One of the themes of my life so far has been queerness. Queerness, as I define it, is a state beyond traditional modalities of existence and means of self-understanding or identification. I have for some time now walked the path of queerness, and as I transition into a new state of being, I wish to reflect upon my "career in queer." Thusly submitted herein, with love. Sean Barker.
Queerness is both a blessed and a cursed state. When brought down to its essence, it is the state of separation. "I am not like all of this which surrounds me." This has been my mentality for as far back as I can remember. Externally, my queerness is understood and talked about in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. Internally, however, I understand these to be secondary to the essence of my difference, the totality of which I cannot properly communicate in words. Even before I had a sexual orientation or a gender identity, I was queer. Simply put, I have always felt different.
In my mind, the rules do not apply to me. I see others as restricted from within; they believe that certain attributes or ways of being are inaccessible to themselves, because they are or are not a certain way. My experience of selfhood has been far less restricted. I can be anything I want to be, beyond the cliche notion through which grade children are encouraged to pursue their dreams. I can literally be anything I want to be: be it man, woman, black, white, elf, wombat, what have you. If I can conceive of it, I can become it. My experiences have demonstrated this time and time again (though, I will admit, I never actually set out to become a wombat). Reality is quite flexible in my eyes; I am too transcendent a figure to take any of this literally. This is what sets me apart from others.
It goes without saying that mine has been a liberated path. There is little which I have denied myself, and much which I have explored without the baggage of the idea of self-contradiction. Properly speaking, I have barely even possessed what I would term a "self." I have been, in every moment, whatever I wished to be at that time. Without holding onto any obstructive concept of self, I have nevertheless been, with nothing but my corporeal configuration as my constant. Simultaneously, I have existed and I have not existed. I am often as a mirror reflecting reality back to itself, and sometimes I am a palate projecting my latest creation. Never am I anything that can be pinned down or understood in simple terms. Above all, I am an enigma. And I've enjoyed this.
Through the vehicle of queerness, I have encountered a tremendous amount of beauty. I find that humans, so-called "normal" humans, are eternally willing to share of themselves with those whom they trust. As a queer, my selfhood has always been performed. All I need do is give something of myself to which the people in my life can relate, and they will happily relate to me. Because I have no solid or stable sense of self, I can relate to anyone. I just have to play the part, and love will take its course. By habitually choosing to relate to people regardless of background or present circumstance, and maintaining a self-conscious taste for diversity, I have come to understand the beauty of all walks of life. I love everyone, in the sense that I appreciate the richness of each and every nuance within the whole of human existence. My hunger for life and its novelties has been insatiable, and thus I have been blessed with an endless supply of fresh ideas and situations. I have embraced these fully, with no manner of hang-up or regard for propriety.
Travelling as I have consistently placed me in a position akin to that of the anthropologist: I have been in many contexts a participant-observer. I have been many things, but always with the understanding that I would not be as such permanently. I have played all of the parts (quite well I will confess), and in so doing gained an immediate understanding of the nature of each position. Instead of becoming a genius in one role, I have opted to be a generalist in that I've wished to know something of everything. When I've had my fill of one context, I move on to the next. As my youthful energy has allowed, I've consistently found myself operating in several contexts at once. Life, I will admit, has been something of a ceaseless crash-course for me. Through queerness, I have experienced a gamut of life-lessons, and I am the better for it.
I have also acquired much "fodder" for the next stage of my existence: the inevitable culmination of my queer past into a stable, un-queer sense of self. I find that, while every person or group has something to offer, no identity category which I have encountered to date has everything I'm looking for. Some groups have a profound experience of the emotional, while others have a knack for expanding the intellectual. Some people have all the spiritual connection one could want, but absolutely no clue as to what is happening here on Earth. Culture A might have a really keen grasp on preventative medicine and holistic healing, while Culture B just simply knows how to have fun. My explorations have allowed me to have an expansive--if so far nebulous--repertoire of self-potentials at my disposal for the final integration.
So why even bother with stability? Why integrate at all? If it is true that I've had the time of my life being queer, whatever could compel me to suddenly become normal or consistent?
Practically speaking, I've come to find that one simply cannot remain queer forever. Or, at least, I cannot. My ostentatious and indefatigable exploration of identities was made possible by the sponsorship first of my parents and later of my student loans. At present, I find myself a working-class degree-holder with debt. Performance and games are for those who have no bills to pay. I am now making the decision to wake up from my queer dreamland, and settle into the logistical problems of material reality. Questions such as "who am I?" or "whom do I want to be today?" are not nearly as important as "how am I going to get out of debt?" and "do I really want to be waiting tables for the rest of my life?" The time has come for me to stop being a freak and to start being a real-world person with real-world problems. By focusing on the material, I will become financially solvent and enable myself to move on to richer and more rewarding realities.
Additionally, I've reached the point where I can confidently say that I gained all that I needed in the way of self-exploration. In one moment, the reality of my selfhood hit me like a stack of bricks, and I discovered that I Am. Since then, I have been in transition, and am still in the process of incorporating the values and knowledges I've gained into a comprehensive and reconciled Self. My fluid identity is what yielded all of the creative fodder that I can now channel into my most brilliant and permanent role: that of the Real Sean Barker. I no longer need to be enigmatic; I can simply be.
Finally, I will confess that queerness is burden. As a brilliant and undoubtedly insane homeless person once told me, "It's lonely at the top." Inhabiting a transcendent space beyond identity did much to feed my ego and convince me that I was "above it all." But, at the end of the day, I am a human with human needs. Constantly "passing through" identities, friendships, circles of humanity is fun for a while, but in order to have true friends, one must be a true self. Love in its most potent form happens when the wall of separation between you and the rest of the world breaks down and you allow others to see the real you. As you become realer, you gravitate toward your like-matter, and enjoy the fruits of acceptance, normality, and real love. Being brilliant and nebulous has its advantages, but at the end of the day, it cannot replace the power of the healing energy of looking into a loved one's eyes with all of the beauty and tragedy of a shared Selfhood. I am making the choice to be Love.
And, so far, it fits. Though it's taken me a while to get used to being completely honest all of the time, to being transparent, no longer a mystery, I'm finding that the creature-comforts are well worth the change. No longer must I be "on guard," persistently aware of the character I'm presently in. I can just be. I am no longer afraid of getting too close to people, for fear that I will miss them when I move on. I now allow myself to love and be loved. I do not, in my present condition, have to constantly analyze, interrogate, and criticize the world around me, in its pitiable normalcy. I can just be normal--if a bit quirky--and tend to my own affairs humbly and without contempt.
At the end of the day, I am a simple creature. I am an upwardly mobile middle class white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, a great American, a well-adjusted gay man. I am intelligent. I am spiritual. I love to dance and eat good food (vegetarian!). I have behind me a tumultuous, dramatic, exciting youth, and I love to share anecdotes from it with those I encounter. "Man, those were the days," I often quip. Sure, I did my share of identity-exploration, and did so under the self-righteous moniker of queerness. But, who doesn't set out to find themselves these days? Isn't the coming-of-age narrative the quintessential American experience at present? Mine just happened to be a bit more flamboyant than usual. And I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Of course, I wouldn't repeat it for the world, either.
Normalcy and queerness are simply states of mind. From where I sit today, it's clear to me that I never was nearly as queer as I thought I was. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that I'm pronouncedly normal, in this crazy day-in-age. Ultimately, the transition to normalcy is as easy as flipping on a light switch. And, just like that, I am.