Monday, March 31, 2008

Safe Queer Spaces

Victoria is a town with a few too few queer spaces. In fact, it is a town with one gay bar, that gets away with too much because it is the only one. Without competition management doesn't need to hold agreements with performers as sacred, because they don't really have an option to go somewhere else. The lack of variety also has a double edged knife effect on the crowd, especially on weekends. It is THE leather bar, THE dyke bar, THE twink bar, THE bear den, THE queer space with a liquor license and a dance floor. Sometimes the mixing of everyone all together feels like a big happy rainbow splattered gay family, and other times it makes me want to throw up on people for being so disrespectful and ignorant.
Friday night was the UVIC Women's Studies pub crawl, so the crowd in the bar by the end of the night was pretty feminist heavy, usually a good thing to have a bar full of people who have some sort of understanding of privilege of safety, but one can't judge the whole bar by a core sample. Somehow, for whatever reason I am not entirely sure, but every week there seem to be a few straight couples that find their way into the bar. I appreciate and acknowledge that sexual orientation is not always as it seems, and sometimes the most het looking couples are really as queer as fuck, but then you get the ignorant ones. The man and woman couple who have never had to question or notice their straight cisgendered privilege. The straight couple that somehow end up in the mens bathroom at the gay bar at closing time.

I stand over the toilet, emptying my whisky filled bladder, I hear a woman enter, with her boyfriend.
"Cock lovers, I need to piss, oh fuckin cock lovers I need the can... "
I can only guess she is in here as to not be more than 5 ft from her boytoy therefore preventing her becoming potential lesbian bait.
My stream becomes a dribble and I pull my pants up and walk out of the stall, the urinals to my left.
"Yeah, I can piss in the urinal just look at my huge cock, don't you just love it?"
I avoid eye contact with the girl. Make my way over to the sink to wash my hands. She turns and follows me, approaches me, "You have to excuse me, I'm not judgemental, I don't want to judge you, but I saw you out there dancing, I think you are beautiful, I just want to know something."
"Oh ya?"
"Are you a man or a woman? Cause I saw your big hoop earrings and your breasts and I assumed, but then you come out of the stall in the men's room where you were obviously just standing and pissing into the toilet and your voice, and your moustache and well. I am not judgemental, I just want to know."
"Oh ya, so you want to know which pronoun you should be using when you want to gossip about me later? A much more respectful way to ask that would be privately, asking if I had a perferred pronoun, but thats not something I would usually give up in a first conversation with someone, especially if that was the entire context of conversation."
"I am not trying to be disrespectful, I just want to know."
"Well maybe my gender isn't public knowledge. Also- So you know, it would probs be better to just avoid the use of pronouns or gendering if you are wanting to shit talk someone that you couldn't peg their gender. It's not appropriate to ask, it's none of your business, so when you are wanting to gossip about me later you could just refer to me as the person at the bar with a completely confusing and indeterminate gender. That'd be just fine for me."
"But honey, I think you are beautiful, I just well... want to know if you are a man or woman."
"Ok honey, maybe you didn't get that I am not going to tell you, and as a very important lesson- NEVER EVER question someones gender in a mens bathroom."
"But, i'm out of place too, I am a woman in the mens room."
"True, and you will walk out of here and still be a woman who was in the mens room."
"I walk out and I am that freak, the one that is going to get their ass kicked, or just not given the same opportunity to get fucked cause some bitch in the bathroom felt that it was her job to attract attention to my confusing gender in the mens room. Maybe you don't understand the safety concern here, people die over this shit."
Boyfriend comes out of the stall, "If it's MtF just call it a trans."
"It is not an appropriate neutral pronoun, and you are wrong about me."

I turn and exit. Leaving the hets in the mens room left to puzzle over my gender I grab my coats. On the way out I follow them up the stairs and hear her say,
"God, why do some people get soooo defensive?"

On that note I'd like to get some business cards printed with my web address for such situations, so I can just say,
"This space has certain guidelines of respect, you crossed the line, and if you don't understand what I am saying, or what it means to be respectful i'd ask you to please stop asking me what my gender is, and instead read up about why I might not want to tell you."
Anyone have printing hookups?

1 comment:

A.K. said...

The first paragraph of this could be used for Prism last night (the kingdom of drag show night). Disrespect, ignorance, unsafe queer space, getting away with too much.