On Wednesday night, I did the Nobody Passes reading at Bluestockings, the radical/feminist LES bookstore. As the room was filling up I leaned over to Betty and said, “I feel like I’m in a Williamsburg subway station” because of the multiple piercedness in the room. It’s the punk in me, maybe; I have an old punk rocker friend who likes to yell “freak!” at people with multiple piercings and green hair, because he figured – as it was when we were doing it – that was the point. I mean if you weren’t shocking someone’s suburban sense of normality with your non-conformity, then you weren’t doing it right, but in Williamsburg sometimes it’s like having facial piercings IS normality.
& I say all that with a kind of fondness, love, and a little bit of envy, because I don’t have the energy to look like that anymore. I prefer passing as more mainstream these days, because I like the little shock people express when I launch into a diatribe about the exclusion of crossdressers from trans politics 12 minutes later.
The idea we were discussing was passing – as one thing or another: passing as white, or black, when you have parents who are both; passing as female when you aren’t; passing as female when you are. It was very heady, indeed.
But what was most interesting to me was that to some people, I wasn’t passing at all. One person registered something like scorn every time I answered one of the Q&A questions. The conversation tended around issues of queer community, and LGBT politics & media, which I guess was predictable – Mattilda is the editor of the anthology & all – but still, the book does cover many types of passing – passing as middle class when you’re working class, or the other way around – & yet there were no questions – or assumptions – about class while there was an assumption that everyone in the room was LGBT. & I had a moment – I think of it now as social Tourette’s, but it’s basically just my punk rock spirit moving in mysterious ways – of wanting to say the word “heterosexual” as many times as I could. Why? Because when I did, people twitched. It’s a funny feeling to talk about community and “scenes” and queerness in a group of people who you can bet don’t all consider you part of their “us.” I’m used to that, mostly, except when I find someone copping an attitude toward me, that I’m not properly queer because I don’t fuck girls per se, or for whatever reason they’re not telling me. & That’s okay with me, actually — Betty & I exist at the intersection of most identities and often feel excluded from one community or another — except when it highlights the irony of being branded “not queer enough” in a room of people talking about inclusion.
On Thursday afternoon, as a kind of counterpoint, I did an interview with a journalist from an online magazine, and at some point, she stopped, a little flabbergasted after I was talking about sex with Betty, and said, “You are so queer – I mean, you’re talking about sex between bodies that are heterosexual and you can’t see it that way at all, can you?”
& I thought, Well no, I can’t, but if you ask a couple of people who were at Bluestockings Wednesday night, they might tell you otherwise. & That, folks, is the nature of passing: sometimes you do, with some people, & sometimes you don’t, with other people, & we’ve gotten to the point where we never know which it’s going to be.
My thanks to the journalist for her compliment, and also to Mattilda for hosting and Liz Rosenfeld for reading and especially to Rocko Bulldagger for hir essay (which is largely about feeling ‘not genderqueer enough’) and conversation, and to Kate and Barbara and all the other lovely souls in attendance.