Thursday, July 7, 2016

Without Sounding "Political"

by Giselle Renarde

My girlfriend's mother didn't have a problem with queer people--it was our "politics" she objected to.

She liked gay people as individuals. Working in theatre as she did (and as my girlfriend does), she had many gay friends. She held genuine affection for them... she just didn't approve of them wanting legal rights and such.

My girlfriend never came out to her mother, either as trans or as a lesbian. I've mentioned before that Sweet isn't out with her family. She's genuinely afraid of losing them. The one family member who discovered she's trans hasn't spoken to her since.

She doesn't feel that would have happened with her mother. Her mother wouldn't have abandoned her--she simply wouldn't have understood what it means to be trans, or why Sweet would want to live as a woman. Their relationship would have changed, become less comfortable and more stilted. That's what my girlfriend believes. 

Her mother died a few years ago so I guess we'll never know.

I can't help wondering how it's possible to "have no problem" with queer people, to have lifelong friends who are gay, and yet not want to be troubled by our politics--where "politics" indicates a want and need for human rights and legal protections.

I also can't help wondering if Sweet's mother would have changed her tune if my girlfriend had come out as trans and lesbian. This woman was a genuinely caring person. I can attest to that because I knew her. But she didn't know me as her daughter's girlfriend. Would she have treated me differently if she'd known me in a different context? 

Would she have treated her son differently as a daughter?

Would she have found my girlfriend's gender identity too... political?

That's the thing about queer bodies--and trans bodies in particular. Our very existence is highly politicized, and that doesn't usually start with us. It's imposed on us. We're just living our lives... until we're told we don't have the right. That's when we choose: we give in or fight.

Do I want to be a political queer? Not particularly. I'm a quiet person who just wants to live a quiet life. But what happens when I get my census form and I'm given the choice of telling the government I'm male or female. I don't identify strongly with either of those choices. On the inside, I feel pretty non-binary, genderfucked, androgynous, questioning. My gender identity isn't perfectly pinned down.

How do I convey that sentiment to the government?

...without sounding "political"?


  1. I think for many people "political" equals "public," so that liking queer individuals is okay, but as a group or groups demanding rights they seem to be going public in ways that force others to focus on and approve of their "lifestyle" which may be imagined as "icky" even if they're otherwise considered friends.

    The census question is interesting and complex. I was interviewed today by someone preparing a magazine article, and one of her questions was about preferred use of pronouns in the queer community. I haven't noticed any general consensus on the matter--I suppose the use of "they" as singular descriptor comes closest--but really, if we're looking at gender as a continuum with infinite and often fluctuating points, a general consensus may be impossible. As far as choices on a census goes, the best we can hope for is a third choice of "other," and I've heard a rumor that my state is going to do that. Not that it feels all that good to be classed as "other," either, for different reasons.

  2. It seems you're forced, by your very existence, to descend into politics. (Why did I say "descend"? Couldn't it be "ascend"?)

    On the other hand, it's possible to become so political that you can't deal with people as individuals--you can only relate to them based on the groups they belong to. Maybe that's what Sweet's mom was talking about.

    Politics also generates fractures. Every time Jean writes about her experiences with the lesbian culture wars, I shudder. Talk about a waste of potentially useful energy!

    1. Considering the state of US politics these days, it's no wonder you picked 'descent'.

  3. I think it's like white people who say they're not prejudiced because they have "a black friend." No one asks the black friend what he/she thinks about that person. But they don't want to be confronted with the reality of white privilege, or face black outrage, because it makes them feel uncomfortable. Note, for black folks not talking hasn't really worked out that well. For white folks who can ignore the whole issue, it's SNAFU.

    How have we come to this point? I thought the US is supposed to be the land of the free and equal. When did we get so segmented? What is everyone so afraid of? The best defense is acceptance. Instead of sitting around building more bombs to protect ourselves, we need to welcome everyone seeking freedom to our shores. Then there won't be any need for someone to say we're discriminators who deserve to die for our prejudices. They'll have to blow up their own folks first, since they'll be standing in front of them saying, "No bombs here, please, we live here too."

  4. You've said this so well, Giselle.