My choice to speak now requires a little extra thought. I don’t mean content-wise, as I’ve always been mindful of that… but these days, situations determine whether or not I should speak or remain silent. If this makes absolutely no sense, which I have a feeling might be the case, let me give you an example.
I am a big concertgoer, and for several months I attended shows at Echostage quite religiously. Like many concert venues, Echostage staff members ask show attendees to divide into separate lines for security pat downs, bag searches, etc. My first EDM show with my new boyish looks was Krewella’s Get Wet Tour back in November of 2013.
“Men on the left, women on the right!” one of the security guys announced to the crowd as my friend Mike and I entered the queue. It was a routine procedure for us to separate—I would walk over to the line full of scantily clad, slightly intoxicated women and Mike would join all the bros in their tank tops and basketball jerseys. This was nothing new. But as soon as I made eye contact with the security guy, this happened:
“I said guys on the left!” the Echostage employee directed at me along with a mean stare.
“I’m not a guy,” I responded, raising both my eyebrows to give him the “I can understand English just fine so you better stand down” look.
“Oh…” he said under his breath, immediately dropping his gaze to refocus on his line. The 6-foot-plus staff member avoided all eye contact after that exchange. (Okay, so this retelling makes me appear a lot more badass than I really am. On second thought, I’m perfectly happy with this portrayal. Carry on…)
Once I got to the front of the women-only line, I was greeted with some side-eye action. “Here we go again,” I thought.
“Hi. How are you doing tonight?” I asked the stern blonde woman. This was my attempt to ease the discomfort I was feeling with all the questionable looks I was getting all night. It worked. A couple of words were all it took for it to click that I was, indeed, standing in the correct line. I was able to see her expressions of confusion instantly vanish. So that’s what I had to do. Talk.
My voice was now the quickest way for me to inform those in my vicinity that I was not a short teenage boy but a woman. I didn’t have my ponytail to take care of that for me anymore, so now it required explicit effort on my part. Having gone to several shows after that, I have made it a habit to speak in line and always greet those at security checkpoints before they say a word to me. Is it a pain in the ass? Oh, absolutely. Do I understand that my own personal choices have led to the reactions I’ve been getting? Yes, certainly.
What am I really trying to get at with this example, though? I think I’m still figuring that one out as I analyze this among similar scenarios, but it does raise some notable points:
- I can pass as a man when I remain silent.
- I can pass as a woman when I speak up.
- There must be something in the universal security personnel handbook that states “It is required that you be an asshole, or at least give out the illusion of being an asshole, at all times.”
Seeing as how I don’t walk around in public talking the entire time (that would be crazy and I’m not at that point in my life just yet), point #1 is the default. This is actually something I think about on a daily basis, the fact that I can so easily pass as a vertically challenged man as long as I don’t open my mouth and make noise. While I do not personally identify as transgender, lines have gotten so blurry within the past several months that I’m beginning to question what being a man or woman actually means.
Why do I choose to step into the women’s line despite it usually taking longer since most women carry purses and bags requiring visual screening? Why do I feel such strong ties to a gender that has been prescribed to me by society? If gender is merely a social construct, then why do I sometimes feel the need to go out of my way to convince others that I am a woman? While these questions are interesting to regularly ponder, they are also simultaneously frustrating to think about as I continue to gain a better grasp of my identity.
But in thinking about all of this, concert lines are the least of my worries when compared to the other, more common, gender-segregated spaces: public restrooms and locker rooms. We’ll get into that next time.