mouth full of rocks

Yesterday K and I were bantering about something or other, housework I think, and she said “You just don’t appreciate what your boyfriend does around here!” (or something to that effect).

Now, I am fairly used to thinking of K as male, male-ish, I mean it’s kinda hard not to at this point. And in my own mind I use a fuzzy mix of pronouns and descriptors. But this is the first time I have heard K use such a word in self-reference out loud.

[Cut to thought: why is the word “boyfriend” so much more powerful than any of the sex-related gendered words we use (e.g., “his big cock,” etc? Why does it feel so much more socially significant?]

Anyways, I would love to say that I didn’t skip a beat and carried on like I didn’t notice. But, dear readers, I am just not that smooth. I said sputtered something like, “Uh, what? Did? You just say?” and K repeated it slowly, breaking out in a blush. So I initiated Instinctual Minor Hug and Comfort Response Protocol #62 and it was, as I said, no big deal. But I’m sure I’ll fuck it up a few more times yet, as things change.

There’s nothing wrong with all of it but all I want is to do and say the right girlfriend things, help us through this with patience and grace. Please.

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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a butch purse

In order to defeat the bout of writer’s anxiety that I’ve been faced with lately, I’ve decided to try that age-old writing excersize: write what is in front of you. In this case, K.’s purse.

Every time I look at K. with her purse I am reminded of a line by Jeanne Cordova, “A butch purse is an only child. Femmes have as many purses as shoes.” When I first read that I nearly had an asthma attack laughing, because it is so, so true. K. has only two bags: a green YakPak messenger bag which is falling apart at the zippers, and this purse. I, on the other hand, have an obscene and ever-changing number of purses, many of my own making, some adopted out of pity, some purchased in a moment of weakness. I’m fond of interesting linings and have yet to figure out the ideal number of pockets. Bags and purses are my great fashion love, and I collect them and treasure them dearly. I have no idea how she survives on only two.

But she does. The messenger bag is for cargo, a transportation item only, and the purse is for occasions when all you need is a wallet and keys. Some chapstick. Cellphone. Possibly a small notebook for shopping lists and the like. The purse she has fulfills these requirements and no more.

It’s a deep red, dyed leather, with a thick strap and many pockets. It doesn’t look designer but it does have a little plate affixed to the side panel: “liz claiborne. established in 1976 and made for all lifestyles.”

No kidding.

educating the masses

The tag surfer is one thing I love about WordPress over other platforms (LJ, for instance). It shows me all sorts of things I would never have found otherwise–and perhaps shouldn’t have.

Like this post by a well-intentioned but seriously misinformed person, trying to understand some basic concepts of gender theory and human sexuality. I’ve linked to it, because I’m hoping some of you can give her a little help (I have very little formal training in this arena other than my own life experience) but here’s some quotes to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Brace yourself.

“If gay people are gay, why do they want a same-sex partner who very much resembles an opposite-sex? Why don’t they be straight from the beginning and just like the opposite-sex in that case? Why bother making someone try so hard to look like the opposite sex when natural ones are readily available in abundance? [….] Or an even better example, Chris Crocker. He is obviously born a man and he’s gay. But apparently, he’s trying to be a woman, isn’t he? If he did go for a complete sex change, he will become straight because he still likes guys and he’s a woman then?

SEE. SO damn confusing. I should have asked my professor these questions during open discussion time when we were struggling to come up with topics to talk about.”

I left a long comment which is full of holes and some half-accuracies, but I was trying for understandable, not comprehensive. It was surprisingly well-received, by her response:

“I had no idea much of my thoughts could be offensive. I still don’t understand how it is but since you said so, I’m really gonna think about it again seriously. Because I’m serious about understanding homosexuals. I am afraid I wouldn’t be prepared if one day I find out I am one myself. I doubt it now but I really need to know about you guys, that’s all. […] I don’t think ignorance is bliss.”

Points for trying, in my book. When faced with ignorance, it’s very easy to become defensive and angry—because so often, it’s a justifiable and necessary response—but sometimes I try to step back and see if there’s some genuine effort going on behind. On a good day, I like to think there are more people like her than we realize, and that we really are getting somewhere.

don’t be such a girl

This morning I had a project meeting with one of the higher-ups, and at one point, she asked me if I would send a memo to the department heads reminding them that the deadline for XYZ thing is tomorrow. I winced, and said, “I would rather have sent it Monday, that’s really short notice…” and she asked, “Why? They’ve known for weeks that this was coming.”

Because, I thought, I don’t want anyone to be mad at me. And though I didn’t say it, she still gave me a full dressing-down about how it’s not my fault if they’re slackers and I shouldn’t take any shit from anyone who complains. Really sweet of her, if a bit intimidating.

This is something I am working on, professionally, but it’s been a problem for most of my life. Like a lot of women I’ve known, I have a tendency to assume that anything that goes wrong is a) my fault, and b) my responsibility to fix. Since I put on a good show most people don’t know that, secretly, I am still sure that at any minute They are going to come busting in and say, “you there, you fucked up and everybody knows it.”

I try to catch myself every time I start thinking like that, but sometimes it slips in (like today, when I read the new post about internet authority on Sugarbutch and immediately assumed that it was provoked by a comment I had left). It’s one of of those things you work on, and someday soon, I hope, I’ll be able to look at any given situation and think, “okay, here’s a situation,” rather than endlessly trying to figure out what people think of my place in said situation. Which inevitably turns into some clusterfuck of internal guilt-tripping wherein I then start thinking, “nobody gives a shit what your place in this situation is, stop being so self-centered, processing is such a girl thing to do…” which really isn’t helpful either.

In the meantime, I wonder, do guys have these situations?

in praise of NY & Co.

Yesterday the girlfriend and I spent most of the morning shopping for clothes for a wedding in the afternoon (more on that when I’m less hung over). Naturally, we had to pay a visit to the one store I never pass up: New York and Company.

Oh I love NY&Co. For myself, I generally shop vintage, but I bring K. there any chance I can get because they have THE most satisfactory assortment of masculine-styled clothes for female-bodied persons. K. is not the kind of girl who can easily pass (at least not from the front–though she reports that she got “sirred” by a customer standing behind her on Thursday), nor am I sure she wants to. She’s not a small girl, in any case; she’s got lovely curves. Which makes it tricky when you’re searching for a button-down in a solid color, since most women’s shirts are in off-shades or pastels, or have shirring, ruching, bows, etc.

But not at NY&Co. Oh no. They had black, white, blue, and a primary red, all without “extra detailing” of any kind. We ended up also getting a pair of plain black chinos and some fabulous grey pinstripe pants (which of course I had to hem since they were out of petites, but that’s okay).

I really love that store.