“Sir” for the Holidays

There is nothing unique about what I’m about to say. I am not the first queer person to have an awkward relationship with her heterosexual parents. I am not the first masculine-of-center female person to be misgendered by strangers. And I am certainly not the first human person to dread going home for the holidays. I’ve heard stories much like the ones I’m sharing here time and time again, from community members near and far, in all the soul-bearing corners of the internet or painfully hip coffee shops or shabby Women’s Center living rooms where such conversations are born.

These stories are always delivered in that half-confessional, half-exaggerated eye roll sort of tone that serves well to turn painful things into good jokes. We queers are masters of that particular brand of humor. “My great aunt is going to ask me if I have a boyfriend yet. It’s a holiday tradition.” “I wish I could wear my new tie to Christmas dinner, but my mother would declare World War Three.” “The priest looks at me funny during Midnight Mass. Maybe I’ll give him a wink this year.” “Thank Gay Jesus for spiked eggnog.”

The mystery of the whole season is why we – or at least, I – keep going home for the holidays, despite the fact that “home” is now less “place where I grew up” and more “interrogation room decorated with tinsel.” Part of the reason is that, despite being a devout atheist, I love (secular) Christmas and will probably one day turn into a butch version of Clark Griswold, risking life and limb to staple 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights to my roof. I also love Thanksgiving because, I mean, food is my favorite.

The other part is that very famous and inaccurate “definition of insanity” – that is, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Maybe this year, there won’t be any fighting about my haircut. Maybe this year, my mother won’t start crying about never having grandkids. Maybe this year, I can finally wear that awesome tie. Somewhere deep in my brain, there is an unfinished Norman Rockwell painting of familial holiday bliss and I am, apparently, determined to get it framed.

Thankfully, I have over the years perfected my method for handling seasonal strife at my parents’ house (the key is to distract my mother right off the bat by asking about the latest drama in her workplace, thus ensuring that the conversation will have nothing to do with me for the remainder of that day; repeat for as many consecutive days as necessary). The real challenges are those in-public moments of awkwardness and, well, “Sir”-ing.

I’ve gotten so used to being mistakenly called Sir, Mr., Brother, Man, or any other testosterone-based honorific that I am actually more surprised when strangers get my gender right. Not that I enjoy being called “Ma’am” (which makes me feel like a spinster), or “Miss” (which makes me feel like school girl), but hey, at least those people are paying attention and are not completely unable to process the notion that one can be simultaneously masculine and female without rupturing the time-space continuum.

While my daily misgenderings are par for the course for me, they are a source of supreme humiliation for my mother. I’ll never forget one particularly torturous dinner out when the waiter, an older mustachioed man, referred to me as “Sir” for the duration of the two hour meal. This awkwardness was compounded by his compulsion to end every single sentence with either “Sir” or “Ma’am.” A solitary “Sir” could perhaps go unnoticed, but after the 20th one, neither my mother nor I could pretend we didn’t hear. My father, who is half-deaf, was blissfully unaware of this entire situation and enjoyed his meal while my mother’s face tried on every possible hue of red and I seriously considered escaping through the kitchen.

A few years ago, my parents decided that cooking a big meal was too much work for just the three of us, so we began having Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant. There are a few advantages to that plan for me. One: blowout arguments are discouraged in public settings. Two: No clean up. And three: While my parents have a dry house, the restaurant has a full bar. (Hello, pumpkin martini.) There is one big disadvantage: See above horror story. And so for me, Thanksgiving quickly replaced Christmas as Most Stressful Holiday Involving Family.

I started this past Thanksgiving dinner with a panic attack appetizer after discovering the restaurant’s tradition of giving each female diner a rose after dinner. Besides being sexist, antiquated, and just plain weird, this policy put me on edge because I knew that the peace (or lack thereof) of our drive home would be determined by whether or not I got one – that is, whether or not my mother was publicly embarrassed by her giant butch dyke offspring. Thus, I sat there sweating and wondering desperately if I would receive a rose that evening, like the weirdest Bachelor episode ever.

