Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I'm having a Mo moment

I missed the bus. Flickr is being a bitch. The computers are as cooperative as my 13 year old students. The Dykes to Watch Out For archives are blocked by the computer nanny thing. Nothing for it but to surrepetitiously whip out my latest copy of Girlfriends and snark. From the Editor, swooning over the revolutionary impact of The L Word:
Mainstream advertisers whohad no idea about our readership (or worse, had terrible stereotypes about us) suddenly "get it". We're not all man-hating, jobless anarchists with bad haircuts.
To quote: Dude, speak for yourself. She says "man-hating jobless anarchists with bad haircuts" like it's a bad thing. I knew the MHJAWBHs (yay acronyms!) in college, all four of them; not only were they the nicest, coolest people around, some of them were men! They lived in a communal house just off campus and made zines. We had a great time marching in the freezing drizzle on November 3, after the election. They let me carry the "Keep Your Rosaries Off My Ovaries!" flag. I aspire to be more like them! Except for the jobless bit. And my hair is pretty frickin' cool. And maybe I should actually learn something about anarchism first...
But seriously, I wasn't aware that the ultimate goal of the queer liberation movement was equal opportunity commodification and exploitation. Hey there, Mr. White Male Corporate Executive With His Head Up His Ass--we're cogs in the capitalist machine too, y'know!

le sigh.

On the bright side, the French are striking again, so I don't have to work on Thursday. And I found another French dyke mag, Oxydo, which I'm enjoying.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Les mésaventures de la nouvelle lesbienne, acte 1

Isn't that a great title? The Misadventures of a New Lesbian. It's an article in my SCUMgrrrls magazine. Apparently the French for coming-out is: coming-out. I wonder how on earth they pronounce it. As the awkwardly translated article summary states:
One "coming out" is ok, but 30 "coming outs" are already less fun...the coming out to parents is just the beginning of a very long list. And as is confirmed by the old new lesbians [this is a literal translation of ancienne nouvelle lesbian. I have no idea what it's supposed to mean]: "One has never really finished to tell it to everybody." The only positive side is that it makes good stories to tell...!
Well it does at that. Let's just say that coming out to your parents over the phone is sooooooo not recommended.
I've often thought that the coming-out metaphor shouldn't be a closet but a revolving door. Because you're never really totally out (unless you're Elton John or something). Until the world stops enforcing mandatory heterosexuality, every new person you meet and every new social context slams you right back into the closet. People just assume everyone is straight like them.
Which makes navigating the social terrain of a foreign country that much more complex. In some sense, I'm much freer here than in my home state; I'm removed from the family clan, and gay marriage here isn't the political football it is in the States. Plus, Paris. Lovely, wonderful, infuriating, teasing Paris. But it also means I don't know the ettiquette, identity politics being quite different here. I don't have the luxury of the gender neutral third person pronoun (I don't care what some 18th century old fart said, "they" is perfectly acceptable as the singular). And it's just as suffocatingly heterocentrist as anywhere else; especially since French women have this intense pressure to maintain the ideal of heterosexual femininity. They got a national reputation to maintain. If you like femmes, France is the place for you. I haven't even seen the "female jock" types like you have in the States, straight but sporty girls in soccer cleats and pony tails. The word "butch" doesn't exist in French. Butch women do, but they aren't a delineated gender in the lesbian scene, as I've found it.
My trip to Greece was another mésaventure in the dynamics of homophobia. My Let's Go guide, in describing some guidelines for single women traveling alone in Greece, had this advice:
Homophobia is also widespread, so asking where you can find a gay bar will usually shake off a potential suitor. 533
It's also a great way to get yourself killed. Spoken like a straight person who's never had to face the ramifications of coming out. If I'm being harassed by a man, I'm going to head to a well-lit area with lots of people and policemen. I'm not going to give him an excuse to rape me or plead homosexual panic.
But, safety issues aside, you know what? Sometimes I don't feel like it. I didn't come out to my roommates in Greece because I didn't feel like going through the trouble of sussing out their likely political bent, then finding an appropriate time to casually drop it in without sounding awkward or creating an uncomfortable, surprised pause in the conversation. I just met these people, and they're leaving in a few days. I'll probably never see or hear from them again. I didn't feel like being The Gay Person. I was willing to put up with conversations that assumed I was straight ("Seriously Anne, can you explain to me why women find Brad Pitt so attractive? 'Cause I just don't get it." Me neither, pal. Me neither.)
Because you never really know how someone is going to react, and you're always taking something of a leap of faith, and I just didn't feel like having that conversation. Ricardo handled the news about Matt fine, but when I came out to him he was so shocked he had to "go have a cigarette" to process the information. Even though we were sitting in a bar (well, he is from Nicaragua...). After which proceeded the education; no I don't hate men, yes it really is real sex, no I don't know why I am I just am, yes I guarantee you have met lesbians before Ricardo, you just didn't know it. Of course they're not going to tell you, you live in fucking Nicaragua. Etc.
Sometimes I wish we could sit every straight person down and force them to read "I Hate Straights" until the scales of heterosexual priviledge fall from their eyes and they finally get it:
I hate straight people who think they have anything intelligent to say about "outing." I hate straight people who think stories about themselves are "universal" but stories about us are only about homosexuality... I hate straight people who say, "I don't see why you feel the need to wear those buttons and t-shirts. I don't go around telling the whole world I'm straight."...I hate having to convice straight people that lesbians and gays live in a war zone, that we're surrounded by bomb blasts only we seem to hear, that our bodies and souls are heaped high, dead from fright or bashed or raped, dying of grief or disease, stripped of our personhood.
(This is why I work so hard to be aware and mitigate my race and class privilege. It's a basic requirement of all decent human beings, but I know what it's like to be on the other side of that coin too).
I ran into a really stunning example of this with my roommate Val. I was telling her about my conflict over coming out to my hostel roommies, and she said "Why? I don't feel nervous about telling people I'm straight!"
I seriously just sat there and blinked at her. I should have asked her "When have you ever had to do that, Val?" but I didn't think of that at the time. And even if you ever have had to "come out" as straight, it's not even remotely the same thing. No one's going react with violence or disgust if you tell them you date the opposite sex. And she should know better. Her father's gay, for Christ's sake, been with the same man for the last 20 years or something. I refuse to believe that she's never had to hide the fact that she has two dads. It's for situations such as this that they coined the word "flabbergasted."
Maybe I'll take to wearing the rainbow triangle earrings I got for Christmas (from my "Brazilian sister", not from my family, of course. They wouldn't know where to buy them in the first place). A bit corny, maybe, but hopefully it will make this whole endless revolving door experience a little less dizzying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

