BY FREYA HUGHES
Is it a boy or a girl? Hmm, she likes football doesn’t she. Why won’t you wear your hair down? It’s much prettier when it’s down. Can’t you wear a dress just this once?
Fashion. Beach bodies. Handshakes. Movies. Handwriting. Judgement is everywhere. It comes out positively and negatively throughout everything in life. On the happier side of things lives the ritualistic activity of sussing out the best queens or kings in a show, the best venues in town, or even something as trivial as judging the outfits worn at this year’s Met Gala.
We judge everything whether we mean to or not – it can even be a bonding experience. But on the negative – by that I mean when this act is done in a mean or harmful way – it’s something queer people have to deal with so much more than non-LGBTQ+ people. Day in, day out. Even in a place as progressive as Brighton.
Way back when, little straight-acting me at secondary school was consistently afraid of
judgment. Specifically, judgement about me being gay – a lesbian. When I think about it now, there was an underlying, secret shame I was experiencing. I hadn’t really come to terms with the fact, or perhaps even realised, I wasn’t straight back then. But I knew the accusation of it was too much to handle.
Words like ‘dyke’, ‘fag’ and ‘queer’ would be shouted with venom, cutting through the white noise of the corridors. As some kind of defence mechanism, I’d try and protect myself by being the first one to judge others. Only about stupid kid stuff, like when a friend got a questionable hair cut or something pungent smelling for lunch. I guess it was the classic strike before you’re struck kind of mentality. But, of course, with time comes perspective.
I’m not worried about being judged nearly as much now. And I actively resist the temptation to judge books on their covers. I don’t think I’d have started presenting queer if I was. The thing that got to me recently was being misgendered in some pub loos. It stung a little because for me being misgendered isn’t a problem – people are simply wrong.
But what really frightens me is when it happens to our trans and non-binary siblings. It hits hard when an angry cis white man so aggressively moans about someone’s presence in the queue to simply relieve ourselves. It’s been happening more and more in town, especially when there’s a big event like the marathon or something. It’s the act of trying to shame someone for something that’s not shameful. It gets under your skin.
It’s made me think a lot about what it’s like for the Ts and NBs of our community, going about their everyday lives. And what is it that makes people so angry about people using a bathroom? They say women’s loos are safe spaces, but when people are chased out and have abuse hurled at them, surely that can’t be classified as safe. Can it?
The reason this level of judgement is dangerous is that we can’t always change. Nor should we feel the need to. We can’t help we need glasses. Or that weperhaps can’t afford the latest phones and laptops. We can’t help who we love or fancy. And we certainly can’t help what body we’re born in.
So what can we do? I guess things like getting our voices heard and standing together against negativity is, or at least should be, step one. It’s down to us to change the discourse for future generations. It’s like what people creating events like Trans Pride and the now commericialised Brighton Pride are doing. If anyone ever wondered why Stemme was born in the first place, maybe this will give you some idea.