Everyone in the crowd knew you were a lesbian.

Everyone in the crowd knew you were a lesbian.

I saw them across the quad. Three preachers – two men and a woman – with a giant sign announcing the inevitability of eternal torture unless I immediately subscribed to their newsletter. As some of you know, I’m a finely tuned scorn-powered IRL trolling machine.  It was either this or the gym. The choice was obvious.

I sauntered over, momentarily oblivious to my own queerness, and planted myself in the crowd. After a brief exchange involving a demand of proof for evolution, an offer of proof (Retroviruses, dude!), a dismissal of proof on accounta he hadn’t ever studied that boring biology shit, and an autoecholalic repetition of his demand for proof, this exchange happened:

“You don’t know the bible!”
“Sure I do. I went to Christian school.”
“Well, that’s probably where you became A LESBIAN!”

It took me a good third of a second – Jane from Speaker for the Dead was basically based on my processing speed (I’m also a timelord, if you’re curious how a book written prior to my individuation was based on me) – to realize where he’d divined my sexuality.

Atheism Plus: Because not being fanatical misogynists is kind of our brand.

I was wearing long dude shorts with a bro-ish faint plaid pattern in brown on white, along with my binder and a t-shirt.  My hair is significantly shorter than the average Duggar daughter.  I spoke with authority to a man.  I wore a driving cap. Isn’t it obvious that I sleep with women?As a courtesy to the rest of the crowd, he proceeded to explicate in great detail these many personal failings of mine as a woman.

Let me introduce the hater that initially noticed my cleverly not at all concealed gender non-conformity. Shown here demonstrating his truly excellent jazz hands.

So, what else could I do?  I threatened to hug him.  I began following him around inside the circle of the crowd that was now growing as more and more people stopped to see the queer boi begging the hater for a hug, only to be rebuffed with exchanges like this:

“Are you a man or a girl?”
“I can be whatever you want me to be, baby.”

“You try to look like a man with your short hair and your clothes!  What are you?!”
*At this point, I lifted up my shirt enough to expose my belly.”
“Wanna find out?”
“EWW GROSS look at your white nasty flabby blubber!  Only your husband should see that because it’s PRECIOUS!”

“Why’d you cut your beautiful hair off?

*From the crowd* “SHORT HAIR IS SEXY!” “YEA I LIKE HER HAIR!”

Around I became acutely aware of what a precarious position I would have gotten myself into in some parts of the world.  I was standing surrounded on all sides by a fairly dense crowd, with a screeching theist declaring me a muff diver (his words). In some countries, it would not have ended well for me.

Everyone’s gaydar pung a little bit that day.

With no hugs forthcoming, I invited members of what had become our rather large audience in to hug the faggot (though I was corrected immediately: he didn’t think I was a faggot, he just thought lesbians would burn like faggots).  Several people took me up on my offer.  The women all mysteriously clarified that they were not lesbians, including the one who grabbed my ass.

Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy, but can we just be friends, and get coffee maybe?

Later, he kind of abandoned that whole line of reasoning, and began attempting to entice me into the heteromonogamous Christian lifestyle, in which I was assured that if I were to submit to a singular dude and adopt a more stereotypical raiment, I would no longer be “used by so many men like I have been.”  (So, so many men.  You have no idea how many men he imagines using me, late at night when he’s counting the days since he last wanked it.  According to him, it’d been fourteen years, six months, two weeks, and, though he didn’t continue this far, I’m guessing at least eight hours).

Introducing Hater the Milder, who was responsible for “Muff Diver” and most of the other anti-gay comments. With a face like that, who wouldn’t give up their life of debauchery to become his personal sex toilet?

I have a point in here somewhere.

Oh yes! The title.  So, after they abruptly packed in it and skedaddled to a rousing chant of “Don’t Come Back! Don’t Come Back!” I was approached and high-fived by a handful of people who’d watched me toddle after this dude and beg him to hug me and release me from my homosexuality (he’s the only man I’ve ever loved!).

