looks

In recent months K and I have been attracting significantly more attention in public, primarily because K’s gender presentation has tilted significantly further towards masculine. It’s not just her clothes or her hair, it’s the other gender markers of posture and gait which have changed enough so that nowadays, it seems only about half the population reads her as female. Small children, older people–the populations you’d expect–are confused by her, they stumble over pronouns and stare awkwardly a beat or two too long. What is that? A further number, I think, read us as also as a heterosexual couple, but only for a moment. She doesn’t pass so thoroughly. You can almost see them thinking, “that guy’s girlfriend is hot. shit, that’s a dyke!”. At least that’s what I imagine they’re thinking, perhaps it’s some other, more innocuous version. In any case I can see it, over and over, on people’s faces.

The first effect of this is that I have an increasingly odd feeling that I only exist in her presence. Together we–and by extension I–are conspicuous to the straight masses, and recognizable to the queers. Alone, nobody really pays much attention to me, I’m a fairly ordinary young, able-bodied white woman. Well, I attract the same attentions that other people of my type do, which is a whole other subject. Anyways, that femme invisibility thing. I’m only queer around her–alone, heterosexual men assume I’m available, and other women look right through me.

[It occurs to me here that she might like the idea that I only exist around her, since of course I exist for her and I am hers. But I assure you it is uncomfortable nonetheless.]

The second effect is more interesting. Have you ever shaved with a new razor when you’ve been using a dull one? Expecting resistance, that slight degree of pressure—and meeting nothing but slick air, a perfect trim?

That, folks, is how I feel homophobia when I’m out on a date with Saint. People are so exceedingly polite, they open doors and nod at us approvingly. But most notably, much of the time they hardly notice us at all. Unremarkable. Nobody looks twice. On his arm, in the fancy restaurants he prefers, we are invisible. A perfectly normal heterosexual couple.

And that experience of being in public with him, the utter lack of pressure, shocks me. It’s incredibly disorienting, possibly more so than the unfamiliar topography of his naked body: it makes me realize, in a fundamental way, how much social resistance I experience on an everyday level. The wearying effect of low-grade homophobia and gender fear, the way I’ve adjusted my public posture to defend K–all of that dissolved, gone. In a way our dates are incredibly liberating, not just because I delight in his presence, but the ethereal freedom I feel being finally, finally normal.

——–

I don’t want to get into a whole social critique here. That’s been done to death, really. But there is another interesting facet to the experience of being publicly normative, specifically for me: which is, that being from a mixed-ethnicity family, but living in a rural area, my entire childhood played out against a backdrop of barely-masked personal and institutional racism. Again, this is something I only really noticed once I moved to college and blended in with other people mostly like me, by which point I was well entrenched in my lesbian persona that I barely noticed the shift. And that all, I think, firmly underscores the absolute weirdness I feel being in such a, well, ordinary-looking couple.

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