Personal Essay

Flirting, Space, and Existence

I like to think that I pass by queer people constantly. I imagine that the people I pass on the street, driving cars, riding bikes, are doing so queerly. It’s comforting to know that queerness floats around the spaces we are in, whether or not we are considered visibly queer. I envision wisps of queerness that embrace and curl around the spaces we take up, radiating off our clothes and hair, the words we speak. I like that queerness is invisible in its aura but not in its voice. We take up space in the most mundane way simply by existing but also in the louder statements of the many queer coded ways that we dress and express ourselves.

Some people do not have the privilege of being out. I say to them: own your queerness in all that it is, whether out or not, your very existence allows you to do things queerly. The beauty of queerness is that one can queer their life in whatever way they wish. To simply be is a powerful statement, silent yet deafening.

We don’t exist for the straight eye but for the queer eye, a gaze that understands the codes and nuances of queer communication. Such as not knowing if the other is also queer but taking the chance anyway with a subtle prompt or question. Sometimes words are not exchanged but glances are. Such as when you’re on the street clutching your tote bag and hoping they see your Doc Martens or perhaps you are in a busy café and the barista has caught your eye with their copious amount of rings and tattoos and curly, turquoise hair, so you say “I like your style”.

Often times I walk past the stranger that caught my eye, forever wondering if they were queer or not. There were some signs, but perhaps I was reading too much into it. 

I question a lot, whether someone is into me or not because flirting is difficult, in all its queerly coded nuances. We have a history of not being able to openly flirt with one another so in time we adopted symbols and aesthetics to communicate. It’s a way of signaling if it is fully safe to really make a move or if a straight person is going to shrug it off, saying “Oh, no! I didn’t mean it like that!”

Years ago rejection was much worse. It came with violence filled with slurs, pouring salt onto the wound of rejection. I can take the rejection of a misunderstanding if it means I don’t have to experience any disgust thrown my way. I’m privileged in this way. I can presume my share of homophobia will be low grade. I give that to my whiteness and being cisgender.

I see flirting within the queer community to be something that constantly evolves as each generation creates their own form of nuanced sayings, symbols, and aesthetics. And as I write this, I can honestly only think of some aesthetics and things you can say that are subtle enough but could alert a fellow queer person. Maybe it’s because I’ve only been out for four years, or maybe it’s because I’ve only dated a handful of people.

But my dating history was never the reason I began this piece. I realized how much I adored the not so straightforward ways we flirt and try to figure out if the person we’re interested in is also queer or not. Not because I find it amusing, and not because I enjoy flirting (I’m terrible at it) but because this form of communication, this presence and space we fabricate, is empowering. It is political, but casual. It is taking up space for others to see, inviting mutual flirtation or baring witness to queer space being filled.

This is why space is important: it can be something we create or a place we step into to disrupt the notion that space is presumed to be normative in upholding binaries of gender and/or sexuality. It is imperative to mention that taking up space is not always chosen but is a reality for many queer people who have intersecting identities. So, taking up space is not a matter of speech, clothes, or aesthetics that can be removed at any time but a hypervisibility of their race, disability, religion, etc.

But this form of theory is intriguing to me. Just your existence is a powerful statement in challenging space and inviting those around you to acknowledge it, feel uncomfortable by it.

By wearing these aesthetics, using phrases and symbols as a way to say you are a part of the community, we challenge the spaces we take up. Whether intentional or not, noticed or unnoticed by the straight eye, our ability to queer a mode of communication is liberating and holds power.

Society hates when we make everything about being queer but in reality there is no “making”, only “being”. I am queer, and if I disrupt your space with my queerness, it does not involve you and is not meant for you. Perhaps I would like to problematize the space I am in with just my presence but it does not need to be deliberate.

The space I have been speaking of is important for the very fact that it is not deliberate, that our ability to exist in spaces in coded ways only we know and understand is a form of self-determination and self-valuation. Creating a form of consciousness through our self-defined ways of being is magical. It is not deliberate, for we do not flirt to make a statement, but to merely live life in a way that is defined by ourselves and not for the heteropatriarchy.

Even in this piece of writing I am taking up space and you, dear reader, are a part of it.

Photo EC

Emily Coussons

Emily Coussons is a bi/queer woman with a BA in Gender & Women's Studies who likes to write in her spare time. She adores sunflowers and chases the warmth and positivity of the sun like they do. She just has to put on sunscreen first. \\ Instagram: @emilycoussons