Queer Reflections

Jun 26, 2021 | 2014 Fall - Intersection: Geography

By Simone Wise

When I think back to what it was like growing up in Pocatello, Idaho, about how I left when I was 17 never to return for longer than a couple days, I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed. I imagine walking downtown, past my old high school with the politically incorrect mascot of an Indian. I imagine waking up in the middle of the night, just for a moment, when the train whistle blows, as it does each night in that town. I always felt so out of place there. Would I have settled in eventually, accepted my lot in life, learned to be satisfied with my surroundings? What would I be doing for work? Who would I be in a relationship with? Would I be happy? Would I be queer?

I remember the feeling of being in high school. So many unhappy memories of jealousy: of the pretty cheerleaders who looked like someone had taught them how to put on make-up, of my friends who had found boyfriends, of other people who seemed so much more confident than I ever felt. A burgeoning feminist, I simultaneously scorned the cheerleaders for buying into normative ideals of femininity, while wishing more than anything that I could take their place just for one day. Just long enough for one of the cute boys to notice me. Just long enough to feel like I fit in for a moment. Now I wonder about that jealousy – was it misplaced attraction? Did I want to be a cheerleader, or did I secretly desire cheerleaders? This realization feels embarrassing.

Until recently, my longest relationship was with a boy. We met in Seattle, Washington, the summer before my sophomore year of college and stayed together for four and a half years. I thought I would marry him and that we would have children together. I thought we would be together forever. About a year before the end of our relationship, we went to a party at our neighbor’s house. In the midst of an impromptu dance party, I found myself grinding on the dance floor with the girlfriend of one of my boyfriend’s Ultimate Frisbee teammates. I was surprised at how turned on I was, how I couldn’t stop talking about her afterward, how I couldn’t stop thinking about her for weeks. I told my boyfriend that I thought I had a crush on her. But, I never imagined that it could mean anything beyond that. I’m surprised that I never questioned what it meant that I felt attraction toward a girl.

My first date after that was with a girl who picked me up at a coffeeshop in Boise, Idaho, where I was living in the aftermath of a horrendous break-up with my college boyfriend. She was slight and very cute, with short hair and a wide smile. She said she recognized me from yoga class and wondered if I wanted to get together sometime. She asked for my number. I was sitting with my roommate, a boy who was often mistaken for my boyfriend, and it took his outsider perspective to clue me in that I had just been Queer picked up by a girl. After a couple weeks of butterfly phone calls, a summer date to the ballet, and a very steamy makeout session, I determined that I was most definitely straight.

In graduate school in Madison, Wisconsin, my very bisexual friend opened my eyes to the possibility that I might be queer. My eyes were wide open when I sat next to my lover on the first day of class. Wide open when she quietly (and somewhat covertly) courted me through spring and the duration of a summer. Wide open when I invited her into my bed that first time in the fall, long ago. I wonder if I had met her during high school, whether I would have been equally intrigued by her hazel eyes and serious mouth? If I had met her in college while I was with my ex-boyfriend, would I have been drawn to her as I was immediately, on that first day of class? If I had met her when I was mourning the break-up with my ex, would I have tried her on for size, ultimately concluding that I was straight? Perhaps I wasn’t ready for her until I was. Perhaps I wasn’t ready to be queer until I was good and ready. Now I can’t imagine being anything else. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to feel attractions toward women, men, trans men, genderqueer people, my lover.

A circuitous path to queerdom. Sign posts notwithstanding, I’m here now—comfortably so.

Simone is a researcher and writer living in Boston, MA.

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