Being visibly queer
For the past few months, I’ve been consistently perceived as a cisgender male by strangers and new acquaintances. I guess I might not have that privilege in the future: apparently I look like a 13 year old, so people will probably figure me out in more adult settings like college and job interviews.
I don’t know how queer I look, though. A couple of things happened this week that made me think about this. First, I saw a gay couple in a restaurant; I was really happy because I only see openly gay couples in public two or three times a year, not counting the Pride March. I think I might have looked at the people in the restaurant a little too much, trying to figure out if they really were together.
Now I feel guilty because if they thought I was straight, then they might have thought I was staring out of ignorance or hostility (“Whoa, two men? Loving each other?!”). I think it’s a different story when queer people look at each other in recognition and friendliness, but what do you think? Is it rude in that case, too?
The other thing that happened: I think a man hit on me while we were on the bus. I’m not really sure because the bus was crowded, so maybe he couldn’t help standing close to me; and I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me because of his sunglasses, but his face seemed to point in my direction often. These and several other details led to me to think he might be attracted to me. Luckily, if he was hitting on me, he wasn’t doing it in an aggressive manner and nothing happened.
It isn’t the first time that I’ve noticed “gay-looking” guys looking at me (they set off my gaydar, although maybe I’m just basing my judgment on stereotypes). I wonder whether they look at me because they think I’m handsome or because they can tell I’m queer. Knowing they probably see me as a preteen boy confuses me further: isn’t it weird if they’re attracted to someone so much younger? Can a boy already look gay at that age?
There are many things I would like about being visibly queer, if it turns out that I am visible as a queer person (I don’t think I would change my appearance to become visible, though). It would make me recognizable to other LGBTQ persons and remind straight people that we do exist, although maybe it makes them believe that we really are recognizable at first sight. What makes a person visibly queer, anyway? Queers and straights come in all shapes, sizes and genders.
I’d like to know how I’m perceived. My friends can’t really tell: they’re too close to notice and they must have a hard time seeing me as male, anyway. I’m also concerned about my safety, since gay males are supposedly at greater risk of violence. So far, I’ve been lucky, but still I hardly ever wear my rainbow pins on my backpack. There are some parts of being visible that I can control, and sometimes visibility is just too scary.