Sunday, 13 July 2008

What you see when you look at me

She’s in the shower right now (that pretty girl I sleep with) and when she’s done we’re headed into town to do some enjoying of the day and maybe some clothes shopping. I have worn my one pair of acceptable jeans so many times, I would not be surprised to see them get up and walk away of their own accord. And I sort of like shopping these days, now that what I see in the mirror looks like someone I might want to be, rather than an embarrassingly awkward stranger.

I got called sir for the first time. At a security checkpoint where I had to swipe a card and then open my laptop. It was a hurried transaction—I’d been through a few times already that day—and the security guard there at the moment was distracted, telling her coworker about some trouble earlier in the day. I swiped the card and waited, then opened the computer, and then she glanced over: “Oh, I’m sorry, sir, you’re good, go ahead.” The deferential apology, the air of unthinking certainty, the word itself, all shook me a little, tipping the axis of my rotation just a little.

On the other hand, back in these spaces of family and old, old friends, it’s a case of the elephant in the corner. My hair is a good barometer: mostly, the people who Say Nothing At All are going to be weird the whole time. There’s an exception to every rule, of course, and the supposed friend who told me I looked like I got my head caught in something is it. He said something, but it was weird. Otherwise, it’s been a glacier of crushing silence, an invisibility of averted gazes. Not an outright rejection of female masculinity, but treating it like something to be politely ignored, like an oozing abscess on my forehead. Best to swallow the discomfort and talk of the weather while looking at the femme girlfriend, the table, the sky, anywhere but right at me.

It makes me flicker and fade. Years ago that’s precisely what I did. But now I have been seen, and often enough to make me know it’s real and it’s possible. The Dyke March, our incredibly generous host in Brooklyn, the events we’ve attended so far in Boston, the cute dykes who eyed me at the Farmer’s Market yesterday, all of it reminding me: this is what it feels like to have a conversation with people who make eye contact. This is what it feels like to be myself, outside of a vacuum.

5 comments:

Nisemono said...

After years of growing my hair out, I recently shaved it all off.

It partially was a way to give myself a clean slate. Partially a way to let myself represent something more closely affiliated with what I feel I am.

I was expecting snide comments, or rude jokes. It was more shocking to see that everyone just decided not to say a word.

Silence.

Friends who had known me for years didn't say a word about my crew-cut. As if they just needed to ignore it long enough, and it would go away.

P.S. Wait until you figure out how much more respect you get from those who make casual assumptions about your gender based on your short hair.

I love it when they assume I am a boy. But I hate that they treat me with so much more respect.

Jess said...

I agree.. it's a whole different vibe when someone thinks I'm a guy. I get called sir pretty often. At first it used to feel weird, shake me a bit, then once I embraced my masculinity, I began to appreciate it.

I think it's high time that Mr. Leo MacCool posts a profile picture.

amy said...

At first, I think the most uncomfortable thing, for ME – was that feeling of awkwardness on behalf of the person who mistakenly called me "sir" :D That moment when they realized they screwed-up or misspoke and they're quickly apologizing. I always hate that. I'd rather they just continue assuming I'm male... sometimes, I would avoid talking to convenience store clerks, etc. just for that reason. I'm sure I came across as a prick sometimes, but I always felt like I was somehow saving THEM from the embarrassment of realizing they were mistaken when they heard my voice.

But, like jess – now, that I own it, it's SO much easier, and a LOT less awkward for sure.

Dylan said...

When people first perceived me as a guy, when I was a teenager, I was really uncomfortable. Although, looking back on it, I was never uncomfortable for myself... but for my family who was usually there or for the person who had made the mistake. Now that I'm older I take it as a compliment... it's a recognition of my masculinity, something I have very consciously cultivated, and sure I would rather it be seen as female masculinity, but it's better than not being seen at all. Still that "passing" space is also often an unsafe one... and what might happen once the person realizes their mistake does worry me.

Leo MacCool said...

wow, thanks for sharing all these experiences. and nisemono and amy, welcome! thanks for stopping by.