Friday, November 5, 2010

totally unprepared

okay, so this is my post for today, the previous one is from yesterday but was wonky...thats what i get for trying to be at least a day ahead of myself...but now, i have nothing prepared for today.
last night i was hanging out and drinking and eating and playing euchre with some good friends here in chicago and at least three times over the course of the evening i thought 'that would make a good blog post' but of course, with all the eating and drinking and playing euchre and talking to till super-late i forgot every one of them. so here i am again, updating older writing for popular consumption. ill try to make this my last 'warm over the leftovers' kind of post till prolly tech week... :/
this is a conglomeration of the outtakes from the piece i performed at ethan's 'chestaide' fundraising night in ann arbor in july. (in the post entitled 'today its my shirt')

Daily I have no idea whether im going to be given that one kind of authority and privilege, the kind you get by being seen as a man, or if people are gonna treat me like im a freak.
I still have a moment of panic every time I step into the men's room that someone is gonna call me out on being there—even tho ive never even been double-taked—but its vastly superior to the feeling of stepping into the women's room and having everyone stare at me like Ive trespassed somehow. I always felt the need to make eye contact with and smile at every woman in there so they wouldn't feel threatened. I felt like an interloper, which is how ive always felt in all-female spaces. Like my being there was somehow wrong.
I feel much more at home in all-male spaces, even tho im still unsure of the code of conduct and feel a bit like a spy. but its not like im putting on a disguise in order to infiltrate, its just that I feel a lot more comfortable living life as someone who people would more readily identify as a man than a woman. If only it didnt have to be either/or.
But then I think about hitchhiking. I'm homeless, without the funds to fly around the country as much as id like. I want to stand on the side of the road with my thumb out, looking like a pleasant guy to pass the next couple hundred miles with in friendly conversation. For the length of a journey like that, I think of ways to keep from creating that shift in perspective in people, the one that makes them unsure of how to proceed, having already put me in one category in their head, and finding that the necessity of shifting to another uncovers a huge gap in prescribed etiquette. Of course, I am outraged that people feel the necessity to shift at all, but that's not a battle I can fight in someone else's car on some highway between destinations.
The source of blame is how differently men and women are raised—and what they are taught to believe is appropriate for each gender. Nonetheless, in order to survive, I have to work in that paradigm. Having not been socialized as a man means im a bit behind on the code of conduct, however. Therefore, ive worked out some rules of engagement:
Rule: men dont use that much inflection in their voices. Even when asking a question, you shouldn't go too far up at the end. Corollary: men should never let the end of their sentence go up if they aren't asking a question.they wont be taken seriously, or even 'worse', they might be seen as gay.
Rule: men dont hunch their shoulders. Corollary: men are never trying to hide their pecs. Concavity is for people with low self-esteem (or something to hide).
Rule: if a man concedes space or right-of-way on the sidewalk, he is thought of as a wuss by all the men nearby. Corollary: he is thought of as a gentleman by all the women in the vicinity.
Rule: the proper way for men to address another male they dont know is to say, 'hey, man.' corollary: if you reply in an unmanly register, you get an 'oh, sorry, ma'am,' in reply.
Man and ma'am. One consonant difference and it changes my whole identity as seen by a stranger.
Speaking of single consonants, getting referred to by 'he' instead of 'she' still makes me a little dizzy and puts a huge smile on my face—my biggest tell.
Rule: men dont smile that big or often. Corollary: men also dont tend to smile at kids all goofy and soft, like I sometimes find myself doing, for fear of being seen as a creepster. i now feel like i have to make eye contact with the parents and look like someones favorite uncle so they dont worry about my motives.
Conclusion: If the goal is to avoid at all costs the moments when you get clocked as a man by someone and partway thru the interaction the person changes their mind, dont let this sort of thing happen:
I was walking with saunia in the castro at night, and a drunk woman addressed us with a hearty 'gentlemen!' from about 20 ft away. by 10ft we were 'lady and gentleman?', by 3ft it was a surprised and half-aplogetic 'oh! Ladies...' In the matter of a minute we had morphed from a couple of gay men to a couple of lesbians. At no point was she right.
Ive decided it has a lot to do with who im with at the time of assessment. Guilt by association, if you will. traveling with my ex, luka, a tranny-boi that identifies on a more genderqueer level than the beard allows others to see, I was seen as a gay man because people read luka as such, thats who they thought he would be with.
Hanging out with my friend saunia, a short-haired, somewhat femme lesbian, im seen as the person who would most likely be her companion—a butch dyke. We get 'hello, ladies' all the time. And this is in berkeley. (btw, what butch wants to be called a lady?)
this summer when i was visiting an old college roommate, stacey, who both is and looks like a heterosexual woman, I hypothesized that I would be seen mostly as a straight man. But given that a hetero couple is the norm, that assumption was the hardest to prove, tho there was a moment with a cute guy behind an ice cream counter who interacted with me in a 'sup, bro?' kind of way, that led me to believe i was correct (and made me sad cuz he was really cute).
left to my own devices, I find myself trying to pass as a man. Not because my own personal identity is really that committed to one end of the spectrum, but because its so much more fun and gratifying. Im not trying to deceive anyone, im just trying to tip the scales a little more towards the identity in me that has been unseen by others for so long.
I mean, Id rather be a betwixt and between, but it seems identity is only partly what you perceive of yourself. Its also partly what others perceive you to be. my problem lies in the disparity between those two perceptions. Maybe someday we will get to a place where our genders can be fluid depending on how we're feeling, which will be reflected in our clothing and demeanor choices, which, cross your fingers, will be interpreted appropriately by our viewers, whose interactions with us will then reinforce how we feel about who we are.
And while im wishing, id like a pony...


Rochelle said...

Maybe someday we will get to a place where our genders can be fluid depending on how we're feeling, which will be reflected in our clothing and demeanor choices, which, cross your fingers, will be interpreted appropriately by our viewers, whose interactions with us will then reinforce how we feel about who we are.

we've already got the part before your crossed your fingers...and if you're hanging in the correct crowd, they can sometimes do pretty well on the second half, sometimes with a little prompting.

love you.

rayvanfox said...

in many places, and in many communities, this is true, ro. there have been many places and times and situations in my traveling days where this has not felt true and the majority of the populace i can run across while traversing the country have never let these thoughts cross their minds.
however, finding the places it is true is like an unexpected gift that i treasure long after leaving. (like being with you)