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I have discovered something new about myself. Once I get further away from my home than walking distance, I start feeling unsafe.

 

I’m currently in Beijing, which forces me to redefine my concept of ‘home’ slightly. Right now, I suppose it refers to the apartment at the university where I’m staying with my father. But in a certain sense of the word, I feel homeless. I will be moving out of my parents’ home once I return from Beijing in October – a home that my parents are currently selling. I am, of course, not truly homeless. My best friend is waiting with an apartment for us to share, and even if by some freak accident it should burn to the ground or be destroyed by Godzilla or our moving plans otherwise thwarted, my parents’ new house will have a guestroom for me. I’ll always have a bed to sleep in. But a home – I feel less certain on that point.

My aforementioned friend seems to have little qualms about moving. “Home is just where I keep my stuff,” she’s told me, paraphrasing a well-known saying. I, however, am much more distressed. All Summer, I have been caressing the walls of the apartment I grew up in, taking deep breaths to preserve the smell (it saddens me to say that I cannot now recall what it smells like – it’s too much of a ‘default’ smell, a smell of ‘me’, but I suppose it soon won’t be anymore). The process of tidying up and throwing out and doing practical, moving-preparing things has been an endless cause of stress and discontent for me. The moving boxes that cluttered my room the last week before I left completely drained me of energy. It’s time and I’m ready to move out; I’ve reached that level of maturity and gotten to that stage of my life. I’m excited about it, too, and confident that I’ll be fine on my own. And yet it feels like a part of me is dying.

 

Logically, there should be no problem. My home used to be the apartment shared with my parents; right now it’s in Beijing, and soon it will be in a very lovely three-room apartment with my friend. But moving, in several senses of the word, has caused me to reflect on the concept of homes. What is it about them that makes me feel like I have none? I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about comfort.

Comfort is something that’s achieved with difficulty for me. For example, I dislike sleeping with people in the same room, and the task is made near impossible if they happen to be people I’m not close to – and it takes me quite a while to get close to them. Likewise with places: I’ve always spent most of my time at home, recharging, because being anywhere else is simply draining my energy. Even places I’ve gone to daily for several years. I don’t need a whole hand to count the number of places I feel comfortable enough in to spend an entire day without negative effects. One of those places is my parents’ apartment – which is being sold and which I have effectively moved out of now, leaving it behind. Time is the issue here: I will eventually feel at home in my new apartment, but I’m worried about how long it might take. I certainly don’t feel quite at home here in Beijing after two weeks, although knowing that my stay is temporary might affect that. And so, I have the nagging feeling of homelessness.

 

Which brings my back to my opening sentence. Why is homelessness such a scary sensation, despite the fact that I know it’s temporary and unlike actually being homeless has no consequences that could plausibly kill me? Why can’t I feel comfortable anywhere else? Perhaps the answer is as simple as my being overly sensitive to things like noise and changes in routine, but a quote I stumbled upon opens up the question a bit:

 

[P]laces like homes can trigger self-reflection, thoughts about who someone is or used to be or who they might become.

 

Maybe it’s the need for this – knowing who I am and being able to reflect on that. As implied before, I’m moving in several senses of the word, not just geographically. Soon I’ll be entering (or trying to at least) the workforce, and then I will start university. I’ll be on equal standing with the only other person in my household, with a lot more responsibilities than so far. I’m becoming a real adult. This is confusing. So I desire some kind of steady ground to plant my feet on while figuring out what all this means.

 

Perhaps I will manage to hold on until I feel at home again – or perhaps I will find this steady ground in something else. Time will tell. More on that once I discover it.

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I have been hesitant – and I believe I’ve mentioned this before – about using the label ’queer’. This was somewhat ironic, seeing how I throughout my childhood had no qualms about proudly calling myself ‘weird’. I was weird. I am. The label ‘queer’ is really mine to use; the people who have claimed it are people much like me. But even though I wasn’t sure why, it seemed scary, somehow. I saw people calling it a word to be reclaimed, much like the N-word and the T-word, a practice that I held – and still hold – some objections to. But mostly I think my hesitation and fear stemmed from ignorance – like hesitation and fear often do. I didn’t know exactly what the word meant, exactly how it was supposed to be used. I can’t say I know that now – and really, that’s the whole point of the word. But I do believe I’ve figured out what kind of word it is.

 

My revelation was triggered by my attending an event by the activist group Queer Jihad, and the subsequent reading of their book “Se! Den heteroseksuelle verdensorden går i stykker” (Look! The heterosexual world order is breaking). In the book is written a lot of things and especially a lot of things about queerness and being queer. I won’t repeat it all here, although I recommend buying the book if you can read Danish. I do want to highlight the main point I learned from Queer Jihad, or that Queer Jihad perhaps made me teach myself:

 

Queer is a political term.