I was calmed somewhat by our waitress, who in her infinite grace and wisdom did not use a single honorific during the meal. She was also quite cute and thought I was funny (or at least, was paid handsomely enough to pretend to think I was funny). Nothing soothes frazzled nerves quite like a pretty girl laughing at your jokes.

The meal went by smoothly and gluttonously enough, and soon it was time to face the flowers. I had cobbled together a plan between bites of pie, but I would have to time it just right. While my parents were putting on their coats and the hostess, giver of roses, had her back turned, I slipped past them all and triumphantly held the door open.

Success! I had foiled the hostess’ insidious, gender-normative plans while simultaneously appearing to be well-mannered. My mother was none the wiser, as she had also missed the opportunity to be flowered, despite her extremely obvious womanhood, and my father was just happy that the biggest debate on the way home involved what to do with the leftovers. And so there was peace on that Thanksgiving evening. A temporary peace, as Christmas dinner looms larger on the calendar, but peace nonetheless.

Let’s all just take it one holiday at a time.

Pride: Come So Far, Got So Far To Go

Yes, I used a Hairspray quote for the title. I mean, that seems fitting for a Pride post, right? Doesn’t get much gayer than John Waters + musicals. Hark, my queer comrades, for it’s time once again for Gay Christmas, otherwise known as Pride! Over here in the City on a Hill, this upcoming weekend will be stuffed to bursting with parades, festivals, block parties, club nights, and sexxxy LGBTQ folk as far as the glitter-mascaraed eye can see. In fact, some of us may have already started the debauchery a wee bit early and may on this Tuesday at work be seriously regretting those two Mai Tais last night. Perhaps you should save the Spirits of Stonewall for the weekend, friends. Do as I say, not as I do.

As I have helpfully illustrated with my poor decision-making abilities, Pride is a time for celebration. Every June, the queer community comes together to celebrate many things: our perseverance, our beauty, our diversity, our love, and our victories over the powers that hate. In the US of A, we have many victories to celebrate this year, from the death of the repugnant Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to Obama officially announcing that he’s down with the gayest of marriages. Over here in Massachusetts, the (great, but far from perfect) Transgender Rights Bill was finally signed into law. This is all fantastic and awesome and a very legitimate excuse for throwing back a rainbow Jell-O shot or eight.

That said, there were a couple news stories that popped up this week that bring to mind the sage words of Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman: “There’s a dream/In the future/There’s a struggle/That we have yet to win.” Now, the last thing I want to do is Debbie Downer all over anyone’s parade, but I think it’s important to be aware of how much messed-up stuff is still happening to our community. I’m sure many of you have been following the CeCe McDonald case closely, and like I, were saddened to learn that she has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison for the stabbing of Dean Schmitz – a stabbing which many have argued was in self-defense. Schmitz and his friends reportedly shouted racist, homophobic, and transphobic threats at McDonald at her friends that night. McDonald is a young trans woman of color (don’t even get me started on the number of rags that have gleefully made her gender identity into all-caps, screaming front page sensationalist bullshit) – a part of the queer community that is victimized by a horrifyingly disproportionate level of violence. According to a new report on LGBTQ hate crimes – and the second sobering story I read this week – hate crimes against queer people are at a 14-year high. The report reads:

This year’s report shows that LGBTQH youth and young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old were 2.41 times as likely to experience physical violence compared to LGBTQH people age 30 and older.

As in the case of the murder statistics, transgender people and people of color were more likely to experience physical injury in a hate violence incident. The report found that transgender people were 28% as likely to experience physical violence compared to non-transgender people, and that LGBTQ people of color were two times as likely to experience physical violence compared to those who were not LGBTQ people of color.

Is this rise in violence towards queer people a direct result of all those victories we’ve been celebrating? Are violent bigots made even more violent when they realize that they’re losing? Maybe. Probably. Does it matter? Ask the family and friends of Brandy Martell, one of so many trans women of color – usually the young, usually the disenfranchised – murdered this year (although her family insisted on burying her under her “given” name, thereby adding to the tragedy of it all). When I attended the Trans Day of Remembrance last November, nearly every name read from the list of victims was a trans woman of color. That isn’t a statistic; that is an epidemic.

