Saturday, May 30, 2009
Some of us get the brunt of that every day, and some of us don't. We all experience gender, gender expression, gender policing, in different ways. We all foist our own gender expectations onto other people from time to time. We all have brains, and all of our brains were raised in a society, a culture, a world where we were told that certain gender rules applied. It can be hard to break those rules; it can be hard to accept that those rules can and should be broken. But once you begin to see them it's like a whole other world, one where artifice and reality begin to collide and smash up against each other and reveal entirely new conceptions of self. Think of it as exciting.
Sometimes, I can feel the gender edifice in my mind get shaky. When I'm thinking really clearly, when I'm talking to somebody and the gender ideas keep slipping into each other and I realize how transitory and constructed they are, I can feel it quake inside of me and for a brief moment I get a glimpse of something beyond what I normally perceive, gender-wise. I'm trying right now to make those moments happen as often as possible, because they always slip away from me and I'm not sure I'm learning enough from them.
posted by A. Broad
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Go back, go back. Go over it. Brotherboi. Try to remember. The “you” of now is not an academic revelation. It is the “you” of always.
Someone once told you to put your shirt on during t-ball, to cover what you could not see and did not yet understand would be inescapable. Prepped for and peppered with, the shame of all good little girls. Their truth, not yours. Never yours.
Cross those legs, put on that dress, brush out that hair, sit up, stop chewing on your nails, eat slower… and later… don’t put out, you better put out, I don’t know why you like your hair so short, stop eating, put on some damn make-up, wear something tighter.
I was 237 miles south of you; we were strangers, and they were telling me the same thing.
We sit at the bar over a pile of fries, two little fag girls who are never going back home. Brother, what are we going to do? Are we stuck? Too weird-looking to find jobs that pay enough to fund our irresponsible habits- drinking, eating, getting sick, paying rent? Too stupid not to fall in love? Too stubborn not to fall out of it?
Go back, go back. Go over it. Dear, brotherboi. This is not the “us” of the future. Look here. Right next to us. That old dyke, getting us drunk because she needs the company- she fell in love, her partner died, and she lived to laugh at the straight girl in the corner who just refused us.
Something in you feels aged, too; I know.
Few can see it, but you have to trust that drunken Monday feeling- the fagirls are winning.
Remember, remember. Go back, go back. Go over it. All they tried to snuff in you, all you yourself would have assassinated, became you and lived to laugh at the straight girl in the corner who just refused us.
Go back, go back. Go over it. I’ll be on the bar stool next to yours.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2009
In the middle crowded Halsted on Friday night, with the cheers of drunken Boystown filtering out from clubs and curbs and an escalator dangling surreally from a crane above the Belmont stop, I am thinking about all the ways I want to kill him. A heat is crawling up my neck and into my ears.
“What do you mean, drag queens scare you?” I ask. He’s bobbing along, hands in jean pockets, looking pleasant and sleepy.
“They just, I don’t know. They confuse me. It’s like weird.”
“You don’t know that they’re drag queens,” I say.
“Oh, yeah. I know. Some of them might be real women.”
“I meant they might be transgender or transsexual or genderqueer or… well you just don’t know.”
“Yeah, I just thought that one was a real woman.” He nods behind us, as if to illustrate some great point I’ve missed.
“Well, I mistook you for a real man,” I spit. “But I think I was wrong about that, too.”
I’ve made things awkward, as I sometimes do. And the woman I am with, who has brought this kind man, is asking why I’ve gone silent and pale all of the sudden.
Five minutes ago, this was my favorite place in the world- thousands of queers and queens hollering up and down a mile stretch of rainbow light posts and heavy dance beats, an entire neighborhood of stumbling genderfucks calling out to each other and bumming smokes. All over Boystown, scattered groups of trans women of color strut in silver and gold with pouting smirks and clicking stilettos, a needed reminder to those of us who have misplaced our sense of history in support of marriage of where the movement started and who pays for our insistence on conformity.
It is amazing to me that this lanky straight man can stomp into to this beautiful neighborhood and insult it in a matter of hours. These dangerously stylish trans women, weird him out, confuse him. They aren’t real women. They are drag queens. Gender garbage (as Riki Ann Wilchins calls it). And for reasons, I don’t know, he feels like it’s okay to make that known now, in the heart of Boystown. I look down at my tie and vest, the chain clipped in front of my pants. I feel my newsboy cap, tilted and dampened by the drizzle.
