i am a queer person

February 1, 2013

The other night when I was riding the tram down to the waterfront, it was packed with people going home at the close of the work day, and I ended up crammed in next to a couple guys who had been intently talking to each other ever since we’d all been standing together in a long, loose line waiting for the tram cabin to arrive at the upper. I noticed these guys in line, because like me, they were decked out in bike gear, i.e. rain jackets, helmets and carrying panniers, and as I passed by them, one guy was talking about a video he was editing for the Diversity office and the “official” use of the word “diversity” almost always jumps out at me. Diversity offices are complicated because institutionalizing Diversity enforces the idea of otherness, as in there are mainstream folks who are white, and are assumed to be straight, and their gender identity is assumed to fit within the binary, and they not too old and not too blah, blah, blah and everyone else who is not white or not straight or older than 65 or uses a hearing aid, etc is considered to “diverse.” (But I am digressing and I want to note how painful it is to be compelled to make that digression because we have been talking about the same digressable shit my whole life.) Anyway, I also noticed these guys because they were both so caught up in talking to each other and/or so oblivious to what was going on around them, that they did not move from where they were standing in front of the double doors that patients were trying to enter the hospital through. People with kids in strollers and other folks who were not moving so well were trying to maneuver around these guys as they just stood there chatting and blocking the entrance. I thought about saying something to them about moving, but I stopped myself because I I was afraid of being seen as an asshole.

The two guys seemed equally oblivious on the tram, taking up a little more space with their wide stances and maintaining a couple feet of distance between each other, while everyone else around them was standing shoulder to shoulder, like sardines in a can hanging 300 feet up in the air. I tried not to listen to them talk about their schedules and work etc, but at some point one of the guys said something like “when I do have free time, I just do a lot of gay stuff.” In my head, I thought, oh fuck, I have to stand here and listen to these assholes malign the word “gay?” And as I was trying to work through in my mind what I was going to say them and when exactly I was going to say it, I noticed that it seemed like they were kind of sarcastically joking around about actual gay stuff the one guy did, like a gay hiking group or a gay running group. Which made me think at least the one guy was gay, and that potentially both of them were gay, and they were just shooting the shit. I thought about following the one guy off the tram, the guy who said he did gay stuff, and asking him if he was gay, but that felt weird and maybe confrontational in a not helpful way and I didn’t know what I would say if he said yes. But something bugged me about it either way and I don’t know what it was.

I think, in part, I am still kicking myself for how last year on the tram, I overheard students, (i,e. young people in scrubs discussing classes) talking about something being “gay,” as in that lab was so gay, as in that lab was such bullshit, and how I didn’t say anything to them about how offensive it was to use “gay” the way they were using it. I think anytime I am in a public space that is not queer, and I hear “gay” being used as adjective, as in hearing someone on the tram say “gay stuff,”  my ears perk up. Because usually “gay” means something derogatory. I once worked with a guy, who knew I was queer, and who was bitching to me about some glitch with our IT department by complaining that it “so fucking gay.” I had to say to actually say to him, “you can’t say that and you definitely can’t say that to me.”

Anyway, all this got me thinking about what the world would be like if all of us queers and gays and lesbians, etc, wore some kind of signifier of our queerness. And not some secret signifier, like a pink triangle or the color lavender or a labrys. But something like a badge that says “queer” so  that every where we went, at the gym, at the grocery store, at work, etc. everyone around us would know they were sharing space with a queer person. What kind of difference would this make? Because it’s not a post queer world. So I am going to make some queer button/pins and I want to experiment.

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