Gender Field Notes #1

Posted: January 15, 2009 in Uncategorized

Sometimes I think of my gender pilgrimage as a gender ethnography.I see and hear so much from my enculturation within the queer/trans/dyke communities. People on the outside do not know it exists. People on the inside have lost their fresh eyes. I try to communicate to you my readers what I see, but a lot of nuggets get lost because I try to write longer piece, so I am trying an experiment today. I am going to just string together anecdotes and thoughts.

1) I have been wearing one dangly yellow or turquoise earring in my left ear, along with the small hoops in both ears. It is commented upon approvingly by straightish boys and girls. I think it represents a hip gender fluidity. Four or five queer girls have asked in a concerned tone if I lost the other one. That one confuses me. Maybe they read me as trans but can’t figure out the male symbol of one earring.

2) I was out in genderqueer mode. The outfit was tame, but I had one big ass yellow earring in. I did not think it was too crazy, but I went into my favorite taqueria Pancho Villa and a lot of the latino customers really gave me anxious looks. It is hard to describe the situation. It is like an eddy of unease passes from person to person. In a neo-hippie frame I would talk about a negative energy. In fact it almost seems like an electric spark that passes from person to person. Another metaphor that feels right is magnetism. It is like magnets with different polarities that push each other away. Everywhere I would walk people seem to be pushed away. They make more room.

3) In Pancho Villa four children around five or six years old were staring at me with their mouths open and poking and whispering at one another. I looked back at them and their eyes widened. Then one girl stuck up her hand and waved hello. I always think the kids are cute, often when the adults just ignore my outfits a little boy or girl will stare and tug on a parent’s clothing to ask them what is going on. I imagine them thinking why is that boy wearing tights? The parents act embarrassed and shush them.

4) After Pancho Villa I took the BART (the local subway) to Oakland. I had never been on the BART in one of my outfits. I am used to the middle class San Franciscans ignoring or accepting me. This BART train was mostly working class and predominantly latino and african-american. The crowd acted nervous just like at Pancho Via. Another metaphor: it is like a herd of horses where one gets spooked and suddenly everyone is spooked. I got a seat to myself. Every stop one or two people would see the empty seat next to me, walk up, suddenly notice me, spook, and walk away. It was unnerving to be so scary.
This experience reminded me of similar experiences on Tokyo subways. There I was the racfial other rather than the trans other. In Tokyo I would sit down on the subway and often the Japanese people would get up and move a few seats away. The cases are similar in that I spooked people. It was not hate, it was anxiety and phobia.

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