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.