things to think about


today i am thinking about: I QUIT GENDER
August 7, 2009, 10:47 pm
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I realized today how much I anticipate scorn. I am constantly preparing for someone to bash me — to call me a fag, to call me a dyke, to call me both, to stop me in the street, to yell at me about eating pussy, to yell at me for sucking dick. People who harass me can’t even decide HOW they are going to harass me most of the time. I get more shit for being a faggot than for being a dyke. I wonder what they think when I yell at them in my voice, my voice which definitely sounds female.

I am ready for the fight, you know. I feel like in some ways I want it. I want to have to fight for the right to be myself. I want to actually carry bruises around and I want to throw punches and I want to fight dirty, like a crazy person. I want to fight someone else for the right to be myself. I want it to just happen to me already, like I know it will someday, like I know it has to so many of my friends. I am tired of anticipating violence. I know that’s fucked up but it is how it is.

When I used to present in a femme way, I was dramatic. I took up space, like I do now, but in a different way. Skirts. Lots of curls. Red lips. My breasts and hips have never been pronounced but I looked like a girl, and a hot girl at that. I was loud and I used my hands and I took up space. I got a lot of street harassment then, too, mostly people telling me they liked what they saw. Just as fucked up, right? But the thing was, it felt safer.

Even when people got dirty, it felt safer. In some fucked up way, it was an affirmation. It was an affirmation I was doing it right. It meant I was hot, I was desireable. I was a successful woman. The harassment I get now — “hey faggot, where do I go to suck a dick?” “What is it, a he or a she” — the harassment I get now has everything to do with my failure to conform and be read. Who would want to fuck me now? Who would I want to have sex with? No one has any idea out there in the world, and even if before they were wrong — I was not really looking to sleep with cis men — the idea was that the sex I was having was at least normal.

Oh, fucking normal. I was shopping with my sweetheart — femme, small but solidly built — and I was wishing for someone, anyone, to come remind me about normal. I am too big for women’s normal sizes. I am, in fact, an XL in men’s sizes, sometimes a L — around my hips but around my shoulders, too. I do not fit in a lot of “normal” sizes, even if I wanted to. Even if I did fit, I probably wouldn’t want to wear it, for some combination of gender and style. I can’t just wear men’s clothes, right — I have to wear some perfect thing, it has to fit right, it has to drape just so, and it has to wink.

Yes, it has to wink. It has to be a little ridiculous. It has to acknowledge how implausible that here I am, sweet babyfaced me, sweet soft skinned me, sweet motherfucking sweet me, in this body I do not understand, this hairy lez fag body so few other people understand either. It has to acknowledge that yes, I take up all this space, and with my sunglasses on you think I’m a boy, and with my sunglasses off you know – think? – know? – think? – that I am a girl. It has to suit my body, it has to look like me, and yet somehow it has to look ridiculous for me. I know it’s ridiculous that I look like I look, even as I sort of want to believe it’s not. I looked different earlier in my life, and I felt ridiculous then too. I got home today and I thought maybe I should shave my head — aside from my payess and top curls — and shave my legs and wear lipstick and eyeliner and motorcycle boots for a while. Just to remind myself this is all ridiculous, it’s all window dressing, it’s all just advertising anyways. Is this all about body hair? Is it all about being fat? Is this honest or just more drag? I told myself I would stop questioning myself but at this point nothing makes sense any more. I don’t even know if it has anything to dow ith me.

I want to believe that this — what I am doing right now — is true. That this is me, or closer to me, or at least I am making progress. I just added all these old Seattle kids on Facebook and one of them had a comment from my mean ex on his wall — and I was overcome. What would he think if he saw me now, with a moustache, with the same chin hairs he said scared him? What would any of them think? Would they even care? Would they dismiss it out of hand? I want somebody to fight with me about this because I want to see how I stand up for myself. I want to earn a bruise or two fighting for myself because that feels like a choice. A choice to say yes, even like this, I am worth it.

I don’t know if I really believe that I am. I don’t know if this is really where I’ll land and I don’t know if I believe this is worth fighting for. If I didn’t have to make a professional go of things, remain stable, remain predictable, I’d probably change things up again, just to see if I liked it or not. Just to see what it’s like to wear a dress again, shave my legs, look like a girl. But the idea I am doing that out of fatigue, out of not being able to take it like this — that makes me ashamed of myself for a hundred reasons. I really don’t know where this is going, and I think I am going to end this for now, unfinished, because the fact of the matter is that it IS unfinished. It is, and I am, just a work in progress.

