Uncomfortably Gendered at the Flogging Molly Concert

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.

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3 responses to “Uncomfortably Gendered at the Flogging Molly Concert

  1. Wow I think i have to respond to this. Not sure if you even read responses but I guess if I have a response . . . So a bit of what you had experienced is what many transwomen experience on a daily basis, however, due to our wonderfully rigid perception of what is/is not acceptable for a perceived male. I think it was right for you to have had a fear response in that situation because you could have been in some danger. On the other hand women have been known to gang up against men if they are the majority and being douches.
    I was in a group of transfolk the conversation being about travel and the new full body scan or full pat down at the airports and how invasive and uncomfortable, not to mention dangerous, to travel. I am curious if TSA has an extensive training program for this new program and the people they are serving or if it was not thought of until it becomes an issue.
    i admit that once i referred to a gender queer individual as lady and about got my head bitten off. I learned and always asked gender/ pronoun preference if I am unsure now. In hindsight this person was presenting as female to our current standards and I didn’t know hir well enough to have known preference. Now as someone who identifies as gender-queer I can understand the frustration but I try to educate when I feel safe. Who am I to get angry at ignorance.

    • I’m not quite sure I follow your response, but I thought I’d let you know that I do read comments.

      You say, “So a bit of what you had experienced is what many transwomen experience on a daily basis, however, due to our wonderfully rigid perception of what is/is not acceptable for a perceived male.” There’s just something about that sentence that feels a little off to me. I agree that a lot of people have really rigid ideas about what’s acceptable for a “man.” I recognize that transwomen face a lot of crap from society if they’re read as trans or gender non-conforming. But I’m still not quite in agreement with your sentence, even though I can’t quite put my finger on why. I think, also, that stress about how we’re being read — and how people might react based on that (or react to knowledge of trans identity) — is something a lot of trans and genderqueer people experience, not just transwomen, although I’m not trying to say that it’s all the same.

      You also, “On the other hand women have been known to gang up against men if they are the majority and being douches.” I’m not sure that I think that’s relevant (also, I rather question your use of the phrase “have been known” — according to whom?). Two key differences, I think, are the question of . . . actions and the potential for violence. So, in my case, I wasn’t really doing anything — it’s not that I was being a jerk and worried that people would gang up on me because of it. There’s a difference between people turning on you when you’re minding your own business and people turning on your when you’re being a jerk and/or somehow antagonizing them (and yes, I know there becomes a question of who gets to decide what constitutes antagonizing behavior, and no, I don’t think that excuses violence). Well, I mean, unless you’re equating being openly (or read as) trans with “being douches” — in which case, nothing I say is going to matter.

      And secondly, in my experience (relying on ten years of girls’ school and women’s college), when a group of women “gang up” on a guy, it’s basically always been verbally and in response to sexism or male chauvinism (or racism or some other ‘ism’) on the guy’s part. Granted, I recognize there could be complicated racial/class-related/other things going on to make this be the case; I realize that I’m drawing a generalization. Regardless, there’s a big difference between the tendency for a group of people to call someone out on being offensive and a person’s apprehension about being seen as queer/trans/other by a large group (think mob mentality) of people in a really heterosexist, cissexist society. It’s not as though the two are the same.

      I know very little about TSA officers or policies, so I can’t really speak to that. I can say that the new developments worry me (particularly in regard to discretion given to TSA officers), although I know little about them specifically yet.

      Frankly, I often wish that asking preferred pronouns were as commonplace as asking for names. It can be awkward/outing, which isn’t good (and I feel like asking about someone’s gender identity can be a bit invasive), but it’d be nice if gender weren’t so assumed. For example, someone wanted to exchange a ten dollar bill for two fives (in order to put a little money on a bus card) — I had two fives, so I did so, and the person thanked me as “ma’am.” Totally unnecessary. Servers at restaurants often greet my friends and me as “ladies” — again, unnecessary. It’s not that I’m against the words “sir” or “ma’am” or “ladies” — I just don’t generally think they should be used with strangers. Anyway, I’m done with my rant.

      Thank you for reading my post. I’m glad you commented — it’s nice to hear what people are thinking.

  2. he he. so the whole thing about girls ganging up on the d-bag was actually me thinking about frat boy dude bro being rude ( to you ). I was referring to the verbal and mental assaults to others that many females are so good at. As far as being trans, I was not assuming that anyone being who they were was bad, or negative. I also was not trying to assume that your life experience is the same as anyone’s.
    I have experienced friends and a partner being “clocked” on several occasions. Sometimes it was a simple mistake but other times it was being rubbed in that persons face. Wasn’t sure how many people follow your blog but was inputting my experiences and opinion. I’m not sure how I stumbled upon this blog but it’s great to have trans experiences out in the open for others to see. I think it’s very brave of you to share like you do.

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