July 25, 2012

Queer Space: Feeling home in an Indigo Girls concert

Oh hey there gender blenders,

Sometimes I feel as if my investment in public spaces, my participation in them, is slightly off kilter and uncomfortable. I didn't quite grasp why until I went to an Indigo Girls concert the other night. My relationship to many spaces is complicated by the way I am "othered" by them. Generally, by nature of the city I live in, most public spaces are "straight" by default. In default straight spaces most everyone assumes most everyone else is straight, and it definitely feels like the assumptions are correct. It is more difficult to be out because one usually has to actively "come out" to be recognized as queer.

I have often been in such an environment and slyly looked to see if I could identify any other queers in the room. More than once I've felt a tiny bit betrayed when the people I thought could be queer turn out not to be, not by the people themselves, but by a society that makes me painfully recognize the loneliness of my difference. I don't mind being different, I embrace it, but I don't know anyone that enjoys feeling lonely. The probability of mutual queer recognition shifts because individual presentations of queerness change in straight-dominant spaces. For if we are recognized as queer by the straight people in the room, will they hate us? Will they be indifferent? Are they allies? If we are part of a couple, public displays of affection could out us and we could be targeted for harassment or violence. Fear is lonely.

The "space" of the Indigo Girls concert was pretty obviously queer. I wasn't shoved back in the closet by people's assumptions or fear. I was assumed queer until proven otherwise. I felt at home. There were singled and coupled les-bi-queer women everywhere, and I was elated at the automatic outness and visibility.