Identities are complex, Gentle Reader. How do we ever learn who we are, or how to accept who we are? It’s a cultural necessity to wear a mask, and sometimes, we lose track of the face underneath that mask. Personally, having viewed my father’s journey, I’ve always refused to wear one – and have accepted a respectable amount of flak for my non-performance. I often invoke the ghosts of June and Ward Cleaver, Gentlefolk, but we are called to behave like their descendants. Despite selfies and new slang, despite the feminist revolution and the Summer of Love, despite Stonewall and all that came after, we fall into old patterns. And that’s alright – if it’s authentic.
Recently, a local community figure, Little Bear Schwarz, came out again as Cis, and previously she had identified as genderqueer. Ms. Capere and I got into a bit of a conversation about it, both of us taking different positions as the night went on. What I took away from the evening – and what I’ve felt for quite some time – is that identity is fluid. As we learn, as we grow, what fit at one time in our lives might be utter anathema later on.
I grew out of being a racist fuckhead, and I utterly regret the episode. I’ve grown into a true Bohemian – a penniless writer who paints in parks at the weekend, has grown more comfortable with casual relationships, and whose manuscripts drive him mad. I’ve recently come out as Genderqueer, or maybe Genderfluid – I’m not entirely sure.
It’s alright, when you come out, to not know exactly what your identity is. It’s okay to boldly, defiantely, proclaim your identity and then later modify who or how you are. It really is! These things are fluid and do change; my ex-husband used to be bi, after all. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “Well, I might be this” or to say ” I AM this!” and then later completely turn about face. We learn about ourselves. We grow. We experiment, and we experience new things that wake us to new horizons. And if we support people exploring their identities to experiment, to come out as gay or lesbian or bi or trans, as unsure, as possibly bi or pan or agender or genderqueer or genderfluid – if they later change, modify, or elaborate on how they identify, we wouldn’t censure them.
So why should we if someone who was questioning decides that they’re cis, or straight? That is to say, if we as a community support those who explore, who question – when they decide that they don’t identify with us, that they identify as straight or cis, should we censure them for that? After all, we support them when they don’t know where they’ll fall. If one winds up being wrong, or if one feels like a particular identity no longer applies, why should we judge? If we accept that gender and sexuality are fluid, and encourage people to explore who they are, we must also accept that sometimes people swing back across that white picket fence. Right? Ms. Capere and I were unable to settle the matter that night – perhaps you can help us, in the comments.