Back To School
A trio of lovely ladies spoke with me at the meet-up at the State Fair the other day. The meet-up was informal, the 5th Annual Gay Day was unofficial, the people were real. As always. Quite seriously, they talked to me about how they thought that other T-girls might be afraid to come out in public to a large event such as the Fair. No doubt, they would be greatly outnumbered. But, Susanna, Brenda, and Tracy eagerly disagreed with that conclusion–there was nothing to fear coming all dressed up to the Fair. They do it all the time, dressed as any women would dress who are going to the Great Minnesota Get Together (better than most, in my opinion).
I opined with them over how I wondered if it is really safe and, if it is, do we just not know it, yet. Are we waiting for an all-clear signal? Proof? Perhaps. Or, is it generational?
My theory is that it is generational.
“It” being defined as being able to express whatever gender identity someone chooses to express. Of course, “choose” could be a problematic term, too, as choice may not be part of the equation.
I told them about the incredible young people I met while putting together this issue: the campers at the GLBT church camp “The Naming Project” and the older students involved in our fashion photo shoot later in these pages. With grace and humor, the campers were your usual squirrelly high-schoolers…but with a more evolved sense of self than most high-schoolers I’d encountered. They had language with which they could define themselves, if they wanted to, or they could decide to leave themselves undefined. But, somewhere along the way, they’d been given the gift of that language. We didn’t have it yet in college back in 1995, I know that. When they were given it, I don’t yet know. In one of the multiple poignant interviews that I taped (that can be seen online), one of the students introduced himself: “My name is Caleb…I am a heterosexual transgender male and I am also a Christian. Um…I guess the big thing I’d want to say would be that just because I haven’t had the surgery does not mean that I’m not a man and I am not a human being.”
He broke my heart. There might be language, but there is still a hard reality despite the beauty of the language.
We held the photo shoot for the fashion portion of this issue at Macalester College, my alma mater and one of the gayest/gay-friendly colleges in the United States. When I sent out my requests for student models, I specifically asked each for an “Identified Gender” and wanted them to fill in the answers themselves rather than give them options from which to choose. Not surprisingly, one of them returned the questionnaire with “genderqueer.” As I recounted this experience to the ladies at the Fair, I told Susanna, Brenda, and Tracy that it all seemed so normal to the students.
Normal. How do we define normal? Perhaps the definition I’m looking for is one that’s claimed by the people—rather than assigned to the people. In their state of being normal, there seemed to be an ease to them. When one of the students replied that she dresses in men’s clothing, I asked, “Would you like to get outfitted for a swank suit at Heimie’s?” She enthusiastically replied that she would. She didn’t skip a beat. I don’t know how Nichole felt when going to the Haberdashery and getting sized for her clothes, but she donned them for the photo shoot and everything appeared to be done with ease.
Maybe she wouldn’t have batted a mascara-less eyelash at joining us at the State Fair, either. Plenty of the students would’ve been there with Susanna, Brenda, and Tracy—and the other fine folks in their Gay Day glory—in a heartbeat in all their genderqueer ease. Their apparent fearlessness. Their comfort. Their normalcy.
It would have been wonderful for them to meet their predecessors—all of the folks at the Fair who were wearing red for Gay Day. The people who, largely, enabled the community to have a shift in language simply by existing…or fighting…or demonstrating on college campuses like Macalester.
And, I think that Susanna, Brenda, and Tracy would’ve been so proud of them and their fearlessness. Just like I am.