Enter: The Moral Dilemma

One of the people said the titular line: “I mean, everyone in the crowd knew you were a lesbian.” Only, I’m kind of not.  It’s odd how initially, my failure to immediately disavow any woman-loving inclination, though I’m certainly so-inclined, and later, my sarcastic taking up of the mantle of the Rorschach queermo, plagued with whatever sinful desires the observer projects onto me, desperate to be freed from my freedom to do who I want, had convinced so many people that I was, indeed, one of those type’a women.  And maybe their definition of lesbian is a bit more inclusive than mine.

Does it actually matter? It mattered to the people who asked, “So, are you a lesbian?” (which people who, sadly, weren’t asking me out) It mattered to the people who said, “I’m not a lesbian.” It mattered to the Christians who saw my dudebro attire and cried, “Lesbian!”  It mattered to the other Christians who came up and apologized tearfully, saying, “The Jesus I know doesn’t hate lesbians.”

I wonder about the politics of passing sometimes.  I don’t correct people who gender me inaccurately, however that’s defined.  I’m out as a woman-loving dude-identified person-type critter.  It would have probably only confused the crowd if I’d said, wait a minute, dude, I’m actually a bi/pansexual genderqueer transmasculine FAAB who mostly dates femme men but is most strongly oriented towards cis and trans women.

If anyone was still awake at that point, I suspect the response would have been, “That makes you a lesbian.”

Whether I am or not, what’s curious is that everyone in the crowd regardless of religious affiliation thinks it’s relevant and worth knowing like, for serious, whether I’m a lesbian.  Since my gender queerness is clearly a big part of that, how boyish do I have to be before I cross back over into hetero-land?

Deception for a greater good

Let’s look at it a different way.  Suppose I’m confronted by, say, the infamous fetus cube that haunts my alma mater ever January.  Suppose I’m talking to one of the invariably young white women staffing the fetus cube, distributing “What Can Patriarchy Do For YOU?” pamphlets.  Suppose I say, “Hey. I had an abortion. How do you like THEM zygotes?”

Is it better if it’s kind of woven into life circumstances that actually were true for me? Is it better if I just cut from the whole cloth and give an, “It’s somebody’s story” tale?

It’s deception, but it’s deception not for personal gain, but to humanize a group that’s often talked about in similarly faggot-burning terms.   It’s deception, but the only obvious harm could come to me, the deceiver, by associating myself with a stigmatized group – unless you count being tricked into empathy “harm.”

I didn’t correct anyone’s use of the term lesbian as not being precisely how I would describe myself because it wasn’t at all relevant. It gave me the moral authority to trail him asking for a hug, to put him in the position of doing what Jesus would have done: threatening to have me arrested if I so much as laid one vag-scented finger on his sanguine skin.  Everyone in the crowd knew he was saying these hateful things not just about lesbians, but to one.

So in the hypothetical abortion-cube scenario, the goal is to get fetus-enthusiast – or at least the audience – to realize she’s not just calling all those sluts out there in the ether murderers; she’s calling a real life person standing right in front of her, a person whose facial expressions and emotions are automatically processed – felt – by a web of mirror neurons in the observer’s brain, a murderer.

And not everyone can do that. The cognitive dissonance – the obvious triumph of love and truth over propaganda – the risk taken by telling the truth, even if it’s somebody else’s truth – is not something every cubist can easily dismiss.

The Denouement

I won the game of queer chicken, by the way.  I got my hug in the end (though not from the person who lovingly threatened me with arrest, but from the one I’d spent the most time following, who said most of the things above to me) when someone asked if they could take our picture.  Near the end of their rant, after hater the milder was tag-teamed out by hater the arrest-threatener, I noticed that hater the milder was breaking character something fierce, cracking up whenever we made eye contact.

And today, on their youtube channel, I discovered I had successfully and nonviolently rendered their last hour of footage unusable.  They cut off the tape right after he starts talking to me, right before he announces where I became a lesbian.

Success! Trollenia OUT!

