By Lauren Tabak & Bobbie Purser
Welcome back to Lauren Tabak’s “Queer From Here” series, in which Tabak has photographed some of the faces of Country Queer, continuing today with Nashville–based indie-folk artist Bobbie Purser—and it’s a beauty!
Be sure to read our interview with the photographer where she discusses the genesis for this series, which she refers to as “…an archive of modern queer identity that explores what it’s like to be queer here & now.”
For more #queerfromhere, click here.
Bobbie Purser, 26 • They/Them • Nashville, TN
My closet came out before I did. When I was a child, I’d often wear all my favorite outfits at once, barreling down grocery store aisles in a bulky tangle of tank tops, dress pants, and tutus. As I grew, I started dressing identifiably “queer,” which I didn’t realize until I got cautioned by my family that I was starting to look like a lesbian. I made my preferred choices anyway, safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t a lesbian. In high school I explored a bit of cosplay and dressed like male characters in my favorite shows, signaling to fellow nerds. But my signals got picked up by people I didn’t intend to flag – gender nonconformists, sapphics, queers. For years I dismissed their flattering propositions as an honest mistake. I didn’t like women “that way,” I just apparently happened to look like people who liked women “that way.”
I didn’t realize until I left Nashville and my repressive childhood community for college that crossdressing and androgyny represented something I hadn’t previously considered about myself. I started looking in the mirror at odd angles, seeing the “boy” there. The first night I stared him in the face, I was 18 and alone in my dorm room, returning to childhood by trying on all my favorite, most masculine clothes at once. I stood in front of the mirror in my best friend’s mother’s vintage bomber jacket and felt the shock of sudden, permanent knowing. Unearthing my gender fluidity eventually brought me to my sexual fluidity: it’s true I wasn’t attracted to women as a woman myself. I was attracted to women as something else, something other. And I found that something other attractive, too. In that bomber jacket, I began to expand.
I moved back to Nashville after I graduated and found that not only am I a queer person, but my city is also a queer city. Realizing my queerness from the outside-in allowed me to receive a premature invitation to the queer side of Nashville – not because I knew I was queer at the time, but because I looked queer at the time. Now I can accept that invitation with pride.