had an aura of openness and ‘comfortableness’ with who they are and how they moved with it was just, well arresting. This person was ‘f to m’ trans. I could not take my eyes of him and I nearly asked him out on a date there and then, but I was at a work meeting and it would not have been at all appropriate. I came away from that café intrigued and really engaged by my feelings of attraction. All of a sudden it felt as if I was opening  up against the way I had thought about attraction. I started to look around at everyone from that moment on. I started to feel that for me, the identity of ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ just didn’t cut it. It was too tight-fitting and not at all flexible and I didn’t want to be constrained in my exploration of this by any label.

Shortly after, I went to the USA for a few months of travelling and seeing friends. I spent a lot of time with one particular wonderful woman whom I adore talking about all manner of things and one of them was queer identity. She identifies as queer, and has had many relationships and experiences with both men and women.  She told me that no label was appropriate to describe the variety, fluidity and openness of her sexuality. That sentence described for me what I had started to explore within myself. The term queer started to sound more appropriate for me because I knew that as much as I hate labels, everything has one. This one, felt at least like it was an open space within the terminology, with no set definition but with the opportunity to define it for myself, for my own queerness.

During my trip in the USA, I found myself being actively attracted to many different kinds of people, who all had ‘queer’ identities. It was a myriad of acceptance and openness. It did not matter what your predominant sexual attraction was as to what your label should be. It was fantastically liberating (of course this was limited to specific cities and communities, such as San Francisco and New York – I did not feel at all liberated or accepted as a queer in States such as Utah – but that’s American politics for you). I was seduced by a woman who lives within a heterosexual relationship but openly has sex with other women – queer. I flirted with, and was flirted with back, by a man who lives with his male partner, who both have sex with other people of all genders – queer. I found myself opening up and living in a world where my sexuality was fluid and changing. My sexuality had awoken from traditional label concepts I had used and was now more alive and freed from rigidity. In this way, the only word that appropriately describes my sexuality now is queer. For me it means ‘different, open and not to be pinned down too tightly’. I cannot categorically decide, based on gender or sexual orientation, who I will or will not be attracted to in the future. I would love to meet more people, of every gender identity to see  how far my queerness goes.

I’m aware that not everyone in this world may have such a wide-ranging scale of attraction when it comes to people, genders and sex. But I do think that it is wrong to try and skinny fit everyone into a specific label all the time, because it’s quite possible that one day something changes and a label just doesn’t fit any more. I truly feel that openness and fluidity are possible aspects of every one’s sexuality as we grow older and interact with many more people.

When my friends find out that I am not a goldstar anymore, they tend to say that its quite a big deal because they had always known me to sleep with only other women. However, since using the word ‘queer’ to identify and explain to my friends about this, it has been put into context. It was just another sexual experience, not a crisis of sexual identity, a bid to become heterosexual, a mistake or something I am embarrassed to tell anyone. We will not always be attracted to the same people as we grow older, or the same gender, and that is why I feel the word ‘queer’ is the most apt word for me. It leaves so much room for possibilities; in a wonderful way.

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Posted in: Opinion