homophobia du jour

Yesterday I was working with a class of 10-11 year olds, playing Guess Who? It's a good way to get them to have fun while practicing simple questions and answers, such as Has she got red hair? No she hasn't. Does he have a beard? Yes, he has. I would walk around the room, correcting grammar and pronunciation, answering questions like "Madame, how do you say "old", "white hair" ', etc.
One little boy raised his hand, and pointing to the picture of Eric the Policeman, asked "Madame, comment dit-on il est une fille?" How do you say he is a girl?
I thought maybe he wanted to ask a person's gender, so I said, "Well, Eric is a boy's name, right? So you would ask, is it a boy?"
"Mais non, Madame", said his partner with a scandalized shriek; "Il est gai! Comment dit-on il est gai?" No Miss, he's gay! How do you say he's gay?
Apparently "He is a girl" is a French way of calling someone gay. Because the worst insult you can say to a man is to call him a woman.
I found myself trying to suppress a sigh and a laugh at the same time. Because honestly, Eric in his policeman's hat totally looks like an escapee from the Village People. But still. They're only 10. They have no idea what gay means, beyond "stupid". But they're already using it as a slur. Where are they learning this?? Older siblings? Parents?? Sometimes I think homophobia is in the fucking water.
I remember when my 7 year old cousin crawled into my lap one day and asked me what "gay" meant, because some kid had called her that. Not being out to anyone, I found myself trying to explain to her why she shouldn't use it as an insult without making her think it's a bad thing. If I simply said "Don't say that!" she'd get the impression that "gay" is a bad word. But I didn't feel comfortable explaining what gay really means; I didn't want her parents calling me up demanding why I was exposing their innocent darling to nasty homo talk. So I used a convoluted blond analogy. "My sister's a blond and she's not dumb, right? So it's not nice to call someone a dumb blond, but that doesn't mean being blond is bad. Gay's the same thing. It's not a bad thing, but you shouldn't call someone that to be mean to them."
So I was looking at my students, who are giggling nervously, afraid I was going to reprimand them, and I was thinking about my cousin, and I said "Mais, s'il est gai, c'est pas grave." So? If he's gay, it's not a big deal. Now, how do you ask if he wears a hat...?

