Thursday, January 28, 2010

Man equals woman- I'm just a messenger, don't shoot me down

A brief storytime.

I spent my saturday night at Club Androgyny, a new event at Passive Arts that my boyfriend is DJing. Most of the fetish clubs tend to draw a relatively heterosexual crowd, so this night is intentionally queer oriented. I dressed up drag queeny again, and Tenebrae was done up as his usual glamgoth self. His friend– a burly black security guard– came to hang out with us behind the DJ booth. He's a nice guy, and whenever I see him he brings us free drinks, which is clearly an automatic win. He handed me a Jack and diet coke, and proceeded to implore my advice.

"Can you help me out with something?"
"Well, you're a girl, and girls are usually good at this. See the people at that table right there?"
He gestures to a group of three just a few yards away. There is a blonde woman who is over-the-top right into drag queen territory , and a brunette with enormous Ren Faire boobs corseted into a shelf formation. Across from her sits an Annie Lennox style androgyne. Slim, wearing a tie with suspenders and pinstriped hat partially obscuring the eyes.
"Those two ladies and that. Is that a girl or a dude?"
I take a ponderous, and deliberately unfazed look. "Um, I'm not really sure. I'm thinking girl, but that's just my first impression."
"Girl, huh? Weird. Gives me the creeps, you know?"
"No, I do not know." I am much more deadpan than I usually allow myself to be with mere acquaintances.
"Not being able to tell, that doesn't give you the creeps?"
"Uh, not at all. I like not knowing, actually. I respect it."
"You like TVs?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Well, to each their own. But as a guy, it creeps me out."
I nodded in acknowledgment but not approval, and felt very little regret about the awkwardness that I was inducing. He then walked away, parting amicably.

The thing I find the most baffling is that the reason I know this man is through Tenebrae. I almost wished I could have pressed the issue then and there; not out of judgement or hostility, but genuine curiosity. I'm curious to know where and how he draws the line of creepitude. His friend and my boyfriend stood not even three feet away, in full makeup and skirt, long hair and all women's clothes. Is that acceptable because he's not "deceptively" androgynous? He may blur some lines, but certainly isn't trying to pass for a woman. Actually, that would be my guess. In a case like this, it seems to be less about gender transgression and unconventionality, and more about personal entitlement. Many people seem to feel entitled to immediately knowing other people's genders, and feel personally threatened when they can't. We see this same phenomenon in action when it comes to sexual orientation, too.

The other interesting thing is that this all happened in a bondage club. The whole point of the gathering is alternative lifestyles, and on top of that, the event was called Club Androgyny. If he has a problem with transvestites and truly "deceptive" androgynes, he becomes the outsider at this event, not them.

Oddly enough, this interaction was actually somewhat gratifying. I am always proud when able to concisely speak at least some of my mind on the spot, because it sure as hell doesn't happen as often as I would like. I tend shy away from confrontation to an embarrassingly extreme degree. Maybe it was the drag queen outfit.

Edit, over 12 hours later: Something astounding just occurred to me. In my memory, I inverted my response to his question. What I actually said in the moment was, "I'm thinking guy, but that's just my first impression." Not girl, after all. I considered just going back and editing the original post to correct this, but the fact that I completely forgot while I was writing it, and planning to write it, is even more intriguing to me than the interaction itself. First of all, it reenforces how thoroughly androgynous this person really was, and second, it proves how much their physical gender really is not the point to me, at least not under this circumstance. It also makes more so-called sense that he would be creeped out when the conclusion was male rather than female. Now I can't help but wonder how he would have reacted if I had actually replied in the way that I typed above. I'm sure it would have been different. And not only that, but I recall now that I discovered later that the "blonde woman who is over-the-top right into drag queen territory" was in fact a Hedwig-esque drag queen. A good looking one, too; she won the half-assed beauty pageant. So that shifts my earlier assessment from three women sitting around a table to one woman and potentially two men, or two not-quite-women, at least.

Brains are such strange things.


  1. Well, androgyny is associated with sexlessness. True androgyny (as opposed to girly boys or manly women) makes me think of that Marilyn Manson album cover, and aliens with no sex organs, and manikins - things you cannot possibly fuck. I guess his discomfort came from seeing someone completely sexless in a club, since clubs are places where you look at people and think "do I want to have sex with that person? Do you think she wants to have sex with me?"

    The kind of almost-androgny that's hot comes from seeing someone who is recognizably a handsome man or a hot women who has the clothes, makeup, or demeanor of the opposite gender. You have to recognize the gender first (a butch dyke's not going to get hot for that person in a man's suit until she sees her boobs popping out).

    But yeah, it's ironic that this happened at Club Androgyny.

  2. I don't think that androgyny is always or even usually associated with sexlessness. I mean, look at the word: andro = man, gyn = woman. It's the combination of the two. Whether it results in a canceling effect like you describe, or a blending/bending sort of excess depends on the particular androgynous person and also on who's interpreting their appearance. Just because it's not immediately obvious which sex lies under the ungendered or multigendered exterior shouldn't cancel out the sexuality of it all.

    I completely agree with the second part, though. I find myself in that strange situation sometimes, looking at someone and wondering if they are male or female. If they turn out to be female, the intrigue and attraction almost always falls apart, and I have to take note of the inevitable double standard. Some people just have trouble with that initial wondering part, and get negatively hung up there, whereas I find it fun.

  3. "Well, androgyny is associated with sexlessness."

    It's true, but only one of the two main definitions. What is probably more pertinent is the first definition:

    *A state of having traits of both genders [from the mid-19th c.]*

    Which much more clearly arrives at the experience you're describing, and the vast majority of queer gender performances. While the Lennox-esque individual in the above story may be a less acute clash of masculine and feminine appearance/performance, it remains a clash nevertheless, rather than a lack of traits.

    Also, though I myself identify as androgynous, this is largely a matter of personality, as I am a man, with large, masculine features who generally dresses butch, and hyperbutch in club settings, almost a la a West Hollywood gay type. My performance is something of a parody, but, is actually a joke my androgynous mind is having on the world.

    I agree with your diagnosis of your security guard friend that his frustration comes from lack of being able to determine gender, but I think you can probably go farther and say that this inability to categorize gender prevents him, in his mind, from being allowed to take pleasure in viewing this individual, the possibility of an encounter to be left a separate discussion.