It began at a time when I didn’t know the why. Why it mattered so much to see two women walking down the street holding hands. Why I felt a flutter when I caught a kiss, in the distance, lingering deep in my belly. Why I felt pure elation at another’s private joy.
Maybe, I was a romantic.
Yet, I hated rom-coms. The makeover scene where the girl was magically transformed into someone good enough for him. Because with straight hair and contacts (white and thin), she was pretty. The inevitable get-together kiss at the end left me cold and longing. These people didn’t look like me, didn’t love like me. Could one be a romantic, if they didn’t crave tradition?
Then there were the times when I think I maybe knew the why. At fourteen on a three-week school camp, where everyone was watching the latest teen show downloaded illegally, around a crowded laptop. I was surrounded by girls squealing about the boyfriends of the characters. But I was glued to the journey of one girl. I wanted to skip to only her scenes. I felt so embarrassed about how excited I was to watch the storyline. A gay storyline.
Visiting Cuba, and watching a woman salsa dance with her female partner. I sat and watched them dance all night, my friends dancing in the periphery. The image lingered throughout my trip, of two women smiling, dancing, even when it was difficult. I saw a possibility. A possibility that rang loudly across continents, languages and cultures.
The times when I knew the why but I couldn’t language it. When I desperately wanted to find my community but accepted only being able to watch it from the outside. Watch TV with the periphery gay character, read queer books on my kindle (never in hard copy), seeing cute couple pictures on tumblr, the rumour of an out girl in the year above.
I wonder sometimes if visibility will ever stop meaning everything to me. When I’m 100 percent confident in my gayness, will I be satisfied? I ask myself why I need to see myself reflected in others, to feel validated in my existence. But it’s not validation I seek but bravery. Seeing others gives me courage to be myself. I can participate. I will. I have.
Visibility. It makes me join my university’s queer collective, even if the first meeting is beyond awkward. I sign up for a queer dating app. I learn to throw my queerness into conversations without fear. Visibility helped me reach out when I knew no one like me.
The feeling of happiness that rises when I spot a young queer couple on the train next to me hasn’t shifted. They cling to each other as they sit together. One girl wears a beanie and a lot of plaid. I recognize my people. They kiss goodbye as one departs at an earlier stop.
I want in. To not just see people like me, but know more people like me.
“I love your socks,” I comment to the remaining girl on the train.
But most of all, I want girls at fourteen to see two women holding hands and smile. Seeing it not as a rarity to go into their bank of the few happy queer people they’ve seen, but something they see on every street corner, that blooms into a colorful image that is unmistakable. Not just visible, but so audacious that it doesn’t merit the close-to-tears experience I get when queerness is simply… present.
* I’m an incredibly privileged gay chick and I acknowledge that my journey to accept my queerness + ability to live visibly is possible, because of those that struggled before me and continue to do so.