THE BOTANY OF BEING A QUEER WOMAN

By Meg O’Neil, Illustration by Natalia Minds.

“Queerness is a jewel in itself. Rare, beautiful, shining. Trapped behind those dark cellar doors, reconciling the direction/s of your love, achieving pride, feels impossible. But flowers cannot decide in which direction they grow- positively phototropic, they turn their faces, and grow towards the sun. Being queer is just like that.”

The term ‘closeted’ is exchanged throughout our lexicon like coppers; it’s just part of our cultural currency. Throughout history, it has assumed a plethora of meanings. It once implied insidiousness- as though the skeleton in there was some sort of demonic spectre poised, lurking- its malevolence not quite measurable. The distrust surrounding the word was aggressive. ‘Closeted’ then moved on and evolved to mean, somewhat less gravely, the possessor of a secret which should remain behind closed doors. ‘Closeted’ now, I hope, at least, is largely innocuous- just a statement of easy fact. Most uses of the word imply a sympathy for the individual; an understanding that, to open those doors is a difficult personal choice.

“Being closeted is a constant PR job: deflecting any suspicion, flinching under scrutiny, trying not to blush- and it feels something like one of Polly Nor’s illustrations. Each day you wear a facade, a skin- a carapace, to protect yourself. All it does is make you feel guilty. It’s a dirty secret, but not a fun one.A really heavy, exhausting one.And you can only feel truly yourself, free, alone.”

Whilst that is encouraging, simultaneously, such a shift has diminished the power of the word. It is used casually, when the experience of remaining closeted is absolutely not a casual one. It is not like hiding your secret love for Glee or fancying Bill Murray- there is a reason the LGBTcommunity holds annual Pride festivals: to assuage the feeling of acute, inescapable shame, and subvert it, to celebrate the true magic of being queer. There is nothing comparable to it. Denial is a powerful thing, but it has finite energy. Being closeted is a constant PR job: deflecting any suspicion, flinching under scrutiny, trying not to blush- and it feels something like one of Polly Nor’s illustrations. Each day you wear a facade, a skin- a carapace, to protect yourself. All it does is make you feel guilty. It’s a dirty secret, but not a fun one. A really heavy, exhausting one.And you can only feel truly yourself, free, alone.

I say this because, for several years, I locked myself in there. And I can tell you, there are no fur coats, or lions, or magical queens in there- there is only loneliness, and isolation as cold as a winter without Christmas. Your mouth becomes a clam. And there’s a pearl inside, but you trap it in darkness. A permanent sense of dishonesty looms over you. It is under these conditions that I learned my first feminist mantra: Pressure creates diamonds. Queerness is a jewel in itself. Rare, beautiful, shining. Trapped behind those dark cellar doors, reconciling the direction/s of your love, achieving pride, feels impossible. But flowers cannot decide in which direction they grow- positively phototropic, they turn their faces, and grow towards the sun. Being queer is just like that. As the ancient proverb doth go, there’s nothing like the glow of a woman who got fed up and freed herself. The closet is a cage created by the narrowness of heteronormativity. Leaving the closet is just like moving a plant to an east-facing window: opening those doors, and letting light in.

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