Cassie Delaney on the nuance of queerness.
I come out every day.
As I move through life, I fill in forms, I correct pronouns, I mention my girlfriend and I’m met with the same moment of silent recognition.
I have been in a relationship with a woman for almost seven years and by virtue of the length of our relationship or our living status it’s assumed that I am gay. And while I harbour no issue with that assumption, the reality is that I identify as queer or bisexual.[restrict]
The nuance in my identity may absolutely bore you but here’s why it’s important to me; when I come to you with a label what I’m saying is ‘this is me’, ‘here’s a wealth of history that I identify with’, and ‘here’s what I want you to understand about me.’ It’s a small tool I utilise to frame conversations, identify companions, and importantly, find community.
I reached out to the LGBTQI+ community this week in an endeavour to understand whether labels were defunct or still hold resonance.
“I steer clear of labels because I think it’s too binary. Especially when it comes to my family, I think labels carry a weight of prejudice,” says Sarah from Dublin.
“I know that if I came home and declared myself to be bisexual, I would be then be harbouring the burden of a stereotype. I have spent so much energy trying to figure it out for myself that I don’t think I have any more resources to trying to break down the assumptions that those close to me might have. So for me, I almost rather it’s assumed that I am one or the other because it’s almost easier to understand,” she continues.
Gareth from Meath disagrees.
“I am a bisexual male, an often fascinating but also ostracised segment of the LGBTQI+ community. It’s difficult because I feel completely accepted by gay and other bisexual men but often othered or excluded by heterosexual women. I use my label and my identity as an attempt to educate people from both communities,”
“It’s really important to me that I am open and honest about my identity with potential partners in my life because I want them to understand that my ability to love is diverse and I don’t prescribe to the traditional way of being,” he concludes.
In a world where almost 20% of the population identify as queer, it can be argued that nuance and distinction is unnecessary. But I spoke to Noel Heffernan from Kent, a bisexual activist who spoke to rogue about the LGBTQI movement through the years.
“It’s important that we have distinction in labels because, while the LGBT community is massively welcoming, there is always difference. We will always love and accept each other but by identifying as something more specific than gay or lesbian, you can find the people that most think like you or most resemble you. For most of us, we’ve had to find support in our friends and community and finding people that have been through what you’ve been through is absolutely invaluable.”
Holding on to an identity is important regardless of your relationship status. Yvonne from Kildare identifies as queer and has been in a relationship with a man for three years.
“I know that I love Sean and will potentially marry him but I think it’s important that I distinguish that I am queer. Firstly, I want my family and friends to understand that I have throughout my life felt different and also I want my future potential children to know that it’s okay to not fit the norm. Basically I want the people in my life to understand that there really truly is no normal and that its beautiful to love freely and openly. I also maintain the queer label because I want people to know that I am a safe person to talk to – that I will bring no judgement and that I will always support the belief that love it love.”
I don’t often publicly write or talk about being queer. As a bisexual woman, I don’t feel I have the authority to talk about queer culture, identity or struggle. But recently I’ve come to know this; being queer is about more than who we love. For me, being queer is about how we love. We love openly, we love with empathy, we love compassionately. It’s something Erin from Cork iterated in a long conversation.
“I only recently realised that I am bisexual and I’m married to a man. I think it’s important because although I’m still trying to figure out how to connect with that side of myself, I know that it explains how I see the world and that’s what matters. Yes I’d like to explore that part of my life, but also mostly it’s important to me that I am loved and I love my person with all of my being. It’s mostly important to me to come out so that I can hopefully break down some barriers about sexual orientation and what queerness might look like.”
In the conversations I’ve had around lunchroom tables and boardrooms I’ve never rushed into correcting the nuance in my identity. I think that’s different now and in speaking to Moninne Griffith, CEO of BelongTo, I realised the importance of creating a world where nuance is understood.
“Coming out can be consciously or unconsciously a huge act of activism because other people then see the different kinds of queer LGBT people and see that we’re not homogenous.”
“Just being visible, I think, to the world helps because it breaks down those stereotypes, those myths and those deeply held unconscious biases that we all have, whether we’re cis gender, heterosexual or not. We all grew up with those messages being absorbed and deeply held.”