For the first article in our Alternative Sex Education week with Bristol Speak Out, Clodagh Chapman gives a few lessons on being a queer woman that you might not have been taught at school.
In schools, queerness as a whole is glossed over – beyond perhaps a sentence or two consisting of words to the effect of ‘some people are gay.’ This left me, as a closeted queer teenage girl, confused, uninformed and to be honest a bit scared. It wasn’t even the sexual aspect that was bothering me – it was more that I had no idea how I was meant to be navigating this world when I wasn’t experiencing the same kinds of attraction in the same ways as my peers. So I’ve put together some lessons that I’ve learnt over the past few years that my 15 year old self would probably have been very grateful for.
Disclaimer time: I’ve used ‘queer’ as a blanket term for all non-straight identities – I am very aware that the word ‘queer’ can be used to encompass non-cisgender identities too, but this article is solely focusing on sexuality, because in short, I don’t know enough about gender to write about it.
There are many different ways to be queer
You can experience attraction to the same gender and be queer. You can experience attraction to a gender that is not your own and be queer. You can experience no sexual attraction whatsoever and be queer. You can be none of these things or all of these things or somewhere in-between, but otherwise be not-straight, and still be queer. Not being gay does not take away from your queerness.
Your queerness does not define you
I am a queer woman. I am also a student, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a feminist, a coffee drinker, and a cat person. Your queerness is one of many parts of your identity – it doesn’t have to define you any more than anything else does.
The vast majority of people could not care less about your sexuality
I was told to expect tears, abuse, and social isolation on coming out. None of these things really happened. That’s not to say my coming out was easy (it wasn’t), or that homophobia doesn’t exist (it does), or that my experience is necessarily reflective of the experiences of everyone else in the world (it isn’t). I recognise that I am in a position of privilege, living in a very liberal city with family and friends who are all very accepting of non-traditional relationships. But honestly, the vast majority of responses you will get to your queerness will be apathy. And this is a good thing.
Most of the homophobia you’re going to get will come from straight males, who have no shame in treating you as a tourist attraction
Your sexuality does not exist for the gain of people who are turned on by watching two girls kiss. Sadly, there seem to be a certain breed of straight males who didn’t get that memo, and hang around in queer spaces with the sole intent of creeping and/or hitting on queer women. And if you’re not interested in men, they will usually have one of three responses to this bit of information – confusion, fear, or outright denial. If you find yourself in the latter situation, where someone is being uncomfortably persistent, don’t be afraid of making a big deal out of nothing, and please let someone know what’s happening.
These lessons will not necessarily apply to you
I am white and cis, writing from my own experiences as a queer woman. As a result, this article probably isn’t as inclusive or intersectional as I’d like it to be, simply because I have no personal experience in what it’s like to be queer and a WOC, or queer and trans, or even just queer and anyone-who-isn’t-me. If anything in this article doesn’t apply to you, that’s okay and – again – does not make your queerness any less valid.
Photo by Chloë Maughan