BLOG # 3
At thirteen, Mara resembled a ten-year-old. Her sister Julie had just gotten her period at the age of sixteen, leading to an influx of tampon boxes being sent in the mail from all of the female cousins that could relate to being a late bloomer. She was 4’10’’, eighty pounds, and extremely flat chested. Calling them mosquito bites would be a compliment. Often at school the boys would compliment her. “You are so unlike the other girls.” “It’s weird how you’re like, you know, cool and stuff.” She was cool. She played the trumpet and would play football outside at recess. She had already traveled outside of the country and was in honors math.
Mara’s least favorite song was “The Electric Slide.” Every time she heard the song, it felt like a raccoon crawled into her stomach, got rabies, and died. Normally a stable, thirteen year old girl, Mara warped into something completely different as soon as the song came on. Irritable, angry, and fierce, she found it bizarre that she had such an adverse reaction to a seemingly simple tune.
At Danny Martin’s Bar-Mitzvah, all was going well until she heard those fateful lyrics. Excusing herself from the kid’s table, she ran out of the room before any boogy woogy woogies could take hold of her. She stumbled into the lobby of the Marriott and sat down on the welcome couch. Mara hated the thought of missing any crucial moments of socializing, but a girl had to do what a girl had to do. She looked down to check her brand new cell phone and when she looked up her heart skipped a beat. There he was. Mike Jankowski. Mara was in love with him. No other person in the world could possibly feel what she felt for Mike Jankowski. It didn’t matter that he wasn’t good at math or that he was shorter than the other boys. It was how much he didn’t realize how amazing he was that drew her to him. He looked around the room and then plopped down next to her on the couch.
“I hate the Electric Slide,” he said matter of factly. “I had to get out of there.”
Suddenly it all made sense. She probably hated the Electric Slide because somewhere in her heart she knew that her soul mate might hate it too. They sat and talked for about five minutes and then headed back into the reception room. This will be our little secret, she thought to herself. If other people know, they might want to come out and join.
Between December and May Mara and Mike were both invited to ten Bar Mitzvahs. At every single one, Mara sat patiently, waiting for the dreaded song to begin. Sure enough, each time the song came on, there Mike would be, seemingly waiting for her in the lobby.
During the final Bar-Mitzvah of the year, Mara knew that she had to raise the stakes. She needed to know if Mike felt the same way about her as she did him. She made the decision that during the “Electric Slide” she would ask him a very important question in the lobby.
Half of the reception had passed and the song still hadn’t come on. She put on a pair of the free sunglasses they threw out during the song “Shout!” and slipped into the back. Cautiously, she wrote down “Electric Slide” on the DJ request list and then headed back to her seat. Luckily, in the last hour of the party, the song was played and she could experience her favorite part of her friends’ coming of ages.
As Mike approached her, she knew that the past six months must have been as special to him as they were to her. She was ready.
“Mike?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he grunted.
“What do you look for in a girl?” Her heart was pounding. She hoped that he couldn’t feel the heat that was rising through her body. She licked her lips, hoping to make them look plumper as he answered. This was it.
“Cleavage,” he responded. “I like a girl with a lot of cleavage.”
With that, he was met in the lobby by Lesley Simmons. They left together and headed towards the nearest closet. As they walked away, Mara heard Lesley say, “Why did you ask me to meet you out here now? I love the ‘Electric Slide.’”
Sadly, I was inspired to write this post by the movie “Shallow Hal.” Please, stop groaning and judging. In one part of the movie, one of the characters refers to a female as having “Ugly Duckling Syndrome.” He explains this syndrome as girls who were ugly growing up and therefore had to rely on their social skills to get by. This inspired me to post this short story, based on one of my real life experiences.
Granted, I’m not saying that I was necessarily an eyesore, but I went through puberty REALLY late, forcing me to realize that I couldn’t rely on my looks in middle school. Other females could strut around with their newly formed curves and boobs, but I suddenly had to work for attention.
I feel that this phenomenon relates to this class because it highlights the idea of sexuality and aging. We’ve discussed societal norms as they relate to things all over the spectrum such as body type, race, sexuality, relationships, etc. Having gone through this history with delayed puberty, I think that I was able to focus in on the effect of feeling like an outsider in a certain sense and dealing with the crossroads of how to mold myself in order to fit in with the rest of society. This isn’t to say that I changed who I was as a person, but rather that I was struck with the limitations that sexuality and desire can bring. As a child, I never had to worry about things like body type, but ever since people started changing before I did, I was hit with it over the head and have never let the lessons go.
“We’re gonna let you off with a warning. And that warning is: that lipstick doesn’t go with that eyeshadow, mate.”
