My identity has always been stuck in-between the ends of different spectrums. I am bisexual, femme, and mixed race. The way I present myself as a queer multiracial woman has never really been accepted in the communities I'm part of. Never queer enough, never light enough, never dark enough, never masculine enough to fit the stereotype of women who love women.
My friends and colleagues have always known me as a strong and determined person but I have often been described as aloof and cold. Little did people know that I was wearing a mask that was constructed from all the expectations that my upbringing and society had heaped on me. I didn’t really know what my real self wanted or how she wanted to move through the world.
I spent my queer teenage years in Russia, where looking gay was both an act of resistance and a sign of conformity. It was a rebellion because wearing short hair and boy clothes were like screaming “yes, we exist, we are here, we are taking up space, despite all the fear and violence we deal with”. It was conformity because at the time there was only one way to be a “good queer” – you had to have short hair and boy clothes if you wanted to be taken seriously by the community.
Everyone with Crohns Disease has a story to tell. For me, it had a fairly tight grip until I was 30 and was a very private illness. I’m a woman, and however wrong it may have been, it made me feel less feminine to discuss the symptoms. Everything took planning, even facing a plate of food. I was conflicted by hunger and fear. The potential for pain and embarrassment in getting it wrong was too great not to consider.
I was always a tomboy and I still think boys had more fun going on a pirate’s treasure hunts or pretending to fly to the moon or be a superhero while girls would pretend to be grownups raising families and paying bills on our pink calculators, or be princesses or hairdressers!
Since I shaved my head I’ve found times when I’ve really not felt feminine. I stopped shaving and that made me feel unfeminine at times too. I realised (and am still realising) that femininity is not defined by how I look or act and that being a woman can’t be boxed.