Hey there, remember me? Jess here!
Blogging is radical and I miss it so I thought I’d start writing again. I’ve got a lot to say because the past few months have given me a lot to talk about. So get ready. If you’re getting this in your email, I hope you’re excited. Oh, and thanks for subscribing, tell your friends 🙂
If you’re new here, welcome! I’m writing from the west coast! However, all my posts before this were written on the east coast. I’ve had a lot of experiences in the past few months that really made me recognize the differences between the two coasts and their views, in the locations I’ve been, on queerness. So I thought I’d write about them.
Let’s start off by saying I moved from North New Jersey (about a half hour outside New York City) to Portland, Oregon.
It was a real cultural shock moving to Portland as a queer person from the east coast because it’s very different.
Please note that these are all my opinions based on my own life experiences.
Gender expression is a lot more fluid.
On the east coast, shaving was something almost everyone on the more feminine side I knew did. I grew up so socialized to do so that the idea of skipping even a day in the summer was crazy. It was also very normalized for feminine folks to wear bras and having your nipples show through your shirt was very frowned upon. However, in Portland, it’s very common to see folks who don’t shave and/or wear bras. The fluidity of gender expression is really great for folks who are nonbinary or gender non-conforming.
Speaking of gender identity, there’s also a pretty common recognition of being inclusive in language in Portland. For example, multiple times I’ve had folks correct themselves if they use words like “hun” or “woman” or “girl” when talking to me. These have been people I just met, workers at the library, and coworkers at different jobs.
On a more personal note, I came out as nonbinary here. Moving here, I really embraced a more masculine gender presentation and eventually came out as nonbinary. It was very gender affirming to get an X on my ID. It’s interesting to see how, in my experience, there are more folks who use binary pronouns here even though they don’t identify as cisgender in comparison to the east coast. In other words, on the east coast, a lot of the folks I knew who are not cisgender use she or they, he or they, or just they/them. My east coast experience made me question whether I was “nonbinary enough” which I think is a common feeling.
Friendly reminder: (from a friend of mine) “You do not have to be oppressed to identify [as nonbinary]. The problem lies in speaking on behalf of all nonbinary people without acknowledging that some people DO feel misgendered. Experience your identity however feels right to you, remain true to the community by advocating for people who feel the same and differently, and you are doing nothing wrong.”
Strangers talk to each other
There have been so many times where I’ve had a conversation with someone and said, “This wouldn’t be happening on the east coast, or it’s a lot less likely.” This is with folks just around town but also coffee baristas, grocery store workers, or even doctors. Oftentimes I talk about how I transplanted here from the east coast and end up coming out, which isn’t really a big deal (see below).
Coming out is not really a big deal here
I moved here for an AmeriCorps program, so I didn’t pick Portland, it picked me. Portland is super queer, which was a really big culture shock for me because I had no idea. While I am very out and proud, and was on the east coast, it was still something I wasn’t always open about. It is amazing that it’s so normalized here.
Polyamory/Open relationships are not uncommon
One of the first people I met here in Portland is in an open relationship. I have learned soo much about different relationship dynamics and how prevalent it is here. It’s also something that I’ve noticed that a lot of folks are open to talking about. On the east coast it wasn’t really something talked about very often, at least in my experience.
Speaking of talking, consent! As a queer person in a new city that is populated with a lot of other queer folks, I’ve had such great experiences with others. I often think that I’m lucky to have had such consensual experiences, but have been met with consent not being a question. I think virginity is a social construction, but in society’s world, I moved to the west coast as a virgin. I’d often have conversations with friends and even family about how I expected this to be difficult. I’ll be talking about this more in a future post.
Public displays of affection are welcomed, in my experience
A great part of that normalization is the freedom to be affectionate with lovers. While it’s obviously not Everywhere, in the places I frequent, I don’t think twice about it. That’s very new for me, coming from a place where either folks weren’t out or probably just didn’t feel safe enough to express affection in public as a queer person. It’s very exciting to be able to share this experience with others.
My safer space is not hidden away
I don’t really think there’s a such thing as a real safe space, especially with what’s on the news, but mainly from the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, Florida. At school, my safe place was with other like-minded folks in the LGBTQ Center, making the community “different” and well, queer. That might sound sad to some, but there was something rad about being seen as different than the majority.
In Portland, it was huge culture shock to see that I’m not looking behind my shoulder to see if I can kiss my lover, and being more aware of my surroundings. In the beginning I honestly didn’t really like how normalized my identity was but now that I’m meeting other folks and have been here for almost 6 months, I’ve learned to LOVE it.
Here’s some articles about Portland:
And these sites: