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The stares

I used to not mind people staring at me. I assumed that it was a casual glance rather than a glare. As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize that there is a hint of malice behind the looks I’m given, and it’s because I’m openly queer. I am a nonbinary person who wears a bikini at the beach, and therefore many people perceive me as a woman. This is unfair in itself, but an issue for another day. Everyone wears bikinis or some sort of bathing suit at the beach. That’s the whole point of them. No one looks twice at me when I walk around in my bikini drinking water, lying in the sand, or sitting on a bench. I’m practically invisible. My girlfriend and I went to the beach twice this summer. But the second my hands interlink with my girlfriends, it’s like the entire population turns their heads to stare. I wish I were exaggerating, but I’m not because it happens everywhere! We go out to eat and I rub her back, 10 stares (and quite often glares) from across the restaurant. We laugh a little too loudly and I kiss her on the cheek, someone should call the cops to come and arrest me on the spot.

What irks me about these stares is that it doesn’t happen to straight couples based on what I have experienced. When I was in the tenth grade, before I knew I was a lesbian, I tried to give guys a chance (I honestly tried three separate times, but it was awful). During this time, I went on a date with a guy to the mall and we got food together, walked around, laughed loudly, and openly hugged. Not a single person cared. No stares. No glares. No “casual glances.” No grandma looked at us like we had just ruined the innocence of all the children in America. At college, I went on a date with a man and we made out in the middle of an engineering hallway. If I were to do that with my girlfriend, someone would film us or shout a slur our way because they are too ignorant to understand that homophobia comes in forms other than outright hate speech.

I don’t have an issue with people staring at me — I have an issue with what these stares mean. If I wasn’t growing up in an America where I was called slurs and bullied at the possibility of being the slightest bit queer, then maybe I would be more optimistic. But I wasn’t. I wasn’t raised in an accepting society and I still don’t live in one. I know what these stares mean. These stares are telling me to stop being affectionate with my girlfriend. These stares are telling me I’m disgusting. These stares are telling me not to expose children to queerness because it could endanger them even though I’m just holding my girlfriend's hand. These stares are reiterating that I don’t belong. I know that some stares might just be curiosity, or maybe even a bit of happiness from another queer person, but these are not the looks I’m talking about. I know the difference between genuine curiosity and a grimace on someone’s face. People are very overt with facial expressions, it’s almost disappointing how bad humans are at keeping their thoughts off their faces. My advice to anyone who sees a queer couple or anyone existing peacefully, and doesn’t like it, is to simply don’t look. Ignore us. I’m tired of you being too scared to be open-minded.

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