I have been having some unexpected success in getting other people to acknowledge me as a dancer. Inasmuch as the rest of my life is now falling apart, I've started submitting pieces to shows and festivals, because, you know, gotta do something with myself.

Submitting to shows is a lot like applying for scholarships or publishing stories in an anthology. If you can find one that's geared to a specific category that you happen to fit in, it narrows the pool of applicants, and gives you a better shot. I submitted an eye-catching open-air number to a festival I knew was looking for street performers, and I put in a number that was all hand-tricks with a hoop for a show that was looking for pieces confined to a small space. There's a holiday show that I know is geared towards large groups of dancers, and I'm already planning for that.

I'm particularly eager to submit to a spring show for works by female choreographers. It's run by a woman I work with, and she has specifically commented that while a lot of the numbers she gets are political, they need not be -- sometimes, women just do cool things. Generally, my attempts to make art are also an attempt to escape from the fucked-up world around me, so I appreciate this a lot.

I'm still ambivalent about submitting to shows for work by queer artists. It feels very mercenary to flip my policy of 'I don't really care' to 'absolutely I am one of you' on the basis that I want to be on stage. The preface to the traditional coming-out narrative is the sudden, epiphanic realization that, 'well, I'm clearly not going to stop being attracted to [X], so I guess I have to own it', and that's not an experience I've ever had.

Barring the fact that we're all twenty years older now, I get the exact same brain-destroying crushes on the exact same kinds of people I did when I was a teenager. Twenty years ago, if you gave them boring medical forms to fill out, they all would have called themselves men. Not because they were especially gung-ho about it, but because they were all in phenotypically male bodies, and they were all pretty much okay with that, so it was less wrong to circle "M". Today, there is a blank that says 'Other:', and a lot of them are now filling that in with things that they think are more accurate.

I haven't changed, but the world around me has, and I'm not sure how to make that adjustment gracefully.

If I did start calling myself queer, nobody would argue with me, but mainly for political reasons. Contending that since the people I crush on all seem to be AMAB, that means I'm "really" straight is a lot like telling a lesbian who is attracted to both cis and transwomen that she's "really" bisexual. TERFs and the TERF-adjacent are not popular around here, so that would go over like a lead balloon. It would be construed as erasure of my random crush's non-binary identity -- a grievous, possibly mortal, sin -- and any reinforcement of what I said would be a side effect. It's also considered rude to openly contest someone's self-categorization, although that doesn't mean it doesn't go on behind closed doors. The "she's just snogging other girls for attention" trope is alive and well, I promise.

Nobody has ever questioned why I show up to queer community events, although I've been asked if I'm going and occasionally what kept me from being at a particular one. People have at least got the idea that those are places I may commonly be found. I try not to speculate on why they have this idea, on the grounds that I should not ask any question whose answer may or may not disappoint me, especially if said answer wouldn't make me alter my behavior. On my end, I always check to make sure the event is open to friends and allies before I turn up. If anyone ever did ask me why I showed up, my answer would literally be, 'all my friends are here', and I don't feel it's acceptable to crash a closed party just to chat with people I see all the time anyway.

I'm always reluctant to claim membership in any wider community. It doesn't matter if the linking factor is a fandom or a geographical region or a hobby or a personal quality. I don't really know how to belong to anything bigger than an individual friendship. Most people learn how to operate as a unit in a larger whole from interacting with their families. I didn't; my family is unpleasantly dysfunctional, and insofar as there is a group to be part of, they all seem to hate it and participate under duress. After a lifetime of feeling like I was a nuisance whose presence was tolerated only so long as I could manage not to remind them that I existed, I did start skipping out, and they all turned on the turbo-crazy as punishment.

I've tried joining various things, but I always feel like I'm just squeaking by, waiting for someone to get fed up and pull me aside to say, 'look, you're nice and we enjoy having you as a guest, but you don't actually live here and we need you to stop acting as if you do'. Other people are baffled by the way I don't seem to understand what I do and do not need to request permission for, and keep asking if it's all right to do things that they assume go without saying. It's awkward on all sides, and distressing on my end, so it's easier to just not.

Conversely, I am almost always the last person to notice if I should be updating my self-image. It takes getting a reaction from someone else so incongruous with what I'm expecting that I don't know how to respond to make me reassess. I finally had to cough up for a scale, because I don't notice fluctuations in my weight until I've lost so much other people start to comment. I am apparently a much better dancer now than I was when I picked it back up a few years ago, but I have no idea exactly how good I am, either with respect to my past self, or with respect to the outside world. I have absolutely no idea what assumptions other people make about me from the things they can see, and I've learned the hard way that asking about it point-blank is a great way to get people to either lie like rugs, or sugar-coat the answer so thickly I can't actually tell what they think.

Comments

  1. Personally, I think allies are a huge part of the queer community. I consider you an ally, so I'm down with you showing up, particularly since you don't do the thing that many allies do in a queer space, which is prattle on about how easy it is to be unqueer, whatever that may mean to them in the moment.

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    1. ...what the fuck, why would anyone do that? "Oh, wow, it's so great to be a part of your life, let me tell you how hard you have it." I know exactly what it feels like to be told you're existing wrong all the time, thanks, even if it is for different reasons.

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    2. I imagine because they are afraid of being seen as queer: there are a ton of queerphobic messages that people internalize without knowing it. At some point, I think most allies quit being weird about it, but it can take a while.

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    3. I literally, physically could not give less of a shit what other people assume about my orientation. I will cheerfully explain myself to pretty much anyone if at any point it seems relevant, and let them draw their own conclusions.

      The only reason I'm wrestling with it now is that I'm forced to self-categorize in order to sort out which things I should apply to, and I don't want to overreach. I'm afraid I'd come off as the equivalent to that one clueless white chick who gets back a 23andMe test that says she's like 1/128 Iroquois, and suddenly sports a collection of braids and beaded buckskin dresses. Nobody likes her, and she makes the legitimate members of the community cringingly uncomfortable. I do not want that to be me.

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