I was just editing the photos from a party I had weekend when I said to my boyfriend “Who are those straight people?” pointing at a couple of folks I didn’t recognize. We both looked at each other and broke out into laughter. See, folks have been saying that about us for a while now… It’s noting new to me, either. Even without a boyfriend in tow I am presumed straight.
What I am reminded of each time is how guilty of projecting my assumptions about other peoples identities onto them! Especially in queer spaces!
Fortunately, I’ve begun to notice it more often and am really trying to check this behavior. When it happens to me, I am often exasperated. Like on the many nights when I’ve been out cruising, sitting alone at a gay bar and some gay boy asks me “Who are you here with honey”? or my favorite “Who is your gay?” As if to suggest that I need to have a sponsering gay to enter the establishment. If I am lucky enough that they actually say “Who is your gay” or “Who are you here with?” I like to respond loudly “I AM MY GAY!” and while personally satisfying this statement is often received with expressions of befuddlement. They smile and laugh looking around… I couldn’t possibly be serious…Right? They see a put together feminine woman and think “Sex In The City” not “Stonebutch Blues”. To the boys town gay men I appear straight… I suppose it’s an easy enough mistake to make if you don’t know the nuances of gender expression in the queer community… I couldn’t possibly be in this gay bar…ALONE. If they continue to gawk at me while they try to figure out what I am really doing there I politely let them know that I am cruising. After all, why would anyone come to a bar to drink alone? This usually gets them to either:
A. Leave me alone
or better yet
B. Come home with me
Swear to God. True story. I like to think that there’s something about my swarmy bravado that brings out the bisexual in those cute little bottom boys…
A gay boy friend of mine and I are always mistaken for a hetro couple, so we’ve made a joke of it when people stop us and say “Wow! You’re such a beautiful couple!” or “My, you’ll have beautiful children one day!”. Our everyday romantic relationships are rarely ever given this kind of validation! In celebration of the absurdity we’ve come up with a little musical number to perform on the spot, for just such occasions… It’s really easy to do and you can learn it too… We perform our little ditty to the tune of “Pretty Woman” and the words are all pretty much the same except you substitute “Pretty Woman” for “Straight Couple” so it goes like this:
Straight couple, walking down the street
Straight couple, the kind I like to meet
I don’t believe you, you’re not the truth
No one could look as good as you
Mercy, walking down the street
Straight couple, the kind I like to meet!
And sometimes on the rare occasion when I go to a dyke bar with my boyfriend, I act as though I own the place, as though I am some rich entitled straight lady who has decided to come on an exotic site seeing tour and claim dyke space as my own… For a few moments, I play this game: my presence is an oppressive hetronormative force marginalizing everyone my hetronormativity comes in contact with! Of course I don’t believe that. The fact is privilege and oppression don’t come like that. Or I am sure it would be nice if it was neat; packed up, tidy and sanitized like packages of ground meat in the supermarket, but it’s much more messy than that. Privilege, as it turns, is all dependent on perception. And it’s the perception of the people in power that really matters….
For example, I can have straight privlige all day when walking around the Santa Monica pier with my boyfriend. For the entire afternoon we get to kiss and hold hands in public and be on the receiving end of kindness from strangers and the occasional look of approval because we’re read as your average run of the mill hetro couple in love… And it’s AWESOME…It feels incredible to have your love validated like that in public spaces… But if on that very same afternoon when we decide to take a road trip to visit our friends in the bay and we get pulled over on the I-5 late at night and boyfriends gender doesn’t match the one on his drivers license, that privilege goes out the window and we’re both in a potentially dangerous situation… See? Privilege, gone in a flash.
A long time ago a guy said to me something to me like “That’s why we trans folks and bisexuals have to stick together.” At the time I was still grappling with internalized biphobia (my favorite topic as of late) and I realized in that moment that one of the reasons I’ve felt so warm and cozy in my queer and trans community bubble is that my identity never has to be “either/or”. In this community my sexuality has permission to be the fluid beautiful and ever evolving thing that it is. No hiding, just me.
Boy, I must think I’m a big fish in a little pond cause the other day I was at a friends fundraiser and there were so many folks I didn’t recognize. One group of guys hung out together, laughing and joking amongst themselves. I thought “Aww, how sweet that all these straight cis boys are such great queer allies! I wonder who they’re related to?” Well, it’s a combination of getting older, getting haughtier (I like to think I know everyone in LA) and me being a damn fool. One of the cisgender straight allies from the party, who is my new facebook friend, and with whom I’d been carrying on quite a flirtatious text message exchange with all day, posted this on his facebook status:
“bisexuals and transgenders, unite!”
I nearly peed myself as I read the follow up comments.
To which he replied
“Because presence of visibly transgendered people potentially subverts the notion of two naturally fixed genders, and the presence of people with ambiguous sexual desires potentially subverts the notion of naturally fixed sexual orientations. Duh”
Wow. I am like , super, lucky to have so many super smart brainy queers all around me… One day I hope I can go to college and learn to speak like that and learn to distill and package my ideas in succinct little mind blowing statements like the one above… Until then I’ll just hang out with the kids I’m pretty sure are smarter than me, try not to make so many assumptions about people I barely know and hope to overhear more nuggets of truth and wisdom.