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today i am thinking about: YOU WHO MADE ME GAY

When I was in third grade I had manufactured a crush because it seemed like what everyone else was doing, only I picked the wrong boy and everyone teased me. In fourth grade I forged notes to my two best friends, who were betraying me, pretending to be the least popular boy in class confessing a crush so that my two best friends would be publicly humiliated. I spent the summer between fifth and sixth grade being the ugly friend to two pretty girls who were trying to get boyfriends, I think. In seventh grade I was mad because the boy I liked was using me to get to my friend.

In seventh grade I also listened to Dan Savage’s radio show Savage Love Live. There was a woman on the show too, Mary Martone, who was a lesbian. This was so interesting to me. Somehow I knew vaguely about gay but it had not occured to me it worked for women too. I remember thinking “well, maybe that is what I am then.” Holy crap! I’m a lesbian!

I then started thinking like this: “I should find that person attractive because I am a lesbo and they look like a person a lesbo should find attractive.” I started reading and thinking like this: “Well what is hottest is butch and femme things so I should be a butch or a femme. What’s hottest is top and bottom things so I should be a top or a bottom. How will I pick? How will I know? HELP I NEED A STABLE ANSWER.” That answer was not forthcoming. I switched — I started out really invested in being butch, then I was really invested in being femme, then I was really invested in NOT being butch, and then I was invested in being a faggot and now I don’t know what I am but as I type this I am wearing lipstick and eyeliner with my tighty whities because I wanted to dress up.

Last September I actually met Mary Martone, at NOLOSE. I had to ask her if she was THAT Mary Martone and I think I made her feel awkward because you know, what do you do if some random young queer shows up at a conference you’re at and tells you that you made them gay? I mean you smile and you say that’s cool and you be gracious, which is exactly what happened. I have not met many of my queer icons because I hate the cult of meeting famous people and trying to come up with small talk. I guess I was expecting her to spout some funny lesbo advice or guidance, some kind of lesbian guru piece of wisdom. “How do I make it all fit together, Mary Martone? You told me how to fist someone. Tell me how to make it make sense.” Instead I think we made small talk about the appetizers.

These are the things that made me the gay I am today:

* Mary Martone and Dan Savage’s radio show because it actually gave me the idea;

* Sarah Schulman‘s book Girls Visions and Everything because it taught me about dreaming and walking around and envisioning a new future;

* Ani Difranco because I grew up in the mid-90s and this was mandatory;

* Bill T. Jones because he writes about art that is fierce and honest and insistent;

* Tavia Lee the girl who did not quite take my virginity and broke my heart (see the sex map!);

* Stone Butch Blues because it taught me about butch and femme and honoring your partner;

* The Ethical Slut because it taught me that love should be expansive and family is what you make it.

I know there is this great divide amongst the queers between the gays who want marriage and the gays who want something new; between the people who think we exist as outlaws and the people who have no desire to be outlaws, or rather who want to be fully accepted despite their outlaw behavior. Maybe that is me too but I have such a hard time with it. Is my primary statement a statement about genital attraction — these parts make me hot, these parts do not make me hot? No, it can’t be. It is more complicated than that. Is my primary statement about gender attraction — maybe, partially, I can organize my attractions that way in a way I can’t organize my attractions around parts. Is my primary statement about power attraction, power and gender attraction — maybe that is closer to the truth. I like people who wear power a certain way and who wear gender a certain way.

Or maybe the truth is several certain ways. I have always wanted to fight for stability and comprehensibility in my internal self and in my desires. I want to be A Femme or A Butch or A Top or A Bottom and maybe that is just not how it is. I want to be comprehensible and maybe I am learning right now that the way to comprehensibility isn’t forcing the parts to conform to a norm but instead letting it all hang out. I feel so scared every time I am pushed to let go because I do not know what (if anything) there is to catch me if I fall. I think about Bill T. Jones’ book, this love story about him and Arnie Zane and art and hurting and letting go and watching the man you love the most die. I think about how ephemeral everything is, that you cannot control everything. I think about all the brave queers out there who have fought before me and made it work, somehow, despite the damage.

I am reading Carol Queen’s The Leather Daddy and the Femme for the first time. Randy/Miranda is blowing my brain because I am seeing a vision of some other way to be a person. I just read the part where Jack says this:

You love somebody as long as you love them. If they love you back, that’s gravy. You cherish what you have until it changes, goes away, or you die. It’s real simple.

I want it to be that simple. I want to trust it is that simple. I want to believe in love that can change and does not have to be controlled. I want permission to be brave and incoherent. Maybe Mary Martone will write me a permission slip and then I can finally, finally, give it a try.