Personal Narratives: The Incredible Vanishing Queer
Submission by Christina Cauterucci, first-time contributor
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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