By Abby Karstrand
I was in the middle of watching the new Andy Warhol documentary a few weeks ago when I got to thinking about my relationship with gay stories. I started talking to my roommate about why I feel such a strong identification to the stories, fiction and nonfiction, of gay men.
I’m queer, but I’m not a man.
And even when it comes to my identity as gay, it gets controversial within the nebulous experience of queerness. As a queer woman, I don’t fit into the box that many people use to define “gay,” even though that is the word I use for myself. Many queer people were introduced to these boxes for the first time through media, rather than through real life experience.
I think that we are drawn to the first queer stories we read. As a young queer person, I identified with the alienation of Patrick for his sexuality in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I first read that book when I was in sixth grade, and the darker themes of the main character’s trauma went way over my head. But even at that age, with that degree of naivety, I knew I was like Patrick.
Outside the world of fiction, I knew I was like my mom’s gay best friends. When gay marriage was legalized that same year, I knew that it meant that I could get married when I grew up.
And the identification hunt continues.
Andy Warhol has been one of my artistic interests this year, and I’ve been learning about him in my free time. Netflix recently put out a documentary series called The Andy Warhol Diaries based on a book of the same name. It is largely about Warhol’s gay life, and how his sexuality shaped him. Most of it is quite tragic.
And it wrecks me.
Andy Warhol’s sexuality shaped his art more than people realize. His art is about alienation and wanting to fit into the art world. Despite his fame, he never felt accepted. He was too queer to be respectable. This show really got me thinking about this idea of identification.
I find myself connecting with this story and identifying with his depression. And yet, I’m not a man. I was born decades after he died. Why does this feel to me like the quintessential gay story?
I don’t know if I will ever feel the same about a story about lesbians or queer femmes. And maybe it’s because Patrick showed me who I am. Or because the gay men my mom is friends with were the first adults I knew I had something in common with. Maybe because I find more connection with stories of the queer experience than of the female experience. Maybe this is some internalized misogyny or lesbophobia that I have to work through. Or maybe all we need is more representation of people like me. I feel like a queer woman who is forced to relate to men.
Maybe some other women will relate.