I finally got my earlobes pierced*. It was a good experience. The piercing specialist, who has crazy gaugings with gears spinning in them and most likely some advanced form of clean/renewable electric power generation happening inside, asked me if I would want to gauge my ears at any point in the future (considerate of him to ask, and I’m fine with other people gauging their ears, but #No).
This got me to thinking about something along the lines of the hierarchical sexism problems that Julia Serano writes about. I identify as queer** in two senses. I am gender non-conforming, in the sense that I try to / want to conform well within female normative appearance (happily) and behavior but I was assigned male at birth***. I am also sexually non-conforming in that I am bisexual-going-on-lesbian, in a really amazing relationship with a lesbian identified woman who has always known me and accepted me as a woman, even when it’s under the male mask for work, etc.
And yet, right? (In Japanese, the women especially say あの、ぬ。I find this a lot more artful, but, well, my Japanese is rusty these days, but you think I sound like a girl in English, whew, you should hear me speak Japanese.) As queer people have more and more come out into the open, doesn’t it sometimes seem that being appearance non-conforming is more queer than being LGBTQIA+? It seems like a different thing than the days, back when I was in college, that people called the local coffee chain “Oppresso Royale” for policing tattoos and piercings. Rather, it seems sometimes that queerness of the appearance kind – having lots of tattoos, body piercings, dressing in non-conforming ways, sometimes is a shibboleth for queer spaces. *Cough* really a shibboleth for BTQIA+ spaces and maybe occasionally L spaces (I haven’t had opportunities to go to that many L spaces, but I do get invited). I guess this isn’t really a new thing. Kate Bornstein, of all people, has an experience in her wonderful memoir where she gets read as cis/het in a lesbian bar, and they kind of gave her the “this is no place for a pretty little thing like you” line until it turned out she was kinkier-than-thou.
This is really absurd and is really an element of something between hierarchicalism and what Serano calls Oppression Olympics. It is, ultimately, putting people into different better/worse categorizations based on variables like race/sex/appearance rather than rejecting the notion that people are fundamentally more and less valuable in an intrinsic way****, from one to the next.
Queer spaces should not gatekeep sexual/gender minorities based on stuff that is not fundamentally related to being a sexual/gender minority. Being trans and being a woman who loves a woman make me queer. That woman I love has a number of tattoos, and sometimes I kiss them and sometimes I like looking at them, and other times I really don’t have strong feelings about her tattoos, or even her discussion of getting a sleeve, and occasionally I make fun of them. But my not having any tattoos, and no piercings except my ungauged earlobes, in which I wear girly earrings that match my outfit whenever possible, do not de-queer me, and it’s no more right that I be looked down upon because I am au naturel than for me to look down on someone because they are pierced or tattooed.
Really fundamental to this concern is the idea of identities, experiences, and behaviors being more revolutionary because they are farther from the mainstream. In that way, my argument is that it is much the same as claiming femmes somehow invalidate the experience of other lesbian women by their femininity or preserve the patriarchy because they kiss women, but do so in lipstick and heels. Maybe it’s even easier to see in the idea that somehow non-tattooed people are oppressing tattooed people with their plain skin. The bottom line is that the truly revolutionary acts are to be authentic to oneself, and to decide that all people matter. And the revolution won’t be over, until life is equal, until love is equal, until gifts are equal.
* Use a reputable tattoo / piercing parlor, it’s worth it.
** Sometimes I hear people in the trans community use queer to mean non-binary, instead of saying the more specific genderqueer. I’d really like to push to keep queer as an umbrella identification, because there’s no other good word that tries to capture the entirety of people who are gender and/or sexually non-conforming to societies’ expectations. Like the concept of “colored,” the umbrella use of queer is a political construct – because we all experience marginalization because we are queer, like nearly Ll “colored” people have experienced at least some marginalization in a “white” society. It is not my intent to imply that there is a homogeneity to queer people or to straight (cis/het) people. There isn’t, and that’s the whole point.
*** I find this language clumsy and overly indulgent of implausibly constructionist gender theories, but whatever.
**** Careful readers will note I am a Fountainhead-loving libertarian and wonder at this statement. I take a constructionist view of equality. I do not believe that people are born equal, nor do I believe they remain equal over the course of their lives. I think we create societal systems, however, that give them equality in the sense of opportunity. Those societal systems reduce/eliminate, and I reject, the idea of valuating people on many things that they are rather than do, such as race or sex. I also reject valuating people based on extraneous variables – I don’t give someone the kind of respect I value most because of their tattoos – tattoos have nothing to do, mostly, with my loves – passion, creativity, ingenuity. I will give mad props to a really pretty tattoo, though, because I love beauty.