“I watched and listened to the girls in my school talk about boys, go behind the equipment shed to kiss them, later whisper in algebra class that they had sex with them. I watched from the other side of a stone wall, a wall that was part self-preservation, part bones and blood of aloneness, part the impossible assumptions I could not shape my body around.” (Clare 144)
In Eli Clare’s book Bodies, he bolsters his arguments surrounding queer theory and disability activism with personal narrative that is often touching, relatable, and heartbreaking. In the above quote, he describes what it was like to be among his female classmates in his youth and not relate to their obsession with boys whatsoever, feeling like an outsider to it all. The first part of this quote that grabs my attention is that Clare specifically says he watches heteronormativism occur from the other side of a “stone wall”—this is a figurative stone wall, separating him from his classmates, but it’s likely also a callback to the Stonewall Riots of 1969. Clare elsewhere describes that he knew he liked girls when he was younger, perhaps deep down, but he forgot and had to rediscover that part of him. I think that although he doesn’t say it outright in this passage, Clare is certainly alluding to the fact that one reason he couldn’t relate to his female classmates was that he had no interest in men whatsoever—he liked women. The use of “stone wall” is a clever metaphor that then serves a dual purpose.
While I do think that the “impossible assumptions” Clare refers to are about his sexual orientation, I also think he’s talking about his complicated sense of gender identity at the time. Assigned female at birth, Clare makes it known that in his youth and adolescence he felt a clear disconnect with girls his age and recognized early on that he was “not girl, not boy” (Clare 151). As he did with his sexuality, Clare sensed from an early age that his experience of gender identity was different from his peers. This does not make it any easier to come to terms with, however, which is why he uses the term “impossible” to describe these self-realizations. Discovering anything about yourself that differs from societal norms can be terrifying, especially when you have grown up without understanding such identities to be just as normal and valid as cis-hetero identities, and Clare captures that in this passage.