In the story I read about McDonald’s sentencing, the icing on the awful injustice cake was the fact that she is being sent to a men’s prison. People, this is fucking unacceptable. I nearly Hulksmashed my computer when I came across this little gem of cissexist patronizing fuckery:

Then the state will make its own determination of McDonald’s gender, an assessment that will involve reviewing “any and all collateral documentation and a physical and psychological evaluation,” said Russell.

Oh, will it? Will the state make that determination, regardless of what McDonald’s actual gender identity is? Is a human being’s entire sense of self subject to the whims of some shadowy collective of bureaucrats and physicians? This is 2012, is it? This is progress, is it? This is victory? Because it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

Look, I am the first person to throw on Mardi Gras beads and get totally wasty-pants while dancing it up to Gaga in a sea of dykes. I love that, and I look forward to that every June. But this year, I’m going to do so while remembering that yes, we have come so far, but we have so, so far to go. We cannot afford to become complacent or to rest on our laurels. Not when our family – not when people like CeCe and Brandy – need us to keep the fight alive. It’s a matter of community. It’s a matter of justice. It’s a matter of pride.

An Ode to Clark Griswold, My Butch Holiday Icon

I need to discuss something very disturbing with you, dear readers. Did you know that today is December 6th? Did you also know that I reside in Boston, Massachusetts? Did you also know that it was 60 degrees here yesterday? 60. Six zero. In December. In Boston. In this realm of existence. Might I remind you that this is after we had a friggin’ snowstorm Halloween weekend? I think that, perhaps, the wildly-misinterpretated Mayan calendar may be right after all and 2012 is it. The end. Fin. So I suppose if next year we’re all gonna die in a firey tornado-tsunami (tornami?) filled with ice and wolves and meteors, I really should make the most out of Christmas 2011.

In this spirit of celebration/impending doom (which I guess could be the spirit of any holiday that involves family), I’d like to dedicate this post to the greatest character from the greatest Christmas movie of all time: Clark Griswold of the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

As you know, I’m usually all for respectful debate over the internet, but this is an exception. Please don’t try to argue that Christmas Vacation is not the greatest Christmas movie of all time. This is simply a fact. Yes, Home Alone and Elf and Muppet Christmas Carol are awesome movies too, don’t get me wrong. But, much like the Highlander, there can be only one superior holiday film and this one’s the champ. Cry me a sea of swirly, twirly gumdrops, Buddy.

While I’ve loved Christmas Vacation since my parents decided I was old enough to watch it (sometime in high school, I believe), my deep appreciation for the patriarch of the Griswold clan manifested much later, after I began to identify as butch. While watching it during one of my trips home during college (I can’t remember which year it was exactly – maybe Junior?), I suddenly found myself thinking: “This is the kind of parent I want to be. These are the kinds of things that I want to do for my family someday.” A rather bizarre thought for a 22-year-old who was terrible with kids (and at 27, small children still make me nervous), but there it was. I wanted to be the Clark Griswold of my make-believe fun old-fashioned family Christmas.

Someday, I too will raise Juliette Lewis.

Anybody who has the pleasure of being around me this time of year will notice that I’m a tad bit, um, into Christmas. By “into,” I mean I start trolling eBay for Ugly Christmas Sweaters around October, go an hour out of my way to find a Trader Joe’s and purchase Peppermint Joe-Joe cookies (SO GOOD), obsessively organize my Christmas Cheer iTunes playlist, plan entire evenings around looking at neighborhood holiday lights, and have a small nervous breakdown if the tree doesn’t get decorated the weekend after Thanksgiving. Just a small one. OK, maybe a medium-sized one. Maybe, just maybe, I can be a bit of a Christmas Nazi. It’s just, there’s so much to do and the season is so short and I want time to enjoy it; is that so wrong of me?

"ALL OF THE DECORATIONS SHALL BE MIIIIIINE!"