In Real Life (tm) I'm a graduate student studying communication disorders. Someday, I may even have a job. Until then, I spend my days trolling as an official member of the Sanctimonious Women's Studies Set and as one of those Internet Atheists your mother warned you about. Oh, and I'm transmasculine, which is a short way of saying health issues preclude transitioning but I would if I could. I spend far too much time correcting the wrong people on the internet.

4 Comments

  1. Nice article! So many thoughts. First of all, good on you for calling out the god-botherers, and thank you for sharing their outrageous utterances with us all. Also, much sympathy for you being in a place where you have to deal with the general invisibility of non-binary and pansexual identities and the constant misreading. It can be entertaining at times, but also extremely frustrating.

    I actually don’t see much moral issue with your “deceiving” the people involved in this scene, because, although you are not a lesbian, I don’t think you can even really call something “deception” at all if the “victim” of your deceit is utterly ignorant of the concepts it would require to grasp your truth. Also, I don’t think it’s a negligible thing that it was they who first attributed this identity to you in the first place. You could almost compare the situation with that of a cis person who assumes everyone around them is cis and becomes offended when they learn that someone they know is in fact trans and that this person hadn’t told them earlier. The trans person wasn’t “deceiving” them; they fell victim to their own false assumptions based on their cissexism.

    Also, it’s possible, as you suggest, that the god-botherers, at least, wouldn’t ultimately choose to recognize any distinction between you and a lesbian even if they attempted to wrap their tiny brains around transgender identities. Even the “you’ve been used by so many men” comment suggests that they see any non totally “modest” and gender-conforming woman as sexually suspect in a very non-specified way.

    And they have, after all, more or less accurately guessed (albeit in somewhat more offensive words) that you are attracted to women and observed that you have adopted a masculine presentation. In light of this, a more precise comparison for your fetus cube scenario might be if a woman who had never questioned her gender identity a day in her life and had never felt any attraction for another woman just stepped up and claimed she was a lesbian in solidarity and to challenge the god-botherers. Perhaps that situation too would be totally justified. I guess all I’m trying to say is that there are lots of layers here.

    The moral authority question interests me a lot in general, though. It’s something that crosses my mind a lot especially with respect to starting testosterone. The more I think I want to go that route, the more I’m cognizant of how very different it will sound, for instance, if I start talking about gender or women’s issues with someone I’ve just met who thought I was a cis man. Even though I’m currently out and using a male name, I still feel like most people can tell I’m trans, and will therefore be at least vaguely aware I have some authority to talk about these things at present. Of course I always have the option to out myself after T. But I still think about it.

  2. Also, I think this serves as a very effective object lesson about the extent to which a gay or lesbian orientation has come to totally dominate, has become the Truth of all sexual and gender deviance. It’s great that people are aware that yes, there are other ways of being than straight, but it’s come to the point where a huge number of folks who are just starting to realize that maybe they aren’t totally cisgender and heterosexual assume for a period of time that they must be gay, because that’s presented as self-evident by basically all of society. So I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but please, everyone, if someone you know once identified as gay or lesbian but now realize they’re more bi/pansexual/transsexual/transgender/genderqueer/genderfluid/agender/bigender/neutrois/asexual/demisexual/etc, please cut them some slack.

  3. If a proselytizer guesses, incorrectly, one’s sexual orientation, one is not obligated to correct them on the matter, because WTF, what the hell business of his is it? It’d be the equivalent of the abortion-cube attendant saying something like “I can tell by the way you dress that you’re on the pill, and you should be ashamed of that.” What possible good can come from that kind of comment?

    We had a similar proselytizer come to our local campus who would ask students about their sex life, drug use, other personal things. Sometimes it seems a bit creepy.

  4. *slow clap*
    That was wonderful and I’m so proud even though I don’t know you. Kudos to you, I would’ve hugged you without a word and asked if you wanted to go get some coffee because why the hell not? Still, coming from an overly religious family and being genderqueer/pansexual while dating a girl, I get how tough it can be to deal with bigots and sometimes you just gotta go for the hug. Kill ‘em with kindness and honesty. Because what do you really have to lose?

    Anyway this really made me smile, so two thumbs-up for you!

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