This was intended to be another post related to Queer Romance Month, but I’ve gone kind of way off topic on this one. It’s turned out not to be so much about being queer as it’s about being “other”. I've mentally debated about whether or not to post it for over a week now, but here it is anyway...
There are a lot of different kinds of people who society treats as “other”. I fall into a couple of those groups.
I’ve mentioned on this blog before, that I have a few health issues. While my M.E. has never seen my completely confined to a wheelchair, there have been a lot of times when I’ve needed to use one when I leave the house.
As anyone who’s ever used a wheelchair knows, people treat you differently once you’re in a chair. You become invisible enough for people to walk into, or for them to accidentally hit you in the head with their hand bag when they turn around. But at the same time, you become someone other people want to keep their distance from—as if there is some suspicion that you might be contagious. Physical contact stops. People who would normally pause to chat suddenly cross the road to avoid you.
Several years ago, my parents and I went to see a show called La Cage Aux Folles. For those who don’t know it—it’s a fantastic musical. One of the main characters is Alvin who performs as a drag artist called Zaza. A lot of the show takes place in a night club and a fair number of the cast are drag performers in big elaborate costumes.
I went in my wheelchair. In this particular theatre, the wheelchair spaces were at the end of the fourth row from the stage.
In one part of this particular version of the show, the actors came down from the stage and moved along the end isles, shaking hands with the people sitting in the end seats.
I don’t know if the actors were gay or straight, if they identified in any way as queer, or if they’d ever done drag apart from in that particular show. What I do know is that, even when they saw the wheelchair, every one of those performers shook my hand—no hesitation.
I remember thinking—maybe these performers with their elaborate costumes and their huge drag queen wigs—maybe they know what it’s like for people to across the road to avoid them too. Maybe they get how much that hurts. Maybe that’s why they don’t do it to other people.
We were coming at it from very different places, but those performers and I were both “other” and that in itself can be a way to connect with people.
Now, I’m not saying that wheelchairs = queerness. Or that any minority who is seen as “other” should identify as queer.
But, I do think, in a good version of the world, people who are queer and people who are “other” in other ways should be on the same side.
Sometimes it does happen like that.
In America, you see mixed-race heterosexual couples marching in favour of same sex marriage because 60 years ago, their marriage would have been illegal too.
When same sex marriage was being debated in the UK, a straight Jewish man was interviewed on TV and he said he was in favour of it, because Jewish people and people in same sex relationships have both been discriminated against for far too long - and often by the same people.
I’ve found BDSM clubs are far more likely to be aware of the need for disabled access than vanilla venues are.
But sometimes the world gets screwed up and things go the other way.
You get signs like “don’t equate my skin with your sin”.
You get people who fight for women's rights who will only accept the existence of cis gendered women.
You get dating apps where a lot of gay men look for “straight acting” dates — where “no blacks, no Asians” is a common statement. So are comments like “no fats, no femmes” or “no HIV+”.
Go on a dating app for women who like women and you’ll see a lot of lesbians stating “bi women, don’t bother”.
In London Pride this year, bi people marching in the parade were heckled—by gay and lesbian people marching in the same parade.
Sometimes people are so focused on being angry that the world treats them as if they are “other”, they don’t realise that they’re doing exactly the same thing to other groups of people.
But those times when you connect—there’s so much power in that, so much humanity in that. If we can find a way to focus our energy on that, just think what the world would be like.
Imagine a world where no one ever crossed the road to avoid anyone just because they were different. It would be a nice world, wouldn’t it?
I think, in its own way Queer Romance Month is calling for that kind of world. I'm happy to be on the same side of the street as everyone involved in it.
You can read all the posts so far here.
And my post here.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, I have no idea how long this current run of over-sharing on my part will last either. I’ll probably go back to blogging once every blue moon at some point.
In the meantime, there’s more random over-sharing in an interview, and a giveaway, here.