The great irony here is that I’m an atheist. A very firm one at that. Devout, even. Sometimes, people don’t understand how an atheist can love Christmas so much. Some might say, “You can’t have Christmas without Christ,” to which I reply with the popular-on-Facebook retort, “And you can’t have Thursday without Thor!” Just as I don’t have to believe in the God of Thunder to have a great fifth day of the week (though, as a Marvel fan, I am rather fond of him), I don’t have to believe in 8 lb. 6 0z. newborn infant Jesus to have myself a merry little Christmas. I love decorations and cards and carols and gingerbread and snowmen and Rankin/Bass stop-motion cartoons and giving/getting presents. Basically, I celebrate Capitalist Christmas. Got it, comrades?

"Get to the point, asshole."

Back to Christmas Vacation. Throughout his 97-minute adventure, Clark is hellbent on creating an epic Christmas for his family. The lengths he goes to in pursuit of yuletide perfection are Herculean, from magically hauling a 50′ pine tree from the middle of the woods (sans a saw) and stuffing it into the living room to actually inviting his in-laws to stay at his home for the entire holiday. Clark gets Christmas. In one scene, he risks life and limb to personally staple 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights to his roof and plunge the Chicago suburbs into a blackout. Did I mention that he does all this while wearing flannel and a down vest and looking like a complete maniac? This guy is basically my Ghost of Christmas Future.

You know you own that exact same outfit. And that exact same ball o' lights.

You might think that Clark’s actions are a bit extreme. And, of course, you’re supposed to, because that’s comedy and stuff. But while maybe it wasn’t a great idea to yank a back-up tree from the front yard without checking for squirrels first, everything he does is for his family – to give them what he didn’t have. In one scene, he explains that he wants to make things perfect for his kids because his childhood Christmases were always such a mess. As the product of a very dysfunctional Roman Catholic-Jewish family, I feel that. I’ve always wanted a big, happy, Rockwellian holiday and never really got it. So I daydream about how I’ll decorate the outside of my future house, which exists in some alternate-reality timeline where I will ever be able to afford a house. I imagine going sledding with my hypothetical children, who will be roughly 8-years-old at birth and fully potty-trained, able to dress/feed themselves, and capable of intelligent conversations about comic books. And I drag my girlfriend to places like Yankee Candle to look at blown glass German pickle ornaments and giant nutcrackers and $50 holiday table runners that we neither need nor can afford.

My GF makes this face whenever I talk about Christmas.

Now don’t get me wrong – Clark Griswold is not perfect. Yes, he upholds many ideals that I consider admirable – and, if I may, very butch – such as loyalty, hard work, dedication to loved ones, and maintaining a great collection of seasonably-appropriate ties. But he’s also hard-headed and has a tendency to launch into long, obscenity-filled rants in front of small children.

"PEACE ON EARTH AND GOOD WILL TOWARD ALL YOU FUCKERS."

And let’s not forget the whole “lusting after lingerie counter clerks while you should be shopping for your wife who you are very much still married to” thing. Don’t do that thing, folks.

This is NOT an approved butch-son bonding activity.

Despite these flaws, Clark Griswold remains my butch holiday icon, as well as the fictional person I fully intend to blame someday when I inevitably break several limbs while attempting to strap a 8-foot-tall plastic Santa Claus to my roof. Hypothetically.

"Shitter was full!"

Butch-Femme Fashion: Don’t Hate Us Because We’re Beautiful

Happy Thirsty Thursday to all! Pride Week is in full swing here in Boston, and I am unacceptably sober and sitting behind a desk. (Sadly, my employer doesn’t accept “I’m a giant lesbian” as a valid excuse to miss work.) I’m having a difficult time staying focused for a number of reasons: the office vending machine has been restocked, today’s high is 102 (I’m wearing jeans and am in denial), I need to write this post so you all don’t think I’m a terrible and lazy blogger, and I have a huge crush – on a blazer. A tweed one. With elbow patches. Whoo boy. Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here?

Let me back up a bit. Last night, I attended FOUND, my (and, I believe, Boston’s) first ever queer fashion show and the latest lezstravaganza from the lovely ladies of Diffuse 5. It was an awesome night filled with sexy people and sexy clothes and sexy cupcakes (omnomnom @ Cakeology). The point of the whole sexy thing was to highlight designers who cater to the LGBT community and our unique styles. I think that is very noble work, indeed, because let’s face it: looking this damn good ain’t easy.  