 

My being androgynous/nonbinary/genderqueer, asexual, and panromantic are aspects of my personal identity; being queer is an aspect of my political identity. ‘Queer’ is a term that describes what I believe in, and not just who I am.

 

So what is queer? Who am I and what do I believe in? I could paraphrase something from the aforementioned book, but instead I’ll present to you my personal interpretation.

 

Being queer is being who you are and letting everyone else be who they are. Not just letting them; being queer is thinking that it’s wonderful and amazing that people are who they are. Being queer is about having no expectations or assumptions about people; it’s about having no default. We live in a world where most people think that being white, cisgender, and heterosexual is the default, with everything else being the exception. Being queer is rejecting that idea. Queer might be mostly associated with gender and sexuality, but it’s about diversity and acceptance in every other aspect of life as well.

 

Having figured out what ‘queer’ means feels much like it did when I first discovered that it was okay to identify outside the gender binary. The word has gone from something far off and threatening to a warm embrace. It’s purple and soft. It’s me. I’m queer.

Follow up:

Thinking about my essay from yesterday, it occurred to me that it might sound like I’m rejecting the idea of queer being an identity. That isn’t the case. Of course, being queer is also a question of identity. It’s a catch-all term for anyone who isn’t straight and cis, and some would argue that even nonheteronormative cishets can claim the term. It’s also a very useful term to use for anyone who doesn’t feel that other, more specific terms are applicable to them, or that those terms aren’t applicable all the time. The reason that I consider (my) queer a political term, however, is that I don’t need any more words to define my identity. I have enough. I’m an androgyne(/nonbinary), I’m asexual, I’m panromantic – and then I have the catch-all term “person”.

 

I’ve mentioned before that I have always been wary of identifying with groups, and this is even more true when it’s groups of people who ARE something and not groups of people who BELIEVE IN something. I have no control of my gender and sexuality, but I do have some degree of control of what I believe in. It’s a more active part of me, where my gender and my sexuality, much like my hair colour and the shape of my nose, are passive parts. Just like I’ve met many people with the same hair colour as myself with whom I had nothing in common, I’ve met queer (as in non-cishet) people who weren’t really in the same ‘group’ as I. A lot of them were perfectly nice and pleasant people who just happened to view the world in a different way, and some of them were jerks.

 

Needless to say, I don’t agree with everything anyone whose beliefs are queer, so to speak – but there’s more of an accord between our beliefs than there probably would be with any random person. So while I’m queer both in terms of identity and beliefs, the latter seems more relevant to emphasize.

 

I recently went to my very first Pride festival. Spending a relatively quiet, calm afternoon on a small square in my small-on-international-level city with my close friend amidst rainbows and pink was a big step for me mostly in a symbolic way. Partially because I’m not the kind of person who really enjoys themselves in parties and crowds and so it took some personal strength to seek that sort of thing out willingly, but mostly because it served as an unofficial initiation of me as a queer person.

     I didn’t start calling myself queer until earlier this year, and even then it was a gradual decision. I’ve known I wasn’t heterosexual and cisgender for a very long time, but it wasn’t until about two and a half years ago that I started meeting people who felt a similar way and I began feeling like part of a group and not just like myself. But I’m still cautious. When discussing nonbinary people, or asexual people, or queer people in general, I avoid pronouns like “we” and “us”. My reasoning is that I don’t want to fall into the dreaded ‘Us-versus-them’ dichotomy, but perhaps it’s also due to my being wary of identifying as part of a group – any group. I’ve never been much for that, and I’m still not quite sure how to feel about it. But getting more involved with the local queer community might help me figure it out.

That said, not everyone agrees on whether these Pride festivals are even necessary, especially not outside the queer community. This recent festival was only the second annual one in the city I live in, and I suppose all new things are bound to be met with reservation. Even ones that are already well-established elsewhere, like Pride festivals. Around here however, a common argument against the Prides, and the general concept of queer pride, is holding it to be needless exhibitionism. We are all people. And usually we aren’t so interested in the sex lives of strangers that we need entire festivals to show them off. These statements are simultaneously true and missing the point. So I want to cover two things in this essay. One; my interpretation of what it means to be out and proud. And two; why it’s necessary.

In all honesty, I don’t like using the word ‘proud’. I suppose once again it’s related to my general aversion to identifying with groups, but concepts like ‘proud to be gay’, ‘proud to be American’, ‘proud to be a 90’s kid’ have too many unfortunate implications for me. In my extremely subjective opinion, ‘proud’ is a word better used in relation to personal achievements. And inborn traits hardly count as achievements.

