It's the second week of September and a dank chill is beginning to settle on campus. It's even more obvious at sunset when the warm sunlight gives way to goose bumps on bare arms and legs.
I'm walking home from my queer studies class in radical queer mode: in my mind I am challenging mundane shit around me with the principles we study in class. I can single-handedly fuck up racism, sexism, and transphobia all at once right now.
As I make my way past the janky convenience store on Goodwin, I see a pair of Mormons walking towards me. Ooh, goody. Mormon missionaries! And I am totally ready to start some shit!
I make assertive eye contact and the encounter is guaranteed. A redhead guy leads hesitantly, the other darker one follows. They approach me as I fold my arms across my chest and smile tightly. I observe that the dark-haired guy lagging behind looks like he'd rather just avoid me. I also notice his eyes are a gorgeous blue-green color. Oh god, were they beautiful! and so incredibly familiar! I'm suddenly reminded of whose eyes they look like - my mother's - and I look away. Awkward.
The redhead speaks. He introduces himself and his partner and their Church. My stubborn resolve to be horrible to these people is melting in the face of their utter mortality - they're nervous, they're overly polite, they're respectful of my space, they are self-assured in their mission. I find them charming in a dorky way. My smile is still cold but gets a hint more genuine as the guy speaking stumbles over his speech a bit.
I wanted so badly to be horrible to these people. I wanted to tell them I hated their stupid Church for being responsible for countless acts of oppression against me. I wanted to get angry.
He asks if I'm religious. I tell them I'm a staunch atheist but that I've studied different religions in the past in an effort to better understand them. He starts talking more about Mormonism and I find myself utterly incapable of being rude to these people.
They are doing a truly wonderful thing. They are taking an important part of their lives that gives them validation and satisfaction (I presume) and sharing it with other people. These two human beings have no active agenda to oppress me. Yeah, I'm not a fan of their Church. I'll never stop being queer and I don't think I'll ever find myself becoming religious. And yet I have no right to treat these people like shit because of their belief system just as they have no business dictating my civil rights.
The redhead asks if I am interested in getting a copy of the Book of Mormon. I politely refuse and thank them for taking the time to speak with me. After shaking the first guy's hand, I glance briefly at blue-green eyes guy and think "too bad you're unavailable" and continue walking home by myself.
in a bar. group of people laughing as a person approaches on their way to the bathroom.
girl turns to the person, smiling derisively, and asks "Hey, are you gay?"
other people at the table giggle.
person stops; after a moment person responds, "Hey, what size tampons do you use?"
other people at table laugh. girl makes disgusted face and asks, "What the fuck? That's a personal question."
person responds, "Shut the fuck up and mind your own fucking business."
well hello there.
I wish I had more of a structure in mind for this post. But I don't.
As summer 2010 crawls into its final month, I look back and see what I've accomplished in the past few months.
BODY MODIFICATION! This summer I've started dyeing my hair in colors (other than just highlights). I've gotten my left ear pierced at the top of the lobe (with plans to get more piercings, yay). I've gotten a tattoo of a Penrose triangle as a genderqueer symbol on my right forearm. I am all for getting another tattoo, but I have to know exactly what and where I want it. No rash decisions there. My best friend can just walk into a tattoo parlor and be like, "Okay, I want such-and-such right here!" after getting spontaneously inspired that morning. Hahaha, love. But definitely not for me. Especially because of that whole teacher thing...ugh more on that later.
Self-discovery. I've done Anytown twice now, and I thought I would be all riled up again. Nope. I came home from Anytown and the world was just as fucked up as it was before I left, so I mostly just felt tired, drained, and resigned. Apparently it's that first time that really gets you - when I came home from Anytown last year I was a hot ass mess. I saw all the systems of oppression at play in my life and in myself and cycled through being excited to change things and feeling terribly depressed and overwhelmed about the whole situation. This time, I just feel tired and a little inspired (re-ignited, slightly), and also like I've learned a little more about myself, specifically my class identity which I hadn't thought about much last year. Up until this past Anytown it was all about gender identity because I have been questioning the shit out of what the hell I am. With questioning my gender identity came the questioning of my sexual orientation. Nowadays, I've found a stable place where I can sit with all that. So now, after this Anytown, I've started thinking a little more about identities that I didn't do much work on last year. With class, I've known that I have a lot of privilege and am currently upper-middle class, but growing up I was not so much...I had a lot less than I do now. I'm really questioning what class is to me. It's a lot of self-work.
I think the most intense bit of self-discovery at this past Anytown was seeing the amount of walls I've thrown up between myself and the world. I fake happiness and fun and glitter and smiles so freaking much that I don't even know how to feel anymore. One thing I do know is that I am really lonely. I am way too standoffish sometimes, and I'm sick of it. I feel like I turn people off; I know I have in the past year, "intense" barely scrapes the surface. I'm looking to mellow out a little bit. Maybe once I've come to love myself, I can actually let someone into my life.
I haven't done SHIT with music. I've worked Anytown, I've gone to several Prides, I've been doing a lot of gender stuff and queer rights and human rights and social justice and feminism...but very little in the way of music education. You know, my college major. The thing I'm set to get a degree in in nine months.
I'm not going to lie, I'm really concerned. I don't think being some run-of-the-mill music teacher is the thing for me. I get knots in my stomach just thinking about it and thinking about everything I've invested in this. I don't regret it. I still love music, I still love playing instruments and being in an ensemble and teaching lessons and all that. I'm just really unsure if I want to do that for the rest of my life. I practiced, REALLY practiced, for the FIRST time since my recital three months ago. Yes - I went three months without really playing my instrument. Is that normal? I guess what's bothering me is how quickly I slip out of music and how reluctant I am to get back in. I suppose it's a balance. I really go for extremes; when I like something, HOLY FUCKING SHIT I LIKE IT AND I'M DOING IT 24/7. That's NOT healthy. I've gotten myself into trouble doing that so much, and I know I need to stop. On the other hand, I have still been writing. I just finished a piece that I really like.
So maybe this is normal. But I still can't see myself as a music teacher anymore. I see myself...I don't even know. I want to be a queer activist or human rights activist or something. Maybe a writer. Idk. We'll see how my last year goes and how my student teaching plays out. I may fall back in love with music education after my student teaching.
I feel a little burned out, in general. I'm tired of feeling like I have to be in control of myself and my environment all the time - what gives me the right? Oh yeah, that white privilege, that male privilege, that elitist attitude, and all that jazz. Owning some shit, right there. I'm really ready to take a backseat for a while and see where that gets me.
i really hate
that the person i really care about
that i really have a connection with
is so far away.
It's around 3:30am. I'm laying in bed with my computer open trying to fall asleep. I can never fall asleep before 4am during the summer, especially on weeks where I don't work.
Suddenly, my bedroom door comes flying open.
"Abby, get the fuck out of here, I'm trying to sleep."
My six-year-old black Labrador retriever is rude. She'll often push her way into wherever she pleases if the door isn't shut all the way. Abby pauses, and then I hear her slowly shuffle out. With a startlingly human-like sigh, she plops down outside in the hallway.
An excerpt from a response I made to a friend who was discussing the difficulties of coming out as "Queer":
I share your confusion about the difficulty in coming out as "queer." Actually, I just did with my mother. It's needed to happen for a couple weeks and it finally did. She's thought of me as just "gay" for the past year, but that has not been congruent to my behavior and language so my mom has been very confused as to who I am and what I need from her. Tonight I came out to her as queer (fluidly sexual) and genderqueer as well. She took both very well (and with vodka - that's her way) and said she now understood me better and could better relate now that she actually knew what was going on and what she could do for me. She was even good about the genderqueer thing, surprisingly..."Mom, I'm not really a guy...or a girl." (flashback to my birth: "CONGRATUALTIONS! It's a NEITHER!")
My response: Come out as yourself. Attach meaning to an unfamiliar label and make it personal. People get that.
In my experience, just throwing the word "queer" out doesn't work for most people - they don't know what to think. I get a lot of blank stares. "Wait, I thought we weren't allowed to say that word." You gotta make it meaningful.
For me, queer simply means I fall in love with whomever I fall in love with regardless of their sex, gender, or orientation. this doesn't make me pansexual...I still have a pattern of attraction and a very specific "type"...but I definitely don't fit any other label. In this sense, anyone could be queer: fall in love with whomever they fall in love with, but still having a natural attraction pattern. It's the willingness to be surprised by love in an unfamiliar place, the fluidity to explore the potential for something beyond the comfort zone, the openness to actively pursue love even if it's outside my dating box. I like the wiggle room I get with queer. I think we're all queer.
I get so technical in my explaining and ranting about my beliefs in sexuality, gender, and orientation. If you know me, you probably realize this. :)
I found a great way to sum it up without using any fancy technical queer terms. It certainly is not that I believe people don't understand - I feel I lose a lot of people when I'm whipping around the Q-word all the damn time.
So, in a nutshell:
People are too busy defining who they're NOT attracted to to see the potential for love sitting right in front of their faces.
...is causing quite a stir.
This post starts with the independent film, "Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives."
This film was meant to empower transfeminine folks, but in the lead up to its premiere, it did quite the opposite. There's a lot of dispute about several things: trans folks feel misrepresented, people objectifying to the the word "tranny", people getting pissed other people's presumptions...
...and the point is lost.
The movie is campy. It's about three transwomen that exact revenge on the men that assaulted them and killed two of their friends - I hear we get to sit through transwomen getting their heads bashed open, their brains smeared across the floor. Their vengeful rampage is all about heels, glitter, and blood splatters.
However, the "exaggerated" portrayal of the transwomen as draggy, campy, and over-the-top has some folks such as media watchdog GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - notice the lack of a T for "trans") calling this in as a gross caricature of what transwomen are.
But then, folks such as myself and Kate Bornstein are questioning this: gross caricature? Why, because they don't fit the clean bill of what a transwoman should look like? It's hard being told what you're supposed to look like by people who claim to be furthering your agenda. No thanks, I'll stand up for myself, thank you. I'll let you know if I need help, but until then, I call the shots on what my trans body should look like.
And then, the T-word. TRANNY. This is starting to become the seminal issue regarding "Ticked-Off Trannies" rather than the much darker problems with this film. Some folks like Kate embrace this word. Other folks, myself included, have heard that word as the butt of too many jokes to welcome it. I don't like the word. Big fucking deal. I don't give a shit about the word. I give a shit about the violence against transwomen (and all women, let's face it - violence against trans folks and women alike all comes down to male privilege) being portrayed as a campy, funny, gore-fest.
How about the three trans people that have been murdered in the past month? What about Toni Alston, shot in the head; Amanda González-Andújar, strangled to death in her own home; Ashley Santiago, stabbed fourteen times? When is this shit going to stop? When is it going to GET NOTICED? Right now, trans rights activists are doing everything they can to get these slayings of trans people classified as hate crimes under the new Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Even with the law on our side, trans people are still a target, and violence against transwomen is so common that a movie about it is just in twisted bad taste. I can't watch a movie where a I see the swing of a bat, the crack of a skull, the desperate pleading of a woman being beaten to death. I've lost too many brothers and sisters to this shit.
And we're arguing about a word.