Most mainstream clothing companies aren’t crafting products with queer or trans bodies in mind. As a 5’3″ butch with hips and tits and all that junk, trying to find masculine clothing that fits my female shape can be frustrating as hell. I know I’m not the only one who’s felt the agony of trying on the Perfect Going Out Dress Shirt and discovering that it won’t button across my big stupid boobs. Or maybe you’re one of those vegan, organic, free-trade lovin’ dykes (is that redundant?) and you are totally bummed that the ass-kickin’ boots you want are made from the last endangered Amazonian baby cow on Earth. Never fear, you stylish beasts, because these designers are here to save the day:

Marimacho: A Brooklyn-based company that creates dapper masculine styles for women and transmen. Also, THEY MAKE THAT BLAZER I WANT/NEED/WILL DIE WITHOUT.

Proxy Apparel: They make super-hot clothing and accessories from a sweatshop-free, sustainable, and female-empowering environment. I approve of this message.

Let’s Be Brief: Underwear for the lesbian booty. All of the masculine style with none of the annoying banana pockets. Also, fun colors and patterns! Yay, fun!

Autonomie Project: Vegan. Organic. Sweatshop-free. Check out their sweet Converse-style kicks and rain boots.

Boomerangs: Boston thrift store with new and vintage clothes, books, furniture, and other goodies. It’s run by the Aids Action Committee and all proceeds go towards the invaluable work that they do for the AIDS/HIV-positive community.

(Do you know any other LGBT-targeted clothing designers out there? Be a good gay and share in the comment section.)

Despite the fact that it isn’t always an easy task, I have to admit: I LOVE BUYING CLOTHES. I’d go shopping every week if my wallet and closet allowed it. An outfit that looks great and fits great is the ultimate confidence-booster. Last night, I was rocking a crisp white button-down, a black vest, and my favorite dark wash jeans. I topped off the outfit with a black and pink plaid tie, picked out by my GF because it matched her pink dress, picked out by me. (Sidebar: A butch-femme couple in coordinating outfits is a powerful, uber-sexy force of nature that is not to be taken lightly.) I pretty much swagged from one end of the city to the other.

Truth be told, I used to be rather embarrassed to admit my love of clothing. “Buying clothes? For fun? That’s so femmey!” thought my babydyke self. Older, wiser me knows that not only is that line of thought totally misogynistic and regressive, it’s also totally inaccurate. Shopping is so butch, as in, butches love to shop. IN FACT, based on my experiences/not-all-all-scientific research, butches love to shop way more than their femme counterparts. Mind = blown, right?

Allow me to close this post by sharing with you a one-act play titled Our Butch-Femme Shopping Trip Named Desire:

My GF: I need a new dress for an upcoming event.

Me: ZOMG WE CAN GO TO THE MALL LET’S GO TO THE MALL RIGHT NOW THE MALL!!!

GF: *Sigh* Alright, get in the car.

Me: *Jumps in the car, hanging out the window and panting like an excited terrier*

[At the mall]

GF: There are too many dresses to pick from and I have no idea what would look best on me. This store is overwhelming and crowded.

Me: HERE TRY THIS ONE AND THIS ONE AND OH THIS ONE GOES GREAT WITH YOUR HAIR AND LOOK AT YOUR BOOBS IN THIS ONE!!!

GF: OK… I guess this one looks fine. It fits. Do you like it?

Me: IT LOOKS AMAZING YOU SHOULD TOTALLY GET IT AND THEN WE CAN GO LOOK FOR MORE DRESSES IN THE OTHER 75 STORES IN THIS MALL!!!

GF: Um, no, I’m just going to take this one; I don’t need any more.

Me: OK BABY I’M GONNA GO PAY FOR THIS GIANT PILE OF TIES THAT I PICKED OUT WHILE YOU WERE CHANGING AND THEN LET’S GET SMOOTHIES!!! FROM THE MALL!!! CAPITALISM!!!

GF: …OK.

[End scene.]

The Buzz Cuts and Bustiers Guide To a Drama-Free Pride

Can you feel that, dear readers? That electricity in the air? That sense of magic and wonderment all around you? Do you somehow feel even gayer than usual, you big ‘mos? It’s all because of five wonderful letters: P.R.I.D.E.

