drunken debauchery in the back alley
Any given day, there is a to-do list. At the top of today's list was changing our mailing address. Not a big deal.. except that today is Bermuda Shorts Day up at the University of Calgary and since we live in the Student Ghetto, this place is lousy with drunk undergrads. But it's only around noon, so I ask myself "what's the worst that could happen on the 3 minute walk between here and the post office?". Piles of vomit? Passed out engineers? Bah! The most dangerous thing between here and the post office was that the temperature is hovering around 0ºC. So I pop on my oh so snazzy CBC Radio 3 toque, head out the door and down the alley.
I am not more than a dozen steps into the alley when one of the undergrads, who has been holding court on the first floor balcony since 9am, pops his head out the door and shouts "Nice hat, faggot!". I stopped, looked up at the window where his rather mortified friend was standing, and said "really?!". I was shocked. I couldn't think of a wittier retort. My mind was reeling.
I've never had the word "faggot" hurled at me before, but it brought back all the associations of Grade 7. McGirr Elementary. Allison. Oh yes, I remember you. See, I was a real late bloomer and definitely going through an awkward stage. I was also new to this rather cliquey elementary school. And Allison started a rumour that I was actually a boy and that I'd moved to Nanaimo in order to restart my life as a girl. People believed her, including a boy, who would later become a dear friend of mine, but was so afraid the rumour was true that he wouldn't even speak to me for that first year. I was a complete pariah. Didn't help matters when the following year I chopped off my hair into a very cute pixie cut. "Are you a boy?" was a now-familiar refrain. I started to wear makeup and became hyper-feminine in an effort, I thought, to stem the abuse. When that didn't work, I picked up Friedan and de Beauvoir and challenged the stereotypes directly. No makeup. No form-fitting clothes. If you're going to judge me based on my appearance, then you're the last person I care to get to know.
I'd love to say that this new post-Grade 10 outlook left me full of self-confidence and self-esteem, but that'd be a lie. I've never felt secure in how I look, but I firmly believe that this is true for the majority of girls and women. Even now, I have absolutely no self-confidence when it comes to my appearance, while simultaneously I am aware that this lack of confidence is the result of a sexist media and patriarchal society.
By the drunken undergrad shouting "faggot!" at me, all the gender insecurity came flooding back. Am I not feminine enough? Maybe I should have worn some makeup today? What am I doing wrong? Yes, I know that the fellow is drunk, homophobic, insecure, and likely compensating. I know that I, in fact, did nothing at all wrong. I also know that I'd have to multiply how I feel at the moment by around a gazillion in order to come close to how a GLBT individual would feel.
Yet here I sit, firmly committed to growing my hair long again.