by Eirini Kartsaki
I have been chatting to my friends about this, as a matter of urgency:
Many times, when I stand by the bus stop, or lie in bed unwilling to get up and get on with my day, I consider whether my identity makes sense to this world. I have always felt kinda strange, uncomfortable, not quite able to fit in. When in school, in the early 90s, I refused to wear the clothes everyone used to wear (Levi’s jeans 501, Fruit of the Loom hoodie and All Stars shoes). I instead wore my mum’s blue raincoat with a long necklace, a shiny blue top and leather boots. I didn’t feel comfortable standing out, but I felt worse fitting in. My sister, who was the cool one, felt awkward and embarrassed by my eccentricity. I never really had boys interested in me. Later on, I felt the urgent need to exercise my power with boys, to not be weak, to be a kind of top, only I would not use that word then. I used to approach boys I fancied and reveal my love to them: either through a poem I had written, or something equally verbose and dramatic. In a way, I hated school. Because in school, you had to stand out in a particular way. All other ways were strange and eerie and weird.
I feel pretty much the same as a grown-up. I feel that life is now a school and I have to stand out in a particular way. All other ways are strange and eerie and weird. But now the game is different. It is not just clothes I choose to wear or love declarations to boys my age. It is much more. It is sex. And babies. And family. It is all the things that make me feel slightly uncomfortable, cause I do not quite fit in. But I choose not to fit in. And here is where the confusion lies. I don’t want to fit in, yet I feel bad about it. I have sex with men, mostly, yet that seems to make me a ‘straight girl’ but I do not consider myself straight. And being straight frightens me. Cause that may mean I have to do all these other things too. But I do not want to do all these other things, and I do not want to be called straight. So, I call myself queer. But then I feel like a fraud; like, I have not actually experienced the marginalisation of being queer, really. But I have experienced my own kind of marginalisation, a feeling of not quite making sense to mainstream culture, not quite finding one’s own place. And I struggle with family, because although family has been queered by others (Maggie Nelson more recently in her Argonauts), I still feel family values set up a frame within which I have to be someone other than myself. Someone that resembles my parents, perhaps, with their love for permanence, stability, longevity. And I definitely do not want to be my parents. Despite the fact that they are both thoughtful, political, ethical people, very hard working and in love with each other.
So, I seem to understand that actually my idea of identity is somehow totalitarian, or conservative, or traditional even. I do not allow myself to be a number of things, or all of those things at once. I do not allow myself to exist in the margin, because that has to be totally and completely the margin. I do not allow myself to be a little marginalised, or to experience my queerness to a degree. It has to be all or nothing. And I cannot fuck straight men, cause that means I am straight and I detest the implications of fitting too comfortably within a heteronormative discourse. I cannot possibly feel marginalised, be queer and fuck straight men, in my mind. Cause that would be too much.
But I am too much. And perhaps I do not make sense.
I called my sister a few weeks ago, on my birthday, to ask her what goal I should set for turning 36. Perhaps, I convince myself, after all, I am good enough. She agreed and we hang up. But then she called me back straight away saying no, that is not good enough. You have to say to yourself: ‘I am fantastic’. But what is the argument to support that, I asked her. You need no argument. Arguments are so last season.
Many times, when I stand by the bus stop, or lie in bed unwilling to get up and get on with my day, I ask myself: good enough for whom? Good enough for whom? And why should it be enough? In the same way I ask myself whether I am queer enough, or marginalised enough, or in enough struggle or pain to justify my position, to make sense to the world. But why ‘enough’? And why not too much? Perhaps my identity cannot be signalled monolithically. Perhaps it exists on many levels and it accommodates conflict and contradiction. I may have sex with men, primarily, but that’s not necessarily who I am. Perhaps, as an artist I am not doing queerness in the same way as others, but I refuse to get on with it, or get it together, or settle in or settle down, and that is perhaps my own kind of queer. There are possibilities of my identity that emerge beyond who I sleep with.
My identity thus does not need to make sense to anyone, not even myself. Cause my identity is not one thing, stable and figured out. It is ever-changing. And despite my fear of saying: I do not want any children, I know that tomorrow I may change my mind. And I may also change my mind about who I want to sleep with or how I feel about school or the boys I used to love. Or even my parents. And that is, probably, ok.
Eirini Kartsaki is a performance practitioner, writer and Teaching Fellow in Drama and Performance Studies at Queen Mary University of London. Her writing is concerned with notions of desire, repetition and the unfulfilled. Her practice has been presented nationally and internationally, and she has published her research in journals Performing Ethos, Choreographic Practices and Performance Research. http://www.eirinikartsaki.com/