another_constellation: A white man smiling at a laptop (Default)
[personal profile] another_constellation
My campus was doing Take Back the Night tonight. I've never been and wanted to go, but I had to go to a lecture that went long and I didn't know where people would be. The lecture put me in a bad head-space. The lecturer was talking about actual, physical blindness, as well as metaphorical blindness, but managed not to talk about impairment or disability, which I found sort of puzzling. She talked about what she called geographic privilege, which she discussed as the privilege not to see something. Her examples were a DC Congressman who claimed to see no evidmence of the slave trade in DC in 1847, when right across the river in Alexandria, VA was the HUB of the coastwise slave trade. She also talked about Bertha in "Jane Eyre" (she didn't make this first point exactly, but in order to make Bertha stop existing, Rochester has to stop seeing her. He deals with the pain of colonial money and white racism by stopping seeing this Creole woman whose money gives him the privilege not to deal with colonialism. He stops seeing her by locking her in the attic.) She was making a lot of interesting points about how blindness creates a rupture in "Jane Eyre" and EDEN Southworth's "Retribution," EDEN Southworth having gone blind (temporarily) as a child, and in that Congressman's life, but she wasn't talking about disability or real bodies. At least I don't think so. But it was sort of hard for me to tell all the time because, ha-ha, I'm losing my hearing, and I'm losing my mind, so tracking a complex aural argument is sort of hard.

So I had a lot of things I wanted to talk about in the little reception afterwards, but I couldn't think how to say them other than "how can you give a lecture about blindness and colonialism and gender without it being about bodies?" Which seemed pretty rude, so I didn't. And anyway, it's the same question I have wanted to ask after every lecture for the past two years.

I started walking to the bus stop and half a block off, I heard screaming and chanting. It was Take Back the Night. And it scared the shit out of me, like tears-instantly-in-my-eyes, how-do-I-get-away-from-this, trapped-rabbit scared. Because I couldn't understand anything they were saying, and it was fucking loud and that is not a safe combo in my head.

And that felt really lonely to me. A couple nights ago, I was waiting for the bus at about a quarter of midnight when a guy came up to me where I was sitting. He gestured to my legs, which were tucked under me and said that he thought I was "an invalid." I didn't like that, but I didn't know what to do, so I just said no and went back to reading. He asked me a question I couldn't hear, so I made a "no" sound. Then he said that he was gay, and I figured he was trying to cruise me so again I sort of made a discouraging sound. And he said "so you must be a lesbian, right?" And I was surprised because I hadn't shaved for a couple days, but also not surprised, and didn't like any of the options this dude had given me in the conversation, and didn't want to have a discussion, and also figured that, yeah, as far as he was concerned, I'm a lesbian. I said something like "uhhh. Who can really say?" He said "I can. I'm gay. You can tell from a mile away." And I sort of just sat there, too bothered to even understand.

I haven't done testosterone since September and my face is definitely feminizing, and my chest is getting more solid and more difficult to bind and I also don't really give a shit about binding too much right now. And as a result, I'm starting to get nervous again when I am walking home late at night (I work until midnight and take two buses home around 12:30/1am four days a week). A few weeks ago, it was dusk and i was walking to a bus stop past a guy who was leaning against a building and thought "oh shit. he's going to say something about my body now."

All of this to say that it felt so lonely not to feel safe with Take Back the Night-- but I didn't.

At the bus stop the night the guy was talking to me, a woman had also been trying to chat with me. I just was not in the mood, though she seemed friendly enough. After the guy walked away, she said "people always ask me questions about my accent, but I can't imagine the kinds of questions you get." I just wanted no one to speak to me (because why to people always need to speak to me when I almost always just want for them to be quiet?) and I wanted a minute to think about how I felt about what he was asking, and why I disliked it so much, so I didn't really respond to her (I said it was "mostly confusing") but in retrospect (how  form 90% of my emotions), I really appreciated her saying SOMETHING to acknowledge that his questions were invasive and not okay.

There's the word! Invasive! I felt his words on my body, and I did not like any of them. I did not like the options he was giving me for talking about my body and my experiences. He asked questions like he knew the answer, and the way he asked them made my participation unnecessary. I did not like their shouts being in my head without me being able to understand them, I did not like the lecturer talking about people's bodies without talking about people.

All of this is so clearly what I need to be writing my thesis on, but where to even begin. Here's my intro:

I have some thoughts about bodies, and silence, and legibility, (and MY body and MY silence and MY legibility) and I need you to sit there and listen with an open heart while I try to untangle them for you.
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another_constellation: A white man smiling at a laptop (Default)

July 2011

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