    But as anyone will tell you, accepting and being happy about those inborn traits is the key to a healthy amount of self-esteem and a feeling of general fulfilment. Likewise, no one can deny that throughout history, queer people have not been encouraged to accept and be happy about their ‘alternative’ sexualities and gender identities. While things have improved, this is still the case today. Here’s a few statistics for kicks:

  •  42% of queer youth say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people.
  • Queer youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school.
  • 15%-43% of queer workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job.

And so on. So in order to really understand what it means to be ‘out and proud’, it might help to tweak the wording a bit. Instead of wondering why it’s necessary to be proud of being queer, think of it this way: Being out as queer means accepting and acknowledging who you are and knowing nothing is wrong with that, despite constantly being told otherwise. This requires strength and effort – which is certainly something to be proud of.

You might still argue that having entire festivals centred around pride is a bit over the top. While most people agree that being at peace with who you are is a good thing, many still prefer if you kept that pride to yourself. As a heterosexual cisgender person, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the Pride festivals. After all, queer people have entirely different experiences about sexuality and gender than others do, and unknown things are always confusing and somewhat frightening at first – and here’s an entire festival devoted to making these strange experiences seem entirely normal and understandable. It’s like a big inside joke that you’re excluded from. Apparently it’s so common that the Pride I went to had to note on their website that heterosexual people were more than welcome to come celebrate along with everyone else. “Besides”, many people argue, “Why do they need to shove it in our faces? We’re not interested in what turns them on – keep that in the bedroom.”

Congratulations, friend. You have caught a glimpse of what it feels like to be non-heteronormative in a very heteronormative society.

There was nothing lewd going on at that festival. Even counting the woman in the rope harness, you’d see more nude skin by going to the beach – considering I live in a country were topless sunbathing is a completely normal occurrence, frankly I’m surprised that I didn’t see any exposed breasts at that festival. There were info stands for various communities and the like – like there should be at any topical festival – but, believe it or not, no orgies, no aggression, no exclusion or ‘heterophobia’, no frenzied shouts of ‘Go gay or go away’*. There was only a bunch of people enjoying themselves and celebrating diversity.

    “But why,” I hear you argue, “Why do queer people feel the need to celebrate their sexualities and/or gender identities? Heterosexual cisgender people aren’t making a big deal out of theirs.” That’s true, and heterosexual cisgender people have no need to. Every single day is Straight Pride day. Please think back to the last movie or TV-show not specifically marketed to a queer audience that you saw. If there was a romantic (sub)plot, I’m willing to bet that it was about a man and a woman falling in love. Heck, even if there wasn’t, the main character was probably straight and cis anyway. It’s not just in media. Children are told that a day will come when they start noticing the opposite sex in an entirely different way. They are told that, depending on what parts they have between their legs, they will grow up to be either women or men. Any homosexual, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, transgender, or genderqueer child is considered an exception, their identities hidden away and erased from the universal narrative. Heteronormative people show off their sexualities and gender identities all the time. The only reason it seems exhibitionistic when other people do it is because our identities are not as integrated in the cultural consciousness.

I guess that might also be why I’ve been so hesitant to get involved in the queer community, and to identify as queer in the first place. Sometimes it feels like calling attention to myself. People ask why we need labels – can’t we all just be humans instead, humans who love humans? Sure. That would be great. Thing is, without the labels, people tend to assume that everyone is one specific kind of human who only loves another specific kind of human. And until they don’t – until we normalize queer identities to such an extent that gay action heroes and transgender main characters in sitcoms and children growing up to notice people of their own gender in a new and special way and children growing up to be a gender that isn’t normally associated with the anatomy they have become a completely regular and insignificant part of life – we need those Pride festivals. If nothing else, then to remind everyone that we exist.
(I guess I got the ‘we’ thing down after all, huh?)

Statistics from hrc.org and catalyst.org

* Ironic slogan courtesy of my extremely funny friend

Hello, and welcome to my blog.

I recently finished school and am taking a year off before starting university. In other words, I’m at that stage of life where semi-popular culture tells me I ought to go on an at least pseudo-spiritual self-discovery journey of some kind. Go find myself. I’m convinced that backpacking would kill me, so I’m trying to do this through introspection instead. Thinking about things. Which, honestly, isn’t much of a change from my life so far, but I guess now I’m doing it without the constant background noise of teachers and other adult role models telling me what to think, so that’s something.

Hence this blog. It’s really just for recording my thoughts, as well as a way for me to practice putting them into essay form. It has a twin over at blogspot.

A few notes about me:

My name is Em Hjorth, and I was born in 1994. I realized I was an atheist at the age of 12, nonbinary at the age of 15, and asexual at the age of 17. I like writing, drawing, reading and doing martial arts. I don’t handle noise very well and I like taking long walks in quiet places in nature. Right now I feel like I’m writing a personal add. I should probably stop now.

Have a nice day.