Always Feeling Queer, But Never Enough
Queer Stories speech for City of Sydney as part of Sydney Festival, Hyde Park 2016
Well, just as a F Y I: I am feeling like I’m not queer enough to be talking tonight, yet too queer not to be here, so forgive my awkwardness. Don’t worry, this is a recurrent theme in my life, seemingly falling into the grey areas of stupid labels and therefore never feeling adequate enough to be acknowledged as what I am in regular social situations. For example, I look quite disabled, complete with the slight dribble and this unbelievably sexy robotic voice, but I don’t have other disability tropes, I don’t use a wheelchair, I am not deaf, nor do I have abnormal cognitive processes, well not more than the average, so I often find myself having to clarify firstly, that I can hear things, that I can respond in a somewhat appropriate manner and then that my name is Georgia and I like, I don’t know, say scrabble… or boobs.
So as per my bio, I recently went to San Francisco, or to the Bay Area to be precise, to the most supposed socially progressive city, Berkeley. I went with one of my lesbian-looking friends, Kate…. She is indeed a lesbian, but you know what I mean, she looks tough and sort of intimidating, well I was intimidated when I first met her. But I feel her appearance kind of legitimised my queerness, because often people don’t think of me as a sexual being. With Kate, and with my short hair, it kind of made me feel more comfortable with my queerness in that environment.
Once we were crossing a road downtown, and there was a woman fully decked out in rainbow, she was wearing a rainbow necklace and carrying a rainbow wallet. I smiled thinking how that could be me, and just at that moment, Kate nudged me and goes “I can imagine you wearing something like that”. I proudly waved an imaginary flag, in honour of my closeted 15 year old self and signed “well, how else would people know I’m gay?” that silenced Kate for a bit. Another few blocks closer to home and another few drops of sweat rolled down my eyelids, she commented how the Slushy that we had from the 7eleven had stained my mouth reddish and that it looked like blood, and I paused, smiled “I don’t need rainbows to show that I love women every day of the month, it’s written all over my face”, at which stage, we both shook our heads. Kate rolled her eyes at me with an air of sarcasm, she sighed “You funny bitch…”, and we burst into laughter.
I appreciate moments like these, (notwithstanding that I had to resist the urge to get all academic on Kate and explain how the use of the word “bitch” perpetuates patriarchy and normalises misogynistic violence). It’s rare that I feel seen as just me, and can be vulgar and stupid, without feeling the need to temper my thoughts or to apologise, or explain myself. It’s rare that I can let myself be and not feel the need to apologise for an aspect of my identity.
When I first turned 18, going out on ladies’ night in Newtown was the shit, I felt finally some sense of ease going out. It was almost like discovering another world, where I didn’t have to come out (as sexual or queer, or anything really). As the novelty wore off, the stares and the judgemental comments became more obvious and stung in a way that really upset me. Bearing in mind that I encounter ignorant and idiotic people on a daily basis because of my unruly muscles, but this was different. I thought this was meant to be a more “liberated” crowd and more embracing of diversity. How naïve I was!
Take for example the time that I dragged my then straight twin sister out to the Sly Fox. She was a bit shocked by her surroundings, so stayed close by my side. Nevertheless some random person on the street felt the need to praise my sister for “bringing her disabled sister out to the bar” and just like that, in one fell swoop , they made me feel less than an autonomous being. Another time, I was being silly with a friend and maybe dancing a little provocatively, when a lady felt she needed to tell my friend not to hurt me later that night, as if I wasn’t aware of my surroundings. These types of things happened enough that eventually I began to realise that Wednesdays in Newtown weren’t the best place for me. It was more than that, I felt so invisible and disempowered.
As the acronym for the LGBT community grows and expands to become more inclusive and accepting, I can’t help but feel it doesn’t quite fit me or anyone who’s ability slightly differs from the norm. Sex and disability is a taboo that has been broached countless of times and I think most people now get it as a theoretical thing, as a thing that people do. But really, do you really look at me, and think sex? Or do my quirky movements and tedious way of communicating elicit more pity than passion?
The thing is, I have been accustomed to sympathy and condescension from people I don’t know, so that even makes going out in general hard, and dating even harder.
A few of my closest friends have had to listen to me rant about my brief ventures into online dating, spoiler alert: they were basically non-existent and imperceptible. I know I am not that awful to look at, but I’m more attractive in print, trust me. Still, I think my OK cupid profile has been up for a few years and to date, no one has contacted me, despite me sending out over a dozen messages.
So many of my friends have been mistaken for a carer or my sister, it’s actually ridiculous. That really irks me, because it’s as if people don’t see me as capable of being decent company. And I don’t think people realise how those things gradually wear away at your confidence and idea of who you are. To be perfectly honest, it really sucks, and so to even consider being sexual becomes difficult. If someone glances at me, I conclude it’s because my body is spastic, but who knows, they might be making eyes at me, but that’s the thing, it’s not straightforward.
Disability complicates almost everything,