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Dear Andrea: I've found myself a femmy boy who's willing nay, enthusiastically prepared to wear green eye shadow in public. This is delicious. However, we live in Colorado Springs, Colo., which is for its size a wealthy and well-educated town, but also headquarters for Focus on the Family, New Life Church, Will Perkins, Fort Carson, NORAD, and the Air Force Academy. One of my femmy-boy friends was recently chased down an alley downtown by some of the local military simians for the apparently gender-treacherous crime of wearing a top hat. It was lucky for him he knew the area well and wasn't nearly as plastered as they were.
My two questions about the eye shadow thing are these: First, and I understand if you're not able to answer because you don't live here, if we do go on a date while he's wearing it, what do you think our chances are of finishing the evening without getting the shit beaten out of us? And second, what's your opinion on where one should put one's feet while treading the fine line between keeping yourself safe and taking a stand for the right to do what you want with your body if it's not hurting anyone else?
I guess the question is along the same lines as, how do you feel about him wearing a ball gag and leash to the local Starbucks? Eye shadow is just a less overtly sexual signal. Well. To some people. Not to me. Love, Don't Kick Me
Dear Kick: Gotcha. And no, I surely do not live there, nor would I, but we did blow out a tire there on a cross-country trip once and got stranded for a couple days. Pretty town. Really nice park. I knew all that stuff (Air Force, antigay groups, etc.) was there, but you can't tell by visiting it's not like there are giant "Fags go home" banners flying gaily over Main Street or anything. But would I, were I a guy, dress up in my gayest glad rags and sashay down the same main drag in a pair of darling red wedge espadrilles and a panty-girdle? I would not. I suspect you would not, either, were you a guy (you're not, right?). It would be no safer for you to accompany your new girly-boy while he did it either. There is sticking up for your inalienable right to be a weirdo, and there is stupidity. I draw the line at stupidity in any other context, so why would I make an exception for this one?
There was a time in the late '80s and early '90s when all the cool kids were making a spectacle of themselves in the name of political action: visibility, I think we called it. All you had to do was print up some T-shirts or stickers and show up en masse where you weren't expected and you got to feel all brave and thrillingly transgressive and challenging to heterosexual hegemony and stuff. It was great. It was also kind of fake when you're surrounded by a few dozen or hundred or thousand of your closest friends and you're in San Francisco or New York or Washington, not Jakarta or Beijing or rural Rwanda, you're pretty safe. Even if the cops get you, you're going to be cited and set free; protesters in the United States are rarely brought to trial, let alone found bound and beheaded in a ditch. That doesn't mean that nothing we do here is dangerous, though, and unfortunately walking certain streets in a state of visible gender ambiguity can still get you kicked in the face.
There is no set point on the continuum from safe but stifled to "Kick me" that I can recommend you find and cleave to, never again to stray. I do not think it would be very smart to dress your boy up and parade him around near the base at bar-closing time on a Saturday night; nor do I think those of us who fail to conform in every particular to local community standards for gender performance need cower at home forever for fear of attracting a disapproving glance. Somewhere between "Don't frighten the horses" and "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke" lies the perfect level of public self-expression for you two as individuals of your particular place and time. Find it. Also consider finding some fellow gender traitors with whom to make your scene, even if that scene is no more trangressive than going out for fish and chips (I'm pretty sure that's what I ate at your local brew pub while waiting for our truck to be fixed so we could get the hell out of there) and the late showing of Snakes on a Plane. I think you'll be OK. I wouldn't recommend the Starbucksball gag excursion, but that's because it's in bad taste, not because it could get you killed. You'll have to use your common sense. If you haven't got any, I really do think you'd better stay home. Love, Andrea
Andrea's on vacation this week: this column ran previously (8/22/06). But she's still checking e-mail and eagerly awaiting your questions about love and lust! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.