Sunday, November 01, 2009

Loyalty

Garrett was someone who I definitely didn’t trust. He would follow people around, mostly dykes, first it was Angie who was one of Laurie’s friends, and then Laurie, and Laurie told me I was being judgmental because I didn’t like the way Garrett would become whoever he was around. We’d had this conversation before -- who the fuck wasn’t judging everyone all the time, that’s what I wondered. But now we were in a different place, a place where we didn’t always know our relationship would survive, maybe it would survive but maybe it wouldn’t and it’s true that I would take one look at certain people and make pronouncements: She just wants to be friends with you because she doesn’t have any sense of self. He’s a pathological liar -- didn’t you notice the expression in his eyes? She’s just a hipster who's using you.

So I decided not to be judgmental, and then Garrett followed me around too, even though I didn’t want people following me around and so I told him that, and then we kind of became friends. But I forgot about hipsters -- hipsters were the enemy, we all agreed about that. They were vapid culture vultures who didn’t have any politics. They looked kind of like us, so we had to constantly draw the boundaries. I still talk about hipsters, it’s hard not to. In the early-‘90s, we were always talking about how hipsters were taking over, pretty soon there wouldn’t be anything but hipsters in the Mission, why did you invite that hipster over your house? I can’t believe you went to that hipster bar. We walked in the door at that party, and it was nothing but hipsters, so we grabbed a few drinks and then turned back around.

Of course, there were larger conflicts going on in the Mission, not just the gentrification advancing with the crepe place right around the corner, the one everyone made fun of, or the tapas restaurant because maybe Spanish food was kind of like Mexican -- was that what they were working? And the vegetarian restaurant that some people actually went to, I mean people we knew. This tension was between those of us who cultivated critique, polished it, held it up and turned it around to examine ourselves and everything around us, all of the time, even if sometimes it tore us apart we wanted to change everything. And then there were those of us who distrusted critique, or trusted it when it was about something seemingly far away, like straight people or parents, but not when it got closer -- in this vision of queerness, loyalty was the most important thing, loyalty could mean safety but it could also mean reenacting high school popularity contests but taking on the victors’ roles. Remember: high school was only a few years in the past for most of us, even if we might have been stunned if you told us that.

The truth is that we all cultivated critique; we were dogmatic in our alliances, self-righteous in our beliefs. I’m still talking about us, because that’s what we believed in: us. I’ve already told you that my critique was relentless, that sometimes I tore apart the people I loved and I was trying to get somewhere else, but that didn’t mean that I distrusted critique: it still meant everything to me. Without critical engagement, what was the point? You might as well go back to who you were supposed to be. But this other culture, the broader Mission dyke culture which we called queer, so much of it was about loyalty at all costs: it held us, and held us hostage. Accountability only occurred when people would get in dramatic fights and it was more about whose team was stronger or more popular than about what actually happened. This was what made me hate San Francisco.

No comments: