That's right. Cycle. I have a bicycle and now I live close enough to my favorite coffeeshop to cycle here. However, after living my sedentary slug's life for so long, the ride over nearly killed me. My legs still feel like jelly, after 45 minutes sitting here, but fortunately the urge to go puke has passed. I'll get used to it, but for now, jesus christ! Who knew two small hills could do so much damage?
Last night in my Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in the Law class, we had a group of kids from this queer youth program in town come give us a presentation. It was pretty funny and a far cry from the kind of "panels" I used to be on back in undergrad, 10-12 years ago. The campus queer club was always being solicited by professors of such classes as "Abnormal Psychology" to produce a panel of homos to sit in class and answer questions generated by students, usually written on note cards and turned in to the prof while the panel was setting up. We got to answer such gems as "How do you have sex?" "How does it feel to know you're going to burn in hell because God hates you?" And "Aren't you disgusted with yourself?"
This group last night said next to nothing about sex or sexual orientation. They talked almost exclusively about gender identity and gender expression. There was an unbelievably tedious vocabulary lesson -- who knew the intricate difference between "bisexual" and "pansexual" -- ("Bi means two, like a bicycle with two wheels," Luka explained. So I wondered for the rest of the night what a pancycle might look like...) And who knew that "respecting people's pronoun choices" was a big issue these days...? If we're down to fighting over pronoun choices, I think we're in a pretty good place in the general scheme of things.
Good that they're talking about gender identity and expression, actually. I'd be willing to bet that 99% of the violence and harrassment that is heaped upon queer people or people assumed to be queer comes as a reaction to/against the gender expression of those people. I know on my own journey, the only times I've ever felt genuinely afraid and in danger, the source of the problem for me was not that I fucked women, it's that I didn't look enough like one.
The scariest encounter I ever had happened because these frat boys thought I was a gay man, for christ's sake. I was walking to my car after a late night class in undergrad, short hair and androgynously dressed, walking stupidly down a dark street toward a secluded parking lot, when this carload of boys in ballcaps cruised up slowly and yelled "faggot" at me. They paced me, and kept yelling "faggot! Fucking faggot!" intermittently as I walked and ignored them.
Finally one of them said, "You got anything to say, fucking faggot?" And I wanted to yell "Yeah, I'm a dyke, asshole! Get it right!" But, loving life as I do and wanting to preserve my own, I said "No." And kept walking. I did not break stride. They drove off and I still had 100 yards to reach my car. The road they were driving made a loop. I walked on, didn't run, and thought "They could drive away or they could loop back around to keep fucking with me. When I said "no" did they realize I was a girl? Is that gonna be the thing that really gets them going? Makes them come back and drag me into the car, maybe show me how a real man fucks or how a woman ought to be fucked? Is that how this night will end up?"
This was two years after Brandon Teena, a biological woman living as a man, was raped by a "friend" when the friend realized Brandon was a "she" -- was then killed after reporting the rape to the cops. Brandon Teena, famously portrayed by Hillary Swank in Boys Don't Cry, a movie I cannot and will not ever watch. I don't remember if I knew the Brandon Teena story as I walked to my car. I didn't have to know that story to "know the story," if you know what I mean. I knew the possibilities in my bones like rabbits know that wolves will chase them and eat them.
They did not come back, I made it to my car, I was shaking when I got home and couldn't believe I was shaking. I was living, at that time, with DL, my very, very good friend who now lives in Atlanta. DL was then the president of Campus NOW. She saw immediately that I was acting weird. I didn't even realize how weird I was acting. My girlfriend was there too, Renee. DL and Renee were both so alarmed and I kept saying "It was nothing, I'm ok, they didn't do anything, they just yelled some stuff." I didn't feel like I had the right to be so freaked out because "nothing" had happened. Earlier in the semester, some girl was gang raped at a frat party. I kept thinking, "This was nothing. Nobody even touched me," thinking of that girl and her experience. I drank a beer. I kept shaking.
Gender expression. Yeah. My gender expression is what kept me out of public restrooms as much as possible and what made road trips so hard. My gender expression is what made my life in the rural south such a dangerous obstacle course. My gender expression is what drove me across the country to this liberal utopia. And now look at me -- hair grown back out, looking and dressing more like a girl than ever before. But you know, still, I get "sir"ed. Just the other day I got a "Hey buddy, can I get a light," as I walked past a guy on the street.
So it's in me. Whatever it is. Regardless of hair.