Updated: Aug 23, 2022
A friend of mine, an immigrant from Eastern Europe, just became an American citizen. Upon receiving her passport, she posted on Facebook that she thought it would feel different becoming an American, that she would somehow feel included. She got her passport a day after the travel ban was announced. She did not feel American, nor did she feel like she belonged wholly in her country of origin.
Like those of us who occupy space in multiple camps, us bisexuals, pansexuals, dual citizenships, multiracial, switches, gender-fluid, non-binary folks, she is among the in-betweens. We exist in the gray space between black and white. We are simultaneously not enough and too much. We are not of established tribes. We are liminal.
I came to understand my in-betweenness early. I came out as bisexual and remained identified as bisexual. In college, I organized and lead LGBTQ groups on campus. Women, lesbians, would scold me for being “indecisive” and accuse me of having the option of “passing” if I chose to date a man. I had lesbian after lesbian tell me that I needed to fuck more women to “prove” I was a “gay ally.”
Gay men would want to talk bjs and borrow my dresses for a drag night but if I was “munching box” I wasn’t welcome in their circles. The “ewww’d” and “ick’d” at the idea of lesbian sex and found lesbian relationships “boring.”
Heterosexuals assumed I was fickle or “in a phase.” I could “not be trusted” as a girlfriend for surely I would leave whatever man I was with in favor of a woman.
I was simultaneously “too queer” and “not queer enough.”
My gender didn’t fit either. The very first piece I submitted for a writing competition 25 years ago was for an anthology about “Gay and Lesbian Students.” I titled it “Genderfucked!” because 25 years ago there were not terms for agendered, genderfluid, or non-binary folks. I imagined gender being like the levers on a stereo system. There was one for masculinity and one for femininity. Most folks had one cranked up and the other turned way down. Mine moved. I could be low on both, high on both or some combination in-between depending on the day and my mood. I was in between.
Those of us who live in the in between don’t fit in nicely with any one crowd. Our tribe is not labeled and is often not clearly defined. The in between is often very lonely. We fight for space in camps and find we are not welcome in any unless we dampen part of who we are.
We are legion but we just don’t know it because we become invisible when we associate with one side of ourselves. We are queer or hetero if our in between is sexual orientation. We are American or foreign for legal purposes. We are a single race when it comes to outsiders’ perceptions.
We are also the future and the peacemakers. Living in between means we know how to code switch. We can speak the right languages to communicate between groups. Our in-betweenness is what makes us powerful. We are the ones that must be peace makers and build the future.
For all my in-between, liminal folks, I know it is lonely. I know every day is a fight. I know you, like me, probably do not feel heard let alone understood. You do have tribe out there. We, like you, are working to build a new world.
Mr. Rogers said that when things got bad, he looked for the helpers. There were always helpers making things better. To find your in between tribe look for the leaders and peace makers. We are the ones with the language and knowledge to build a future. Look to the organizers, the folks building bridges and listening to sides. Look for the folks standing up to bullies and pushing for inclusion. We are the in-betweeners and we are your tribe.