So on the last day to the ETC, we started out with an evaluation. It was a big love-in. “I love you guys! You’re all so great!” It was a nice, positive vibe. There was some discussion about privacy and posting images from the con and some also about possibly having some equipment or an organization. The stream was constantly screwed up, so maybe an org should buy a computer for streaming instead of trying to recycle junk computers into a stream machine every time?
Aileen spoke up about how she was happy that there was no organization and it was all kind of ad-hoc. She talked about how people could just do things and it would all fit in some how. She said that since people wanted me to come, they had just changed the policy on who could come and that was that. An organization might be limiting.
I felt all warm and fuzzy. Aw, they really do like me! I’d spent the whole week feeling awkward about whether I was really meant to be there. Was I intruding? Were people annoyed by me? Was it all in my head? When people shortened “women and gender minorities” to “women” what did that imply for my presence? Aileen’s statement was not contradicted at all. Clearly my nervousness had been in my perceptions only! I felt pretty good and thanked people for letting me come.
That was a weird thing to do.
Then, we rode the train north to the the dunes and walked several km to the beach. It was a bit cold and cloudy, but still very nice. The beach had a strange, thick foam. We sat out and picnicked. Some people tried to swim in the frigid, foamy north sea. After a while, we moved to a cafe where we drank tea and hot coca and beer. It was on the beach, but had glass set up to obstruct the wind, but not the view. Some ETC people starting climbing up the outside and juggling and otherwise being silly. I laughed so hard my sides are still sore.
It started to rain, so we went back to A’dam. Some of us went to a benefit dinner for migrants. A few others, including me, went to get stuff from our space, with a vague promise of dinner.
There was no dinner. Instead there was a lot of discussion about the future of ETC. I felt really uncomfortable during it because it talked a lot about trans issues. Some of the people there felt like there should have been discussion before the definition of who was to come was changed.
What I was thinking at the time was, “I’ve only been transitioning for a few months. I’m not fully secure with it. Anything talking about this is like poking a fresh wound. I want to be proud of who I am and my queer identity, but I still feel sad that I failed at being a woman. I really tried to make it work, but couldn’t.”
I don’t have a clear memory of everything that was said. Because unless somebody is saying something like Aileen said, it feels like poking a wound. In fact, some of the things said were transphobic. It mostly wasn’t personal (it never is), but I felt terrible afterwards.
Right now, my inclination is that I will not go to another ETC event. Last year was really the last time I went into a gendered space as a woman and it was so positive and the contacts that I made so valuable, that I had hoped I could still participate. Part of my pre-transition identity really had a lot to do with being in a certain kind of gendered space: feminist spaces where variance is welcome. ETC was the perfect combination: feminism, tech, green, free culture. All these progressive elements have synergy and it was so wonderful to be around others making the same connections.
A generation ago, there was worry that lesbians would somehow mess up feminism. Now it’s transgender people. C’est la vie. I’ll do my own sort of gender liberation, you do yours. I’m in search of a community. God knows where I can find it.
So, feeling like shit, I started biking towards a drag party. At least I can do drag, right? Or something. I was really feeling low wondering how I will ever be able to have a coherent sense of self if I have to pick between my own gender and the political issues that I see as so vital. Part of what motivated me to transition was that guys a few years out say that they don’t really have to think about gender anymore. It’s something that for years now, I’ve had to think about all the time. Now my hopes to be able to move on to something else seemed to be doomed. I wanted to just keep biking forever and not stop.
But I did stop and there was a sign on the door which said, “you are now entering a gender-free zone.” Well, that’s a positive development. I paid my cover and went to get a beer and one of my (awesome) hosts was behind the bar dressed as a pirate! She took me around backstage where I painted on a goatee. There were people in all kinds of drag. Butch women in dresses. People presenting some female drag items paired with some male drag items. Hairy cleavage. Goatee and eye makeup. Every kind of genderfuck. I started feeling better.
There was a burlesque show / drag show / comedy show / whatever fun thing. Dykes, bis, trannies, queers. It was awesome. Afterwards there was dancing. This being amsterdam, there was also more booze and more pot and it was totally awesome.
And suddenly, instead of being some irreconcilable fringe character, I’m all sexy and cool. Girls were after me!
I’m in puberty right now, for the second time. It’s cool, but it’s still weird. I haven’t been feeling especially attractive. But there, suddenly, people wanted to kiss me! I was out dancing and being drunk and stupid until the sun came up.
The Next Day
I went to help clean the bar. I was supposed to help clean the ETC space, but the bar also needed cleaning. And I had happier feelings about it. There were people I really wanted to see while doing ETC cleanup, but my last conversations there had sucked so much.
So I got things out of going to ETC this time, but I think it was a lot about seeing people I had met before and being in a country that I want to return to. And being in queer spaces that were just coincidental to ETC.
I don’t know anything about anything. I kind of like being foreign, obviously, or I would move home. But, I guess that’s a broad category of experiences and some are great and some are not. I was thinking of trying to play on the Ladyfest circuit, but right now, I’m wary of it. Part of being foreign is creating communities of outsiders, of expats, of artists, of queers. I felt it sometimes in ETC, with some people. Some folks there were awesome.
I need something right now. English isolation = not so great. Somebody in the discussion of doom suggested that I start a group. I guess I have to.
Anyway, that’s the last about ETC. I’m ready to move on and feel some complexities some place else. Maybe in music. I’m supposed to be a composer.