Proving It

"Assimilate My Purse," Maximumrocknroll, December 2008

Randy comes over my house to go to Critical Resistance and I say this might be the last time I wear my hair like this, because I can’t find a spray that I’m not allergic to. But I also can’t find a new style that I like, something where my hair is down it just feels too understated and I feel like all the flaws on my face are magnified, like the bags under my eyes and it’s stressful because I’m going on tour and when I’m on tour it’s so important to feel like I can do something like my hair, I mean get it perfect and then feel like I can face the world, I mean face the world without feeling like a complete mess. So I keep trying all these new styles, but the other thing is that they make my face look too square, I need to get a new haircut to figure it out so that the bottom is rounded and that will probably make a difference, but I need to figure it out first because I can’t go to get a haircut and just say what do you think we should do, I mean what do you think I should do, I mean I like to know exactly what I want ahead of time, so that I don’t end up hating it.

I forget how frantic I am at this time of the day, rushing to get out of the house I mean I’m not rushing but I keep talking in circles maybe I am rushing I’m not sure if I’m more frantic because Randy’s here or if I’m always this way it’s just in my head so I don’t notice as much. We get the bus and the BART right away, and right when we get off the train there’s Joolie, coming from the conference, and she gives me a great hug, says you look wonderful, which is nice to hear since I was obsessing. Although then I’m thinking will I look as good when I cut my hair, I mean I kept my hair really short for years and even shaved it all with clippers for a while but now I feel like that kind of style makes me look too severe.

It’s kind of fun being in Oakland – I go there so rarely, so I’m always somewhat surprised that it’s really a different city – the spacing of buildings, the air, the way people look at you, the foliage, the light. We’re walking towards the event, which is right by Randy’s house, and when we get close I realize there’s a stream of people and I remember Randy says no one walks around here so I know we’re all going to the event. We’re right along the lake, which I’m sure is polluted as hell but everything looks so sedate here with the sun lowering amidst the buildings reflecting the watery glow.

Everyone’s gathered on the steps of the Scottish Rites Hall because they haven’t opened the doors yet, and Hilary comes running over I forgot Hilary was going to be here, and there’s Jessica too, yay, and Jessica says I didn’t know you left the house this early and I like that she understands it’s a big deal for me to get here. It feels very festive and exciting and people who might not generally socialize are smiling at one another. Once the doors open, everyone’s streaming in and we decide to go to the top, which is stairwell after stairwell but then we’re in this crazy grand space, trying to decide where to sit, up here at the top there’s more legroom so we try it out but then one of the volunteers says we can’t sit there yet, they want everyone to sit further down so that people aren’t spread out. I say oh, I have a lot of chronic pain issues and it would be much more comfortable for me to sit here. He’s not having it, and then someone else comes over and argues with me also, and then the second guy says we can sit down lower, and then once it’s time for people to sit up higher then we can move.

I don’t understand this crowd control obsession at an event centered around abolishing prisons, but I’m also aware that our group is all white, as are most of the people in this section, and I’m arguing with two black male volunteers; it starts to feel like a depressing spectacle so we all sit down lower. Randy has already left because he got overwhelmed, I mean before the issue about the seating. I think he’s not used to this type of crowd – dykes and activists of all types or no the vast majority women, and a fair number of black mothers with kids. I’m not sure which part made him uncomfortable, maybe just the crowd and he lives only a few blocks away an easy escape. So I’m sitting next to Randy’s empty seat and the show starts and the room is really hot and dusty and I start to get that ache all over my body, is it because the seat backs are so hard, angled uncomfortably or maybe I’m worn out from arguing I mean I know I’m worn out from arguing. I look back and sure enough the seats with more room have already filled I mean I knew that would happen. I guess I could get up and sit with someone random I don’t really want to sit with someone random right now. Instead I keep getting up to stretch, then sitting back down, the beginning of the show is mostly self-congratulatory rhetoric and I’m wondering why I’m staying I mean I can tell that I’m going to get to that point where everything hurts where nothing feels hopeful but I’m here to feel hopeful I got all the way here I need to leave now.

I go back out into the hallway, there’s Inez and Bea and Blake I love these hugs and Inez invites me to a barbecue but I say I’m leaving because I’m in too much pain. Inez asks if I drive, do you want to take my car back to the city, which is so sweet I mean it makes me feel like there is something like community sometimes. Oh, I can’t drive, but then Blake says he’ll drive the car and I’m thinking sitting in the car will hurt more than taking the BART, but then there’s also the walk to the BART and I’d like to hang out with Blake and it’s such a sweet offer from Inez I figure why not try it to see if it works? So then I say goodbye to Hilary and Jessica, plus Madigan and Abby who’ve joined us, then I’m back in the hall and Inez is giving us directions to the car, which looks like it’s as far as the BART but Blake says it’s closer.

I don’t want to talk about the walk to the car or the drive, I mean I like catching up with Blake but then there’s the pollution I can’t figure out if it’s from the car or from the highway or both and then there’s the uncomfortable angle of sitting and we’re sitting in traffic more pollution waiting for the bridge and when we get back to San Francisco Blake wants to drop me off on Market Street which is only 10 blocks from my house but it still means two buses and the best part of the ride was that I would get right to my door and we’re trying to think if there’s somewhere to drop me off where there’s just one bus, just O’Farrell but then we’re only three blocks from my house. Really I’m thinking this is one of the reasons I hate accepting rides, because then people want to drop you off somewhere else. I should’ve taken the BART is what I’m thinking, I would’ve been in less pain I could’ve relaxed more now I can’t even speak. Blake says okay you convinced me, and then we’re at my house and upstairs I figure I better take a shower maybe that will help even though the chlorine will dry out my skin it’s a change of environment the heat and moisture sometimes soothe the pain and then I’m standing in the shower and I feel so overwhelmed by my limitations I mean I guess I shouldn’t even try to go to large public events anymore and what will it be like on tour it’s just so hard to do anything to go out there in the world and then thinking about the dynamic of these two masculine black guys arguing with this queeny white fag in a space that’s mostly white dykes and a lot of dykes of color and not as many trans people as I would’ve expected, a fair number of straight women of color and a few straight guys and way fewer fags there are never fags in radical spaces I know that.

I’m thinking about arguing with these guys who were enforcing some kind of regulation for no reason except regulation and I’m trying to tell them I have chronic pain issues I mean I tell them that I do tell them that but they don’t listen maybe because I’m young and I look able-bodied or maybe because I’m a queen and I’m supposed to be a man and I hate that in situations like that it’s like I have to prove my pain. I have to prove the way it will surround me, like there’s a gesture I could make. I don’t want the pain either. I mean I would probably have gotten to that place of overwhelm anyway but maybe not so soon maybe I could have seen Angela Davis or Linda Evans speak instead of staring into space feeling so suddenly separate from everyone. Thinking about the heat and my allergies and the lack of oxygen, people looked over and I tried to smile I was just sitting there so overwhelmed and here these guys wanted me to prove that I was worthy of special treatment I just wanted to sit and watch and feel inspired but here’s the shower I can feel that shake in my chest that means tears maybe tears yes tears here I’m hugging myself more tears in the shower I’m hugging myself with tears.