My Unlikely Queerness part 1
This is Part I about queerness and heterosexual monogamy. You can read Part II here.
This year, on National Coming Out Day, I posted this picture and caption to my Instagram:
And in doing so, came out as queer to the community of people who interact with me there, a group that includes internet friends, real-life friends, coworkers, and some family members. To be sure, a great many of those people probably saw that picture and said “No shit, Nikki, your obsession with Stevie Nicks and fondness for vests hasn’t exactly gone unnoticed the past decade.” But for others it may have come as somewhat of a surprise, because vests or no vests, I’m still a thirty-year-old married mom, and thirty-year-old married moms don’t typically come out unless it’s accompanied by divorce papers and a drastic haircut.
So as a person who is in a happy, lifelong commitment with a partner of the opposite sex, and who also has never actually had a romantic or sexual experience with someone of the same sex, what is the point in coming out? What does it even mean to BE queer in such a context?
When I was very young, I remember the adults in my life explaining to me how I should choose a romantic partner. They said to look past the superficial things like good looks; that I should find someone whose personality I was attracted to, someone who would continue to be a soulmate long after good looks fade. Like every “should” in my life, this notion had Biblical backing. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Since we strive to be more like God, we should follow this example.
Well I guess I followed this advice a little TOO well, because not only did I internalize that value wholeheartedly, but I took it to its logical extreme. If looks shouldn’t matter, grade school me reasoned, then couldn’t I fall in love with a girl as easily as a boy? It wasn’t long before I learned the Baptist church answer to that, but deep down it never made sense. Everything else that I had been taught was a sin was obviously hurtful to others or yourself--lying, stealing, coveting. But what was hurtful about loving someone?
Then towards the end of middle school I realized that my theory had been correct. Not only did I enjoy being around both boys and girls that I shared a connection with, I found myself totally into the idea of making out with both boys and girls that I shared a connection with. So what’s a devout Christian budding bisexual to do, you ask? Mostly I made out with my boyfriends and harbored deep unrequited crushes on my close female friends. These crushes became the main vehicle of all my teenage angst and ennui, with many a poem written and Ani Difranco song sung at top volume behind the rolled windows of my used Toyota Corolla. The only time I ever kissed a girl was during a high school game of truth or dare with a bunch of sheltered community theater kids.
All through high school and college, the way that I talked about homosexuality became more and more distanced from what I had been taught in church, until eventually I stopped talking altogether because the chasm was so wide that I didn’t see how it could be bridged. It tore me up inside more than any other theological quandary I had ever pondered, and I could go toe to toe with your average seminarian by the age of sixteen. My queer identity simmered under the surface of my existence, but it never boiled over. And for a long time I figured that’s where I would leave it, forever.