I’m a queer woman, a feminist, and also a bit of a traditionalist. No matter how hard I’ve tried to change, when it comes to matters of the heart, I still want to be swept off my feet, carried through the front door, and proposed to in a dramatically charming way. It took me a while to be at peace with these conflicting identities, but I finally have.
For a long time, feminism made me question many of my ideals. I’d been reading a lot of feminist literature and what it means to be a woman, a queer person, and a gay person. “Well, I don’t need a man,” I thought. “I can certainly manage just fine on my own. Screw having my date pay for me and opening my door. I’m a feminist. I don’t need that crap!”
I decided to take on a more masculine persona. I began wondering whether I should be offering to pay, buying my partners flowers, or opening doors. “I’ll be more aggressive, I’ll smile less, I’ll sit with my legs spread further apart, and I’ll use small gestures,” I told myself. So I did just that. I changed my manner. I smiled less, took up more space when I sat, and opened more doors. I also stopped reacting to men ogling me in the street or catcalling when I wore something revealing.
I felt like a new woman. It was so freeing when I started to treat others the way that I wanted to be treated. I was thanked for it, which felt amazing—finally, some respect. I’d spent a lifetime thinking and believing in some old stereotypes and not even realizing it. This felt like a much-needed change. It was a shift in my perspective about the world and how I function in it.
I started to wonder who I was changing for. Despite my newfound freedom, a part of me still felt like an outsider. The new me, steeped in feminism and masculinity, was nice, but I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like I’d taken on the persona of someone I didn’t recognize. I didn’t mind opening doors for other people and I certainly took pleasure in the fact that I could take up as much room on the subway as I wanted, but I was missing a part of me. I thought that changing myself physically in some way would change me mentally as well. When it didn’t, I had another realization.
I realized I’ll always be a hopeless romantic. I can’t help it. I’m a romantic. I like long walks on the beach. I like being bought flowers. I like it when my date acts like a gentleman (males, females, trans folks, and gender non-conformists included). I like random phone calls in the middle of the day just to say hey. Charm, passion, and romance will never be dead to me.
Being a romantic doesn’t mean I can’t be a feminist too. Just because I like romance doesn’t mean I can’t be into gender equality as well. I don’t particularly understand the idea that feminists can’t be romantics. Having equal rights doesn’t mean I’m expecting my partner to treat me like I’m one of their bros. It just means I expect respect.
I don’t like antiquated ideas of what romance should be. What I realized most of all through this is that even though I now feel the freedom to take up as much physical space as I want and have realized that I can and should pay for my dates when I am able to, I’m still a hopeless romantic at heart. I love cheesy gestures and big embarrassing proposals (though no one’s asked). I am and will always be the little spoon, and I couldn’t be happier with that.
Still, I don’t want a typical knight in shining armor… When I say “knight in shining armor,” I simply mean that I want someone who will take care of me, someone who will pick me up when I fall, someone that will nurse me back to health if I get sick, someone who will treat me kindly and sweetly. That’s the kind of partner I want and the kind I want to be for someone else.
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