The Feminist Closet
Last year, one of my classmates asked me this after I had repeatedly stated that I find people of many different genders attractive. I was a bit taken aback by the question, which was dismissive of everything I’d just explained and also relied on the assumption that sexuality is a choice. How am I supposed to choose?
LGBTQ+ people have existed for the entirety of human history; in the last few centuries, many have lived their lives unnoticed or forced to hide. Others who spoke out or lived openly faced discrimination, violence, and even death. Visiting this museum allowed me to get a closer look at this often unrecognized history. I gained a greater appreciation for the work that trailblazers did so that I, as well as future generations of LGBTQ+ people, can have an easier life in a more accepting society.
Naturally, I was not looking forward to section. Our Teaching Fellow started class with the disclaimer, “Assume best intentions, and say whatever’s on your mind.” Many students took his advice and spoke exactly what was on their minds, including bi-erasure, a strict gender binary, and the link between homosexuality and mental illness.
I was aware that it was National Coming Out Day. But at the time, the idea of coming out felt unattainable. Sure, I was excited to read about other people’s coming out experiences, but I couldn’t envision myself as one of them. I kept telling myself that they had some mixture of courage and confidence that I lacked. How could I possibly be part of their community if I couldn’t take the risk they took and live honestly? Was I really queer if practically no one knew?
But, if we frame rape as solely something that men do to women, we leave many people out of the conversation, including those from marginalized groups. Many studies on rape are centered around women as survivors but rarely specify the sexual orientation or gender identity of these women. Lack of specificity leads to erasure of LGBTQ identities, as being heterosexual and cisgender is typically the default assumption. Additionally, these studies frequently ignore victims who are trans, genderqueer, and gender nonconforming, as well as queer men.