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14 July 2011, 4:00 pm 8 Comments

Personal Narratives: The Incredible Vanishing Queer

Submission by Christina Cauterucci, first-time contributor

c. Wikimedia Commons

In a society that still persecutes queer couples brave enough to show affection in the public sphere, the make-outs and grope-fests that spangled D.C.’s Capital Pride Weekend were a big, well-lubed middle finger to the heteronormativity that pervades even this thinly tolerant, vaguely progressive city.

My partner and I, each blessed with a unique queer identity and two X chromosomes, should have felt right at home amid the rainbow-clad masses. But, because my partner’s trans, we look like a straight couple. And in a sea of hyper-visible same-sex love, we stood out like a BYU t-shirt at an Ani DiFranco show.

There’s nothing wrong, in theory, with straight allied couples that come out (so to speak) to Pride Weekend events. Far be it from me to deny anyone, hetero though they may be, the right to watch greased-up Nellie’s bartenders grind the afternoon away on a bass-thumping float.

But I ‘m not straight. I wanted to feel solidarity in the crowds of people who shared some part of the growing pains I faced as a young queer girl. I wanted to feel my future reflected in older queer couples walking arm-in-arm down the sidewalk. I wanted to feel–pride. The sheer number of out, proud gays convened in one spot is what gives Pride its power. And I had to accept that–to the naked eye–I wasn’t contributing.

Before I inadvertently donned a heterosexual invisibility cloak at Capital Pride, I’d underestimated my need to broadcast my sexuality to the world. In fact, I was sick of sensing that my every public kiss with a girl was some big social statement. The leers, scowls and condescending smiles were tiring, at best, and threatening at worst.

So when I started dating my current partner, I relished the lack of double takes in our trail; we were just another straight couple out on a date. Our queerness was our little secret, like a hidden tattoo that’s more meaningful because it takes a deliberate unveiling to see. I even let my parents breathe a faint sigh of relief when I told them I was dating a “he.”

Soon, though, my hetero-charade began to nibble at my conscience–was I sending the queer movement backward by not telling the whole truth about my relationship? Or would I be indulging a self-important desire to feel like an outsider if I launched a personal PR campaign to let the world know that I ‘m not just dating any old dude–he’s a transdude! I’m still a sexual minority!

Dating a transguy, and coming to terms with the disconnect between my appearance and my true self, has given me new perspective on the contradictions that come with being queer in a society that presumes heterosexuality and rigid gender boundaries. Coming out to new friends seemed easier when I had girlfriends to bring around; now it takes a more complicated explanation. It’s a fine line to walk–being honest about my relationship without feeling like I’m treating my partner like a token or verging on TMI-territory with folks who want the finer details of surgeries and hormone effects. Ultimately, the trans-bomb is my partner’s to drop, but he’s open enough to encourage me to come out (again) to close family and friends and field their questions about trans life.

It was hard to admit to myself, but I now recognize the feeling that reared its head when I took grateful shelter in my newfound ability to blend in with other couples: homophobia. And now, I’m letting myself mourn the knowing, affirming looks from other queer couples that no longer come. They were nice, but recognition shouldn’t be the foundation of my identity.

Finding joy in my sexuality–without sanding down the rough edges to fit into mainstream society–has been the most rewarding part of my life as a queer. Here’s hoping that at next year’s Pride Parade, I’ll let go of my appearance anxiety long enough to really enjoy those grinding bartenders.

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  • Leah said:

    I can relate to this. I am a cisgendered woman dating a cisgendered man. The thing is that we are both pansexual and polyamorous.

  • RC said:

    Oi.. Big problem in your relationhip: you ren’t in a lesbian relationship. A transguy doesn’t want to be a girl; if he’s like me, he may be frustrated you call yourself gay ad still date him. If you’re a lesbian, it’s just wrong of you to date a hetero male who just happwns to have two x chromosomes. So be a little more snsiive- you’ve got to accept you’re bi, not queer. Because otherwise it’s cruel to iust keep reminding him he’s dating a woman who thinks she’s woth another woman.

  • mim said:

    You seem to have the same problem that Bisexual people have. It’s really a shame that for all the tolerance that we claim to stand for, the queer community seems to be all about appearance; if you’re not out, you’re a millstone to the community and if you’re in a straight relationship you don’t count anymore. I know plenty of bisexual people that are passive at best when it comes to participation, all of them in relationships woth someone of the opposite sex. I think the olny real solution here is to gert rid of the heteronormativity that we’ve internalized. If you’re at pride, we have to assumme you’re not part of the norm, regardless of how you appear because otherwise we’re stuck thinking that straight is the default and that anything different have to be blatantly obvious.

  • Gay said:

    I second RC and mim. You’re with a “man”, so you’re technically straight. Not sure what the emphasis on ‘not’ being straight was about.

  • StraightistheNewGay said:

    So what if there are straight people coming to Pride events? You can’t complain about a society of heteronormativity if you don’t practice true inclusion. Most of the time, other people are far less concerned with your personal life then you think they are. Let’s look at the bigger picture here, which is letting everyone have equal sexual freedoms and rights. There’s enough pride to go around.

  • K said:

    Shouldn’t the author, like any other person, be allowed to define her own sexuality and preferences without people coming in and TELLING her what she is? Isn’t saying “well, technically you’re straight,” the sort of like telling someone who’s queer that they’re just “confused?” I think she should be able to identify herself. The point I gathered from this piece was that sexuality is much more fluid than all of us give it credit, whether we’re straight, gay, lesbian, trans, bi, whatever. Everyone struggles to find their fit within the puzzle of human sexuality, but maybe we should remind ourselves that the borders can get a little fuzzy, and that’s just fine.

  • MFC said:

    I’m with “K.” Whether you (I mean to users who are policing the author’s use of the term, “queer) decide to identify solely based on the binary and are unwilling to consider yourselves anything but a straight man is up to you. The author and her partner have the liberty to decide how they view their relationship. Her partner may still want to own his queer identity which I think would be really cool of him. Side note, being with a man, whether cisman or transman, doesn’t necessarily make one “straight.” Liberate your thinking a touch. Cool piece, btw.

  • RC said:

    I understand what you’re saying. But the problem here is that it’s kind of a bitchslap in the face for her to call her boyfriend a girl. In my experience, the second the word ‘lesbian’ comes up, I get pissed as hell. I’m a bisexual transguy, currently in a gay relationship. By which, of course, I mean he’s a he and so am I. But just because of an extra X chromosome, you make him out to sound more like a closeted lesbian than an out transguy.