The most famous speech in As You Like It is the Seven Ages of Man, which begins ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players’
It seems a truism that queers are often drawn to the performing arts. Why might that be?
I would posit that as queers in a frequently antagonistic hetero-normative society, we learn early (and often) to “perform” for the world around us. The closet is a kind of theatrical “green room” where we prepare ourselves to step out on the stage of life and present ourselves to a potentially hostile audience.
Nor is this performance anxiety limited to the mainstream. We often find ourselves having to deal with a sometimes critical queer audience as we move through the world. It’s a common refrain that we must deal with peer criticism of our appearance, our career choices, our style of dress, our physical fitness, and a myriad of other personal aspects when interacting with queer society.
It’s no wonder, then, that we develop defensive coping mechanisms that include performing versions of ourselves to suit whichever audience we’re engaging with in any given moment.
Eventually, for some, we arrive at a place in our lives where we “have no more f**ks to give,” at which point we can begin to discover and develop our authentic selves, without the costumes and masks we’ve been using defensively for so long. Unfortunately, for many, that time never truly comes and we find ourselves at the end of life asking ourselves, what happened?
On a positive note, the fragmentation of society into a multitude of different “tribes” means that, should we extend the effort, we can find our place in the world where our authenticity is recognized and embraced by others earlier in our lives.