Archive for July, 2013

Don’t Be Distracted By The Shadows

PRIDE is inevitably a strange experience. At least visually speaking, it’s an overload, with so many peacockish people pulling out all their bright colors and occasional regalia, and it really runs the gamut when you begin to think about what you see. There’s definitely a spectrum from “Not much at all” (or nothing, though I didn’t see that directly on the parade route) to “Over the top flamboyant”. And gawking is definitely invited by many in terms of that over the top nature. To add to that, this year had the additional joy of the recent Supreme Court rulings, and I happened to be in the right place in that regard, as they rolled beautifully old cars down the route, with the plaintiffs smiling and and waving and holding hands and being just married. It was a remarkable thing to see in this see of occasionally ostentatious and definitely ebullient celebration of GLBT or LGBT or LGBTQ or whatever alphabet soup the various banners and signs contained. It was equal parts a game of finding the longest acronym as it was finding the least significant city official in a car or float. And I certainly felt that the T (wherever it managed to fall in the acronyms) had stronger representation than I remembered in Minneapolis. But there it was again. Inevitably, something like this is for me, not specifically, but generally, in the sense that I am definitely a part of the T wherever it manages to fall…and yet, why did I feel so out of place?

Don’t get me wrong. I feel out of place all the time. I constantly feel out of place in this city, as I’ve been here long enough now that Minnesota is no longer where I live in my head, but I don’t really feel like I live here either. I wonder about a lot of the other people I see at shows, wherever I catch them, and how I know I’m not the only one who’s gotta get up and go to work the next morning, but sometimes it really feels that way. I wonder as I feel more alone on the ferry taking me back into the city why I feel more alone surrounded by these people than I did at the vistas where I was actually alone. So certainly it’s not a new feeling, or a feeling that only the parade provoked or anything like that. I’m a fairly solitary person if left to my own devices (the perils of being an only child I suppose), so I’m used to the thought process. But here was something that really is designed to not make me feeling alone. And yet I still did.

Perhaps it was that I pulled on a tank top and light sweater to go with a pair of jeans and I was astoundingly under-dressed when it came to the trans population. Not that I’m saying people shouldn’t be dressed to the nines. It’s cool to see a float roll on by that has Miss Trans. It is certainly her right and hell, I love a good excuse to dress up, but standing on the parade route ain’t quite it for me. It just feel like every expression of gender identity seemed to be over the top. At least I didn’t feel like I saw any other trans people in jeans and a t-shirt. Again, it’s a weird thing. I’m not telling people how they should dress. And there were definitely plenty of gays and lesbians who were dressed in plenty of over the top ways as well. But I also felt like you could just see a gay couple in jeans and t-shirts just walking around the route, or even walking down the route. Probably because it was more common to see.

I’ve mulled my thoughts on the subject a lot over the past week, just wondering why it is that the trans women seemed to be very dressed up, the trans men seemed to be mostly nonexistent, and why it bothered me it all what everyone else is doing with their own time. Perhaps I wasn’t being particularly observant, but I doubt that’s the case. I’m sure I’m remembering things incorrectly in retrospect, but I do tend to be okay with the details in a lot of situations. I don’t really have a good answer. I just know that I want to feel different about it in the sense that I feel like there should be a range that includes the “woke up, kinda threw some clothes on, but I knew they’d work together, and went to take it in” to “dressed to the nines”. This isn’t to say that one expression is more normative than the other. It isn’t. Frankly, it’s one of those days where you really can go all out, no matter where you fall on the spectrum of how you identify (then again, San Francisco seems to have more of those days than a lot of other places). And that, on the whole, is something I think is great.

So maybe I just want the next step to be here sooner even though it takes time. It’s still a world where the whole concept of gender identity is difficult to explain and difficult for people to grasp. And for a lot of people, even in a great place like San Francisco, perhaps something like PRIDE is a part of the small set of truly safe spaces to express who they are in. And when you have more minimal opportunities to truly express who you are (or at least how you feel about that), then you take them, and if any time is a time to do it, it’s PRIDE. Because, if you’re like me, even if I’m wearing a dress to work the next day (it is business casual after all), it’s still a day where half the jackasses you encounter are going to call you sir or the person a cube over uses the wrong pronouns. Even if PRIDE wasn’t quite what you wanted it to be, it’s better than a lot of the days around it. But that’s just time. That’s just people getting more accustomed to the whole idea of gender identity. We’re still getting there when it comes to sexual identity, and though it may seem like we have made great strides as a society, there’s still a long way to go even in that regard.

And perhaps, there’s the tiniest part of all, the small part I don’t want to acknowledge, that no matter how I express myself, so many people will not accept it, or have a lot of trouble with it. No matter how dressed up I get, whether it’s at PRIDE or anything else, I still live in a world where a lot of people still seem to think of me as male, especially in regard to how the unconsciously regard me. But I have to acknowledge that. Constantly. Along with the much darker thoughts of how I get judged in between, neither quite male nor quite female, but something other. How, in the process of transitioning, I didn’t quite go from male to female as opposed to male to not quite as male for a lot of people. And that no matter how hard I try, that’s not going to change. There are other terrible feelings that go along with going to PRIDE too, don’t get me wrong. The brief flashes of annoyance that I feel that I will never look quite that good when I see some people, no matter what I do, as if that’d solve “something”, though who knows what something is. The terrible jealousy at seeing not just so many people in one place, but so many people together when I feel quite alone. There are, of course, more, those honest things that flit about my head. I never claimed to be anything more than the flawed person I am, after all.

So perhaps my trouble is just that. Or perhaps it’s that in the attempt to cover as much as possible sometimes some things fall through the cracks and I feel like that something at PRIDE. Perhaps it’s just that I think too much. But really, I feel it’s that at this one moment where I really wish I could let those thoughts go and just think about grander things like the hope and idealism I’m surrounded by, kids waving rainbow flags and families making a day of it to come down and support something like PRIDE, with so many unique expressions by so many people, and a bunch of really great people to spend the day with, it’s still those dark thoughts in the corners. I shouldn’t be distracted so much by the shadows. It is just the way I am. Much like everyone else. It’s great to celebrate; but I do need to engage those darker thoughts sometimes, about myself, about others. I will never understand where they come from; like a lot of other things, sometimes I wish they weren’t my problem. But that’s missing the whole point of something like PRIDE. It’s not about understanding; it’s about accepting. Accepting all the other wonderful people there, with their sometimes dark thoughts too. And about accepting myself for who I am.

I am not a paragon anymore than anyone else there was. Or if I am, that’s somebody else’s construct. And if I happen to become one because of some of the things I do at some point in my life, I assure you it was never the goal. I’m just trying to live honestly and be who I am, and be accepted for that, and be willing to be called out when I should be, and be willing to call myself out when I should. Perhaps, much like I’ve been thinking a lot, PRIDE doesn’t feel like something for me because I am not doing enough. There’s nothing I can do about that feeling in the past. There’s a lot I can do about that feeling in the present, and hopefully the future. And who knows, perhaps in 10 or 20 years, I will see a few more trans people along the route or on the route and I won’t feel like the under-dressed one. Hopefully because I won’t be thinking about how anyone’s dressed.

 
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