This post is by Amy, a blogger at grrrlrevolution.wordpress.com.
My junior year of college, I read Adrienne Rich’s “Compulsory Heterosexuality and the Lesbian Existence.” In it, Rich talks about a “lesbian continuum” and the idea that intimate activities between women, even when non-romantic or non-sexual, challenge the norm of heterosexism. When I look back and try to pinpoint the moment when I started coming out to myself as queer, I have to credit this essay for opening up new pathways in my brain. Prior to reading it, I used language like “girl-crush,” I snuggled with my woman-friends, and we would call each other sexy in what I thought was a totally non-sexual way (ironic, I know). It wasn’t until I read some theory that told me my behavior could be called queer, could be placed upon this lesbian continuum, that I allowed my brain to wander into territory where girl-crush could just be crush and sexy might be only too related to sex.
I identify as queer; I am attracted to people of all genders and sexual orientations, and I don’t feel a need to put more of a label on it. Bisexual is just too limited. When we get into the nature vs. nurture debate, I feel it’s a little reductive. Reading news stories about researchers looking for the “gay” gene give me chills, and not in a good way. Where does that leave folks who are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, or feel outside of it altogether? And what are the implications of finding such a gene in the era of designer babies? I don’t know that we can absolutely say that everyone who identifies as LGBT was born as such, or that all of those same people made a choice. People are complicated, and our labels simply can’t account for the diversity that exists under the umbrella “LGBT.” To me, it’s okay if we don’t all have the same answer to this question.
What I do believe, based on my own experiences, is that I grew up in a heterosexist, cis-sexist culture, and it took a certain coalescence of reading a whole slew of queer theory, being surrounded by beautiful, intelligent women who were my comrades on campus, and a lot of self-reflection for me to come to my current understanding of my queer-ness. Is that nature, or nurture? The labels can’t even begin to speak to my experience, so I won’t even let them try. Queer, for me, is political as well as personal, and subscribing to a limited, polarized discourse speaks to a type of politics that I tend not to support. Queerness for me is about living beyond the neat categorizations of boxes and the attempts to justify one’s difference to the mainstream by loudly proclaiming, over and over again, that LGBT folks are “born this way.” The LGBT community is wildly and wonderfully diverse, and I hope that if we can encourage folks to articulate their own gender and sexual identities, we can also allow the debate about queerness to include a multitude of answer between, around, and nowhere near something as clear-cut as nature or nurture.
My days holed up with queer feminist theory that articulated so well the ideas and feelings within me started me on a journey towards coming out. I feel very at home in my queer identity and certainly wouldn’t trade what I have learned about myself for anything. Some people might say I was nurtured into discovering my nature – comfortably between poles and screwing with the binary. I could maybe work with that.
Amy blogs at grrrlrevolution.wordpress.com and works for civil rights in D.C. She studied Comparative Literature and feminist performance theory and looks for every chance she can find to incorporate art into her efforts towards social change, mostly via testimonial theatre.