Of gender identity, sexuality, and weddings, weddings, weddings

As my friends and I go through our 20s, will we all abandon our queer ramparts and begin having babies?

By Cary Tennis
August 9, 2005 3:46AM (UTC)
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Dear Cary,

I'm in my early 20s, as are most of my friends, and I can hear wedding bells off in the distance for my friends in opposite-sex relationships.

A number of them are now engaged, and a few others are living with partners. Someone who was a close friend of mine in high school, a sharply intelligent woman who has been in a number of relationships that would be classified as unconventional due to the sexuality, gender identity, openness, or number of partners, is now engaged to her straight boyfriend and says that she just wants to be a good wife and mother. Other friends of mine who used to flirt with the boundaries of gender and sexuality are also settling down.


I know in my heart and my head that this will intensify. In a few years, there will be a rash of weddings. Babies will start being born. Most of us will have jobs that require the regular wearing of specifically gender-appropriate clothing.

I'm bisexual and I haven't been in a monogamous relationship, or dated a capital-M male, in years. I was a tomboy and I still sometimes feel that I'm dressing in drag when I put on earrings and a skirt. I'm also into kink. I didn't decide to be any of these non-mainstream things, but now they're part of my identity, both personally and politically. And they've contributed to really interesting and wonderful experiences and relationships over the last few years. Its been scary sometimes, too, and as I've presented in a number of ways to different groups, I think I've learned some things about privilege that as a middle-class white person I wouldn't have learned otherwise.

However, the costs of not presenting as mainstream are going to increase, and I don't know how to work this out. If I wind up with a long-term female partner, I'll have to come out to my relatives. Having more than one long-term partner is even more difficult. I feel no need to "come out" about my involvement with leather/kink/B&D/S&M to anyone beyond close friends, potential partners and other kinky people, but if I wind up being involved with the leather community, there will always be the chance that I'll get outed to employers or relatives. (And finding kinky partners within the leather community is a whole lot less dangerous than looking for them in any other place outside one's circle of friends.)


I'm still in college for a bit longer, so it isn't too late for me to cry "It was all just a phase!" about nearly all of these identities. And academically and career-wise, I'd probably be fine. I'm majoring in something practical that I love, and my grades have been good, so I can pass in that regard. But if I do this, I'll be giving up a lot of who I am, socially and politically, and who I've been for years. And the privileges that go along with being perceived as straight and monogamous and non-poor and basically vanilla aren't fair privileges, anyway. And trying to balance the two -- to have a whole identity that your family and your employer can't know anything about -- is not a good long-term strategy.

I don't want to be angry at my friends for taking on a whole wad of straight married privilege, but I am. And I'm scared that I'm going to do it, too, eventually (it would be legally impossible with my current relationship status). What do I do before the weddings start coming, and with this whole bigger issue of identification, and how do I not resent my friends for going mainstream, deal with the loneliness of not, or the loss that I'll experience if (when?) I do?



Dear Lost,

Society is a gun. Don't point it at yourself. Society is a disease. Wash your hands frequently.

How to live in society without being killed by it? I do not know. It takes a little more out of you every day. It seduces you out of your seductiveness. It coats you with white flour. It makes your voice sound strange. It puts you in a uniform. It wears you down.


You could live in an apartment full of drag queens and record-store clerks for the rest of your life. There are such apartments to be had, though the rents have gone up.

You could tell your parents all about yourself or you could let them guess. Either way, you will not be understood.

Life is not something you can ace like a test. It's messy, glorious and strange, filled with blowhards like me who say things like "Life is messy, glorious and strange" and "society is a gun" like some 1950s beatnik. (I would march with the beatniks if I could.)


Become friends with queer people in their 60s. Talk to them. Talk to veterans of Stonewall and be prepared for a world as empty of theory as a brick wall. No matter what you say to it, you cannot persuade it.

Rejoice in your singularity. Get used to being alone. Accept that society is out to crush you -- but not because it is malevolent! Is the common cold malevolent? That's its nature: to make you sneeze.

Your job is simple, really. It needn't be complicated by tortuous contemplation about what you reveal and what you hide. Neither hide nor reveal. Just be. It's not your job to figure it out. It's the job of society, that ravenous beast of sameness, that gravel-crushing machine.


And one day, like me, assuming you survive, you will say to people in their 20s: You know what's really terrifying -- more terrifying than the deadening effect of society? It's that, bit by bit, completely of your own accord, you eventually become so boring that you want to stomp yourself in the face with a boot.

Which you cannot do because your knees are too stiff.

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