I'm not sure if I handled either of those situations well, but I wanted to try and treat gayness like a normal variation, like hair color: She is blond, he has brown hair, he is gay. So what?

After class one of my students handed me a note: God Bless Miss. Damn right. That fucker owes me.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

In Paris With You

Don't talk to me of love. I've had an earful
And I get tearful when I've downed a drink or two.
I'm one of your talking wounded.
I'm a hostage. I'm maroonded.
But I'm in Paris with you.

Yes I'm angry at the way I've been bamboozled
And resentful at the mess I've been through.
I admit I'm on the rebound
And I don't care where are we bound.
I'm in Paris with you.

Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
If we skip the Champs Elysées
And remain here in this sleazy

Old hotel room
Doing this and that
To what and whom
Learning who you are,
Learning what I am.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris,
The little bit of Paris in our view.
There's that crack across the ceiling
And the hotel walls are peeling
And I'm in Paris with you.

Don't talk to me of love. Let's talk of Paris.
I'm in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
I'm in Paris with... all points south.
Am I embarrassing you?
I'm in Paris with you.

James Fenton

Thursday, January 19, 2006

cuss words fail me

This is the second time in as many days that I've learned a friend is a survivor of rape and sexual assault.



°+}]à@\#~&%µ*$£¤!!! ...........

Go read twisty. She makes me feel better (hope she's feeling better too). She also notes that Michelle Bachelet--you know, the first female president of Chile--totally looks like Martina Navratilova. Very cool.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. "

Monday was Martin Luther King Day in the States, so I've been working on that subject with my students.
and here I am in my white skin, privileged, and bouncing from hemisphere to hemisphere thinking "where would I like to be today? where can I find peace and safety? do they even exist anymore?" if they do, I think every human spirit deserves to live under those conditions. Ember Swift, "Sucker Punched"
It's been an interesting experience, trying to get the significance of Martin Luther King across to my preteen students, who frankly, couldn't care less. Learning about a political figure in a foreign country who died 40 years ago isn't the most riveting of lessons. They'd rather talk about Eminem and 50 Cent. So I tried to jazz it up a bit with music; I've been playing Sweet Honey in the Rock's "Ballad of the Sit-ins", trying to expose them to traditional African-American music and the history of nonviolent protest in the U.S.
It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important. MLK.
They get the concept of segregation, they understand about Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, they know about the speech and the march on Washington in '63, they know he was asassinated. But I can't show them the beauty and passion of the "I Have a Dream" speech, because their language skills aren't up to that level. I can't get across his significance to Americans; do the French have an equivalent to MLK? I have no idea.
It's been an unexpectedly moving experience, personally, observing MLK Day in a foreign country. Trying to look at it from the outside. It gives me perspective. It forces me to think about things that usually I'd rather not think about. MLK has always been, essentially, a day off from school. It's nice to mark some important historical event, like the signing of the Declaration, but that was about it. Of course King was a great man, and a visionary, etc, but has MLK Day ever really meant anything to me personally? Unfortunately, until now, it hasn't. What did MLK have to do with me? I was raised in a racist country, in a rigidly self-segregated city, I've heard "the n-word" tossed around once or twice by people in my family. I went to white suburban Catholic schools; I can count on one hand the number of black kids I went to school with in 12 years. MLK, like Patrick Henry, was one of those great men with no relevance in my daily life.
If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive. MLK.
I remember vividly the one time I went to the black women's organization, to talk about working with FMLA, and how I realized it was the first time in my life I was in a room where I was the racial minority. And how wierd that felt. And how I suddenly realized that while I have several black friends, I was used to dealing with them on my terms, in my comfortable world. How many black authors have I read? How many black musicians do I listen to? How often do I see black people in the magazines I read, the shows I watch? If I have trouble finding reflections of myself in my world, how much more difficult is it for black dykes, and latina queers, and Asian lesbians? It was one of those excruciating moments when you're forced to confront your own priviledge--I don't have to think about race if I don't choose to.
And now I'm in a country dealing with it's own racial tensions, trying to teach them something about how Americans have handled the same thing. The reason I didn't say anything about the French rioting at the time was because I didn't feel qualified to comment. Although I will say that the French like to think that just because they've never had institutionalized-separate-drinking-fountain racism like the States, somehow it doesn't exist. I got several "OMIGOD ARE YOU OKAY??" emails from family members, but the riots never touched us here. Verdun's minority population pretty much consists of 2 black people and a boarded-up synagogue. I have about a dozen classes of an average of 20 students, and there's only one black kid. But I have several students of Middle Eastern descent. The French see banning the hijab in public schools as some sort of church/state separation thing; I see it as the forced assimilation of a minority population. Identitiy politics are very different here. How dare you go out in public with your strange religion and strange clothes and shove your blatant un-Frenchness in our faces. Conform, dammit!
This post is wandering all over the place, but what I'm trying to get at is that by teaching my students (not entirely successfully), I wound up teaching myself. I'd always admired MLK intellectually, of course, but now I'm genuinely moved emotionally by him and his words. Seeing the French burn cars and throw rocks at the police in rage and frustration, and then seeing pictures of those 18 year old kids who started the first sit-in, sparking an entire movement of peaceful resistance, knowing that they won that particular fight without having to throw rocks and smash windows, not only do they inspire me, they make me proud. This is my country and my culture at its best; this is a heritage I can claim.
It makes me frustrated too, though. Those kids are my parent's generation, and sometimes I shake my head in disbelief at the Baby Boomers. What happened to those idealists? Those crowds of blacks and whites marching together for change, the second wave feminists who made so many huge strides so quickly, the hippies protesting for peace? What the hell happened to you? Did you get too comfortable in your middle-class suburbs? Drop too much acid in the 70s? Become too anxiously aware of your own mortality? How could you do this to us? Because it's their generation who elected Reagan and the Bushes; my generation voted for Kerry, but when our votes weren't defrauded, we were outnumbered by our parents (and grandparents). You all lived through Vietnam, you saw it happen on tv and in the papers, back when the media still made an effort at doing it's job. How could you get us into another one?
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours. Martin Luther King, Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience, 1967.
That quote should be poignantly out of date. It shouldn't still be relevant.
Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.
The ironic part is my parents, classic Baby Boomers, totally missed the 60s. They went to school, got married, had children. Except for my dad joining the Marines and getting himself shot in 'Nam. I get my political idealism from him; my mom's a pragmatist, my dad was something of a dreamer when he was a kid. He's not anymore. He was going to save the world from godless commies; me, I'm going to save the world from godbag capitalist patriarchs.
I don't really know where to end this post, so I guess I'll end it here. Here are some good MLK quotes for a more positive note. I'm going to go to Paris this weekend and buy more magazines.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Symmetrical Companion

It must be
there walks somewhere in the world
another namely like me

Not twin
but opposite
as my two hands are opposite

Where are you
my symmetrical companion?

Do you inhabit
the featureless fog
of the future?
Are you sprinting
from the shadows of the past
to overtake me?
Or are you camouflaged
in the colored present?
Do I graze you every day
as yet immune to your touch
unaware of your scent
inert under your glance?

Come to me
Whisper your name
I will know you instantly
by a passport
decipherable to ourselves alone

We shall walk uniformed
in our secret
We shall be a single reversable cloak
lined with light within
furred with dark without

Nothing shall be forbidden us
All bars shall fall before us
Even the past shall be lit behind us
and seen to have led
like two predestined corridors
to the vestibule of our meeting

We shall be two daring acrobats
above the staring faces
framed in wheels of light
visible to millions
yet revealed only to each other
in the tiny circular mirrors
of our pupils

We shall climb together
up the frail ladders
balancing on slender
but steel-strong thongs of faith
When you leap
my hands will be surely there
at he arc's limit
We shall synchronize
each step of the dance upon the wire
We shall not fall
as long as our gaze is not severed

Where are you
my symmetrical companion?

Until I find you
my mouth is locked
my heart is numb
my mind unlit
my limbs unjoined

I am a marionette
doubled yp in a dark trunk
a dancer frozen
in catatonic sleep
a statue locked
in the stone

a Lazarus wrapped
in the swadling strips
not of death
but of unborn life

a melody bound
in the strings of the viol
a torrent imprisoned
in ice
a flame
in the coal
a jewel hidden
in a block of lava

Come release me
Without you I do not yet exist
May Swenson

Isn't it strange when you find a poem that perfectly expresses everything you didn't know you were feeling?

Monday, January 16, 2006

wherein I write a blog post in seven minutes or less

cause the bus is coming.

But check it out:Lipstick and Dipstick have a blog . And, get this, Dipstick has a twin sister who's also a butch lesbo (who shaves her legs and has long hair, but still). That just totally made my day. If only they'd become rock stars like Tegan and Sara, it would be a wonderful world.

Also, James Blunt needs to die a painful, ignomious, lame-fuck death. Like getting squashed by a falling piano. Shut the fuck up, you little twerp!

