Monday, 8 June 2009

On Dr Barry and other famous trans men, or, all the hotties I met at Pride

As ever, I am more than a little rubbish at updating. I mean, I go out, I meet people, I talk about stuff, and I think to myself "I have thoughts on this, which I would like to share. I shall blog tonight." And then I come home, and Sir Dickie and Moyah miaow at me and demand cuddles, or J demands cuddles (less with the miaowing though), or I go and dig the allotment and think of a really really good post about communities based around my allotment, and then I come home and fall asleep.

But J is out tonight, and the furry overlords appear to have worked out how to use the cat flap, and I am, for once, undisturbed. And, kittens, how much I have to say.

For starters, this weekend was Pride (Oxford Pride, in case you're wondering. Dreaming spire and screaming queers, that's us). Now, I have very mixed feelings about Pride. On the one hand, I really do love the feeling of community that comes with it, and I do love that there are suddenly loads of queer-themed events, and I do love love love the drag queens and singers on stage, and I love, as much as any femme, dressing up and going out and feeling fucking fabulous. What I do not love is the total erasure of trans identity that comes with certain Prides (London Pride, I'm looking at you. And I have other plans for that day). I do not love the rampant commercialisation (it has rainbows on it! Buy it!). And I do not love being treated like a straight girl by what should be my community.

However, Oxford Pride surprised me in very good ways. See, this was my first Oxford Pride (having lived in Brighton for a few years before this, I was pretty used to the whole-town-rainbowed-up thing). It is explicitly trans and queer friendly. It is totally grassroots. I've met the organiser, and a bunch of people who help run it, and they are all fucking awesome. I volunteered to do litter-picking (give something back, people), and people mostly picked up their own litter. And the hotties. Oh, the hotties! I ended up at the local dyke bar, totally surrounded by older butches in checked shirts. Hoo boy, do I love me those older butches. There's something about them that I don't quite understand, but that leaves me weak at the knees. Maybe it's the cocky swagger, maybe its the rough-round-the-edges thing, maybe it's the way they've been around long enough to recognise and appreciate me as a femme, maybe it's the hint of vulnerability in the experience in their eyes - maybe it's the whole fucking packet. Luckily, J completely indulges me in this - not least by the fact that ze's growing older by the day!

I think a lot of it, actually, is the way that older butches seem to be comfortable with femmes. A lot of times, when I go into trendy dyke bars or gay bars, I get this look from other gay women which basically says "What are you doing here?" And that sort of hurts. Because I feel, rather stupidly, that, because I'm in a queer space, I have a right to expect to be read as queer. And young, andro, candy bar style, painfully trendy dykes never do. I have a theory, actually - where a 'scene' exists, an aesthetic exists, and people are expected to conform to that aesthetic. Funnily enough, J always said that ze felt like ze was slightly ostracised for being a bit too butch. And my theory goes like this - younger people still have that insecurity of childhood, and that need to prove that they fit in - they are included, by the very fact that someone else is excluded. Someone else doesn't fit in, which means that they do fit in.

I saw a lecture by Judith 'Jack' Halberstam a couple months ago (now there's a fucking gorgous butch), in which ze discussed the invisibility of the femme identity. Femmes are not seen in mainstream society. We walk down the street, and no-one gives us a second glance, because we look, to the untrained eye, as if we are straight. Never mind that there is a queer femme aesthetic, which is bold, and brash, and hot, and sexy. We wear skirts and/or heels, lipstick and/or eyeliner, so we are seen as conforming to gender stereotypes, no matter how much we wrestle with these to ensure that it is our femininity we are expressing, not the homogenous femininity handed to us by an advertising industry all to keen to get our cash. I mean, I have a very specific relationship with my gender. I love flat-pack furniture, tool-boxes, baggy jeans, band t-shirts (and ripping them to show off my cleavage), bright red lippie, not shaving my armpits, shaving my legs and plucking my eyebrows, wearing skirts and brightly coloured tights - to me, this is totally queering the feminine norm. I get it that not everyone performs femme like this, and that's cool. And I get that straight people expect other people to be straight, and don't pick up on this stuff.

But I'm invisible in the lesbian and gay community as well. They don't see me as femme, unless I'm partnered with a butch woman. My sexuality is only visible when put into context by someone else's gender expression.

And I don't want to be invisible. J has been so much shit through being visibly queer, that I feel like crap not taking some of that shit on. I know that's daft, but it's part of the reason I feel like I owe it to all the wonderful people I love to come out as often and as loudly as possible, to advocate for trans rights and call out racism. I recognise that I have privilege in this area, even at the same time as it's actually really fucking irritating and occasionally isolating. But what can you do? It's totally fucking worth it for those moments when an older butch in a checked shirt says "Yeah, I remember meeting you. You were wearing that amazing dress-thing, and I think you were flirting with me." And I giggle, and she smirks, and for a minute, I am seen for what I am, and I fucking love this dance.

1 comment:

  1. Just realised that I totally forgot to mention Dr Barry.

    Briefly: Margaret Bulkley was born in Ireland, greq up a little bit, got on a boat to England, got off the boat as James Barry, graduated from the University of Edinburgh and became a surgeon. It's also the name of the queer night that I am putting on on the 4th July in Oxford, given the above mentioned problems with the gaystream - grassroots is the way forwards!