Friday, July 27, 2012
(Seated Mother Goddess flanked by two lionesses from Çatalhöyük, Turkey, Neolithic age about 6000-5500 BCE,, today in Museum of Anatolian Civilizations in Ankara)
In 1980, I was driving my small, bumper-stickered Honda in San Francisco when I did something (I don't know what) to piss off a young white guy in a massive pick-up. Maybe I cut him off. At any rate, he began honking and yelling out his window at me, starting to tail me very closely. His initial insults focused on the fact that I was driving a foreign car and had a pro-union bumpersticker.
We were in thick, fast-moving traffic and I had no choice but to stay focused on the car ahead of me. Ignoring him escalated his anger, and he kept rushing me but managed to stop just short of hitting me -- for the time being. He got enough of a look at me from behind to take in my size, and his abuse shifted to calling me a fat commie fuck.
After a minute, he shifted lanes and got beside me enough to see that I was a woman. His fury escalated again, and he began screaming I was a fat CUNT, I had no right to be on the road. And he began trying to drive me off into oncoming traffic. It took all my agility to keep from being wrecked.
He surged up level with me again and realized I was a lesbian, dressed in "male" attire, and his reaction went entirely off the cliff. The cars around us began trying to get away from his assaults. I made a wild U-turn, somehow escaping being broadsided, and heard the screeches behind me as this guy followed suit. He was shrieking "dyke! dyke!" and saying all I needed was a good fuck.
I was near North Beach and knew where the police nearest station was, how to get there the quickest route (I drove delivery at the time), and in short order pulled up in front of the station. He gave up then. I sat in my car, shaking, for a long time. He really did mean to kill me.
Here's my question: What oppression was being leveled at me? Class, fat, sexism, homophobia, transphobia? Any of those could be claimed, and at the time I felt most targeted for being female because the point when he realized I wasn't a guy is when he seemed to become entirely unhinged. But that could be my perception, where my trigger points are most reactive.
The truth is, the violence we encounter out there (overt or subtle) is almost never one-pronged or neatly identifiable. And we interpret it subjectively, yes, but that does not in any way lessen its reality and impact. However you map this incident in your mind will be according to your lived experience, and if that experience is wearing blinders (conditioned or chosen by ghettoization), you will miss essential elements of what keeps so many of us in numb fear.
When I read the actual story of Brandon Teena (not the media hype), I identified with her as a teenaged raised-poor rural lesbian who simply wanted to date girls and was willing to use any means toward that end: in my case, in 1970 and with somewhat functional parents, shifting gender was not an option, or else I might have tried it. Though what I deep down wanted was to be a girl with girls, have my community love and welcome me, and go on doing all the other things that interested me.
I don't see the current environment offering any more genuine liberation options now to someone in a similar situation. And the fact that progress has not actually occurred to me indicates we once touched the dragon -- we dared name that "male domination is what makes everybody / angry" -- and the system rose up to distort everything it could about our achievements.