I’ve been thinking about Freaks and Weirdos since commenter arainandagale made a comment about Freaks/Weirdos solidarity on this post. I happen to be a Freak and a Weirdo and they also happen to be my favourite people. In fact, they’re really the only people I can stand to be around. I’m going to write a little bit about growing up as an outcast and then ask whether being LBG has an impact as to whether one is labelled as a Weirdo. Depressing childhood stories coming up! And if you are a Freak and a Weirdo, feel free to tell me your story in the comments.
I still don’t know why it was decided that I was a Freak and a Weirdo by the kids at my school. They seemed to just make a collective decision at some point that something was really wrong with me and then they made sure to remind me of it constantly. My clothes were wrong, the food I brought for lunch was wrong, the music I liked was wrong, and the things I said were wrong. I can sort of see why my clothes were wrong. I usually wore clothes from thrift stores or cheap store brands, and the other kids usually wore new, name-brand clothes. I never understood fashion at all, and always got it wrong. So kids would come up to me and ask “Where did you get those jeans” because they knew I had bought them second-hand. It was a statement, not a question. Or they would say about my shoes “Those aren’t real Docs.” I fucking knew they weren’t real Docs. They were cheap store brand imitation Docs, and they only had one line of stitching, not two. The point of these comments was, of course, to shame me because my parents hadn’t spent top dollar on fashion. I still don’t know why they wanted to shame me for that—how shallow and stupid! I can sort of see the classism going on and the sense of superiority they were getting out of that. But I can’t understand why they also needed to make fun of my food. Anything I brought for lunch was the wrong food, too. I still remember in grade six when someone pointed at my sandwich and announced loudly to the class that I had Really Gross Cheese and Eeeeeww, How Could She Eat That! And everyone in the classroom loudly agreed that that was really gross cheese. It was fucking cheddar cheese. I can’t even imagine how it even occurred to anyone to think that perfectly normal cheddar cheese was gross, and it seems to me that they were just looking for things to find wrong about me. Anything would do. There was only one kind of music we were allowed to listen to on one radio station. I didn’t like it, so I was wrong about that, too. And even sometimes when I spoke, people would point and laugh because for some reason there was something wrong with the way my sentence was worded. (I didn’t have any speech problems. This was completely arbitrary.) That, along with everything else, made me really afraid to speak when I was at school. Eventually I was withdrawn and sad and convinced no one would ever like me. One time a kid actually spoke to me sincerely, without mocking me, and I was so amazed, I attempted to answer, but got really nervous, and I actually got so nervous I stopped speaking mid-sentence. I finally had enough social anxiety that I could not speak an entire sentence to another person. After that I didn’t even bother trying anymore. I had my headphones on all the time and tried not to be near any other kids. I did my best to act like I was invisible, and sometimes I thought that maybe I wasn’t even there.
In middle school there was one other girl in my class who was also an Outcast. For some random reason, the kids who assigned me to the status of Freak also assigned her. They had an issue with everything she wore and everything she did, just like they did with me. I remember her having a nice new jacket and the girls at school made a big point of calling it tacky and then she was embarrassed to wear it again. She also wore old clothes like I did, not bought at thrift stores but found in her grandparents’ attic. She liked to wear the clothes that her uncles wore when they were kids. I thought she looked pretty cool, but of course the Middle School Fashion Police did not approve. I remember her explaining to me what clique everyone belonged to, and she said matter-of-factly that she and I were Outsiders. I agreed with that assessment. I knew I had always been an Outsider, and had no hope of ever being Cool. Both she and I ended up with depression, and both of us identified as bisexual in high school.
