Belonging lies on a continuum. For those of us who exist outside of the binaries, belonging is difficult to obtain. On one end of the continuum lies the hostiles--these are the people who march against civil rights, who slam their minds against people they consider gay or lesbian or trans. They may explain their political activism against same-sex marriage as protecting the failing heterosexual marriage system, but in reality they are simply afraid of losing their privileged status in the binaries. The hostiles slash tires, give us bad student evaluations, report us to our supervisors, harass us, gossip about us, murder us. The hostiles have been around since the late-1800s when sexologists invented homosexuality and heterosexuality as core identities, and then began to purge us from their midst.
The LGBT movement has worked hard for over 100 years to cultivate tolerators, achieving that goal somewhat by the 1970s when the APA stopped forcing queers into mental hospitals, shock treatment, and/or lithium treatments and instead allowed us a measure of tolerance. Surely tolerance is better than hostility, but most of us want something more out of life than mere tolerance from others. Tolerators feel compulsion to continually reaffirm their tolerance when they interact with queers, which is just another way of reaffirming their difference from us and their security within the binary system. Tolerators are a chore to hang out with, as they need constant assurance from us that we know that they tolerate us. Yawn.
Accepters comprise the next step along the continuum. Within urban gay ghettoes, there are lots of accepters, especially as capitalists have discovered there is profit to be made from LGBTs. There may be whispers and raised eyebrows, and initial "ohs!" from binary-mired bystanders who suddenly realize that they are interacting with a non-binary person, but accepters are most definitely a better group for LGBT folks to hang out with than tolerators or hostiles. The one thing that continues to plague me about acceptors is that many of them continue to harbor some measure of anxiety about their place in the binaries, and so have to go overboard to assure us that we are accepted (and that their binary position is not threatened.)
And then there's what I have come to define as shruggers. Shruggers find out that the person they are interacting with is lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or trans, and shrugs, changing the subject to one that is more interesting. Shruggers are more interested in the fact that I'm a fiddler than I'm a lesbian. Shruggers may still zing me on student evaluations, but because I teach a hated required course, not because of hostility towards LGBTQ folks. Shruggers find the topic of sexual identity unremarkable and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.
I like shruggers best. I like hanging out with shruggers, working with shruggers, teaching shruggers, playing music with shruggers, engaging in political activism with shruggers.
Last night, Kayt and I worked the Miners Masquerade Ball, a fundraiser for the Ester Republic. We were, in fact, co-organizers, and so the evening was fraught with both fun and hard work. We had scads of fun, and chattered all the way home about the sense of community we felt there. This morning we rose early, even though we were out late, and we started the chatter again. About mid-morning, I realized I was experiencing something I have not experienced since 2003, the year we moved to Alaska. It was a foreign feeling, and I could not at first remember what it was because it's been so long since I have felt it.
It was joy in belonging. We have finally found shruggers among our midst. We have found a site where we belong. Joy thrives here Beyond Ester today, and we are thriving in its glow.