I almost didn’t get my ticket to the Flogging Molly concert (about which I blogged here)– the person at Will Call didn’t want to give it to me. I showed up with my Groupon and handed them my ID; they asked, “So, where’s Ryan?” I explained that I’ve changed the name on my Groupon account, but I haven’t yet changed it on my ID. After a bit of arguing, they handed me a ticket and said, “If Ryan shows up, he’s going to be really disappointed.” Yeah, about that? He’s not going to be disappointed. I am him. I now have my ticket. I am most definitely not disappointed about having gotten my ticket. (On a sidenote, I met two people named Ryan once I got into the theatre — popular name, apparently. Who knew?)
When I was at the Ani concert at the Electric Factory my senior year (Ani was incredible, by the way), I couldn’t figure out why they made people separate into a men’s line and a women’s line. I was frustrated, especially since it didn’t seem to have a point that would justify the separation: it really only served to let the “men” into the theatre sooner (because there were, relatively speaking, so few). Twice within about five minutes at Congress Theater, I was waved through the women’s entrance (ugh — always nice to be reminded that I’m read as a woman). And then I was frisked (which I suppose is why they separated people by gender), which was a little awkward and uncomfortable (hi, yes, that’s my ass, please stop touching me), even though the woman was nice enough.
So, the concert started with three gender-awkwards within the first five or ten minutes. It went downhill from there — psychologically, that is: musically, it was fantastic; in terms of physical safety, I was fine. I walked into the theater coming from a day of really great gender-affirmation (well, except for the person out the DMV who clearly read me as a woman and told me I was beautiful — even more awkward because the person totally read the other three people I was with as how they identify) . . . and then it was like I was invisible. What’s worse, I began to want that invisibility.
It started out easily enough — I started chatting with a few people there. They obviously thought I was a (cis)woman, and I didn’t correct them (it’s not like as though I’m probably ever going to see them again, and if they got weird about me being trans, the next several hours could be very unpleasant). As it got more and more crowded, I started to be almost glad that I didn’t say anything.
I really wanted to blend in — the sheer number of drunk fratboy-types hollering and shoving each other around made me actually want to not be read as trans. In a really intense way, I hoped that people wouldn’t read me as trans. I was afraid. And that feels really icky because, well, I’m proud to be trans. I like it when people don’t read me as a woman, and I generally feel uncomfortable when people read me as a woman. And for the crowd to be such that I was actually scared that people would see this queermo for how really different I am . . . . it was not an experience I’m really that used to. Even though society at large is overwhelmingly heteronormative and cis-centric, I’ve not been in spaces like that much in a while. Especially not by myself — even in the freaking Daley Center, I’ve at least had a few other really rad transfolk with me, and so I’ve at least felt safe.
Nearly all of my friends in Chicago are trans, genderqueer, or otherwise not cisgender-identified. Nearly all of my friends in Chicago are queer. I’ve gotten used to safer spaces. I’ve gotten used to having community and not feeling alone. I’ve gotten used to everyone around me thinking that it’s awesome to be trans, genderqueer, and/or otherwise gender non-conforming. The concert did not feel like a safer space to be who I am. And that’s really sad because Flogging Molly was amazing. They didn’t seem like they’d care how the audience identifies. And perhaps it’s just in my head — maybe I would’ve been fine if people had read me as trans and queer — but I just feel trepidatious around drunken, belligerent, loud, presumably white, straight, cis, male-identified, able-bodied people.
As it was, people at the concert read me as a (cis)woman, which was an interesting experience (although not exactly a unique experience, given that I still look pretty much female). Apparently there’s something about being read as female (and small, wide-eyed, unthreatening female) at a concert that makes some people feel you should be protected. I’m not exactly complaining because it did allow me to watch the concert in a less shoved around sort of way (well, complaining a little about the drunk guy, not complaining about the nice girl). Still, it was odd, especially given that the girl was younger than I am and not much taller than I am –I guess I’m just really not a tough-seeming sort of person?
Times like these just make me really aware of how differently people are treated based on gender — and really aware of how I’m being perceived. I feel like people would’ve been much less quick to protect me from the masses if they’d read me as a little guy who just didn’t want to push anyone around . . . or couldn’t manage to make anyone move — gentle girls are far more socially accepted than gentle boys.