Identity and Fluidity
Listen as queer artist-activists discuss discovering and rediscovering identity
Mairead I think being nervous about coming up with one finite identity that I was going to be for the rest of my life stopped me coming out earlier and stopped me accessing supports and making other queer friends earlier, because I felt that I couldn't change my identity because I felt that people would judge me. And I saw straight people around me, not even thinking about their identities, or the words they used to describe themselves and they just felt so sure of themselves because they never had to question their identity. They felt inside the way that everyone told them they should be. And so when I questioned my identity, I was so- I felt so different from everyone else.
Reymond Yeah, I definitely think that's the thing with labels is like, sometimes it can be really helpful to identify what you're feeling but at the same time, I also find them quite restrictive in that most of the people who end up using queer labels are straight people when they're trying to understand queer people. And- but queer people, we're just kind of like out here just being. And I feel like it's a very sis hetero normative thing to want to pick apart every piece of queer identity and put it in a box to categorize it and make it make sense. But nothing makes sense.
Liz If most of the people around you are straight and they just haven't ever needed to question their identity for- or maybe they've never been given the space to do so or what have you- then you feel so alone, or so kind of scared of choosing one thing, and that is also what I love about ‘queer’ as an identifier is that it is that sort of umbrella term, like you don't need to get into the nitty gritty because, frankly, no one really cares. You don't need to tell your whole life story when you're just meeting someone because it's too much.
Alessia I feel like I have earned the right to label myself that, and I think that also has to do with a lot of my relationships with labels in general changing, whether it has to do with my gender identity, my sexuality, my person- like as a person of color, just a lot of that as well there's been a lot of shifts in the last like two to three years, I would say. Also like I feel like there's like a fear with it too. When you say you're something there's like an expectation of what it is that that should look like. Like when you tell somebody that you're an artist, they’re may be expecting a bunch of paintings in your home. And it's just like, no, that's actually not what I do, or maybe it's a part of what I do, but it's not the entirety of it. And art is so niche and there's so many nuances with it and interpretations of what can be art and what is art, and how we create art, that it's just like one of those things that is like ridiculously fluid and I feel like the terminology with it should be, but like it hasn't. The terminology of the artist hasn't been as fluid as the actual process itself so I think that's really interesting.
Madeline I don’t know, I kind of have a complicated relationship with labels. I do agree with queer being this big catch all, or just general signifier, but also as someone who identifies as asexual, which is, you know, a bit of a smaller community within the queer community. And I find that we often have different experiences than a lot of other people queer or not. I think, to me at least it sometimes can be important to identify that part, because in queer spaces I feel sometimes- I guess- out of my depth sometimes. I like I might not have the same experiences as other people or… I find sometimes when things are overtly sexual which- no shame on anyone, I think that's fantastic for other people- but for me it just feels so out of my depth of my experience, and it's kind of uncomfortable in a sense so I think for me being able to like identify that part of myself in that case, labels are important.
“Defying easy categorization is so sexy. You want to know me? Too bad, I'm ineffable”
“Everything is on a spectrum! Gender! Sexuality! Identity! Neurodivergence!"
“I find queer to be such a liberating word because it covers all of my identity. I don't need to say I'm a bisexual transman with some androgenous leaning, I can just say I'm queer!”
“Why do we need to know everything all the time? Why do we have to be sure? Is it not enough to exist without having to compartmentalize every aspect of one's identity? I mean, I'm confused and don't know what's going on all the time and that's fine. Not everything needs a clear answer. Allow yourself to be nebulous! Take it from a queer neurodiverse art student, life is a never-ending journey of self-discovery”
“Most of the human experience is experienced through phases but that doesn't make those phases any less authentic or valid. Just because you're a different person tomorrow doesn't mean the person you were today was inauthentic”
“You don't have to know everything about your identity to come out. It's okay to change your art practice. It's okay to go through ‘a phase’”
“What I wish I'd known... I mean my entire 35-year career would have been entirely different if I'd been living as a man. So obviously, I wish I'd known I was non-binary and that it was even a thing at the beginning of my life as an artist”