Friday, January 13, 2006

words for things

So, I've been thinking a lot about identity (specifically, mine; this is a personal blog after all), and how it's shaped by culture and location and media. Media, especially--books, tv, magazines, movies, music, blogs. Words and what they name. There's an Emma Donoghue story called "Words for Things", about the teenage daughter of an Irish aristocratic family in the 18th century, who falls for her governess. There's a scene where she steals the dictionary in her father's library and looks up words, like "tribad" and "tommy", to try and understand herself.
I'm sitting and wondering how I do the same, find words for things in my life; I remember the first time I bought a copy of Girlfriends, in that small town bookstore, trying to be inconspicuous. Kind of similar to that scene in Donoghue's story, both of us terrified of getting caught (I wasn't out to anyone at that point), a little thrilled by our own daring, excited and nervous at what we might find, and driven, most of all, to see our reality on paper. When I read queer or lesbian literature I'm looking for a reflection of myself in addition to what I usually seek in books (new and different ideas and people, challenging or comforting concepts, anything that teases my brain really). When I read magazines I'm looking for all those things as well, plus fluffy entertainment, but in addition to that, I'm looking for community. Books are solitary, intimate; when I connect with a novel--like the scene in Mrs. Dalloway when Sally kisses Clarissa, for instance--it's a very personal moment. But magazines have a more relaxed, chatty, informal atmosphere I crave too, since I haven't really got the support of a queer community in reality.
Paris is my main source for feminist and queer magazines here; and I'm realizing how incredibly lucky I was back home, even if I was stuck in a very Catholic Red State, to have a bookstore five minutes away, with a wide selection of magazines for me. Paris is great--it's fucking Paris, after all--but it's a three and half hour train ride away. So when I go to Paris I always stop at the LGBT bookstore Les Mots à la bouche and buy up as much queer reading material as I can carry back, and then I make them last. I was kind of down on the mainstream dyke mags back in the U.S., Curve and Girlfriends, as kind of fluffy and irrelevant to my life. They're fun, but I wanted something more. But like Joni Mitchell says, you don't know what you got till it's gone, and since I've been in France I've discovered how important they were to my sense of identity and connection. So I pick a copy of each, plus the British equivalent Diva, when I hit Paris. They're still a little on the fluffy side, but there's a great deal to be said for just having a magazine in your hands that acknoweldges your existence, where you don't have to do any translation (literal or figurative) to make it apply to you. And I remembered what I really love about them--the advice columns! I spent my childhood reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers in the papers, and now I have Curve and Girlfriends to supply the lesbo equivalent: "Lipstick and Dipstick" (love advice from a femme and a butch), "Ask Fairy Butch", "Mr. Lonelyhearts". Girlfriends gets major props for having FTM transman Patrick Califia dispense lesbian romance advice. That's so cool. Reading lesbian advice columns, even though my own experience of lesbian relationships and community is pretty limited (debauched excursions into Parisian dyke bars notwithstanding), gives me insight into how other dykes live their lives, meet each other, fall in love, break up, make up, dress, work, play, handle the million subtle questions and challenges that my straight friends here never have to consider (oh lord, have I got a post about that. Stay tuned.) "How do you deal with this? What do you think about that?" Plus, voyeuristic gossip about other people is always amusing.
I discovered two more magazines (well, three, but I'm saving that one for later) over break: Girls Like Us and Scumgrrrls. GLU is this swank, shiny lesbian quarterly from Amsterdam and I just can't make my mind up about it. One the one hand, it has the Curve effect times ten. It's talking about a world that's just on a different planet from me. When I picked it up I thought "Girls Like Us, i.e. Dykes With Money" (one of these days I'll do a post about class and all my confused musings on it). It's got Peaches on the cover in a re-shoot of a Gia Carangi photo. The editors gush about Gia in their intro: "She is the woman we had in mind as a figurehead to represent the magazine." Well that counts me out right there, and a hell of a lot of other dykes besides. "Gia--inspiration for a whole new breed of lesbians." I personally don't get my inspiration from supermodel lesbians who make money reiterating patriarchal beauty standards and then o.d. on heroin. But then I haven't seen the movie, so what do I know. The first page is an ad for Armani, which didn't help matters. There's an interview with one of those avant-garde artsy dyke power couples in Amsterdam (they do video installations), a series of self-portraits and photos, all of it terribly sophisticated, I guess, I don't really know what's going on in them, that left me mildly bored. I like the fluffy interview and photo shoot with Leisha Hailey though. It's not all that interesting, and gives me the feeling of being on the outside, looking in through the window. Why do I care? Oh wait, I don't.
