by: ellie june navidson
So often i hear people tell stories about coming out in specific moments or about getting outed. It
always causes me to wonder what it’s like to get outed in a traditional sense. What does it feel like to have an identity that can’t be seen? Although i often feel that i’m invisible to people, it’s not quite the same. My invisibility stems from peoples’ incapacity to fully acknowledge or accept my identity, not from an actual lack of visibility. What does it feel like to have that identity made visible against one’s will? i imagine it could make one feel vulnerable. Maybe it could also be empowering to be seen for a moment. Maybe something else that i can’t imagine.
This is not to say that i don’t get outed, i do. i out myself. Every time i meet someone, they are instantly able to see my queerness. It can be really hard sometimes, given most of our society’s reactions to queer and transgender identities.
Last week i scared someone in a bathroom. i was using a women’s room in a restaurant in Iowa City. When i opened the door to leave, i met a woman face to face. She recoiled in horror and shock. She looked at the other bathroom door, trying to figure out which of us had made the mistake. She looked back at me, her face still contorted. This is because i am out.
A few days ago someone i casually know was talking to me and a coworker. Most of our conversations have been one-on-one, and as a consequence, have not called for any personal pronoun usage. This time, however, he referred to me. He started to use one pronoun, stuttered, started to use another, and stuttered again. Then he walked away from the conversation, mid-sentence, to avoid either challenging or affirming my gender. This is because i am out.
Within minutes of meeting someone, she said, “I really admire the bravery of what you’re doing.” There are too many assumptions in this nine-word-phrase to unpack in this 755 word post. Suffice to say, she read some aspect of my queerness and attempted to affirm me in a very patronizing way. This is because i am out.
A self-identified gay man once asked me about my pronouns. Being the honest creature i am, i told
him “she and it.” To the latter, he responded in disgust and dismay. He told me it was “objectifying and dehumanizing.” He took my self-identification and vigorously raked it through the stagnant mud of his preconceived notions of acceptability. This is because i am out.
Someone once threw a sandwich at me from a school bus. This yellow hunk of metal was barreling down the street while i was waiting at a bus stop. One of the students saw my queerness from far enough away to rifle through their bag, decide they’d rather not have their lunch that day, and shout “Are you a boy or a girl?!” while hurtling their food through the cold wind. This is because i am out.
A few weeks ago a CTA bus pulled over on the side of the road, passengers in tow. The driver started honking and cat-calling. Four inch heels under a 6’1” femme is an admittedly visible thing. That said, i don’t know that it calls for harassment. This is because i am out.
Sometimes though, being visibly out can be tremendously affirming. Even though other people can see these aspects of me and frequently give me shit, my people can see me too. A trans person that frequents the place that i work frequently says, “Hi creature,” upon seeing that i’m there. This is consistently the warmest part of my day. Afterward, i walk around floating. This is because i am out.
i ran into someone i know casually on the train the other day. We started talking about what he was going to wear on his date that night. i told him he should wear something fierce and fabulous. He responded to this suggestion by saying that i was a “different kind of beast.” He can see my difference. This is because i am out.
Queer people consistently come out to me, seemingly at random. i think that the visibility of my being out helps them to feel safe. Queer people consistently tell me i am made of sunshine and beautiful. Their tacitly flirty compliments are welcomed by my being out. So often, these moments follow yucky ones that are seemingly wiped away by these affirmations. This is because i am out.
ellie june navidson is a queer, gender non-conforming creature. She has a degree in Gender and Women’s Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her activist experience is as varied as her identity, but currently, she is involved in queer/trans safe-space organizing and does written explorations of gender and normativity. Her personal blog can be found at invisiblyqueer.blogspot.com.