Monday, December 21, 2009


Maybe you’re wondering about gender pronouns. I want to call people what they prefer now, and not necessarily what they preferred then, I mean if they’ve shifted. It’s different when I’m trying to challenge masculinity not chosen or negotiated, the world’s imposition. Language changes fast. I remember when I first got back to San Francisco and so many people were moving in the transmasculine direction. We didn’t have that word yet. Suddenly I had to make revisions to the queen’s vernacular: no longer could I use the universal she.

But what about for trans fags, the queenie ones speaking in similar tones? Do you see how pronouns became something to choose, you couldn’t necessarily guess. Or you could guess, but you might be wrong. You might offend someone. We all get offended. I think it’s kind of beautiful when you meet someone new, and one of the first questions they ask is: what gender pronoun do you prefer?

We can create our own customs, but sometimes there’s a gap between emerging language and the identities we’ve already inhabited, like when a friend told me about a performance series she was curating, for trans, genderqueer, and intersex performers and I said I’d love to do it. She said oh, it’s for trans, genderqueer, and intersex performers. We all hurt each other. We all hurt each other all the time.

I would try to arrive early to Gay Shame meetings so I could welcome people: somehow I’d perfected that particular social skill in a way most people had not. I mean most people at our meetings, many of whom were friendly with the people they already knew or the people they wanted to know and then everyone else remained invisible. A lot of people were just awkward, but awkwardness reads as snottiness unless you look like you’re falling apart.

For me, it’s always been important not to look like I’m falling apart. I go too far, and then I feel worse, but really it’s just an instinct: I end up acting friendly, even when it doesn’t serve me. I mean I run into someone who I can’t stand, and switch immediately into full performative social mode -- I don’t even notice, until the crash afterwards. But here I’m talking more about people I don’t know -- I’m conscious of the way I may seem intimidating, and I want to undo that. But also I want to keep myself open to different kinds of interaction that might save me, or might save someone else, or might save all of us if we could just keep ourselves open but we can’t.


Wil Lake said...

I was looking for one of your Books when I got home to D.C. and this Lesbian asked me why you have the moniker if you wil I told her .
and she said Oh...I like being associated to you distantly somehow.Oh yeah...sorry I was so Late showing up at The eliot bay book store in Pioneer sq. Blame it on Seattle Rain.All the best Wil in the Washington,D.C. area.

mattilda bernstein sycamore said...

Wil, I forgot all about Pioneer Square -- yes yeah, blame it on the rain, for sure...

And now you're in Washington DC?! I didn't realize that was home now... Is that better or worse than Florida, I'm sure it's hard to say...

Love --