Did you know that you're kind of scary?
I mean, I'm lucky enough to live in an area where it's pretty much safe to be someone who looks at things on an angle, but that doesn't make it easier to figure out what to show. Not closets; I won't do closets. But ...
Mentioning that my boyfriend's wife asked around at the office to get me a recommendation of a place to get lunch and suddenly wondering what was behind the blink of response. Wondering if that's going to go somewhere unpleasant.
Talking to my father on the phone for my birthday, and he asks me if I have any exciting news. And I fidget with the ring on my finger, and stare into space, and eventually don't tell him, because there's no social space for that sort of news to come out easily.
Being directed to put on my collar and wear it out to a gathering of friends, and being consumed with a desperate anxiousness that somehow people will notice and object -- that knowing in a peripheral way that that relationship is kinky will be acceptable, but that wearing the token will be across the invisible line of acceptability, will be pushy, will be taken as some grievous offense against the social expectation of some level of nodding to conformity.
There are times that naming my liege as a partner of mine is frightening, dangerous, edgy, in a way that referring to my husband as my partner never can be. Because there are all these invisible lines, and different people touch off and go strange in different places, at the crossing of different taboos. There are times that there's a temptation to dodge the lines, make it easy, be who I am without ever confronting people with its reality, without ever naming any of the things that might fall over someone's invisible lines. Even though it mortgages my soul a little and makes to erase essential things.
I spent some time recently in the company of a married couple who happen to both be male. And every time one of them said "my husband", I felt the brush of a touch on the invisible line. And I pray that the little twinge is merely a twinge of the unfamiliar, that my unconscious heteronormativity is merely slow on catching up with the rest of my fervent belief in same-sex marriage rights, that my membership in the community of people who support and recognise their marriage is not compromised further than that. I hope that they're not burdened with the sense that they are being someone's object lesson in diversity, even while I know that that's a likely persistent subliminal effect.
I'm watching a discussion on usenet as well, in which a disabled person has managed to convey successfully to someone who had thought that "Why are you in a wheelchair?" was within the bounds of reasonable, civil conversation to have with a new acquaintance how intrusive it felt from the other side. And thinking of something a friend has been talking about elsewhere, about facilitating OWL (the Unitarian sex education program) and asking the class if they saw her as disabled. And a variety of other examples, recent and otherwise, of othering, tokenising, being the exemplar of an adjective -- the majority of them not chosen by the person stuck in the role of educator, reminder, example of Them.
I guess what I want to say to you, Earth, is that being the Visibility Fairy is exhausting work.
11 February, 2008