But then GLU turns around and gives me photos of baby dykes just hanging out in Stockholm and New York and Brazil. And a killer interview with Michele Aboro, an English boxer who lost her contract because she was too butch:
They wanted me to be more feminine in my everyday life. I don't mind that for a photo shoot because that's a totally different ball game. I don't mind putting on make-up, I'm not scared of a dress. But in my everyday life, I'm not going to walk around in high heels and a dress and make-up because it's not the truth...I don't want to sell my soul for a bank account.
They talk about women and sports, homophobia, invisibility, and gender play. Michele Aboro is so incredibly cool and interesting. Now I'm dying to see the documentary about her. GLU follows up with an archive of covers of lesbian media from the 70s and 80s: feminist newspapers, radical and socialist and separatist newsletters, art and erotica magazines; with a list of "Titillating Titles" of even more lesbian magazines and newspapers--my favorites are Amsterdames, Lesbianaires (I'm going to be a lesbianaire when I grow up), Tigermädchen, Lickerish, and the very unsubtle Holy Titclamps (I should get a cat and name her that. Or start using it as an expression. "What the fuck" is worn out). To finish off GLU reprints excerpts from New Women in Rock, articles about Girlschool, The Slits, The Raincoats, The Roches, Joan Jett. This is just the first issue of GLU, and I think it's just not sure what it wants to be. When it's not boring and alienating, it rocks.
But it doesn't rock nearly as much as Scumgrrrls, a tri-lingual (English, French, and Dutch) "100% Feminist Energy" magazine from Brussels. It's got the punk rock feel of a zine. They take their name from the SCUM Manifesto and the riot grrl movement, stating
In a climate where most young women shun the F-word and pseudo-/antifeminism is the media trend, Scumgrrrls wants to bridge the gap between the generations and in the radical tradition offer a new forum for feminist analysis, critique, humour and creativity.
Now that's what I'm talking about. Female politicians in Afganistan, women DJing, the history of riotgrrrl, an interview with Lesbians on Extasy, gay parenting, books about body image, the Intelligent Design movement in the Netherlands (dear god.), the tensions between queer theory and feminism, the endlessness of coming-out. The English translations are a bit shaky, now and then, but I'm hardly put out by that. Scumgrrrls has a collaborative, communal feel to it, the "rage, anger, action, energy and passion" (from the intro) that I love in Bitch and Bust and Off Our Backs. Now I don't have any feminist community here, and there ain't a whole lot of protesting I can do; but I've been a part of feminist group, small and embattled though it was, and I've stayed up late making posters and baking cookies for fundraisers, held meetings and taken minutes and sent emails, signed petitions, slept on buses, marched in the streets, got cold and wet and yelled at, and that has a much larger part of my identity, and the way I think about myself, than lesbian supermodels and Hollywood actresses do. It feels good to have that part of myself recognized and validated, for once. Because mostly, to everyone here in France, I'm the nice American language assistant, who speaks decent enough French, and maybe she dresses a little funny now and then, but she's sweet. And with the other assistants I sometimes feel like the odd one out; we get along and hang out and have a great time, but I'm always aware of having to adjust my conversation to suit them; whenever you're surrounded with straight people, you have to switch gears and operate in their world. Though between me and Matt and Val we're a fairly queer bunch. I'm not sure how to explain it. Maybe it's the false sense of intimacy that develops between expats thrown together in a foreign country; sure, we've got a language in common, but we don't really know each other.
Which is why I hoard these magazines, GLU and Curve and Girlfriends, whatever their merits or flaws. Lord knows I'm used to it, but it's hard to be alone and isolated; and these magazines provide space and room to breathe, to exist for a little while without the self-conciousness of being closeted or in the minority, the oddity. They provide words for things I can recognize, things that are mine, words that aren't used to obfuscate or hide or pass.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


