Why I Identify As “Queer.”

by Jaime-Jin Lewis

My name is Jaime-Jin Lewis and I’m from Charlottesville, Virginia. My whole life I feel like I’ve been an “other”, from being an Asian American, being female, being a transracial adoptee, being a Southerner who was growing up in a religious household. All these things have contributed to but also made it a little bit trickier I feel to find, to arrive at who I feel like I am.

I first came out as queer to mostly gay and lesbian folks who of course had the question of, “Why queer?” over gay and lesbian and really how I delineate that as that, I’ve been in relationships with many different types of people who identify as male, female, gender non conforming. A few years ago I was actually sitting at a bar with a guy, a straight cisgender man who I had had a relationship with, and we were just talking and I had never told him that I was queer or that I had been in relationships with women specifically right after him. I think he said something about, implying about if I was seeing other guys, and I said, “You know what? I’m queer.” And I looked at him and he was smiling and after a minute he just started laughing, he was like, “I knew.”

A few months later I was back in my home town around the holidays. I actually ended up going out to dinner with a close friend from my childhood. And we went to church together, we were in bible study together, we actually led bible study together, she’s still very active in the church. She asked me what was new in my life and so I told her, I just said, “Well, something you actually don’t know about me is that I sometimes date women.” And there was a silence, a pause again, and she looked back and she smiled and she said, “Cool. Tell me about her.” More than that, she said, “That sounds really great, I’m really happy for you.”

You play out the worst things that people could say or think. Really to this day, no one has played out the worst scenario in my story, which I feel very lucky for. The conversation with my parents have been ongoing but I think that’s good. I think it’s really hard to unlearn a lot of the things that we learn from a young age, especially for them that homosexuality is a sin or that it was a choice or all these myths around it, and it’s the same with race. Growing up in the South as one of the only Asian American people in our city, versus their experience growing up in predominantly white spaces as white folks. So the idea of coming out to my parents even as Asian American, I laugh about it but it is telling them, “You know, this is my experience and it’s different that yours.” I think queerness is especially important because it does break all of those boundaries and molds. In doing so it also creates a pathway for another way of being. Let’s not pretend that the difference doesn’t exist or that we’d be better if we were all the same. It’s something I’ve come to really love about myself.

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