Come sit down and have a cosmo with me, I’m gonna get personal for a minute…
Ever since I can remember, I’ve been attracted to the feminine and all but repulsed by the masculine. To me, masculinity has always represented an unattainable goal that quashed my natural proclivities and severely limited the types of identities that I could have in this life. I grew up your standard American boy: played little league, did karate, roughhoused with my friends, etc. But I knew that I was different from a very early age. I knew that I was more sensitive, more attracted to aesthetics, more cooperative than competitive, and sweeter than my male counterparts. Yet I still fell for the prettiest girl on the playground…
It wasn’t until I got to be 14 that I first formally acknowledged a queer identity. Given my limited knowledge of such things, I self-identified as “bisexual,” because I knew deep down that I was attracted to females. For the next few years, I bounced back and forth between every queer identity imaginable, desperate for a way to define myself. Then I discovered Eddie Izzard…
This hilarious British standup comic taught me that it was ok and even cool to be a heterosexual crossdresser (yes, we do exist). From the very first time I went out in drag, I have been so enamored with makeup and femme dress that it has come to the forefront of my identity. Explaining this to other people is, however, a refined art form that I’m not sure that I’ve mastered. Ironically enough, the straights are more accepting of me than most of the gays. 🙂
I stumbled across this article called “The Truths of Those who Cross Dress” by Ellen Sherman. FINALLY! An academic article that tells MY story. This article outlines the eleven most common misconceptions about heterosexual cross dressers, and I have personally dealt with each and every one of them. The issue that hits closest to home is when Sherman writes that “In fact one of the most difficult areas for cross dressers was how to deal with the women with whom they wanted to be involved.” Apart from being painfully shy around women in whom I’m romantically interested in general, I also have to find a way to artfully work the fact that I look better in a dress than they do into the conversation. Most women aren’t huge fans of that 🙂
Luckily, I’ve always gotten a pretty positive response to the whole thing. A friend of mine just commented to me recently that I seem a lot less extroverted without my “war paint.” I’ve been doing a bunch of really butch roles lately that require me to be hairy n such, so I’ve not worn makeup or nail polish in quite awhile. I too had noticed a decline in my self-confidence, but to have my friend phrase it that way really put things into perspective for me. There are many reasons why we straight men cross dress – for me, it’s a statement of power. The most punk-rock thing we can possibly do is be exactly who we are in our dress and mannerisms without shame, fear, or apology. When I shock people by wearing makeup, I feel the surge of power that comes from knowing that I’m displaying myself at my most honest. It is an affirmation that yes, I am different, and to love me is to love ALL of me. Plus, in my favorite pair of heels, I’m 6’7″, so I defy anyone to screw with me! rawr.
In summation, my aim is to make a queer space out of wherever I am simply by being myself. If I’m waving my freak flag and getting glitter in everybody’s eyes (not pleasant, trust me), then hopefully someone will see me and have the courage to express themselves however they might wish. Our identities are whatever we wish them to be whenever we want; there doesn’t have to be a set persona. I leave you with this quote from my favorite poet, Andrea Gibson: “No, I’m not gay. No, I’m not straight, and I’m sure as hell not bisexual, dammit. I am whatever I am when I am it.”
Oh, and this should help you understand Eddie Izzard as well as myself. Enjoy! 😀
So my articles this week come from a variety of different sources, publications, fora, blogs, etc., and I think they add some interesting topics for discussion around the phrase “Intersectionality of Identities.” Enjoy!
This essay, composed for a San Francisco-area queer news blog, addresses the modern LGBT rights movement and the spearheading thereof by affluent white men. The author advocates a complete restructuring of the queer rights movement based around securing rights for working class queer people.
An article published for the Johns Hopkins Newsletter at JHU, this piece describes a gathering held at which issues pertaining to Native American queers were discusses. Several distinguished professors were invited to speak about their personal experiences with these issues. The symposium provides what I think is a fascinating look into the national and social identities of Native American societies and how queerness affects them.
I found this article to be not only entertaining and lighthearted, but also extremely relevant considering our discussions on marriage as an institution. Focusing on Indian American immigrants, this piece sheds light on the immigrant perspective that for some cultures, marriage trumps sexuality. Not having a spouse is often seen as more socially taboo than having one of the same sex, which I find profoundly interesting.
For my final article, I wanted to include something that didn’t necessarily have to do with same-sex partners or non-normative gender identities, yet was still undoubtedly queer in nature. Polyamory has been a subject of contention between me and my own friends for quite some time, so I wanted to get a collection of non-white opinions about the issue and how it affects members of a marginalized racial community. What better place for this than a blog about Polyamory on a site dedicated to African-American issues?
I chose these articles because the entire theme of this class is “Intersectionality of Identities.” Queer people are not defined solely by our sexual orientations or our gender identities – our races, economic statuses, religious beliefs, ethnicities, and many other factors play a large role in determining who we are as individual people. Each of these cultural identities plus personal experiences all combine to shape our theories of the world – supporting the theory that no two people are exactly alike.
Marriage and relationships have come to be the foundation of many of the world’s societies, and it’s interesting that it’s taken the LGBT rights movement and the “gay marriage” initiative to open the proverbial can of worms and really delve into the nature (nay, utility) of the entire institution. Marginalized groups have always had to fight for the legitimacy of their existence, and piling one political “ism” on top of another makes it hard for people to understand others’ platforms. For many cultures, queerness is a decadent Western import that pollutes the culture, so how do proud members of these racial/ethnic/religious/etc. groups reconcile their queerness with their other identities? Does being queer make one “less black,” “less Indian,” “less Irish?”
The overarching question is: Should these facets of personal identity be viewed holistically or separately when the time comes to fight for political power? Why can we not just accept that we’re people and we need to get along? People are silly… 🙂