He sticks out a scrawny leg and trips me. Arms windmill as his crew belches out a collective hoot. Brain reeling back to high school, I keep running.
“Yeah, you keep running dyke!”
Shoulda nailed him.
Every heel that hits the Lakeshore path pounds another teenage memory back into my head.
“Hey, dyke!” “I’ll show you what you’re missing, dyke!”
It’s been a while since I heard that word ‘cause I’ve been passing. I’ve been giving Boy lately and giving it hard—chest flattened by thriftstore T-shirts, face hardened with clenched teeth, grinding.
I get followed in stores now, clerks’ eyes glued to fucked-up hair and long-fingered teenage boy hands known to steal.
“Can I help you with anything, young man?” “Are you going to buy that, sir?”
Eager to “help,” clerks trails behind, counting candy bars on store shelves and pockets where I could stash ‘em.
But here on the Lakeshore path, I get Seen. Going for my morning run alongside shirtless gayboys in spandex shorts, my sportsbra turns boypecs into girlstits. To the cisboy skaters on beach patrol, my short hair and hairy pits can only mean one thing.
“Is your pussy as hairy as you are, dyke?”
I could pass here, too, if I tried. A binder/baggy shirt combo could turn me into one of those junior high track stars in training, the boys who pump miles out of gangly legs to impress girls and please fathers. But it’s summer. It’s hot. And I’d rather feel the sun on my back than sweat pooling under nylon and cotton. So I take “dyke” like a tribute to my out-as-fuck femme days and run like a Girl. And remember.
Ani DiFranco in my stereo, I was a womyn with a Y kind of dyke, the generation that missed Lilith Fair and caught the last wave of Riot Grrrl. And despite my flashy new T-boy ID, I’ve still got some proud dyke in me.
I play Indigo Girls covers on my acoustic guitar. I like to Process my feelings. And yeah, I still like my popcorn with nutritional yeast.
What of it?
“Dyke” is different than the “are you a boy or a girl?” mantra I got used to in the last few years. It’s not an inquiry—there’s no intention to engage. It’s a label spat without question or ambiguity. Getting hit with it again reminds me that it’s a privilege to pass, even when I’m read as a Delinquent Teenage Boy.
Yet another one pops in my ear just before I get home. I smile at the observer, squaring trannyboy shoulders under sportsbra straps, chest puffed out with pride and girlparts.
“Yep. That’s me.”
Then I go inside. I shower and dress. I pass back into the world, my past invisible again.