my queerpunk: on punkrock, defiance, and seduction   nadyalec

 

a meditation on flirtation, flaunting, and funny-colored hair


when i was little, i didn't know what economist meant. so when other kids asked what my dad did, i said "he's a terrorist. if you're mean to me he'll kill you."

i've thought about that in so many ways. there's self-hatred and stereotyping, definitely, in that simple equation arab=terrorist. but there's also a precocious defiance, a way of reveling in the ability to shock, that i still like. proto-punk

later on i would bring pomegranetes to school with me and feed them to people who had never had one before. playing the exotic, cutting the hard shell and breaking the textured insides apart, then offering the ripe vivid fruit to a friend. i think that's probably when i first learned to flirt; taking my difference and opening it up; turning the insides around and offering something gorgeous.

i wrote about that my last year in college. in an autobiographical essay about playing the exotic, i still remember that my professor circled the word "exotic" disapprovingly. i was upset because she had missed the point; there is power in seducing with what makes you different. that's also the year that i shaved most of my head and dyed the rest of it purple and green; the year i turned 21 and started calling myself a lesbian.

i wore long flowing hippy dresses and skirts; a safe sex is hot sex tshirt with two topless girls kissing; a support vaginal pride sticker on a green bag that i wrapped around my waist so it hung over my crotch; and battered combat boots. in a personal ad i described myself as into hippy-punk crossdressing; my best friend said we were freaks.*

when somebody stares at your green and purple partially-shaved head, you have a lot of power. you control their gaze; you know exactly why they're looking at you. as a deeply depressed genderqueer kid (who had never heard the word genderqueer) a few years before, i had been haunted by the feeling that people were staring at me all the time, seeing some flaw on me, some scarlet letter that was invisible only to me. my greatest comfort was the thought that someday everyone who had ever looked at me would be dead. now, with fucked up hair and a what-are-you-looking-at attitude, i knew exactly why they were looking at me. i loved and feared the attention.

there was pleasure too. i remember exhilaration mixed with fear, out together at night daring everyone to stare. going from having kissed one person to six in that game of lesbian spin the bottle on the quad in the mid-afternoon; crawling across the grass to seize the mouth of my prey. sitting up all night talking about maenads and poltergeists until we raised one. that time on our way to the show that man called us sluts and my girlfriend took off, ready to kick his ass; i don't quite remember how a fight was averted. pushing our way to the front so we could see the band, screaming along with l7. i remember loud music and cheap champagne; love and rockets and virginia woolf; kiss-ins that were an excuse to make out ferociously in public and how shy we were in private. we loved the male, female-- we loved anyone's gaze.

it was not a coincidence that i started wearing my difference on the outside at the same time that i came out, to myself and everybody who saw one of my out loud & proud tshirts. coming out as a dyke explained my own long-lasting sense of difference; i had felt like a freak because i was secretly queer. it explained why people had sometimes called me sir or referred to me as a young man; that happens to lots of queer women. (it would be a few years before i embraced the terms trans, genderqueer, inbetweener; existence precedes essence; in another year i would be wearing a tie to work with my miniskirt.) my life had a simple explanation, and instead of cowering from the accusing gaze of straight people i would revel in it.

that summer my girlfriend and i packed our belongings and a tube of saran wrap (safe sex is hot sex!) into a used car with an unregistered gun in the glove compartment and headed out to look for america. it was great fun until we got bashed in truth or consequences new mexico. but that's another story.

* thanks to eli clare for pointing out how problematic it is for nondisabled kids to call themselves freaks when so many disabled people are labeled that way from childhood; i don't call myself a freak now.


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