I’m a cis woman and I’m heterosexual-ish. I have moments. I have slightly more than incidental tendencies, according to some one or another Kinsey scale test I took in college. There is Samira Wiley. There was Katherine Hepburn in “Sylvia Scarlett” and a fair number of 21st century women who look a little like Katherine Hepburn in “Sylvia Scarlett.” There is the fantasy version of me that I do not and will not ever look like. She’s a lanky, androgynous gamine who looks good in both evening gowns and tailored suits with glam rock make-up and flirts devilishly with basically any and all that cross her path. What is the slightly more feminine version of rakishly handsome? Whatever that is, that’s what she is.
Actual me is 99% childbearing hips, and zero flirt game. What’s the more feminine version of schlubby? Frumpy, perhaps? And actual me is mostly attracted to men, a wide variety of men. Even if, half the time, I couldn’t possibly tell you why. Even if, most of the time, those men find me befuddling if I’m doing anything other than discussing records, books, history or politics. Even though all the conventional trappings of heterosexual romance—marriage, babies, antiquated power dynamics, division of labor, uncomfortable underwear, Coldplay–are not things that have ever really appealed to me.
People—typically other straight people—have regularly made assumptions about who I am and what I’m into and who I like for most of my adult life. I don’t mind being read as queer (although it’s a touch awkward when it’s someone you love, lovingly encouraging you to come out of the closet, and you have to be like, actually, Dad . . .) As a woman, especially a woman among lots of straight men, sometimes it’s even a convenience. I do correct people, though. I do correct people, in general, not because I’ve taken offense, but so I don’t end up inadvertently appropriating some plotline that does not belong to me or giving advice that’s not mine to give.
This past Friday, a pick-up truck slowed in the lane beside me as I was walking home from the salon. The driver honked and when he had my attention, the man in passenger seat rolled down his window and snarled, with real committed hatred, Fat Dyke, before zipping off down Rosemary Street.
It was a sunny summer afternoon. I had a fresh new haircut and a gorgeous pair of giant sunglasses, the color of pistachio gelato. I think I looked more than a little fabulous. Fat dyke is such old news of an insult, and has been lobbed at me so many times, in so many permutations, from so many people, since at least grade school that it’s almost weird when I don’t hear it for a while. But that day, it happened that I was standing between the rainbow-flagged streetlights in the center of town on the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
And all I could think was how impossibly tragic, how unimaginative, how ugly and boring, that somebody, even thousands of somebodies can still think that gay (or some derivation of) is an aberration, an insult, a way to alienate people because of who they are or who they love. It would be pitiable were it not for the fact that the world is crowded with religious zealots, regressive bigots, and the legions of righteous assholes who still believe they do the lord’s work through violence and repression.
It really doesn’t seem like it should be so hard to exist in the world, to love who you love and be who you are, without qualification or apology, without fear or prejudice, without constant worry that any hard-won civil rights may be ripped away at a moment’s notice because those assholes in the truck are electing cleaned-up versions of themselves to write laws and appoint justices to the bench
I am not all interested in letting those guys have more of a say in our lives than a dumb comment out a passing truck window. And to be clear: I’m here for whatever, whenever, however long it takes to make that so. You can call me whatever you want. I promise won’t take offense. I’m sure I’ve heard it before.
Happy Pride, everybody.