I already posted this as a comment on the original post, but I figure I’ll share it here for posterity (and also because this has been on my mind a LOT):
I didn’t want your first comment to be a barrage of negativity (when I first read this there were no comments) so I held off and thought about it for a while. Now I’m back, and my feelings haven’t really changed…this sort of thing drives me batty.
Look, constructed identities are totally fascinating. It’s a really interesting artistic endeavour, building a story for yourself that also encompasses your look, your interests, your social circles, and so on. One of my favorite historical figures, Adah Issacs Menken, is known for this. Lady Gaga is an obvious one. Beyonce had Sasha Fierce, whom she now kinda absorbed. Burlesque dancers and drag performers have this. Hell, so do I, look at my display name. And I am the last person to complain about people being on social media all the time, given that I’ve been living on the Internet since I was about 8 or 9.
But I resent this phenomenon in queer spaces where the only people who get dates, who get attention, who get opportunities, who get MONEY, are people who have constructed personal brands and embody them constantly. Like, it’s not enough to just be queer, it’s not even enough to spend a lot of time supporting queer community and doing the work. If you don’t look like enough of a personal brand, if you don’t look cool and have a cute tagline, you’re boring and ignored.
I’ve been excluded and ignored from queer space – including and especially queer femme spaces – because I looked too “boring” and not like some kind of Adjective Metaphor Femme. I’ve given years of emotional and intellectual and physical and financial labour to support other queermos, and for my trouble I just get people questioning my queer cred because I don’t look the part (not that it helps when I do, because apparently brownness can’t be queer or something). And none of this Personal Brand queers are of ANY help to me now that I’m stuck in a homophobic country trying to get out before I’m done for.
I’ve had personal brands before – multiple iterations. Alternative education activist, social entrepreneur wannabe, rabbling-rousing anti-racist burlesquer. Sure, people were interested, and gave me access to certain things and people because of this construct, but the moment I decided to step away from the construct for whatever reason, they abandoned me. Suddenly I wasn’t interesting anymore, wasn’t worth helping anymore, even though I still am who I am.
The people who stuck around? These are people who knew me for ME, who were ok with whatever constructed or unconstructed identity I decided to adopt for myself, who didn’t hold me to one personal brand or another because they’re well aware that I am more than that.
I haven’t really had any dates because of some “personal brand”. I sorta had one hookup, but she then turned out to be a douchebag. I’ve been told that people find me too “intimidating” to approach for dates because of this performance-artist-activist persona I had for a while, and meanwhile I’m lonely. Getting a date based on a cute constructed identity is fun, but for dates to last they’ll need to know who I am beyond the identity – not that the personal brand is somehow fake, but that there’s more to me than that. And that’s not who you attract or find when you have a highly curated and constructed social media profile and you’re hoping to have that be what draws people in.
This whole personal-brand shenanigans is why just about every blog post now is some kind of advice or inspirational statement or something. Like, you’re somehow not allowed to be messy or try things out or experiment or be inconsistent. You must follow your Personal Brand! Which means you must Constantly Know, you can’t ever express doubt or uncertainty, you can’t just try something for the sake of trying something, it has to be meaningful somehow. Same thing with images – everything must be art. You can’t have a bad photo. If it doesn’t fit your “personal brand”, take it down.
Fuck that noise. Post what you want. Construct or deconstruct however you wish. Personal brands shouldn’t be our metric for judging someone’s attractiveness or queer cred. Look beyond those who are able or willing or wanting to project big personalities, and just let queermos be queermos, constructed identity or not.