Monday, November 2, 2015

Freak

I should not have skipped both posts last week. There's been a lot on my mind, all going off at different angles and yet I think I can feel the thread pulling them together--but the thread gets caught, has knots, and sometimes, I lose track of it. It is already 0035 as I begin this post, 0035 on a Monday morning, and I should be preparing a fake cost estimate for a fake project but I need to process the past week.

Here we go. Things may get real.

-

I've found myself referring to myself since coming to college, rather frequently, as "freak." As in, "wow, what a freak move" when I have a particularly awkward social encounter, or, "god, I'm a freak" when listening to a group talk about something and realizing how wildly different my perspective is.

The societal default is a straight cis extroverted rich white man. I am almost none of the above (except reasonably affluent). Throw in the non-drinking aspect, too, which is one of my most unusual traits at college.

As I type this, my gut reaction is to pull back and laugh it off. Look how melodramatic I am. I know what an extreme word that is, "freak," I know I probably can't responsibly lay claim to it as a neurotypical and able-bodied person (my roommate is in femgen 101 and she's teaching me all sorts of words that I haven't considered before) when it has been used, in the past, to refer to people with unusual bodily characteristics.

But when a word has stayed with me for over a year and doesn't feel as though it's going to go away, I should probably pay attention. You are welcome not to.

-

At a panel of LGBT students sharing their stories, one panelist said: "I self-identify with the word 'queer' before other terms, like LGBT, because I think that it best captures my experience of otherness."

(Out of respect for other people's stories, of their other demographic traits I will only say that they are also far off the default, in similar ways to me.)

That resonated.

As a first-generation American of Chinese extraction, my upbringing was way different from a lot of my white friends'. I don't know how much of the freakishness I feel is because of my demographics and how much is just me not being normal, because certainly there are socially-adept people who have my demographic breakdown. But they certainly are related, the weirdness I am and the weirdness I feel.

One of my RAs hosted a discussion on cultural appropriation last week, and somehow the topic got onto Disney movies. I said that I don't care how inaccurate and simplified it is, Mulan is and will always be one of my favorite movies because of how it affected me as a kid, to see a positive portrayal of a intelligent Chinese girl (who pretended to be a man. Hm. Hindsight is not 20/20 but I think I'm seeing something here) who got to be way more badass than any of the white princesses.

Feeling positive about my race was not something that happened a lot. I learned, as a lot of minority kids do, to poke fun. To mock the accent, to throw my parents' culture under the bus, to make the FOB jokes before anyone else could. Don't be the oversensitive minority kid. Don't be oversensitive. Don't be sensitive. Don't.

When I figured out that I was asexual last year, I had very little angst about it. It was something that made me feel strong, superior even, special. Asian girls are sexualized horrendously and being ace, while not something that I chose or can claim any moral high ground for, feels like sticking up a middle finger to society's script for what a person who looks like me and has my DNA should be.

Figuring out that I'm not cis has been a weirder journey. I haven't claimed the term agender publicly, even to the people I'm out to at school, because...well. I'm not sure. I don't think I have a gender identity but the way I'm changing my gender presentation is moving toward the masculine end of the spectrum, and since I haven't figured out if gender can be non-performative, in general and in my case specifically, I don't know if a term as neutral as agender really works.

In the post I made about it in the summer, I used it as a declaration of "I'm not playing your stupid gender game." But I think I am playing it, now, and I have to think about how I am playing it. Because I've gotten more stereotypically masculine, in ways that are not exactly new but that haven't been relevant in a while, and I don't know how much of it is me being me and how much of it is me wanting to be perceived as more masculine and therefore adopting characteristics that are coded as masculine.

This is the same process in reverse as my reclaiming of feminine things that started the summer before college. In fact, it is undoing some of that work, and I'm trying to figure out what is right.

While I lived at home I often felt a freak because of the way I dressed. My aesthetic sense in middle school and high school was very skewed by what I saw other people wearing, and the messages were conflicting enough that I always seemed to be a little out of step with what was normal. It's kind of pathetic how much I angsted over my clothing, which I suppose means that it's kind of pathetic now as well.

