Saturday, May 19, 2007

My real primary identity just might be....


stub·born (stŭb'ərn) adj., -er, -est.
Unreasonably, often perversely unyielding; bullheaded.
Firmly resolved or determined; resolute.

Characterized by perseverance; persistent.
Difficult to treat or deal with; resistant to treatment or effort: stubborn soil; stubborn stains.
[Middle English stuborn.]

I was rereading Hanne Blanks' 'Tits of Clay: Genderphilia and Changing the World, One Lipstick at a time' the keynote speach for the Femme 2006 conference, and again struck powerfully by the inherent stubborness in femme performance. Of course... in a culture that denigrates the feminine, considers women to be second class citizens and considers frippery and frou frou to be the ultimate in vain, insignificant, superficial stupidity (whereas beer and football are the vitally important aspects of life) femme is going to get a lot of opposition and not much support. Even femmes ourselves aren't immune from internalising these ideas and acting out self-oppression in a variety of ways...

When I am on the receiving end of anti-femme stuff: watch me wear higher and higher heels, watch me pout and hair flick, watch my dresses get lower and lower cut.... to a point where I may as well run around topless in a pony costume on stilts.... And watch me do this with my head held high, an articulate critique on enforced gender systems and knowing that a world that is safer for me will be a world safer for so many more than me.

In much the same way, I get stubborn when other aspects of my identity that are dear to me are denigrated. If people are reacting negatively about sex work, I get outer and outer about it. Talking more about the 'ins and outs' (if you'll pardon the pun) than just the industrial rights issues and other sex worker rights stuff. People who are weird about sex work (and let's face it... that would be most people, on some level) are forced to either have whoring normalised for them via the absorbtion method, or get so freaked out that they go away. Either way, I create safe space around myself.

All the same it gets really, really fucking tedious to have to be wearing my community educators hat all the time... I don't always want to do sex work 101 (or demystifying femme plus queer theory stuff) for two hours everytime I meet someone new at a dinner party. I'm not always going to correct a taxi driver when they assume I'm straight, or tell them the truth about what I do for a living when they pick me up from my house. For a long time I was considering producing a pamphlet covering frequently asked questions - maybe I'll just hand out my blog URL...

I wonder sometimes if I expect too much - that people will see beyond the outness, and know that even though I shout loudly about these issues (and I might feel the need to stop shouting quite so loudly about the same time as the world becomes less whorephobic, sexist and genderphobic) there are many aspects about me that are more subtle, less loud but still there - I am not a stereotype, or a cardboard cut out. I can't walk in flats, but I'm physically stronger and more athletic than most people I know, and I have never played dumb in my life...... I guess only those that pay attention are going to see all of my flavours, or know that just because I care passionately about femme visiblity and sex worker rights, I, like all people, am a million and one things that aren't easy to define, sum up, reduce or package.