I wanted to touch on a queerphobic phenomenon that I’ve been noticing a lot lately. I named it the queer corner. It is one of these microaggressions that us queers can become so used to experiencing daily that we sometimes let them slide and don’t even realize how problematic they are.
I have observed that when I go to sit-down restaurants with people whose appearance makes them seem queer, we often receive bad service. Let me elaborate. I’m not trying to say that there is a way to look queer—but I do think that there are certain aspects of clothing and style that are traditionally attributed to queers. For example, I used to dye my hair once a month. It was a permanent violet-red color, so not too vibrant, but not a natural hair color—and people could tell that by contrast with my light-brown eyebrows. As a result, I was rarely read as straight.
I would imagine that an ‘unnatural’ hair color carries similar associations of queerness for female-bodied people. Another way for a server at a restaurant to assume that two customers are queer would be if they are both, say, male-presenting and behaving in a more-than-friendly manner, such as holding hands or kissing. Same applies if the customers do not present in a clearly binary way (i.e., as a cis female or a cis male). I’m sure there are many more examples of how somebody could be assumed to be queer just based on their appearance.
One part of bad service in these situations that specifically stands out to me is that the person I’m with and I are usually not given a choice of where to sit. Instead, we are usually seated at a table as far away from other people as possible. The server just leads us back into a dark corner (the queer corner!) of the restaurant and smiles half-heartedly, not even asking if we are okay with sitting there. It is rare for a server to say, “You can sit wherever you’d like!” which I often hear servers say to families.
This may seem like a minor issue, and of course, it doesn’t feel critical when you have good company, but I do think it’s part of the larger problematic culture of queerphobia, which needs to be addressed. It is important for us to point to specific microaggressions like this one when we notice them and say, “This is not okay!” until our voices are heard. The legalization of same-sex marriage didn’t fix subtle instances of discrimination like this one.
I would be curious to hear about folks’ thoughts on microaggressions. Have you ever felt discriminated against in situations that would have seemed okay at face value? Feel free to share your experience in the comment section.