Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Well, another SF Pride has come and gone, and none too soon. Looking at that sentence I just wrote, I have to admit that sometimes I don’t know whether I am a bubbly misanthrope or a crowd-phobic spinster. I suspect that the two are actually the same girl. It’s not that I object to LGBT people having pride; I am not one of those righteous people who want to shit on political progress by advocating “Gay Shame.” Still, I’ve always been the girl who could never stand carnivals, fairs, or amusement parks, so any event that offers grilled meats on sticks and brightly colored free crap, I’ve always given a polite No Thank You to.

But this year, Pride felt different, a little worse than usual. I’d been having a shitty week emotionally, so I decided to forgo Dyke March, which is the one Pride event that I always brave through my agoraphobia/ demophobia. I’d whittled down my Pride celebrating to just one sleek minimalist bauble: volunteering as donations-collector on Pink Saturday. My dear friends Tara and Angie asked me to volunteer to raise money for Skate Like a Girl, or SLAG, a great non-profit organization that gives structure and support for female skateboarders. No brainer: I agreed, and signed my little sister up for good lesbian cross-identification measure.

The actual physicality of almost three hours spent standing with a bucket-necklace, gently accosting people for a few dollars was not so bad. Neither was the lobster-red-scorching I got as the UV rays penetrated through my flimsy SPF 30 Lancome moisturizer. But I went home feeling a little down.

First, it was a bit depressing how reluctant people are about donating money. Some fags actually gave shady attitude as a donation. “The economy” becomes a convenient excuse for any stinginess now, and it was out in full force Saturday afternoon. People shamelessly and brazenly telling me, “I have no money” while wearing $300 shades and downing Starbucks iced teas. Funny how people cannot donate five dollars to a non-profit but can turn around spend twenty on a stuffed dog made of rainbow fabric.

But more viscerally hurtful was the realization that the identity that we were all celebrating—“GAY”—had no personal meaning for me anymore. The Saturday of hanging out with the gals was great, but it had totally the opposite effect of what an event like Pride is supposed to have: I felt completely alienated from any group identification. Standing out there sloughing through the Pride crowd emphasized to me this sense of slipping through LGBT cracks.

Knowing I’d be participating, however peripherally, in a mainstream gay event, I prepared carefully my gender performativity Saturday morning. I contemplated wearing black lipstick, but nixed it: too costume-y, too adherent to the already carnivale-esque ethos of the event. A Meatmen tee shirt? Too much of a middle finger to homo-politics. Five-inch platform Chloé combat boots? Naw, I do have to stand for three hours. So I ended up assembled as you see in the above pic: old Chuck Taylor sneaks, old-man black wool socks, sawed-off Dickies workpants, Chloé aviator sunglasses, and the gay pièce-de-resistance: vintage Madonna tee shirt from 1992, with a full-body silkscreen of a Steven Meisel photo from the Erotica album art sessions.

While I got complemented multiple times for the tee shirt, its flagrant gayness only emphasized the emotional slippage I felt from gayness. I have become this illegible text. I look like a girl from a few miles away, but you can’t miss the gigantic knot of bone on my throat when you get up close—and certainly not the bass voice that comes out of it. But then, I make no efforts to pass as a girl. My femininity is an instinct and a psyche-preserving bodily function, not an attention-getting mechanism. I am not offended when mistaken for a girl, nor am I offended when the guy selling me smokes calls me “sir.” But Saturday, gatekeeping the Pride festival, I got to be juxtaposed and be read by a multitude of sexually-identified beings, and I felt no kinship to any of them. I was a long-haired fag wearing a vintage Madonna shirt, but really, I felt like this:

...a tranny whose big boobs are only in her photoshop dreams. After being an out proud gay man for nearly 15 years, the phrase “gay man” had become a foreign language to me. To use “gay man” to describe my body and psyche feels totally wrong. But this leaves me bodyless. I don’t feel like a gay man, but I am a homosexual genetic male; I feel like a femme dyke but I am not a lesbian (no sexual desire for women); I feel a close kinship to transsexuals but I feel pretty happy with the (male) body that I have.

I think I am read as “failed tranny” because my femininity owes more to Courtney Love than Madonna: it is messy, unpolished, comfy. It is more folk song circle than disco lights. And then, my body does not project the phallic radiation that the penis forces upon males, hetero or homo. In her poem, “Outside the Operating Room of the Sex-Change Doctor,” Sharon Olds describes seven penises:

The anaesthetic is wearing off now. The chopped-off sexes lie on the silver tray./ One says I am a weapon thrown down. Let there be no more killing./ Another says I am a thumb lost in the threshing machine. Bright straw fills the air. I will never have to work again. / The third says I am a caul removed from his eyes. Now he can see. / The fourth says I want to be painted by Géricault, a still life with a bust of Apollo, a drape of purple velvet, and a vine of ivy leaves. / The fifth says I was a dirty little dog, I knew he’d have me put to sleep. / The sixth says I am safe. Now no one can hurt me. / Only one is unhappy. He lies there weeping in terrible grief, crying out Father, Father!

To break down the meaning of Olds’ penises:

1. Weapon

2. Tool

3. Blinders

4. Classic homoeroticism

5. Horny animal

6. Self-preservation

7. Son to Daddy

My body doesn't exude any of these seven qualities (except #6, sometimes). Moreover, the seven uses of the penis that an MTF tranny has no use for and thus feels compelled to extricate through surgery, I already feel—with my penis intact. My refusal of these seven uses is the aura that I already use to navigate this world. I am a tranny whose brain is my vagina, but to the outside world, a brain-vagina is not a neo-vagina; thus I am a failed tranny. Another crack through which I fall.

Fall and wander. I’m the kind of tranny who is happy with my cock and flat chest but in my brain, I have a deep vulva...and the monumental boobs of Mariah Carey. I borrowed the chest of my supreme goddess for the photoshop fantasy I created above, but in a moment of ecstatic cultural kismet, it seems that Mariah herself is kind of fascinated by trannies herself. The cover image of her upcoming album is a tranny’s dream celebration of inflatable bra-fillers, and her new video will feature her as a drag king:

In my gender-loneliness, it’s comforting to have Mariah give tranny discourse. But I can’t live on fan-favorite fantasies forever. Will I ever find my own Pride group to parade with? More importantly, will I ever find a husband? I have an inkling suspicion that my destiny is to search for a bisexual man who likes flat-chested trannies. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!! How do you profile that one on match.com???


Newduck said...

This complication is so beautifully written, I suspect the more you show us, the more likely it is that a "community" will come home to you. Nevertheless, you made good of a not-so-great day by sharing it. Thanks. wsw

joony schecter said...

thanks for the kindness and encouragement...i really needed it after last week!

amy h said...

Joon, you are so honest, so unafraid of complexity -- which is not easy -- and such a lovely writer. Can't wait to have you back on the east coast. Also, my word verification for this post was "prickinc." xo

joony schecter said...

hi amy! thanks and i can't wait to get back either..."prickic!" xoxo

Audi said...

What an amazing commentary you've written here. Just yesterday I was musing about how much it bothers me when gay men are referred to as "effeminate." As if not exhibiting stereotyipcal male traits leaves only one other option, femininity. Why must it be one or the other?

I think it's wonderful that you exist simultaneously in several different worlds; sure, you may have difficulties identifying with one particular group, but on the other hand you defy the narrow definitions that society imposes.

Beautiful, well-written post.