Many of us feel the constant pressure of conforming to some sort of stereotype. I was discussing ‘subcultures’ with my fiancé yesterday over a cerveza. What subculture are we in, then? he challenged me. We quickly agreed that we were in a sort of Venn diagram of at least three…
But we’re geeky about different things, says he, who prefers history and politics to my science and languages. Both of us like gaming. We love artisanal coffee and beer, and prefer bicycles to cars. I like growing herbs. Lots overlaps. Our fashion sense goes for hip and geeky but slightly gay – super skinny jeans, women’s t-shirts and (for me) arty earrings.
Then he said something to me that felt simultaneously stupid and beautiful. ‘I don’t know anyone else like you,’ he said. ‘Not even one person.’ I’m usually quite dismissive of compliments, so in that instant my first reaction was that it was a dumb thing to say. Of course I was unique, because science. But then my years of trying to secure my own identity all jumped up and down in my brain. This is the biggest compliment you have ever received, they (my past selves) said.
I spent the day on Friday with the school I govern down at a beach in Essex.
Totally stealing those nails btw.
I had one of my rare positive interactions with some of the kids at the school. On my last visit, a girl in year 6 told me how much she loved my earring and my nails while a boy in the same class told me ‘only girls paint their nails’. Perhaps one of the reasons I hadn’t made a hasty return visit was down to how much that one comment knocked me sideways: that already there were 11 year olds who were having outdated ideas of gender constructs and that these were being left unchallenged. A mental attitude like that will be damaging for him, too, giving him the compulsion to conform that is so toxic to men.
This time, a boy just going into year 1 who was the son of one of our parent governors had a chat with me about pebbles, sand, crabs, the tide, and why I was a governor. I engaged cautiously; my interactions with children usually went one of three ways: intelligent conversation, brutal mocking (with them mocking me, obvy), or complete indifference to my existence. Given my previous experience, I was pleased that things seemed to be going well. Most of the way through the chat, somewhere around tides but before his interview question on motivation, I was asking him what he thought about the lines of pebbles on the beach when he said “you sound just like my dad!”
Such a comment honoured and humbled me. In many ways, it felt like another compliment that I never thought I would receive. I had never, ever thought of myself as someone capable of being around children, despite my experiences as a teacher (and that was mostly with girls over age 11, who are generally more tolerant than boys of that age). I don’t want one of my own. Not even one. But I’ve always worried about having to interact with other people’s kids, worried that somewhere along the line they’d picked up on society’s norms and would take an instant dislike of me until they had a chance to break down that construct later in life. Maybe after all I could be an uncle or older cousin to smaller children.
Hundreds of children at my school, all of them different. Not even one like the others; sure, in groups they identified with each other as having similarities, and while each of them will have to go through the same process of figuring out their tribe, they’ll each be unique.
So, have you ever wondered if you’re a Queer Geek Hipster? (Queekster?) Find out with this totally original list of 12 traits. You could be a Queekster if …
- You own t-shirts that simultaneously make references to video games, science, art history or RuPaul’s Drag Race that are artistically obscured so that only those in the know will comment.
- When they do comment, it gives you life, hunty.
- You know that something about your fashion sense is a big fuck you to the hard right.
- Your Netflix recommendations make it look like you have multiple personalities – all of them fabulous.
- You own board games with beautiful art. cf. Dixit, Mysterium, Ghost Stories.
- You have ever been described as fierce.
- You own provocative art (paintings, sculptures, design pieces, jewellery) for the sole purpose of it being a conversation piece.
- You’ve built your entire balcony as a temple to plants, especially herbs and aromatics because it gots to smell good, babe.
- You are equal parts disgusted and thrilled when people don’t get you, bae.
- You can talk for hours linking a historical or scientific theory to queer identity.
- Your hair has lived more styles than a cat has lives and was at some point (or at multiple points) inspired by a historical and/or video game character.
- You’re so used to cross-cutting your style and personality that you can go from underground café to gaming convention to railway arch rave, all in the same day.