Home » Not Your Average Prom Queen, Personal Narratives
4 August 2011, 9:00 am 6 Comments

Not Your Average Prom Queen: Maybe I Wasn’t Clear The First 10 Years

This post was submitted by Jean

I turn 29 on the 29th of next month. I am not at all bothered by the fact that I am ending my 20s, or that I am swiftly approaching 30. Those things mean nothing to me besides the fact that I’m probably in the best shape of my life, I’m in a great relationship, and have a good job.

What does interest me is that fact that I was 19 when I had my first real girlfriend, so this year I am marking my ten-year anniversary of Queerdom. As I’ve mentioned before in this column, I wasn’t a child or a young person who ever considered the possibility that I was queer. It was not until college that any of those feelings surfaced, and I worked out pretty quickly that I was mostly into girls.

It’s just sort of hard to believe that for far more than half of my dating life I have been dating women, and because I consider myself to be queer and not necessarily lesbian, this statistic is some how surprising. It was more than ten years ago when I last seriously considered that I would have a male partner, that I would have a hetero-normative lifestyle, that I would be “just like” my sister, brother or best friends. For 10 years I have been openly queer.

At this point, coming out memories, or fears of holding hands in public, or worry about being out at work are distant. To me, being queer is as a part of me is having dark hair or wearing glasses – some things just are. This is what makes it even more difficult for me to understand how I can still have such an awkward relationship with anyone and everyone blood related to me due to the fact that I date women.

My family and I aren’t close enough to share personal details of our lives – I never talked to my mother about high school boy friends or my sister about crazy college exploits. Or my brother about anything. We co-exist pleasantly enough, on a surface level, a few times a year even though we now all live in the same city. My sister and I are actually friends, have a lot in common, and, I think, like each other even more as we have gotten older, but it has always been commonplace for me to leave my relationships in the shadows that sometimes I forget that that isn’t normal.

They absolutely know that I date women. I told them a long time ago. They were aware when I lived with my girlfriend in DC, they were aware when we broke up. I refer to my current girlfriend frequently in conversation but never a question is asked about her, or about us, or about the future. Isn’t your family supposed to ask about marriage and babies? Isn’t that annoying nature in the job description of family members?

I am the type of person who would be happily interviewed at a Pride parade about being a part of the gay community. I have been writing a weekly column for TNG for more than 2 years. I am in a serious relationship with a woman. But I have never brought a girl home for the holidays. I have never given a joint gift to my mother from my girlfriend and I. I have never talked to my family members about the possibility of marriage or having children. In ten years of being queer, I have some how managed to be both extremely outspoken and uncomfortably quiet about my sexual orientation.

Should I be content to be a confident queer woman to the world and a distant daughter and sister to my family? Is it my responsibility to try to work on these relationships, or do I just get over it?

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  • Lauren said:

    Jean, I think that so many queer people go through this. My family is the same way. My sister is asked constantly about her boyfriend, their future plans and all I’m asked about is my sister and her boyfriend and their future plans. I think it’s up to us queers to be more inclusive of ourselves! We may just need to continue volunteering information about ourselves and our loved ones, even if our family is hesitant to want to know any details, you know? We must treat ourselves with the same amount of respect and inclusion that we expect from others. Great article, Jean! Congrats on the 10 years and I’m happy to have been a part of all of that queerness.

  • Jackie Rose said:

    I can relate; my family has known about me for years but never asks or responds to what I email them about a s/o. My mom pretends like it isn’t true, although she has always gotten along great with my ex’s. At first I thought what you wrote was kind of sad, but then I thought it makes sense. If you have never been used to sharing ANY intimate details of your life with your family, why should discussing relationships be any different? Unless you think they’d be more willing to talk about a hetero relationship; but I have a feeling if you were with a guy you’d probably be just as unlikely to share many details with people you’re not used to opening up to. What do you think?
    Can you tell me what the difference between queer and lesbian is, if you’re only interested in women? I’m curious, because I just dated someone who identifies as queer and I never asked her but it seems like she sees “queer” as more androgynous and more of a personality than a sexuality. Is that what it means? Please tell me, lol, I’m just curious. Ok hope this response wasn’t longer than ur article, keep up the great work. Oh, and happy 10-yr anniversary! :)

  • Jean (author) said:

    @Lauren – I think you and your gf are equally as cool as your sister and her bf. probably cooler. much, much, cooler.

    @Jackie -I think that my family dynamic would be 90% the same if I was in a hetero relationship. My family members might casually mention that person a little more often, but i certainly dont think he and I would be asked over to dinner or anything. The issue might be less of a gay one and more of a family one – I’m always a little jealous of people who have close and loving familial relationships, its just slightly more sensitive when it also appears to be related to my dating life.

    As for the difference between lesbian and queer – I’m not totally sure that I can prove a definition. I started using the word queer to describe myself a few years ago when I started realizing how bothered I was when someone called me a “lesbian.” There was something about my own associations with that word that I didnt like, and I was annoyed that the comment always played out something like this: Me: “Man I don’t know about you, but I think that guy at the coffee shop was SMOKING hot.” Friend: “He must be hot if even the LESBIAN thinks hes good looking.” Or, “Jean, you probably don’t want to hear about this, but when my boyfriend and I [insert something sexy]…” It was as though being considered a lesbian somehow excluded me from thinking men were attractive, crushing on guy (even just minimally), or not being totally grossed out by heterosexual sex.

    When I was first called queer, it was the first time that I actually identified with a sexuality related word – after years of cringing at “lesbian” or feeling a little boyish about “gay” and without actually dating men I don’t feel “bisexual.” Everyone identified in different ways, I just happened to be a queer, midwestern woman. :)

  • Jackie Rose said:

    Ok, thanks for clearing that up. I guess the definition of, “queer” is different for everybody who identifies with it. I liked the quote I heard one time that stated, “Sexuality is more about what’s between your ears than between your legs”.
    As for the family thing, mine isn’t close either but we’re very confrontational. Both my sister and I have had relationships we’ve hated to give up because the others had such close, loving families. Like, we wanted to break up with the person but not their family! lol. I have acceptance about that stuff now, and it’s made me be a mindfully more emotionally intimate parent.
    Have a great evening!

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