I had a male lover in college. I was quite surprised when he came on to me. I wasn’t one of those queers, and didn’t think I was attractive. But he insisted I was and I yielded. The sex worked—I got hard; I came. But I had the thought, while making out with him the first time, that it would work better if one of us was a woman. All these decades later, that strikes me as a queer thought. This relationship was a one-off for me. I realized that really, my attraction was for women.
Much later I found the kink community. And in it I met young people who had claimed the word “queer”. They rejected traditional gender stereotypes and they used their appearance to signal this. I had never embraced the stereotypes, but I was comfortable with traditional masculine presentation. So no hairstyle-as-statement for me. Heck, I often wore khakis and a button-down shirt on casual day at work. People no doubt made assumptions based on my appearance, and I didn’t challenge them. But I did sometimes surprise them. When I participated in the Hula Hoop contest at the Pride Block Party the MC called me out. “Look at Mr. Lands’ End go!” Yep, I stood out in that crowd. I won the contest, using Hula Hoop skills I’d learned in the 50’s. For a straight white guy in a button-down, I could move my hips. I had embraced being kinky, but I didn’t feel at all queer.
That eventually started to change. Year before last a friend and I presented a workshop on kink at an LGBTQ conference. When I introduced myself I included that I was submissive. I saw it as a credential of sorts. I wasn’t L or G or B or T or Q, but I was different. My friend brought clarity: “Male submission is a queering of masculinity.” She identifies as queer and had given this more thought than I had.
Her words rattled around in my brain for months, and eventually I accepted that I was queer, at least on the inside. And it wasn’t a choice. I had had those fantasies, I had this nature, and fuck no, I wasn’t ever going to be a macho man.
And eventually I felt comfortable bringing my queer to the surface. I felt drawn to cross-dressing, and I found a venue to try it out, a step at a time. I volunteer at Kinky Friday, a monthly fetish night at a large downtown bar. It’s a very open and welcoming environment. Last month I came up with a gender-bending costume: a short slip, biker boots, tape on my nipples, and leather thigh cuffs. I felt entirely comfortable wearing lingerie in public, and this emboldened me. This month I did without the masculine elements. A different (cuter?) short slip, strappy heels, tape on my nipples, and I carried a white patent-leather purse. And I got a pedicure and bright red polish on my toenails. So they matched my thong, that showed under my slip. Such an attention whore! I got lots of compliments at Kinky Friday, especially for my shoes, and I had a great time.
I reprised the outfit the next night at a kink party--an entirely different group of people. Friends who’ve known me for years were surprised, but I just said I wanted to get my queer on, and that was enough. And then I went back into gender-bending mode, wearing the heels and carrying the purse while otherwise dressing masculine. I went queer to lunch with a friend, and to a small fundraiser for a feminist comedy troupe, and to Trader Joe’s. And I stepped out with bright red toenails barefoot dancing, and at the gym, and getting a massage. I was thrilled when people noticed and I enjoyed talking about it. But I also realized that it was fine when no reacted. That could be a sign that seeing an old queer wasn’t all that remarkable. And that would be a good thing, too.
I’m so glad I found my queer.
St. Paul, MN