Back in the day, oh, in my late teens and early twenties, I used to reject the "gay" label, often quoting Michael Stipe, saying "Labels are for soup cans." I will love who I love, I said. I will love the person, not the body. Of course, back then, that was all just an elaborate charade so as to not have to admit that I was actually a homosexual, although I wasn't fooling anybody. Well, except maybe myself. Or, no, not really even myself. It was a safe way for me to admit that yeah, I was pretty queer, but not gay, not so compartmentalized, so scripted. I didn't know anyone yet who actually called themself "gay." I certainly wasn't brave enough to be the first. And as far as Michael Stipe goes, it was also a cowardly way for him to avoid the question.
Once, however, I became comfortable with the gay label, my next targets of my internalized homphobia were drag queens and transsexuals. I hated them, and Dallas nightclubs were full of them, even the non-gay ones. I resented that whenever I went to a gay club they were all over the place. They were (or maybe still are) a ubiquitous part of Dallas nightlife. At least where I went. Not until years later, when my boyfriend left me for a woman, and I had to face my own self-loathing and homophobia and fear head-on, did I come to realize that, even into my mid-twenties, being gay, to me, meant not being a man. It meant cutting off a part of your masculinity (so to speak). This was also why, for years, the biggest objects of my affection and unrequited love were always straight men. I don't know that I really wanted to date any of them (although a few of them I certainly wouldn't have kicked out of bed); I wanted to be them. I wanted to live vicariously through them. The acceptance of straight males still means a lot to me, even now. A large part of that, though, is also because growing up I never had male friends, and I always longed for them desperately. Boys always hated me, and, well, I usually wasn't ever too crazy about them either. I never had solid, close, male relationships until my early 20's. But I always wanted them, as far back as I can remember.
Luckily, and thankfully, I've moved on from all of that. (Isn't self-awareness wonderful?!?) All of which, ironically, has had me thinking about labels again recently.
In my Sexuality class a couple of weeks ago, we had a male-to-female transsexual come talk to the class about her experiences as a transgendered person, and how she came to decide to switch genders and live fully as a woman. It was fascinating, and since transsexuals are people I've taken an avid interest in recently, but never really had the fortune to sit down and talk to, I could have listened to her talk all day. It didn't help that she was a great speaker, was really funny, and had a charismatic comfort that radiated all over the classroom. Her journey was so interesting, though, and she said that her ideal man would be the totally stereotypical sort of blue-coller tough guy. Those guys, however, she lamented, were never interested in her. Freaked them out too much.
One thing I guess I'd never really considered a whole lot before her talk, though, was how identifying with one gender or another, just like sexuality, can be on a scale, just like sexual orientation (and I don't have to say that the two are totally unrelated at this point, do I....?).
One of the very best compliments I've ever received in my life came from a dear friend who told me that his favorite thing about me was that I encompassed the best of both genders. It was totally out of left field, but I've thought about that a lot since he told me that. It is true that I love being a man; I love my body (as in, the maleness of it, not my physique; I actually sort of hate that), I love being around other men, I love men's clothes, the way they smell, the whole bit. Inside, though, I've always felt much more feminine than masculine. In fact, and this is weird, but when I think of myself outwardly, like when I imagine what I must look like to others, I often imagine myself as a physical female. That's a hard thing to admit, and it's sort of scary, but I welcome in the anxiety. I'm fairly certain I'll never get to the point where I feel incomplete unless I'm a female; as I said, I do love being a man.
But having said that, I like to think of myself more as "queer" now than "gay." I know it doesn't really matter, and I still am what I am, but queer can mean so many things. Like, almost all of my heterosexual male friends I would also consider about as queer as can be. Just because they sleep with girls doesn't make them less queer than I am. (Sorry, guys, I hope you appreciate that!) It just means they're queer in different ways. At least in my interpretation.
A few weeks ago I wrote about needing to do something for my paper in my Sexuality class. Well, if you haven't figured it out yet, I have: I'm going to do a photo-essay of myself - in full on drag. I'm gonna go all out, with leg-shaving, high heels, a long wig, makeup, skirts. I think it will be a lot of fun, and yes, it does freak me out some. What if I really love it?!? Frankly, I don't really want to be a transgendered person, but I guess if I do love it and I am, then so be it. I kind of already consider myself about half transgendered anyway, I suppose.
Maybe I'll even post some of the pictures here.