Ok, it’s true that I play the tuba. And I bike around town with a sousaphone attached to my bike. While wearing men’s clothes. And I got to clothing stores to buy these clothes which requires trying them on. Despite all of these things that might lead one to a contrary conclusion, I do not enjoy being stared at. When I am trying to bike home in in the icy wind with a tuba attached to my bike via octopi (aka: bungee cords), and I hear the word “tuba” followed by squeals of laughter, it just annoys me. I’m grumpy that way. Other places I don’t like getting stared at: public restrooms. If you wouldn’t call me “sir” on the street, at a café or use male pronouns when describing the person you saw biking past with a tuba, then what on earth posses you to adopt them when I’m in the women’s room? Oh, but you’re Dutch, so you don’t say anything about my obvious out-of-placeness, you just stare. Well, stop it already. Sheesh.
What I really want to complain about this evening is Pat. I’ve been thinking a lot about Pat lately. This isn’t a person, it’s a Saturday Night Live skit that was broadcast while I was in high school. SNL was a measure of coolness when I was a kid. It signified many things including being allowed by your parents to stay up late enough to watch it, since it started at something like 23:00 on Saturdays. So, therefore, you could talk about how funny the skits on it were at school on Monday, and everybody would know that you were allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. (If you complained about how the band’s second song sucked (it always sucked for some reason. I think the sound engineers fell asleep by then), then you were super awesome because that part didn’t come on until after midnight.)
So there existed a skit about a character named “Pat.” I was trying to remember the theme song of the recurring skit, but I couldn’t quite piece it all together. The internet was no help, but it did give me a few plot synopsi. Anyway, as best as I can recall, it went, “Is it a he or a she? A him or a her? Um, excuse me ma’am, um sir?. . . It’s time for androgyny, here comes Pat!”
The one I remember best involved Pat going to a drug store and trying to buy personal items of a gradually more intimate nature. The druggist is desperately trying to figure out Pat’s physical sex. Would you like T-Gel shampoo or VO5? Pert Plus, Pat says. Speed stick deodorant or Secret? Which is cheaper? Finally, Pat asks for condoms. The audience howls. The druggist asks Pat to chose between extra-sensitive or ribbed. The punch-line is when Pat says “I’m a very sexual being.” The studio audience responds with an echoing, “Ewwwwwww.”
Pat is repulsive. Ugly. Toad-like. Wears unattractive, unflattering clothes. Unkempt hair. Snorts through hir nose when zie laughs. Who on earth would have sex with such a thing.
One plot synopsis, found on the internet, had somebody who became so confused by Pat’s gender that they committed suicide by jumping out of a window. Yes, violence is the correct response to gender ambiguity. But who makes a better target? Self-inflicted, or the person ‘causing’ this desperation?
Did I mention this was on TV when I was in secondary school, on an enormously popular program that conveyed status to those who watched it? The year I graduated, it was made into a movie, which, thank gods, was a major bomb. IMDB refers to the titular character with the pronoun “it.”
I’ve known a fair number of genderqueer and trans people in my time. On average, those folks are about as attractive as the population at large. Many are sexy, some are not. This is in no way linked with their transition status. They’re just people, obviously. Pat is an ugly caricature, with no basis in reality. but zie lives in my head. Even if it’s clearly not true that trans people are ugly and horrible, well, there’s Pat in my head.
So let’s end this complainment with some true statements. Somebody like Pat doesn’t ’cause’ other people to commit violence, whether self-inflicted or hate crime. I don’t cause people to stare at me in bathrooms. Other people’s problems belong to other people, not to Pat and not to me.
but . . .
I was trying to buy a tweed jacket today and I went to the tweediest store I could find. Many of the stores here are kind of butcher than the same store is in Paris. Zara is way less twinky, for example. I’ve noticed that when I dress more casually, people don’t respond to me as well, so I’m going back to dressing like a swanky Parisian man. Anyway, I was in my casual Dutch hooded jacket, trying to find classier jacket and becoming paranoid. There’s that moment when people looking at me in the store realize that I’m looking for men’s clothes for me. This is Holland. nobody says anything. Probably nobody thinks anything of it, once the connection is made. Or not very much of it, anyway. But I’m paranoid and when the shop clerk volunteers that he thinks I’m a size 14, which they don’t carry, I don’t know if he’s being helpful in telling me the things I’m trying on don’t really fit, or if he’s trying to get me to leave his smart, tweedy shop. There’s really no way that I can know which it is.
When I was in France, for the first time in my life, I enjoyed clothes shopping. But now it’s gone back to filling me with dread. Things have returned to normal.