Throughout most of my adolescent years, I was called a lesbian. I’m not one now and I wasn’t then, but that was how a lot of people saw me at my high school.
I don’t know how it started. It might have had something to do with the fact that no boy would date me—or, then again, maybe that was the result of my sapphic reputation. Perhaps it had to do with my sense of fashion, which, though it wasn’t particularly bold, deviated quite a bit from the style of most of my classmates. Maybe it was that I was a girl with strong opinions and ambition. It could be that I liked rainbows.
Whatever it was, my misidentification was a source of frustration for me at the time. Not because I had a problem with being gay, but because I had a problem with being so thoroughly misunderstood.
A decade or so later, I see things a little differently. I realize now that everyone at my high school felt misunderstood. None of them may have been labeled as “queer” by the crowd, but we all felt it—even the ones who dated a lot, dressed like everyone else, and kept their mouths shut.
When I started this painting, I thought it would be part of Crime Against Nature, a project that I used to call Series X. This upcoming series is about animals who don’t fit into the gender binary of the female as passive and caring and the male as aggressive and intelligent.
Originally, I had planned to have a slightly autobiographical feel to the book that I am making as part of the project, and I wanted to show what I felt like at fourteen. At this point, I’ve cut this painting from the book, but making it still helped me progress with the series.
Since Crime Against Nature is all on small panels and since the majority of my work tends to be on stretched material, this self-portrait helped me to sort out some of the technical aspects of painting on panel, something which is probably evident in this video of the process of creating this work!