I sometimes hear from FtM transitioners that they don’t understand girls at all, they don’t understand the way girls talk to each other or treat each other, and they only like to hang out with guys because they behave the way guys behave. Well, I don’t understand girls either. Most of the kids who bullied me were girls. They seemed to have arbitrary rules for what was “cool” and what was not and these rules were a total mystery to me. I never knew how they came up with this stuff. I sometimes imagined them at a meeting where they decided what was cool or not and then, I don’t know, passed a motion on it or something and decided to torture anyone who didn’t comply with the unknown rules. I actually liked the movie Mean Girls when it came out. A lot of feminists hate that film, and I understand why, but it made fun of the type of girls who bullied me and that was refreshing. There is a moment when the bully Regina announces loudly that she LOVES THAT SKIRT SO MUCH and then as soon as the girl with the skirt walks away she says I HATE THAT SKIRT. This is the sort of girl behavior I don’t fucking understand at all.
My friend who wore her uncles’ old clothes and told me that we were Outsiders, she turned out not to be straight and same with me. The rest of the kids in our class turned out straight. (I know this because of the magic of Facebook.) And this makes me wonder, were we actually different in some way? Were we targeted randomly, or were we targeted because they could sense we were different? I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not. But I do know that lots of gay kids cannot fit into their gender roles and feel like they don’t fit in.
Sometimes I would try to fit in. I remember one year it was a fad for all the girls to write the initials of the boy they had a crush on on their desk. This seemed like an easy way for me to try to fit in. I selected a boy completely at random, (I didn’t have any interest in any of them), and I wrote his initials. As soon as someone saw it the girls started squealing and gossiping about it and making a big deal out of it. I never once talked to this boy and I didn’t give a shit about him. I was just trying to be normal. But hearing the girls squealing about this just made me want to hide. I had tried to participate in this particular social ritual but it still didn’t really make sense to me, and I didn’t understand all the squealing.
There was only one thing that got me through this period of time, which was a certain after-school Hobby I had, which I won’t name just because I worry about outing myself if I am too specific. At my after-school Hobby, I got to hang out with the other Weirdos and Freaks from other classes and other schools. I finally fit in. Even though at school I was completely mute and withdrawn, in my Hobby I became happy and outgoing, because I was around other kids who actually made sense to me. They didn’t give a shit about conformity either, they cared about stuff that was actually worth caring about. I happen to know, due to the power of Facebook, that this same Hobby was helpful to a number of other Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual youth from my area.
There was this girl we used to call Crazy Kim. That was just her name, and everyone called her that all the time, whether to her face or behind her back. We’d say stuff like, “Hey, is Crazy Kim coming tonight?” like it was totally normal. Years later I found out she is a lesbian. I realized with shock that the only out lesbian in that high school was being called Crazy as an official part of her name. I wondered if that was the reason for the label.
I hope this doesn’t sound like a bunch of random whining. I’m trying to show how LGB youth may not fit in, may not understand the social rules that are set up that are based on a heteronormative dominant culture, and may get bullied for being different. I’ve read enough coming out stories to know that gay boys are sometimes labelled as “faggot” before they’ve even had a chance to realize they are attracted to other boys, just because they can’t really be a boy the way the other boys are, and that young lesbian girls sometimes identify with the boys and don’t understand the girls. Of course, now, if this happens to someone, they are labelled as trans instead. They are given a cure for their problem. It’s like, Don’t Want to Be a Freak or a Weirdo Anymore? Try this Magic Potion Called Testosterone, it Will Make You Seem Normal To Other People. Of course, there are straight kids who are Freaks and Weirdos too, but I feel like if you’re gay there’s an increased chance you’re going to get the Freak treatment.
I don’t like that Freaks and Weirdos are trying to cure themselves by looking like a normal member of the opposite sex. Living in the in-between area is fantastic and awesome. We should continue to defy expectations and challenge the social rules by NOT conforming to what men and women are expected to be. Girls who don’t understand the social rules expected of girls are perfect the way they are and there is no reason for them to think they aren’t girls. The rules and expectations truly are stupid and if you don’t conform that’s not because you aren’t really a girl, it’s because you are Awesome and possibly Lesbian (which is also Awesome). Freaks and Weirdos are the best fucking people ever, and we should all continue being Freakish and Weird. It’s the conventional conformists that have it wrong. Conforming to a shitty culture is not a worthwhile goal.
Solidarity to all Freaks and Weirdos!