The Smelly Kid took a bath!!!!

Smelly Kid is a 12 year old boy in what I dub the Almost Perfect Class. It would be perfect, except for Smelly Kid. It's only six kids, so they can't really act up, they're young enough to still be enthusiastic, but old enough that I can actually do interesting activities with them. But the last time I taught them we had to have the door and all the windows open, in December, because the stench from Smelly Kid was that bad. I feel horrible for the poor thing; he must have totally neglectful parents or something. Because he's a sweet boy, and smart, but for obvious reasons, always sits alone.

But today, at least, he seems to have bathed, and did not smell in the least. It was a good class.

I had an earlier class that was not so hot. It's the class with my student with the teachercrush on me. It started well enough but quickly degenerated into them tossing pencils across the room and text messaging each other, because they're thirteen and hot shit. And my professors haven't seen the need to explain the displicinary system to me, so about all I can do is yell at them, which doesn't work, of course, if I can't do anything to back it up.
It was a bit of a disaster, really. But get this. Baby Dyke actually started crying. I was totally nonplussed. I mean, jeez. Wow. La pauvre.

Also, I left the remains of my lunch behind in my locker, by accident. I just hope the tupperware holds out for a week.

Sigh. I'm going to go home, write stuff about The Forsyte Saga and French queer magazines, and hopefully post intelligent stuff this weekend.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Revenge of the TeacherCrush

Still pondering the Big Ideas. But in the meantime, I think I may be the object of a baby dyke teacher crush.
Having spent my senior year of college harboring a HUGE crush on my Anglo-Saxon Lit teacher, I'm pretty familiar with the symptoms (hell, I still have the hots for that woman, and could probably spend the rest of this post detailing all the things I admire about her, from her Canadian nationality to the Celtic knot tattoo on her left wrist....excuse me, I need to reminisce a moment...sigh...)

Anyway. She's one of my older students, probably about 13, and she hasn't stopped staring at me with shy adoration since day 1, when I just sat in the back and observed the class. She lights up like the Christmas tree in Rockerfeller Center if I so much as sneeze in her direction. Always participates enthusiastically, waving her hand around even when she doesn't know the answer. And I don't think she's usually the Hermione Granger of the class (I know my fellow geeks when I see one). Says hello to me in the hallway, which isn't unusual, most of my students do that, ("'ell-oh Meees!"), but I always catch her looking back at me as she walks away. I only have her class once or twice a month; she asked me once if I was teaching her class that day and when I said no she looked like I just ran over her dog.

It's terribly cute, and kind of wierd too. I mean, my male students are kind of flirtatious in the idiotic way that 13 year old boys have, when faced with an older woman who's smarter than them. It's a way of keeping me on their level, saving their pride or whatever ("Madame, que veut dire slut?" You know very well what slut means, and no I'm not telling you. Now open your notebooks.) But she acts the same way I did around TeacherCrush, knocking myself out to impress her (I got an A in that course, needless to say. I probably would have gotten an A in any case, but let me tell you, I earned that one), trying hard not to gaze at her with great big googly eyes.
But if she does have a crush on me, and if it's anything like my crush on my professor, I kind of feel bad for her too. My teachercrush was kind of excruciating, really, because it forced me to confront all my internalized homophobia; I had to sit there and figure out why it was no big deal when one of my straight friends had a teachercrush, but for me it was a disaster. The one constant in my life at that point, my role as a rational brain-on-a-stick student, had becomed undermined by my sexuality. I didn't want to be crazy attracted to her; it made me feel paranoid and guilty and incredibly ashamed. I just wanted to go on being Andygrrl, Straight-A Student. Not the fucked up lesbo with a jones for her prof.
Because the pedagogical academic space is supposed to be entirely disembodied, asexual, impersonal; think of the taboos on straight relationships between students and teachers. Nevermind queer ones (hm, this is turning into a Big Idea post after all). And nobody wants queers teaching their kids. So I feel a little wierd about the whole situation. There's all those stereotypes about predatory homos corrupting innocent youth, for one thing. None of my professors (co-workers, really), know I'm gay, but still. My native Catholic guilt keeps returning to that trope. I keep reminding myself that you're only teaching her how to conjugate the past tense correctly, for Christ's sake; if she really is gay, or bi, or queer, it has nothing to do with you, and you can't help it in any case.
Maybe that's what's really bothering me; I can't help her, I can just teach English the best I can. Because I was her age "when I knew", and I wouldn't want her to go through the same shit I did. But there's nothing for her here in Verdun; no community, nada. Shit, even in my college town, I could get a copy of Girlfriends or the Advocate. You can't get the French equivalent here. I have to go to Metz. Then again, she can always run away to Paris when she gets older; it's only three and half hours away by train, and next year I think they'll have the TGV here, so it'll be even closer.
I don't know. Life is wierd.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

in lieu of meaningful posting, a Buffy quiz

Alyson Hannigan
You are Willow Rosenberg. Nerd turned knockout, you
are one powerful witch. You are very protective
of those you care about. You would kill for the
one you love. Literally.

