I started watching Seinfeld recently. It debuted when I was only nine, so I just caught a few episodes here and there. Plus, I think we only had one channel at the time and whatever channel it was on, was not the one. The thing is: this show is so dated. The jokes are mostly sexist or related to men and women and all those old tropes. The jokes are also racist. The jokes are also homophobic. I keep watching because I like pop culture. I mean, I want to know the inside jokes of my generation. I want to get it. But. This show is not nostalgic for me. It just plays like an old show.
On Saturday, I went to the only official gay bar in town. I haven’t done that in many, many years. I arrived too early because I’m not good at going out. And I like to go to sleep at nine. So, it was 8:30, and I was there with 6 queer dudes and a lady bartender. It wasn’t terrible. People started showing up for karaoke, which started at 9:00.
I saw an old student of mine. Somehow in the conversation we discussed musicals and theatre and musical theatre. You see, when I taught him, I was teaching “Introduction to Theatre.” As we were talking about music and things, he said, “You introduced me to Hedwig. It changed me. And, I introduced so many others to it.” Since I was so moved and unable to express my emotions, I just said, “OMG shut up.” He went on to say that because of me, so many queers were exposed to something they otherwise might not have known.
When that movie came out, I was 21. It blew my mind. Except for Rocky Horror and the trans women I saw at the gay bar in Houston (though we did not say trans and we did not openly discuss women like this), this was one of my first exposures to, well, differently gendered people. The musical made a huge impact on me.
Of course, 20 years later, I can see how it can be problematic. Is Hedwig a trans woman or a gay man who gave up “a piece of oneself” in order to escape East Berlin?
The episode of Seinfeld I’m watching right now is called, “The Subway.” One of the sub stories is that Elaine is going to a “lesbian wedding.” Costanza asks at the diner, “so who is the groom or the bride? Do they just flip a coin?” Elaine responds sarcastically, but there is no more dialogue about it. At the moment I started writing this, she was on the subway getting into a conversation with and older woman. Elaine says the present she’s holding is for a wedding. The older woman asks too many questions and Elaine finally says, “there is no man. It’s a lesbian wedding and I’m the best man.” The older woman scoffs and then moves away from Elaine. Elaine calls after her, “Wait! I’m not a lesbian! I hate men, but I’m not a lesbian!”
So, while I’m at the bar talking to my student I ask him if he likes boys. He says he does, but he also likes girls. I say, you know, it just doesn’t matter these days and that’s awesome. I’m positive that me asking this personal question made him feel comfortable to ask me, “are you going by different pronouns now?” I laughed and said no. And pointed to my chest. I had cancer, I tell him, so, I don’t have those anymore. He says I look great. He says I look younger than when I taught him. That was about eight years ago, I figure. I weighed maybe 15 pounds more. I was sadder then, too. I tell him I’m a girl, but that I don’t really care anymore. My gender is not important. I’ve been saying that a lot recently. I had a conversation with a friend the other day about this. He is a boy. I am maybe a girl. We dress the same. We walk and talk the same. I tell him, you know, I don’t know if I’m a girl, but I do know that I’m not a boy. He says the same for him. He doesn’t know, but he knows he’s not a girl.
It doesn’t matter. I mean, it doesn’t matter to people who belong in your life. It does matter to those other people, though. You know who I’m talking about.
I’ve been gender bending for a long time whether I meant to or not. I’ve been kicked out of and stared at long and hard in bathrooms. I had a shaved head 25 pounds ago and wore baggy pants. Now I have short hair, wear “boy” clothes, and don’t have boobs. In fact, the other day, an older man opened the door for me and while I was saying thank you, I saw his eyes move up and down my body. I could see that he was questioning his decision about if he should’ve opened the door or not. I laughed behind my pandemic mask. On another occasion recently, I felt someone coming up behind me. I hear, “excuse me……..” I knew the long pause was meant for my gender. He couldn’t decide on sir or ma’am. It didn’t bother him, though. You can just tell these things. I helped him find his way across campus.
Toward the end of my night out, as a friend and I were heading home, some queer man stopped me to ask my name. I told him, “Christina.” He said he hadn’t seen me there before. I said I don’t really go out much these days. And then I said, “Well, I’m an old Soco gal. I went there a lot around 2002.” He looked at me, paused, and said, “Gal…so you’re not a gal now?” I laughed, “I’m still a gal.” But then this guy looks blatantly at my chest and says, “Sorry. It’s just that you don’t have any boobs.”
When anyone says the word “boob” to me or I say the word in reference to the parts of my body that were, I always sort of swipe my hand into the void of where they were. I said, “I had cancer.” He tripped over some words or some syllables and I saw his friend behind him and the embarrassment on his face that he felt for his friend’s mistake. The behind friend said, “congratulations on your survival” or something equally as awkward. I said goodnight.
