I wrote this post yesterday while sitting at the airport in Sydney, after having spent the week at Queer Collaborations. That is largely why I haven’t posted anything in a while, since I shared the abstract for the workshop I was giving. I learned a lot of very useful things and met some fascinating people, and I’ll probably be posting some more in-depth thoughts on individual aspects I started thinking about in the near future. But for now I thought I’d share five quick things that really stood out.
1. Appearances are deceiving
Since starting uni I’ve tried to educate myself as much as I can on issues of gender identity/identities, but when you’re thrown into a conference of a three hundred people who all present as a hell of a lot queerer than you, it still seems like a whole new world to start with! One of the things I really noticed was that appearance and gender identity really don’t seem to coincide much at all. How do you tell if someone is a butch, cis lesbian or someone who identifies as genderqueer? Or not get caught out by the person who presents as traditionally male who actually prefers female pronouns? Well, you learn pretty quickly that it doesn’t actually make a difference to how you interact with them. And if you mess someone’s pronoun up, well, you apologise and make a note for next time. Being in a space with so many queer people is definitely different to being in heteronormative spaces, but after a while you just get used to not being able to assume someone’s identity. After all, what on earth does it have to do with you?
2. It pays to learn passages of Hamlet off by heart
On the first day there was an Amazing-Race-Scavenger-Hunt at Macquarie Uni, and one of the challenges was to learn and recite a passage of Shakespeare off by heart while wearing a crown you just made (sadly, the crown thing didn’t actually happen in the end). Turns out that learning those passages of Hamlet off by heart in high school meant that we overtook two other teams who had to sit down and actually memorise the lines. Being a nerdy teenager eventually pays off.
3. You can have things in common with the most unlikely people
Once I got over the initial awkwardness of not knowing anyone and started talking to people, it amazed me how much similarity I could find between people who were completely different to me. Whether it was the other people on the asexual spectrum I met, or someone who was pansexual and polyamorous, there were so many occasions where I connected to people in ways I hadn’t expected. It goes to show that even though people can be incredibly diverse, we all have common ground somewhere. Why isn’t that something society as a whole could focus on more instead of constructing artificial barriers all the time?
4. Knitting is a thing
Apparently the ratio of people who like knitting and crocheting in the queer community is much larger than in any other circles I frequent. It’s kind of cool – and I’ve managed to make progress on this year’s winter jumper, which means that maybe I can actually finish what I start (for the first time ever…).
5. Community is important
In the past, I’ve not really felt like I was really a big part of the queer community. A lot of that comes down to the tendency of queer spaces to be quite sexual, and focused on relationships and sex like the heterosexual . But there is also a sense of shared experience in the queer community that makes it a very open and welcoming place, no matter how you identify or whether you like to party or not. I guess this kind of ties into number three, but I really enjoyed that sense of belonging and unquestioned acceptance.
6. There is no right way of doing anything
On my own journey through feminism, one of the biggest things for me has been learning to think about things in different ways, and realise that there is no true or right way of doing anything. Some of the conversations and discussions at QC really highlighted that for me – whether it be gender identity or sexual preference or the decision to not drink or do drugs. You can’t say that one person’s decisions are better or more valuable than someone else’s. If someone is not hurting someone else, there is no judgement to be made on someone else’s life. That is the simple truth of it. No matter where your personal politics lie.