Which Character from 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

DUH; I'm the lesbo dork into candles and incense. Snagged from Winter .
I've got several Big Ideas running around in my head (gender/media/identity/location/sexuality/porn, among others), several posts worth I think, I'm just trying to figure out how to disentangle them into some sort of coherent form. Must go off and ponder some more. And finish that Goddamn Sweater.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

gayest New Year's ever

I think vodka tonics make me do crazy-ass things.

So I was in Paris for New Year's, staying with Katy-the-American-I-met in Athens. I spent the day meeting up with Ricardo, browsing bookstores. FINALLY found a copy of Sappho's complete poems (or what's left of them, I should say) at The Village Voice bookstore. It was the exact edition I found on the internet, too. ::sigh of pure contentment:: Happiness is a good book.

I started the evening off getting lost in le Marais. I couldn't remember where 3W was. So I wandered around the dark, fairly empty streets, wearing my utterly grungy jeans and my black coat, when I think a gay guy tried to pick me up. He approached me from behind (which freaked me the fuck out; any guy friends reading this, NEVER EVER EVER DO THAT TO A WOMAN) and offered me his arm, very old-school. Mumbled something unintelligible. I looked at him and said, "Ah, non!" He looked at me with a sudden expression of surprise and shock, said "Ah, excusez-moi!" and took off like a shot.
He probably just mistook me for a friend, but it's more amusing to think he thought I was a guy looking for company.

But I finally found 3W. Was surprisingly empty, especially for New Year's, but I did get there pretty early. Nursed a beer and sighed over the impossibly gorgeous butch bartenders. One of them was missing her right arm below the elbow and did some amazing feats, juggling all those glasses.
I finished my beer and decided to check out Bliss Kfe, a dyke cafe/bar just down the road from 3W. They had a bouncer guarding the door, which I found bizarre, since it's not a club. But I'd noticed Le Marais was now plastered with "Votez Le Pen" posters, so maybe there's been some trouble in the neighborhood recently (for those not up on French politics, Le Pen is a disturbingly popular xenophobic right wing extremist politician. He got a large number of votes in the presidential primaries 3 years ago; we studied it in French class. So that's kind of like covering the Castro in San Francisco with "Vote Senator Rick Santorum". Or any Republican of your choice, really).
Anyway, Bliss Kfe was busy; there was a birthday party upstairs and I even got a slice of leftover cake. I sat at the bar and sighed over the bartender again (I think I'll go to bartending school when I get back; obviously that's where all the hotties are). I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me, a 30 something bisexual named Blondine, short pixie hair cut, oh, so cute. We had a pleasant chat in a mishmash of French and English. I started figuring out when would be a good point to ask her to dance.
This is where the vodka tonic comes in. I don't drink hard liquor hardly at all, but I like vodka tonics. I don't have them very often, but I figured spending New Year's in a Parisian dyke bar was certainly a good enough excuse. So I bought myself one.
Next thing I know I'm dancing not with Blondine, but with her butch friend who's name I don't even know. I'm totally enjoying myself, but I'm making out with the wrong woman!! I'm standing there playing an intense game of tonsil hockey with Nameless Butch, all the while trying to figure out if I can still ask Blondine to dance. I spend the rest of the evening with Nameless Butch, who I don't even find all that attractive anyway (she tastes like ashtrays. Smoker.) Catch the metro back to Katy's place, thinking "What just happened?"
I blame the vodka tonic. And the patriarchy, because one should blame the patriarchy whenever possible (I can make a good case for it too. Stupid patriarchy, making the world so fucked up and homophobic that it's impossible for dykes to meet each other outside of an alcoholic setting, and therefore making me so lonely I'm willing to make out with anybody with a pulse.)
But, I finally got to kiss someone on New Year's. I've always wanted to do that. And she may have tasted like ashtrays, but, uh, wow!, nevertheless. Beats the heck out of every previous New Year's, which I spent baby-sitting my cousins for a measly 20 bucks.

So now I'm back in Verdun, content to going back to being a little old lady. Knitting, reading, cooking. It's a good life, and I'm constantly surprised that it's mine. And, what's more, I actually have a New Year's Resolution (I never make resolutions): I'm going to read The Second Sex in French. It's in the library, and I've got about four months to do it. And there won't be a decent translation till like 2050 due to copyright law (fuck you very much, Disney), so I figure there's no time like the present. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.