I was at a professional development workshop earlier this year and the facilitator (who identifies as gay) said he couldn’t stand the word queer. It is offensive to him.
For those who might not be familiar with the letters in the title, you won’t get the answer from this blog, but please read on anyway. I will provide a link further down.
Queer is like Weird
is like Whoaaaaa!
is like Whaaaaat?
is like Wait a minute!
is like That’s fuuunneeey (emphasizing the ‘uuu’ and the ‘eee’)
is like a raised eyebrow because it’s just not quite the norm
is like not befitting to what I’m used to
is like you aren’t feeling my tattoos (which by the way are quite normative these days) or my fifty piercings or my afro puffs or my underwearlessness or my hummingbird status or my pronoun choice or my…[I could go on forever]
Why am I writing about Q?
Answer: When I look around Harbin, the physical world appears homogeneous. And then I meet the cab driver who stands outside his taxi with his t-shirt hiked way above his round thick belly, standing there desperately waiting for a customer. Clarity: this is not a fashion statement, nor seemingly about sexual orientation. It’s a weathering-the-heat statement. His non-uniform did not make me want to enter his cab, although I did anyway. And voila, I am safely here in my apartment. How about while grocery shopping I see a few more men with high rising shirts right below the breast-line allowing a faint breeze to settle on sweaty skin, because it certainly is hot this week. Are they G? I suspect not. Might they be like/is like Q? I don’t know. I am reminded though that most stores in the U.S. have a rule that you must wear shirt and shoes on the premises. How much of the shirt should be on your body is up for debate. We women can get away with belly poppin’ t-shirts, but men, not so much (depending on your U.S. geographical location).
We do love our identities, do we not? I know I do. I love my
Quack quack quack, AFLAC (yes, like the insurance commercial)
Poetically noteworthy reminder, these words [above] are not what LGBTQIA stand for. Please click on the letters for more information.
Change in subject.
There is a stench in/outside my window. I’ve been told it’s the bathroom water pipe and/or the industrial lines linked to the factory that I see beyond the campus walls. The stench is not always there. But often this lingering whiff is evidence that something formidably rotten layers itself throughout the day during a mid-wind drift that occurs inside the apartment and sometimes right beyond my window sill.
On campus I see people walking with masks over their mouths and noses, namely women [not a lot, but a noticeable quantity]. In the United States when I saw someone wearing these particular masks (usually someone Asian – not knowing where exactly in Asia they were from), I used to think the person was sick (do not judge me right now). Being here, I am told that there is pollution in the air. Given the growing industrialized economy in China and the use of burning coal causing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, there is a major health concern. I am now reading about China's efforts in transitioning to natural gases to address this environmental issue. It's funny how it takes me coming here and staying longer than a tourist-minute to be a bit more WOKE.
I am extremely conscious of this in the United States (and have been for quite some time), given the fact that the current President removed the United States from the Paris Agreement in 2017, stating that this agreement interferes/undermines the U.S. economy. Hhhmmm. No comment.
When I was waiting to get on bus 21 to go see the endangered Siberian tigers, there were three women cleaning the outside of the bus. They were literally wiping it down and keeping this big yellow bus shiny. I was in awe. We don’t do that in the U.S. [definitely not in front of other people waiting in line to get on the bus]. When I was on bus 21, I was a sardine. Have you ever opened a can of sardines? If not, try it and look inside. The sardines are tightly packed into the can, on top and next to each other. No air between them. It takes a fork to pick them out, and they don’t scoop out individually whole. They are packed in so tight that the sardine comes out in pieces. I could barely breathe in that space. I’ve done this still-posture before, during rush hour in NY on an A or C train, but somehow I recall space though, because Americans are serious about personal space, even in sardine scenarios.
bell hooks in her article choosing the margins as a space of openness reminds us that “language is a place of struggle.” And she speaks to this in reference to space and location and the pain it holds physically/verbally/mentally/spiritually. It is important to evoke her presence in this blog, as well as the blog subjects, melancholy and celie syndrome, because we are taught to be careful careful careful with our words, our bodies and/or our presence. One important sidenote: hooks wrote about marginality in the late 80’s, but how interesting Trevor Noah’s humorous description of Soweto in his book Born A Crime [which I am currently reading] mirrors those experiences she speaks of. ALL of our brown stories live on a continuum.
I titled this LGBTQIA because the identity implies something in particular. It is a declaration, a linguistic moniker, a gender based/sexual orienting acronym that may mean something different a hundred years from now. It is the pantheon of letters that pushes me to talk about how I move in my body as a cisgendered being. Aha, C for cisgender. [I really love letters – who, btw, plays the game scrabble?]
I’m way beyond this gendered body though. Often I feel as if we morally and religiously assume much about gender and contemplate less on the phrase, spiritual beings having a human experience. From my estimation, who I am seems of little importance in this particular space because I feel no pressure to impress or embody a specific physical identity. And I think that is because I do not speak the language, thus I do not talk/explain/say much to others. 3rd week in - I barely do my hair. I put on whatever is in the closet with little deliberation. My goal is to simply shower, get dressed, nourish my body, take lots of pictures and offer advice and navigational strategies to these students who are going to the U.S. for the first time. A matter of fact, seeing ME may be the greatest service I can offer these students. I get to represent DIVERSITY, right?
My friend Eric says, “Do you see me?” I would offer a response that is not linked to the outerwear of his existence. I would consider his question a 3rd eye pondering. Maybe in each other's presence we don't engage in a verbal discourse. Instead we sit and bask and possibly smile every so often, if the moment calls for it - all 5 to 6 senses awake. However, we haven’t tried this, because when we get together, there’s so much to say.
But honestly, do we [as human beings] sit in the quiet, in each other’s presence and see one another? No acronyms. No lettering. No talking. No sardine experiences. Definitely no masks.
And again he/I ask, “Do you truly see me?”