The Queer Self
“Conventionally, one comes out of the closet…so we are out of the closet, but into what? What new unbounded spatiality? the room, the den, the attic, the basement, the house, the bar, the university, some new enclosure whose door, like Kafka’s door, produces the expectation of a fresh air and a light of illumination that never arrives? Curiously, it the figure of the closet that produces this expectation, and which guarantees its dissatisfaction. For being “out” always depends to some extent on being “in”; it gains its meaning only within that polarity. Hence, being “out” must produce the closet again and again in order to maintain itself as “out”. In this sense, outness can only produce a new opacity; and the closet produces the promise of a disclosure that can, by definition, never come.”
–Judith Butler, “Imitation and Gender Insubordination”
When I was a little kid, I always felt as though there was something inherently different about me. While I desired to participate in the myriad American cultural assimilationist activities of my peers (read: clothes from Children’s Place, multicolored nail polish, all spice girl CDs, et cetera), my family’s working class status positioning me as a first generation Caribbean-American granted no excess resources, which effectively blunted these desires, at least in how I pursued them. I found that, unlike most American children, I could not learn to displace myself and identity in consumerism. My parents never allowed me to participate in consumer trends, and they were highly suspicious of the parents of the children who did, and the ways in which their lives were in direct conflict with deeply held Jamaican cultural values and beliefs. In this space of unintentional anti-capitalist upbringing, I learned to be creative, resourceful, and to be tough. In a sense, I could not relinquish the control over myself that my peers seemed to have; so I made the unintentional my intention.
(pictured above: me in 3rd grade, serving butch thug realness)
That was the niche I created for myself, and it worked for me. My dark skin, still natural hair (I didn’t get a perm until fourth grade when my mother gave up on my abundant and kinky tresses) and lean, proto-feminist demeanor was so fitting and so natural (think Beyonce-type “natural”) that I never suffered the exclusion many of my peers did for being different. As a skinny black tomboy in elementary school, I was already sharpening the edges of my parameters. I was already demanding the space of fear, and so when I was feared—for my blackness, for my anger, for my androgyny—it never meant anything because that was exactly what I wanted. So when the boys didn’t like me, it was because I beat them up; when the girls were my friends, it was because I defended them.