Take socks, for example. In freshman year of high school I wore the long socks that I always had, except now it felt uncool because everyone else had ankle socks. So I got ankle socks, and lo and behold, by the end of sophomore year long socks had become fashionable again. Stupid, right? Except now I reserve my black socks for days when I need to kill it, because black socks feel more professional somehow, and black is a powerful color, and...I don't know. I also don't associate black socks with being in high school, which helps with the "not feeling weak" thing.

My roommate and I were looking at old high school pictures and she commented on how much more feminine I looked back then. That felt good, because it means that I'm more masculine now. But it's not enough. I feel apologetic when I go into a women's restroom because I don't want to belong and I feel like I'm intruding. But I'm not because I don't pass as anything but female. My fear is coming true: hearing "she/her" applied to me is starting to make my skin crawl.

I'm not a woman. I'm not a woman. I am not a woman.

(Does the fact that I have to say it again and again make me a freak?)

-

For Halloween, I dressed as Harry James Potter. I hadn't been this excited about a costume for at least six years. I stole a red and gold tie from band and tied it myself over a white dress shirt whose buttons were going the wrong way (i.e. it was a woman's dress shirt). Over it I put the gray men's sweater that I got at the thrift store two weekends ago, and over that I wore my unisex jacket with a hastily-drawn Gryffindor patch pinned over the S.

On my forehead I drew a lightning scar and on the back of my right hand I wrote "I must not tell lies."

In Hogwarts terms, I would probably best fit into Hufflepuff. Loyalty, hard work, black and gold, being forgettable. But dressing as one of my favorite male characters of all time, a Gryffindor, a hero, the Boy Who Lived, the Chosen One, of whom it is written "Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways," an exception, a half-blood, a wizard, a freak--I wanted Halloween to go on forever. I wanted to keep being Harry Potter, keep being someone whose freakishness leads to greatness.

Keep being brave. Keep telling the truth.

I must not tell lies.

-

It's raining now and I've been writing this for almost an hour. I am probably going to get fewer than six hours of sleep tonight. I don't care.

Over the past year I've come to several uncomfortable conclusions about myself, one being that part of my ignorance is motivated by cowardice. I'm afraid to learn about important issues because then I'll care too much and if I care, then I'll have to choose between doing nothing and doing something. Doing nothing is safe. Doing something is not. That's why I haven't engaged as much with feminism, with Black Lives Matter, with the Israel-Palestine question, etc., as someone of my education level should be obligated to.

When I realized that I was ace (last winter) I wondered if I might also not be cis, and then tabled the question until the summer. I tell people "they/them is the most accurate but she/her is okay" because I'm afraid that if I get out of the habit of being okay with she/her, then I won't be able to hide it.

I'm a goddamn coward. I have the option--for now--of staying in the closet as nonbinary and asexual. But other people get pushed out of the closet. And do I try, also, to look white to cause less trouble? No, because I don't have the option, and the dozens of people assaulted or arrested or killed for no other crime than being the wrong race at the wrong place don't have that option either. And could those performers put in cages at "freak shows" hide the ways in which they were different, out of the ordinary, unsettling?

Maybe I sound too melodramatic again--but I am scared. I am scared that I will have to care, that I will not be able to help myself from caring.

I am afraid that I will talk myself into coming out to my parents and the thought makes me sick to my stomach because they have always been the loudest voices saying "be more normal." I'm already something of a disappointment, despite going to Stanford ("and isn't that all that Asian parents care about?" hiss the voices of racist high school memories), because I've made it clear that I will never have children and will probably end up in the construction industry. If they find out that I'm not straight, that I'm not even a girl, how will they react?

I must not tell lies. But must I always tell the truth?

-

Happy Halloween. If only I could always dress like Harry Potter. If only it were always okay to be a freak.

No comments:

Post a Comment