I am these “drag queens.”
Two nights ago, a man called me “sir” while inquiring about the time, and quickly apologized when he realized the mistake. The last time I went clothes shopping at my favorite thrift store, the clerk came over to inform me I was in the wrong section. I am the frequent target of confused “straight” girls who see my ties and vests as coats as costume property they can touch and tug, and I’ve been publicly assaulted three times in the last year by girls who decided they had every right to grab elsewhere (and lucky me, right? Because they are paying me the attention at all). The people I organize with are coming to me with stories about losing their friends over pronouns, about being accosted in front of public restrooms.
These “drag queens” are me. And they are not me, at all.
On the train ride home, the woman I am with urges my patience for her friend, advocates for education over anger, makes a strong case for the distance this straight man must travel in order to be respectful. Staring blankly out the window, I explain that this kind of patience and pain is the story of my life, is a blanket anecdote to almost every relationship I have. My mother has been afraid of me since I was four, since I told her to call me Patrick, since I put on a child’s tuxedo jacket and walked my best friend down a red hallway rug to say “I do.”
Most of the time, being visibly queer is one of my life’s greater gifts. It has informed my sense of justice, heightened my empathy, challenged my exercise of privilege, slowed my temptation to judge what I do not understand, and freed me from the drudgery of “normalcy.” Some people change the color of their shirt based on their moods, I get to change my entire gender presentation. I don’t have to dance like a girl, prove my physical strength like a dude, sport a dress, withhold tears, flip my hair in the right way, refrain from make-up, or do anything else dictated by gender binaries.
But then, it’s not always a game. I came into an understanding of my gendered self watching Brandon Teena get raped and beaten to death and by reading Leslie Feinberg’s accounts of cracked ribs and jail cell floors. And when I walk down a dark street alone in a tie, these images flicker through my mind. All it takes is one angry person, one out of control car of guys, one accidental encounter. I am small, I am female-bodied, I don’t know how to punch.
I know that these contradictions are not specific to me, and I know that race and class and citizenship infinitely intensify and complicate them. So when a white straight man comes into one of the few safer neighborhoods in the whole
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Monday, May 4, 2009
In my more egotistical moments, I think that I am sometimes able to witness and even help people close to me begin to realize aspects of their potential that they would maybe not access otherwise. People I date or befriend start playing their instruments again or more seriously, they change their eating habits and stick with it, they read more and different books, they begin using new words. It's not so much that I do anything as that I just try to fully support what seems to be happening anyway; this can sometimes become an enabling behavior (since my full support seems to know no boundaries sometimes, and that's bad), but sometimes it's positive and I love feeling like I was there for somebody doing what they wanted to do. (But it's not about me! I swear.)
With my ex Tabitha it's been a little more complicated. The enabling was a major issue between us, and a large part of why we eventually had to break up, but there have also been positive changes from our interactions. Here's the approximate story (from my side of things) of my very small participation in recent events: a few months ago, I got a text from Tabitha saying that she had been reading Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg's highly recommended novel about a transgendered narrator's experiences coming into hir own identity. The text didn't contain any explanation, but I knew that that can be a very upsetting book to read (a lot of sexual abuse and assault, and a lot of ideas and experiences surrounding gender that can be very intense to read about, and it sure upset the hell out of me when I read it) so I followed up on it. We talked, and I told her to read Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw, one of my absolute favorite books and one that changed the way I think about gender forever. That's all, really.
Tabitha is going by Peter these days, and using masculine pronouns. It seems, in the grand scheme of things, like a small change and in a lot of ways it is, but on other ways it's been absolutely awesome to see. I've never watched someone I was so close to go through a personal transformation like this, and what amazes me over and over again is how different it seems to have made everything. It's not like the pronouns have switched and that's the end of the story; his whole life seems to be coming together in new and good ways. He's getting his shit together, reading and writing and creating more, talking in a whole different way, and positively on fire with ideas and passion. I feel like I'm watching somebody become who they are really, truly supposed to be, and it is incredibly gratifying to me as an observer. (Of course, I only know my side of things and he might think completely differently, but from here that's what it looks like.) I'm truly proud of him, for taking on his own life and making it what it needs to be.
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