Do you ever have something that bugs you but you can’t quite explain why, or put your finger on what’s really going on? I hate it when that happens. But just a couple of minutes ago as I was chopping garlic to make some pasta sauce for dinner I had a moment of clarity on one of those “bugging me” things and I thought I would share it.
When I have conversations with people about gender identity or queer issues I have been trying to get better about letting people know that I’m not really interested in doing “here’s why I think it’s okay to be queer” conversations anymore. I talk about how I don’t want to just be “the trans* guy”; that I want to be seen as a whole person. They nod along and agree with me. They affirm that we should all get to be seen as whole people. And then there is this insinuation that I should stop talking about being trans*. There’s this unspoken response that says, “Well, if you don’t want to be the poster child, why do you keep bringing it up?”
That idea kept catching me off guard. Why do I keep bringing it up? Maybe I should stop talking about it. Maybe I talk about it too much. Maybe it’s my fault that we keep having these conversations.
Just because I don’t want to have the “why it’s okay” conversation doesn’t mean that I don’t want to talk about being trans*! See, I am trans*. I’m queer. It’s part of my life. It’s a huge part of my identity. It’s been a wonderful gift in my life; one I am still learning to embrace. Why shouldn’t I talk about it?
Why shouldn’t I celebrate it?!
My queerness deeply influences my politics and my theology. It influences the way I enjoy pop culture. It influences how I feel about the world around me. My history sometimes comes up; from the sports that I played to the clothing I was forced to wear as a pre-teen. To ask me to not talk about those experiences is to ask me to be less than whole. Those stories come up in casual conversation. When people ask me what I do and I need to explain that I am a queer theologian and that I started a camp for queer youth. It comes up when I talk about the person I used to be married to. It comes up when I talk about why I left the church of my youth. My queerness permeates my life and it’s a beautiful thing.
I want my queerness to be seen as a thing of beauty. Not as an issue or as something I need to hide or keep silent about. I spent the first 20 years of my life hiding; hiding my body, hiding who I loved, hiding my doubts and my fears. I don’t want to hide anymore. I want to be able to be whole and that wholeness includes my queerness.
*As a slight caveat: This doesn’t mean that I always want to talk about being trans* or queer, or that it is always safe for me to do so. There are certain situations where I don’t want to talk about the fact that I am trans* whether because I am around people who I don’t think will understand or because I am in a place where I don’t feel safe either physically or emotionally. That’s the hazard of being queer. And that’s why it’s also really important for folks to not out someone without their permission; even if they are out to you doesn’t mean they want to be out to everyone.