That’s right, bois and grrrls, it’s Gay Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus/New Year/Your Birthday, AKA Pride Month! Even President Obama is totally stoked. Over in my neck of the queer woods, Pride Week is next week, and I’ve already started mentally and physically training for all the debauchery to come. I have purchased several new outfits, both for myself and for the GF (note: look for a totally chic post about butch-femme fashion next week!), attempted to ingest more booze than I typically do (which is roughly two drinks for this embarrassing lightweight), got a fresh new ‘cut (plug for my favorite queer-friendly hair salon), and listened to every new Lady Gaga single no fewer that 550 times each. I’M SO READY FOR THIS SHIT, Y’ALL (I WAS BORN READY).

As fun and awesome and exhausting as Pride may be, it can also be, well, a bit stressful. You see, whenever you get a bunch of lezzies in one place, there is a sort of chemical reaction. This can best be explained by the following equation:

[(lesbos x alcoholic beverages) / ex-GFs] x loud house music = DRAMA

Yes, we dykes emit drama the way that cows emit methane (OUT THE ASS). Combine that with the crowds, noise, terrified tourists, and general chaos, and Pride can quickly turn into a giant, Jersey Shore-esque brawl, except with more tattoos and fewer hair products. Never fear, my huddled masses yearning to breathe free the smell of lube, Red Bull, and regret: Buzz Cuts and Bustiers is here to help with an easy-to-read (because drunk people have a hard time reading stuff) Guide to a Drama-Free Pride.

Make a Ga(y)me Plan: There will be about a thousand events happening at the same time on any given day that week, so you’ll need to prioritize. Me, I put all my Gaypointments in my Droid, so I’ll always know where I need to be, when, and how many dollars bills I should carry. Make sure to pencil in some time for basic bodily functions, such as sleeping, eating, and reapplying body glitter. Agree on a meeting place with your friends, because you know how unreliable they are and at least one of them is bound to lose his/her/hir phone. Study up on your hanky code to avoid accidentally flagging as a bottom cub military fetishist who’s into cigars and armpit play (unless that’s what you are, in which case, werq it).

Dress To Impress (And Later, Undress): You know how they say that looking good is the best revenge? Well, this is your chance to take revenge against every ex, ex’s GF, ex’s GF’s ex-GF, and OKC user who didn’t respond to your witty and carefully crafted messages. Wear your sharpest tie, your tightest top, your shortest skirt, your baggiest jeans, your jauntiest hat. Swagger, flirt, flash a devious grin or a suggestive wink. Be fucking sexy. When you know you look good, you feel good, and you’ll be so above any pettiness from “the haters.” (Do the kids still say “haters?” Somebody, please tell me.) This leads directly into:

Don’t Skip Stuff Just Because Your Ex(s) Will Be There: Pride comes but once a year; get as much of it in (heh) as you can. Even if Facebook tells you that every person you’ve ever knocked boots with will be at that fun-sounding Ladies Night Block Party Parade Festival Drag Show, STILL GO. If you don’t, you’ll just spend the other 51 weeks of the long, empty year wishing that you did. Also, there will be a lot of people there, promise. It’ll be easy to avoid someone. If you absolutely need to, you can hide Scooby Doo-style behind a potted plant or a keg or one of those Harley Davidson dykes on bikes.

That Little Packet of White Stuff That You Caught During the Parade Is Not Lotion: That is all.

Bring Water, You Friggin’ Lush: The human body is 60% water, and no, vodka doesn’t count just because it’s clear. Gyrating on top of giant pink dildo-shaped floats is a very easy way to get dehydrated and the odds of hooking up with the cute EMT who shows up to bring your wasted ass to the ER are slim. Sloppy isn’t sexy, people.

Take Lots of Pictures: All kidding aside, Pride is a really wonderful, life-affirming time to be queer, and you’ll want to remember it for years to come (or until next year). Also, you’ll want to be able to go back and tag all your buddies in embarrassing photographic reminders of their questionable choices. That’s what friends are for.

HAPPY PRIDE TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!