Republished with permission
© Copyright Michael Holt
When I was young “queer” was a slur, slang for homosexual, and that’s the only meaning it had. Pretty much all of society was very homophobic. We used “queer” to emphasize the difference between us normal people and those dreadful homosexuals.
Except I wasn’t quite one of the normal people. I had submissive fantasies before puberty. These weren’t sex fantasies, they were more gender role fantasies. I had no idea what to do about them. But I knew they set me apart, and that didn’t feel safe in 50’s America. So I kept them hidden. I didn’t realize that this gave me something in common with the queers.
I had a male lover in college. I was quite surprised when he came on to me. I wasn’t one of those queers, and didn’t think I was attractive. But he insisted I was and I yielded. The sex worked—I got hard; I came. But I had the thought, while making out with him the first time, that it would work better if one of us was a woman. All these decades later, that strikes me as a queer thought. This relationship was a one-off for me. I realized that really, my attraction was for women.
Much later I found the kink community. And in it I met young people who had claimed the word “queer”. They rejected traditional gender stereotypes and they used their appearance to signal this. I had never embraced the stereotypes, but I was comfortable with traditional masculine presentation. So no hairstyle-as-statement for me. Heck, I often wore khakis and a button-down shirt on casual day at work. People no doubt made assumptions based on my appearance, and I didn’t challenge them. But I did sometimes surprise them. When I participated in the Hula Hoop contest at the Pride Block Party the MC called me out. “Look at Mr. Lands’ End go!” Yep, I stood out in that crowd. I won the contest, using Hula Hoop skills I’d learned in the 50’s. For a straight white guy in a button-down, I could move my hips. I had embraced being kinky, but I didn’t feel at all queer.
That eventually started to change. Year before last a friend and I presented a workshop on kink at an LGBTQ conference. When I introduced myself I included that I was submissive. I saw it as a credential of sorts. I wasn’t L or G or B or T or Q, but I was different. My friend brought clarity: “Male submission is a queering of masculinity.” She identifies as queer and had given this more thought than I had.
Her words rattled around in my brain for months, and eventually I accepted that I was queer, at least on the inside. And it wasn’t a choice. I had had those fantasies, I had this nature, and fuck no, I wasn’t ever going to be a macho man.
And eventually I felt comfortable bringing my queer to the surface. I felt drawn to cross-dressing, and I found a venue to try it out, a step at a time. I volunteer at Kinky Friday, a monthly fetish night at a large downtown bar. It’s a very open and welcoming environment. Last month I came up with a gender-bending costume: a short slip, biker boots, tape on my nipples, and leather thigh cuffs. I felt entirely comfortable wearing lingerie in public, and this emboldened me. This month I did without the masculine elements. A different (cuter?) short slip, strappy heels, tape on my nipples, and I carried a white patent-leather purse. And I got a pedicure and bright red polish on my toenails. So they matched my thong, that showed under my slip. Such an attention whore! I got lots of compliments at Kinky Friday, especially for my shoes, and I had a great time.
I reprised the outfit the next night at a kink party--an entirely different group of people. Friends who’ve known me for years were surprised, but I just said I wanted to get my queer on, and that was enough. And then I went back into gender-bending mode, wearing the heels and carrying the purse while otherwise dressing masculine. I went queer to lunch with a friend, and to a small fundraiser for a feminist comedy troupe, and to Trader Joe’s. And I stepped out with bright red toenails barefoot dancing, and at the gym, and getting a massage. I was thrilled when people noticed and I enjoyed talking about it. But I also realized that it was fine when no reacted. That could be a sign that seeing an old queer wasn’t all that remarkable. And that would be a good thing, too.
I’m so glad I found my queer.
St. Paul, MN