Anyone who knows Li and/or reads her blog, knows that she is extremely androgynous. Actually, she doesn’t look as confusing as she does downright male. Hell, just the other day while in line at the dollar store, the woman in front of her referred to her as “just another caucasian male.” Really? Li could pass 100% of the time as a man if she never opened her mouth. When she speaks however, out drips this warm, soft southern syrup. A decidedly feminine voice if there ever was one.
Li deals with gender confusion issues every day of her life and has done so since she was old enough to recognize that people were looking at her funny. This isn’t a “look” she chose to go after. She was simply born this way. If she tries to “femme-it-up” to make her identity easier for others, she looks very much like a bad drag queen. She is often mistaken for a gay man (which has had its amusing moments) but more often than not, folks just gawk openly. Sometimes the more ignorant of them assume that since she is gender-fluid, she must also be deaf—as was the case of the two women sitting across from her at the doctor’s office recently. She tells of one of the women very loudly “stage-whispering” to her companion, “Is that a man or a woman?” Her friend looked at her, “What?” “Right there in front of you, dummy!” the woman replied. The entire waiting room was watching this exchange while Li contemplated running for the exit. Instead she said simply, “Woman.” “WHAT???” came the incredulous response (because she spoke, not because she identified her gender). “You seem confused,” Li said, “I’m female.” This is but one example of what she endures every single day. I’ve seen it in action and I get extraordinarily angry at the ignorance that provokes such public humiliation.
Those who know me, know that I try to live my life based on my favorite quote by Emile Zola: “You ask me what I came here to do. I will tell you. I came to live out loud.” So it isn’t like me to sit idly by and let anyone I love be bashed in any way. While this may cause further embarrassment at times, it’s hard for me to hold back. So it was the other evening at dinner.
Li and I were out at our favorite restaurant with her mother and my son. We frequent this place at least once a week and Li has been a regular for more than a decade. Needless to say, she knows everyone and everyone knows her. Well, everyone save the three elderly folks who were seated three tables away from our booth. Li had come in late and they must have watched her walking across the parking lot. Slim of hip and flat of chest, she has close-cropped hair and a bit of a cowboy swagger. Dressed for work in khaki pants and a button-down shirt over a polo, she sat down and placed her order. The minute she opened her mouth I watched all three blue-tinted heads swivel in their chairs. I let it pass. When she started relating her day, they turned again. And again. And again. Finally I mentioned it to Li, who had her back to them. She rolled her eyes and sighed. The woman seated behind her excused herself for eavesdropping but said she had noticed it too and found it horribly rude. “Welcome to my world,” Li said.
I let a few minutes pass by and then I asked my son to let me out of the booth. “I’ll be back,” I said. Really, I was fed up and this was OUR turf and there was no way I was going to let these people off the hook. I didn’t care how old they were or how entitled they felt in making their disgust and bewilderment so painfully obvious. I walked up to the table with a big smile on my face and was immediately greeted by three of the most shocked looks I’ve ever encountered.
“Hi! I couldn’t help but notice you staring and I figured you must know me! Since I couldn’t place your faces, I thought I’d get up and introduce myself.” I stuck my hand out to the woman across the table and said “I’m Diana…and you are…?” The woman mumbled something incoherent and shook my hand. I repeated the process with her friend who was peering at me owlishly out of a very red face. Then I turned to the man who seemed to be trying to crawl under the table, “And you sir? You are…?” Of course I don’t recall any of their names. They were insignificant to me. I was there to make a point. “That’s fabulous!” I said,”Well now! I just want you all to enjoy the rest of your meal and,” at this point, I leaned in closely and confidentially, all eyes upon me, and said, “why don’t you take the rest of the evening to,” I gestured in a small circle around the table, “talk amongst yourselves now. Take care!” I flashed another huge smile and walked back to our booth and sat down. Needless to say, I never saw them turn around again.
Li looked at her mom, “This is why I love this woman.”
Never, ever let it be said that chivalry is either dead or marked “butch only.” Next time, I may take names AND kick some ass.