A N N M A R I E
1996— high school in nowhere, south dakota. i wore tight mossimo jeans, tie-dyed tank tops and bleached blonde streaks in my hair. i dated a wrestler; jeramy. we spent time together, shared a locker and drank busch light. we had lots of un-protected sex in the extended cab of his ford pick-up. he bought a black hills gold necklace for me and on the weekends i would cheer him on, as he grappled with other sweaty hungry wrestlers. we were an established couple, we were in love. i invested many pages of my diary speculating as to whether he really loved me, whether he would always love me and whether he still loved me. all the while i thought of the diary as a future archeological specimen, always imagining the audience who would read it and be satisfied with how obsessed i was with my hot wrestler boyfriend.
there was something that i couldn’t quite convince myself of though, it had something to do with haley. haley was a lithe cross-country running junior, i was a sophomore. we were both on the debate team, each thursday, after school, we were paired up to cross-examine each other. i was really good at cross-examining, c-ex as debaters call it. i could win in c-ex against all the boys without much effort-i had more facts, could talk faster and was never intimidated. it was different with haley. my arm pits would start sweating fifteen minutes before final bell of the day. after class, i would rush to the bathroom so i could smile casually at myself in the mirror for fifteen mintues, desperately practicing for when i would have to face her. when i sat across from her at the cross-examination, my eyes blurred with her peach fuzz arms and long blonde hair. i couldn’t win any arguement against her, pro or con. after our debates i would have to go back to the bathroom and wipe out my sweaty arm pits with brown paper towels, applying a fresh layer of teen spirit deodorant. jeramy would be waiting for me in the parking lot, in the extended cab after practice we would always drive out to find a deserted dirt road so that we could have some more unprotected sex, steve miller band playing on the tape deck.
1999-i kissed a girl at a basement party. her face was smooth and soft and smelled like beer, vomit and spearmint. my mind flashed to haley.
2000– duluth, minnesota. i wore vintage polyeser dresses and had cotton-candy pink hair. i lived alone, for the first time, in a tiny studio apartment and went to college. i met meghan in sociology class; she was sporty and very butch with a black button down shirt and ripped jeans. she had a girlfriend who looked just like her, who was also in our class. i watched them, shyly, the whole semester. finally, i started dropping hints that i was a lesbian too, i didn’t use words like queer or dyke- they felt like expletives. i talked casually of my ex-girlfriend, who was fictional, and meghan invited me to a party. that’s where i met carolyn.
carolyn was 38, stone-cold butch, and a perfect transition for me into queer-dom. she told me i was a femme, that i was incredibly sexy and that she would like to treat me like her queen. she was older and had dated a lot of straight women. she said that femme queer women were rare and very precious. she bought a new dildo and fucked me with it. she never let me touch her, and told me she could only have an orgasm if i gave the giant dildo a blow job. i complied, and reveled in the idea of high-femme. i started wearing high heels and make-up. i rode on the back of her harley and let her buy me things. i was satisfied with myself and happy to be inducted into the queer world. there was only one problem; i hadn’t had an orgasm yet. i started to worry that maybe i wasn’t able, that i was frigid.
2001– i met bea. i found out i wasn’t frigid.
2001-2004– i struggled with my desire to date women and be in the queer community, but also maintain my identity as a feminine person. i felt pressured towards androgeny by the tiny queer community i was a part of. i constantly had to defend myself to dykes who doubted my queerness. this doubt made me feel invisible in the queer community and i felt helpless in that fact.
2004-i moved to Minneapolis. i found out i wasn’t the rare and precious femme that carolyn had claimed i was. there were femmes everywhere! i also learned that i didn’t have to be femme all the time, or aplogize for being femme, or have to promise i wasn’t actually straight. i found out that being femme didn’t have to mean being submissive. i met an entire community of gender fucked pronoun hating queers. i was a queer, created!
present day footnote-i know now that oppressed people can be the most oppressive, especially within their own community-this is true of the queer community. i’ve gone through phases and thought long and hard about what feminity means in the world and the ways that it’s been oppressive and powerful. sometimes it’s both, i’ve experianced it as both. i’ve also obsessed over what it means to have a queer perspective on the world, looking out from inside a body that often passes as straight. the answer, over and over again, is about invisibility. this is less true in portland. there are dykes in all shapes, sizes, and preferences. however, this issue still holds a lot of water and deserves dialogue.