It’s 2010 and I am on assignment. I feel like Inspector Gadget. I need a magnifying glass, a beanie and an automatic arm. Well, maybe just the automatic arm, as I can’t really think of much use for the other two.
An automatic arm would be like Viagra for queer women, like the coveted muscle of a lesbian gladiator. Anyhow, that’s an entirely different article (maybe one for the back section of Xtra rather than the front).
I am on assignment, for the whole year actually, to just be where I’m at. Be where I’m at. Be here now. I have been editorially designated to explore the politics of place — queer places, or places where queers go, places I find myself in, both physically and metaphysically.
That sounds easy enough, right? After all, I have to be somewhere all the time, and I have to be queer all the time. In other words, I am never nowhere or not queer (except maybe once for a split second while watching Sucre in the first season of Prison Break). But upon closer inspection, the question becomes how often am I truly anywhere at all? And where do I really spend the majority of my life?
The answer up until now has been, in my head. And my head is the most terrifying, tricky, tortured and torturous place I’ve ever been to. My head has been such an awful place, it’s a wonder I still go there.
But we queers can be awfully masochistic (even us tops). I am learning, namely through meditation and parenthood, to spend less time in my head and more time on the planet, using all of my senses, just being where I’m at. How much time do you spend wishing you were someplace else, trying to get someplace else, waiting to get someplace else, reaching for a camera instead of capturing a vivid mental image that could last forever, conveniently stored inside of you, instead of lasting 15 to 20 years on your new external drive?
For queer people, I would argue that the art of mental escapism can be a very refined skill and ultimately a very hard habit to break, even when the instigator of that escapism is no longer present. I for one have had a very hard time — the side effect of some serious childhood stuff — aligning my body and mind so that both are in the same place at the same time. I intellectualize, analyze, verbalize, criticize (fantasize, exercise, dancersize). I have been a master of disguise.
Even with all that time in my head, I do know places. Places carry smells, colours, sounds, baggage. I can feel my first apartment, and her first apartment, and all the apartments in between.
The big house we’re living in feels like an empty shell now that we’ve sold it.
Place is everything to us these days as we look and look for a new house, a new neighbourhood that will embrace our queer lives and grow alongside our queer little family.
I spend 40 hours a week in the gay village, which I want to call the queer village except that it still, often, feels like just the gay village.Even so, no matter where we move to as a family, as long as I work at The 519 I will have a geographic place in the queer community, if not an ideological one.
When you picture queer space what comes to mind?
I picture the black walls of Buddies, boygirls with buzzed hair and army pants, lights that make you stutter step, the staircase in the middle of the main room, the smell of perfume and spilled beer and (at that time) cigarettes, the smell of shampoo and hair products as hair gets wet from sweat. (Really good-smelling hair is one of the sexiest things in the world on a woman. Love it.)
Buddies wasn’t the first queer space I’d ever been to, but it represented a shift between seeing myself as a “lesbian” and seeing myself as “queer” — girl, boy or something in between, but something no longer strictly “lesbian.”
Lesbian was a word from dictionaries and dated books, the first technical name I found to describe my attraction to women (and their shampoo), a word from Go Fish and All Over Me, a word like “homosexual” that never sat comfortably on me.
But “queer,” now queer had bite. Queer is definitely a definable place in my head. Is it a place that exists in real life and real time too? If so, what does it really look like, and is it anywhere near Church and Wellesley? We’ll have to see.
I am looking forward to this queer journey through places with you in the coming year. I intend to take my breath with me everywhere I go and just be: in the village, in the city, in my new neighbourhood, wherever it ends up being.
Hope to see you — I mean really see you — there.