I recently read an eye-opening article from a person who is bisexual and can ‘pass’ as heterosexual in appearance (bit.ly/29uvFYz ). This article made me think about how hard I have worked during my life to ‘pass’ in general – because that is how I learned to survive. While I am not hiding my sexuality nor religion, I am hiding my culture and identity.
I know that I do not ‘fit’ the social expectations of what I look like.
I look ‘white’ – think colonial England. I am not English heritage – well, only half (hard to avoid in Australia). My ancestors are from Northern Ireland – a people that are currently oppressed by England and have been for hundreds of years. I have little to zero culture from my forebears that I am aware of, and didn’t even realise there was a culture to miss out on until recently. So, I am not a fan of the ‘mother country’ of Australia – I am saddened at the lack of my inherited culture.
I look ‘female’ – think mother, nurturer, breeder. For some reason I have never ever wanted to have children. I like children, but the whole concept of physically bearing a baby was both slightly grose, and horrifying. It is a miracle of life, and is certainly not an easy achievement. However, I have spent most of my life fending off expectations that I will eventually ‘cave’ to my biological urges, and start popping out kids like a real woman. Add to this the absolute joy of society (not just men, people! everyone does it) judging and treating me as distinctively a woman, with all that entails. There is a long list of behaviours that are expected from an individual that is perceived as female, and correspondingly from those that interact with that person, whether they are ‘male’ or ‘female’ also.
I look ‘financially secure’ – think home-owner, upper middle-class, educated. I am educated – guilty. However, I am a perpetual renter, and I missed the affordable home purchasing time so probably will live in a gutter in my old age now. I have paid off the major debts of my twenties and am saving, yet I have to say the corporate world was sucking my soul dry so I’m now a student again. Poverty is a badge I wear like Pulp’s Common People song. I have experienced poverty, but it was like a 6 month case of the flu that my youth, gender and whiteness cured. I tend to live in a nice house in a slowly gentrifying disadvantaged suburb, where you can find syringes on the ground and hipster couples with babies in equal disturbing frequency.
I look ‘heterosexual’ – think I wear a lot of pants, but do wear the occasional skirt, and nothing too noticeable or distinctive. My appearance practically screams indistinctive. I wear makeup, not too much. My hair is short-ish, but not too short. I fully support whatever sexual preference people want to have, and really don’t like hetero-dominance. Really, unless you are trying to reproduce what difference does gender make?
I don’t want to be so vanilla. And I’m not inside. I grew up with the recession we had to have, and it was a choice between money or opinion. So I chose a job, security, money, safety – was it wrong? It sure felt wrong. But safe.
I don’t think I am alone in this. I think there is a lot of Generation X who made compromises on their self-expression, and are slowly embracing social media as a ‘safe’ way to express previously controversial beliefs, like anti-racism (postcolonialism), feminism (or pro-gender fluidity), anti-hetero dominance (or pro-LGBTIQ if you prefer), and the list goes on.
There are many who are brave enough to put their face and name out there, and cop whatever comes, but I’m not quite there myself. Public authenticity is terrifying and so risky. And I am privileged enough to have a lot to lose.