And I thought about that interaction on the way home.
Remember my friend who dresses like me? The one who’s anything but a girl? There have been several occasions when he and I are hanging out and servers at restaurants assume we’re together. I mean, really together. I’ve noticed, though, these servers are, like, 21 at the most. I’ve never been so happy to be mistakenly someone’s love interest. Here we are, two very queer looking people. And these young servers aren’t assuming I’m a big ‘ole dyke. Because, you know why? They really don’t care. They have seen all sorts of people with all other sorts of people.
I think back to my 21 year old self. Christina at that age wanted to be seen as a lesbian. She wanted people to recognize she was a woman who was romantically and sexually interested in other women. It felt good. I felt like I was doing my part to be seen and have others be seen.
Christina at 41 is much different. I don’t care if you can’t figure out my gender. Hell, half the time I can’t either. I don’t care if you think I’m sleeping with my much younger dude-ish friend.
I’ve said a few times recently that if I would’ve “known” about non binary people when I was a kid, I probably would identify that way. Or genderqueer. Or anything other than woman that isn’t “man.”
Isn’t it ridiculous to believe there are only men and women and they can only have sex with each other and only one person until they die? It’s utter insanity.
I mean, I’ve asked this before, and no one has really answered, but, what does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a man? I honestly can’t tell you. I just know that I’m probably neither.
I call myself queer now because it’s a reclaimed word and it encompasses everything about me: my sexuality, my gender identity, my androgynous appearance. I am queer just means, I’m not about that 2 gender 1 sexuality type thing that this society seems to be so fond of.
I know I’ve said it a million times, but I wish we didn’t have to talk about this. I wish people could just say their pronouns, people would say, “nice to meet you,” and we’d all just fucking move on with our lives. But. We can’t.
It’s still important that queer people speak up and that we are seen and that we have allies who help us when we’re too tired to do all of this work.
But saying, “I don’t care who you sleep with, as long as you don’t flaunt it” is sort of like saying, “I don’t see color.” It’s important to see and acknowledge black people and their experiences. And on this, Indigenous People’s day, it’s important to see and acknowledge the indigenous people whose ancestors lived here long before most of us. I want to be clear that I’m not equating being queer with being a racial minority; I want only to say that we must still, because of our past, acknowledge the struggles that others endure.
If you’re wondering about the Seinfeld episode, well, Elaine gets stuck on the subway and misses the wedding. She has to, I guess, since the whole episode is about the four friends and their separate, but comical misadventures on the subway. But, the three male characters have fuller story lines in this episode. And it was 1991. I was 11. That’s how old Cyrus is now. I probably didn’t know the word “lesbian.” I would’ve gathered, however, that lesbians are different and bad and something to laugh about. I mean, I learned that eventually. Somehow, though no one ever said it directly to me, I knew. The same way you learned. That we’ve all been taught. Somehow.
Here ends this year’s “coming out” post. Maybe you’re wondering, did Christina come out as non-binary?” What is she saying? Is it still she? What do I call her? I mean they!??
Let me make your anxiety even worse: I don’t know. I don’t care. Who fucking knows. It doesn’t matter. Probably still she.
And, call me whatever you want, just don’t call me late for dinner.
2 thoughts on “Untitled (is literally the title)”
This article, blog, or whatever they call it these days brings out something we’ve been trying to explain to our oldest child for the last year. They (born female) are fairly certain they are gender fluid, which we completely accept. They are learning so much of who they are and who they aren’t, but under lots of pressure to have an “exact” answer or label NOW. We (their dad and I) keep telling Ollie not to worry about the labels, anyone’s judgement (momma bear is happy to explain acceptance), the fact that pronouns do help lots of people, and that their gender and/or sexuality doesn’t make us love them any less. However, something this piece opened my eyes to a pretty big realization. It DOES matter to Ollie. All of those things we say “don’t worry about it”, matter to them! They SO badly and passionately want to fit in and KNOW exactly who they are at 13. I pray that they don’t have to wait until they are 41 to not care, and have the confidence to know that whomever they are is absolutely EXACTLY who they are supposed to be.
I’ve shared this with Ollie and I hope they follow you as my heart believes you would be an amazing inspiration for them (they also want to be a writer), and so many others.
Thanks for helping this old acquaintance gain a new lens, and their kid a new role model.
Becky (Edwards) Smail
Becky, this is the sweetest fucking thing anyone’s ever told me. Labels aren’t important, but they are because they help us queerdos identify others like us. Though I don’t usually wear rainbows these days, when I was younger, I was excited to wear them and see them on others. It told me, “you are safe here.” I imagine that’s something Ollie is searching for, too. And, you’re doing a great job letting them explore all of those nuances. Please tell Ollie to keep writing.