Note: This was a cunt-up piece, so it was delivered in chunks, read out of a hat, interspersed with Cooper Lee Bombardier’s piece about the same time period/culture. As such, it’s a little disjointed. Enjoy~
A time and a place I wasn’t part of, but read about eagerly. The drugs, the fucking, and the sisterhood that I dreamed of from my bed in Texas. I wouldn’t have been accepted, I know, because of who I am. At the time, I was closeted, and scared. At the time I was falling for my straight friends, and stealing clothes to feel a little more whole. The music that got me through was Tori, Ani, PJ. I didn’t know enough about your books, but now when I read them, I feel a pang of nostalgia for a time I missed — for something that can only exist as a perfect picture of a time gone by. I would have gotten so fucked up. I like to think that if I existed then I would have partied with you. I like to think that somehow I could get around the politics of exclusion that were so often a part of your world. The fashion of that time is back, and when I wear my docs with a short skirt, I think, there’s still time. Valencia isn’t the same as it was, but I still roam that street, getting tattooed and kissing so many girls.
I flag every day. I see other dykes, and wink. I pick girls up, and make sure gloves are in my bag. My transsexuality is not a debt I owe anyone — it’s a deep felt bank of energy and power. I teach and learn from other women, and in this way, I join a line of sisterhood that ties back to yours.
The dykes I know don’t always know of their elders, their roots in culture. They fuck, write, and dance to the tunes and the works of your peers. Our youths are all fleeting, but we live them forever through the words we speak and put down to paper.
My 30s are a chance to relive my 20s — back then I couldn’t live the way I needed to, and I felt so alone. Now I fly around the world and revel in my dyke magic. We learned from you — we learned that so many of the drugs and smokes you took are anathema to us now. We live in fear of tomorrow, but also in the hope that we might have one. Our crisis is global, where yours was personal. We fight for the trans women of color, the sex workers, the women that are murdered every day, and you fought for space, and against a disease that seemed to kill everyone it touched.
“She swaggers down the streets in her leather at night, you like the way she mounts her Harley Davison bike. Jump on the back, she gives it a rev, don’t think she’s gonna top you, cos she’s belly up in bed.” — Tribe 8
Except, I’m not. At least not every time. I top, and am topped. My gender and my sex are both more expansive than the binaries of top/bottom. I am a switch. a Dyke that loves to be inside and for you to be inside. A fist fills me up, and it says “you exist.”
I didn’t know about Riot Grrl until after it had shifted, become something else. I saw Kathleen Hanna speak recently, and she said “we need to do something better, we need to make sure that when we say ‘all girls to the front, we mean PoC, we mean trans women.’”
“But you can’t stop the fire that burns
Inside of me
You think I don’t know
I’m here to tell you
I do” — Bikini Kill
The trans men I know are often from your time — they learned and grew, and at times they feel like big brothers. I learn the secrets, the handshakes from them. They introduce me to the heroes I would have if I had heroes. They made space for themselves, and didn’t make space for us, but I don’t really blame them. We are all fighting for ourselves at the end of the day, and for my brothers, I often think they just wanted to live another day, more comfortable than the day before. Maybe we deserve some comfort, but I don’t know if we deserve community. Community comes from shared experience, yes, but mostly it comes from fighting, fucking, and talking together. It’s hard won, it’s built on pain and history. We can build a new community that takes the best of your past, and the best of mine, and opens its doors for all of our loves, all our trans siblings.
Stealth is a word we both roll our eyes at. We know why folks do it, and safety is a real problem, but to get rid of our histories? to hide from our pasts? Instead we hope to embrace ourselves as a whole, and remember even the bad times. It’s harder, and it hurts, but we grow so much more than if we pretended we were born whole-cloth, that the desperate times, grasping for the truth, had never occurred.