Thursday, January 29, 2009

Feasting on Queers: Allies and Assholes my Academic Arena

It's come to my attention that a lot of people in my workplace who claim to have thoughtful analyses of identity are perfectly willing to overwrite the identity claims/affiliations I've articulated about myself. I am entirely exhausted by heteronormative assumptions and expectations that run much deeper than I ever anticipated in my workplace. Was I naive to think that some of the self-assured "liberals" I work with actually know anything about identity politics? Maybe. But people are misleading, and as I've learned time and time again, assholes (too often) finish first.

If sexual harassment (whether or not the law recognizes it) takes a variety of forms, then I assure you I'm feeling somewhat sexually harassed. My choice to be out as queer at work has been everything from great to terrible. I often struggle to reconcile my proud queer identity in an academic institution that affords only small moments of lip service to queers while it maintains an unquestioned, heternormative, deeply conservative, corporate agenda.

That said, my choice to be out as queer among my colleagues is my CHOICE. But my colleagues' choice to think, for even one brief moment, about what that might mean for me is entirely out of my hands. It turns out I am surrounded by some disturbingly cavalier, presumptuous, non-allies, who moonlight as managers at a rumour mill specializing in people's sex lives. It must be a challenge to add spice to straight and narrow scripted lifestyles, and so, it makes sense they've turned to the token queer for dramatic inspiration. Really, what can I say to that?

I have to wonder if being open about my sexual identity has invited people to want to pry further into my sex life, make assumptions, ignore assertions I've made about myself if they seem unfitting to the narratives these people are/were hoping to create. Is that how my workplace justifies feasting on my body? They feel entitled to produce creative renderings of what my body does? What about my consent? What about my voice? Whatever narratives have been created about me have NEVER been checked out directly WITH me and THAT is, perhaps, the part of me that feels most erased--my right to speak for myself.

It might serve my workplace well to string a banner in the mailroom that reads: A Dose of Dick Will Cure the Dyke. At least then I'll feel a little less blind-sighted to people's politics, and I'll be more protective, less willing to take their loyalty and consideration at face value. But perhaps the problem here has less to do with the speculation that I've been "cured," but rather, the disbelief that I was every "really" a dyke to begin with. And my guess is that THIS has more to do with my gender presentation than anything else.

In a world where "femme" is too often invisible or disconnected from "queer" I have to say I feel pretty fucking trapped amid ignorant assumptions. Not victimized, but trapped. What good has it done for me to come out in a setting that refuses to accept, believe, and honour my asserted identity? I am no closer to ensuring people understand who I am now that their juicy stories have trumped my lived realities. Well, I can't devote much more time to this bullshit right now so I'm just going to carry on with my day.


amy_d said...

Rock on, sister. This is such a smart analysis of what is really going on and I would agree that the weasel who started these rumors is not only misogynist because she started rumors about your vag, but also because these rumors are a form of sexual harassment in the workplace.

And what's even more disgusting is the fact that all these hets you work with are voyeuristiclly listening and spreading the gossip through the department.

Yes. Lovely liberals in liberal arts.

Casey said...

You are fucking amazing. And strong. And brilliant. Thank you for writing, for speaking, and for educating.

Little Ms Whatshertights said...

Thank you! I love you both. If I could wrap the two of you in a tortilla I'd eat the fuck outta you! xo

Anonymous said...

Wow, very sad, very common.

Sexual harassment of all forms needs to end!