shine a light

03/12/2012

sub·ver·sive/səbˈvərsiv/

Adjective:
Seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution.
Noun:
A person with such aims.
Synonyms:
ruinous – destructive

Dear ____,
My friend A and I had dinner the last time she was in town. As we sat across the table from one another, she asked me, “How would you describe your sexuality?”
Not skipping a beat, I responded, “Subversive as fuck.”
She smiled. “Can you tell me more about that?”
I made allusion to some of my sexual exploits of the last few years (fisting boys, sucking cock, loving all of it) and we moved on to talking about her recent experiences, and then on to gender (“How’s your gender feeling lately?”).
By definition, subversive means seeking or intended to subvert an established system or institution. That sure rings true for my life, my gender, my sexuality.
Most cultures throughout history have had a more complex understanding of gender than the dominant culture you and I are immersed in (see this map for an introduction: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/two-spirits/map.html). For instance, indigenous peoples of the Americas had a variety of genders, and recently native folks sometimes refer to being gay/lesbian/trans/queer/etc as being ‘two-spirit.’ I like this term a lot, though it’s not one I use for myself (y’know, I try to avoid cultural appropriation and all), because I feel like it conveys the complexity of a gendered life that colors outside the boxes of male and female, as well as the duality of my own identity. My friend F sometimes explains their gender identity as ‘a scraggly boy holding hands with a disheveled girl.’ I am like this but not like this, there are different characters but the duality is similar.
I think of my gender identity as oppositional, subversive, constantly pushing. I am part of the new guard of western culture, carving out space (and with it, slowly, safety!) for the other. The gender binary does no one any favors, it excludes the lives, bodies, and experiences of so many people. It excludes me and mine, for sure. Sometimes it seems like it would be easier if I would sit down and shut up, pass. Check the M box or the F box. But ultimately I would be perpetuating a whole host of things I don’t believe in, from the gender binary to the notion that trans people are somehow a shame and must pass. I have been and am all of these things: stone butch, nelly fag, femme boi, drag queen, faggot. Think of me as that crossdressing boy in a sequined dress, all limp wrists and sassy swagger, glitter intermingled with stubble. But think too of the Amazon who removed her left breast with a sword blade so as to better fit her body to her bow, a taut rod arched to defiance. Or sweaty bike boy, grease streaked across the cheek and creased under my nails, grinning and pungent after climbing yet another hill. I am all of these things; look at me not through a box but through a prism.
Gender is dynamic and infinite. What is acceptable now will have changed vastly by the time you or I die, hopefully of old age. It seems my generation is set on deconstructing the gender binary a bite at a time, and I am glad to be a part of that. We make ourselves safe by making others safe, too. You can be a man who cries at films, I can be a boi with bound breasts.
On one of our first dates you asked about my relationship with M and said something to the effect of, “I just kept seeing him treat you like a woman.” I tried then (and try still) to imagine what you meant. How does one treat a woman, specifically? The only things I can imagine are the grossest of things, the purchasing of affection by rings and chocolate, or the domineering of ones partner, all things that would never have even occurred to M. M treated me simply as myself, beloved co-conspirator, hotly desired lover, fellow purveyor of absurdity. And he trusted me with my strength, whether that be my fist inside of him as he came or my strength to weather my life’s trials and tribulations (and there were so many at the time). Thus, I can’t imagine any other way for he and I to have met but as individuals.
It seems you know already that reconciling what you’re seeing is up to you. I am writing this in part because these are things I have needed to put words to for quite some time, but also in part because I want to try to make it easier for you to somehow expand your world’s vastness to include mine. If you are having a hard time seeing me, break out the prism and shine a light–not on either/or but AND.

With warm and fond regard,
RD

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