Lauren Zuniga’s ‘Confessions of an Uneducated Queer’ is one of my favourite pieces. I’ve listened to it over and over again, marvelling not just at the way in which she uses her words so wonderfully; but at the truths she shines a light on; and at so many levels.
The lines, ‘As a teenager, I sensed that sexuality was a spectrum I didn’t have all the words for. In my twenties, I sensed that maybe I was a whore for being attracted to so many points of the spectrum’, condense- in two lines!- the many, many conflicted thoughts and ideas and the sheer self-flagellation I’ve endured and subjected myself to on the question- or really, issue- of my sexuality.
And she pinpoints the current tightrope dance I do with terminology- queer, bisexual, the lives and realities contained in an acronym of LGBTQIA; I struggle with my own identities and sexualities and my passing privilege. It has been years since I’ve needed to get drunk in a bar to kiss anyone- a girl or anyone else on the continuum of genders and sexualities (that isn’t to say I haven’t been drunk and kissed people at the same time…I just don’t need to be smashed to be snogging anyone). And as I navigate, personally, these identities and the politics of space and time and context and whether I’m using the right codes and if my clothes are letting me pass more than I ought to and if it’s OK to pass and yet question or subvert every assumption of heteronormativity that is thrown at me; and wondering if I’m going to have to deal with another verbal pow-wow on how I ‘can’t just refuse to identify’ and that ”sexuality can be fluid’ doesn’t mean anything’; I also have to navigate my political and ethical spaces. I have to grapple with my activist spaces, as though there is some division between the two- but of course, one is professional and the other is personal and my political is everything.
I read Judith Butler and even though I’m pretty certain I agree with her in a large way, I’m not entirely sure I do because I didn’t always understand her: her language is so dense that I could never read her on the bus because I had to sit down and unravel every sentence and say the different parts out loud so I could try and grasp the complexity of ideas, and feel the challenge she was throwing down in every compound sentence. I think I agree with her, though.
I worry that I lack reflexivity- and that’s a basic tenet of feminism and feminist research, and well; the basis of being a decent human being- and that it is because I’m really quite stupidly privileged in the grand scheme of things. I fear that my blind spots- and they are rather many, and rather massive- keep me from understanding and seeing things that are key for any genuine intersectional and interconnected analysis; and that this keeps me from being a decent ally, from being a decent human being.
I have a must-read list of writers and authors and academics talking about gender and sexualities and power and development and aid and feminism and feminist theories and intersectionalities; and it’s a mile long and I haven’t even started to write all the names down yet… I have a must-read list and I’m afraid I’ll never conquer it and every opinion I’ve ever had on feminism and feminist approaches and feminist organising is irrelevant because all that not-reading makes me an under-educated feminist.
I have to look up words that I’ve used but don’t quite understand in the context of feminist research: post-modern, post-colonial, standpoint theory- and even though I know them in the context of literature or art or whatever else, I have to look it up and understand its different meanings in how it connects to feminist research.
I am tired of my sexual agency constantly being questioned and constantly being under threat and I’m unsure of how well I can articulate it. My right to say ‘no’ is as important as my right to say ‘yes’ and that they must both be heard and be heard clearly and respected because who I say no to and who I say yes to and when that happens and even if I have said no or yes once before but I say something else this time; this is about my body and my agency and I need for it to be respected and not cheapened and not shamed and not made into something I am doing for someone else’s pleasure because, really, that is not the damn point of my consent and my non-consent. But the truth is, sometimes, it is complicated and it is messy and it was just easier for me to say nothing or imply a yes when I really; really; really wanted to say no. It takes time to understand your body and your mind and it takes even longer to begin to articulate it to yourself and much, much, much longer to respect it and articulate it for someone else. I worry that this makes me complicit in the stripping of my own agency and I feel guilty for all that I have betrayed.
I have had two pregnancy scares in the last two years and I ought to be ashamed of myself because I am such a big proponent of safe sexual activity, but there I was caught up in the moment and I never even thought to say, ‘oh hey, wait a second’. This is something I think about every time I deliver a comprehensive sexuality education session, and one of the many reasons why I advocate so strongly for access to health resources and services- including emergency contraceptives, access to PEP, and access to safe abortion services (+ medical abortion). And, of course, there is the thing that this is always my problem to deal with, my hormones that are all over the place because of a stupidly expensive emergency contraceptive pill; and that somehow, even now despite all my beliefs and ideas and opinions on safe sex and condom use and empowerment, this is my fault because I didn’t say ‘oh hey, wait a second’.
I carry emergency contraception with my other medication when I travel.
The first time I needed to buy emergency contraception, I lived in a country where it wasn’t available. I had to use this website to figure out how to hack oral contraceptives to work as an ECP. It told me what to buy, how many pills to take and when. If I hadn’t been doing the work that I do, I don’t think I would’ve known to look or that this was a possibility.
I kind of want to smack every feminist who says that these issues are issues of a secondary nature. I don’t understand it and I don’t respect it and I certainly don’t think it’s feminist in any way to set up a hierarchy of rights. I believe in contextualising and working within one’s spaces and understanding, but I don’t think that it means setting aside one’s integrities for supposedly larger ‘political’ rights. I won’t apologise for thinking that this refusal to see rights in boxes is a part of being an intersectional feminist, part of being a feminist who believes in forging an interconnected path forward.
I detest the term ‘family planning’.
I don’t quite trust environmentalists, especially when they have no stance on population issues but bang on about finite resources. I want them to think about it and create a damn stance because the stancelessness is not about fluidity; it’s about overlooking how this has systematically targeted women’s bodies and agencies; and that is never, never OK. And I judge them (harshly) for this.
*I prefer this version of the poem because I think it’s so raw and so very personal, but this more polished version is still incredibly strong and definitely works out some of the structural/content issues she seems to have been struggling with in the first set, and has some additional lines that are just heartbreaking, including on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.