This weekend I went to the wedding of two people I’d never met before. When I got there, I didn't want to go in. But I did, and by the end of the evening I'm ashamed to say that I was actually dancing to a remix of a Justin Bieber song. I can't believe I just wrote that on the internet.
Honestly, I'm not the biggest fan of weddings. I'm not the biggest fan of weddings, or parties, or anything that involves dancing or socialising really. Especially not weddings - marriage is an institution and all that. So when I got an invite to the wedding of two people I didn't even know existed before, I was reluctant to go.
Needless to say, my folks ticked RSVP anyway and dragged me along. The wedding was huge, and I didn't know anyone. It’s usually the case with Turkish weddings. My granddad had ten brothers and one sister, and that’s just one grandparent out of four… so you can only imagine how many cousins I have. Despite this we still spent most of the weekend trying to figure out whether the groom was actually related to us or not. Maybe he was a cousin, maybe he was a family friend, maybe we both just had distant relatives from the same village… who knew?
I rocked up in my usual "smart-wear" - a suit with a funky shirt and bow tie. When we got to the entrance, there were a bunch of guys outside smoking, all wearing suits like men are supposed to wear suits, joking around like typical "lads". I just froze and thought what the fuck am I doing? I can't walk into a space full of heterosexual people looking like this.
We entered the lobby. My sister, Leyla, was wearing a bright green dress and bright green glitter-eyeliner. I had glitter in my hair. I looked around at everyone else, looking traditional as ever, and I whispered to her stuff like this always makes me feel like a sore thumb.
I was mis-gendered almost immediately. "Sir" is a word I'm too used to hearing, but I'm not tough or smart enough to have come up with a good come back yet, so I just respond as if nothing has been said wrong. Most the time I don't even correct people. When I needed the toilet, I asked Leyla if she'd come to the ladies' restroom with me because I didn't want to walk in alone. The thing is, I'm all too aware that if one person misgenders me, other people will too. And I hate thinking that when I'm in a women's-only space. I hate feeling like I could be making other people there uncomfortable.
This is ridiculous, of course, because I have as much of a right to be in women's-only spaces as any other woman. Yes, my gender-presentation is more butch/androgynous. And yes, my gender-identity is fluid. But for the most part I am female-identifying, or non-binary but still feeling more like a woman than a man. Rationally, I know I have a right to be there. Emotionally, I feel invasive, uncomfortable and wrong.
After the horror of the toilets was over, I started to relax a little. A little while after that, they played a song we knew by a Turkish popstar, and me and Leyla sung along in the corridor outside the main hall. A little while after that, I was bored so I asked Leyla if she wanted to dance. So we danced. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not the dancy kind of person, usually I hate it. But right then and there I wanted to feel normal. I wanted to feel like I could do what everyone else was doing in that space, and I could do it just as freely as anybody else could. I got a few funny looks. I did notice them. But I had also stopped caring by that point. That's what lead me to the shame of dancing to Justin Bieber (also, who plays Justin Bieber at a wedding?!).
Having said all of this negative stuff, as the night wore on I actually felt quite excited to be there. I got the odd look here and there, but for the most part, people were chilled about me clearly being a butch lesbian. Nobody made any rude comments, nobody seemed to be dragging their children in the opposite direction, and nobody told me I should have worn a dress. They didn't even hint that I would look nicer in a dress/better in a dress/it was weird that I was wearing a suit etc.
There was a time before when I would wear dresses just to fit in, or because someone else told me to. And there I was, at a huge family wedding, hanging out in my suit, and dancing with my sister, and having a good time. My mum, dad, grandma, aunt and the few other people I actually knew, were totally cool about the way I chose to present myself. And nobody thought I was spoiling the wedding simply by being there.
There came a point in my life a while ago when I had to decide between wearing what people expected me to wear and "fitting in," or wearing what made me comfortable and being that "sore thumb." In other words, choosing between accepting myself for who I was, or having other people accept me for someone I wasn't. In recent years I've chosen the loud and proud thing. It's a shame that wearing what I want automatically makes me loud, but that's the world we live in right now. The point is, I went to that wedding, and I rocked glitter, and I showed off my rainbow heart tattoo, and I had the gayest haircut in the world. And I wore a suit and I was happy. And people were nice to me.
I'm always on edge, but it's nice when something surprises you. People can be more wonderful than my anxiety gives them credit for. And that makes me happy about the world.