Hiding in Plain Sight481 views
In daily excursions and activities that do not involve writing, I still find being queer and “hidden” somehow manageable. For me, given my family’s background and our somewhat diverging interests, I can even claim to enjoy the privilege of “hiding in plain sight.” It’s really not that difficult at all! Really, all I’ve had to do was do everything without covering up for it… or at least without seeming to. Talk about parental trust – or is it parental denial?
At first, there was all my “tom-boyish” attitudes and clothing. My parents rationalized that Barbie and her entourage never appealed to me, claiming that I preferred puzzles and Lego. However, when it came to seeing me play with action figures, I guess they just turned a blind eye. This was accompanied by the continuous crushes I had over older women who happened to be mostly my teachers. I remember quite distinctly a time when I found myself sobbing out of sympathy for a teacher whom I was crushing on, and there was no damn private space I could do that without anyone noticing. I couldn’t keep it hidden, and the interrogation was initiated by my mother. I was already feeling confused, guilty and a bit ashamed to be crying about something I didn’t even know about! I didn’t want to lie to my mother, but I also couldn’t bare the idea of revealing my secret to her. But in the end, I had to yield. She wouldn’t let me talk to my friend on the phone unless I told her what it was all about. So I did, and her response was: “You shouldn’t be that influenced by her.” And I thought: “Hah! What an epiphany! Thank you for guiding me and telling me what not to feel! That was the answer to all the questions I’d been wondering about! Now I can rest.” But of course, my verbal response was: “I know… I know…” And then the day continued as if nothing had happened. After all, it turned out to be nothing at all, didn’t it?
A few years later, I bought tapes by t.A.T.u. Apparently, my parents hadn’t caught up with the hustle and bustle of the Russian duo of two teenage girls who sang for and claimed to be lesbians. I think I remember even playing those tapes in the family car! Of course, at that time, the older women crushes continued. I even developed an obsession with a female singer and made it my business to collect every photograph of her, every snippet of an interview, every tune she hummed, not to mention sung. My parents definitely knew about this obsession of mine, but I guess they thought it would be just a phase. They even indulged me a couple of times by taking me to the venue where she was signing her new albums.
Then, upon entering university, I developed a passion for queer literature. I spent hours and days on-end surfing the Internet for any free piece of literature written by or about lesbians until at last I discovered “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters and was keen on getting it no matter what the cost was. The book was not available in Lebanese bookstores and so I asked for it to be ordered. I won’t even begin to describe the book or what it did to me, but what I can say is that I downloaded the movie and bought everything else ever written by Sarah Waters (including her PhD manuscript).
The books are now aligned on the nightstand next to my bed. I leave them there quite exposed, and I feel a continuous sense of wonder at the lack of curiosity displayed by my parents, as well as my sister, about what these books are about. None of them have even so much as bothered as to lift a book and read the back cover! And at that, I don’t know whether to feel relief or grief. On the one hand, it does spare me the trouble of hiding and affords me the privilege of “hiding in plain sight” instead. But on the other hand, it represents a kind of resignation on my family’s behalf, a conviction in our distinct and somehow irreconcilable interests and tastes. And so, not only does it show indifference, but it also reflects disinterest in actually getting to know a bit about my likings and thus, a bit about me…