These ladies are kicking ass and queering spaces in ways I don’t yet have the tools to do.
So I had the absolute pleasure of seeing Rhea Butcher and Cameron Esposito over the weekend. The show was great. It was also very, very gay. And as I watched, I realized that I haven’t really spent that much time yet in queer spaces, at least outside of our little community center here in town. I haven’t been to a big Pride weekend or even an Indigo Girls concert. I’m still kind of a baby gay, my skin is all fragile and new.
So during the show (when I was trying not to look at Rhea Butcher’s butt in those jeans, because she’s taken, but DAMN), I was watching this middle-aged straight man seated a few tables down from us. He was at the show with his much-more-attractive lady date, and I don’t know how they got their tickets, but I don’t think he realized what they had gotten themselves into until it was too late. (Maybe it was court-mandated comedy service for homophobes.) The show started with Rhea Butcher talking about how much she loves her last name (“that’s what I am. I am butcher than all of you”) and progressed into Cameron Esposito’s “TED talk” on what lesbians do in bed (“those women in porn aren’t lesbians. Just look at their fingernails. And if you wonder why I say that, would you keep sharp objects at the end of your dick? I’m holding the mic with my dick right now”). And throughout, this guy just got purpler and purpler. I only saw him chuckle once, and it was pretty forced.
And I realized that this magical thing was happening.
We were queering the space.
Here was a straight white cis man, someone who has the expectation of comfort in every space, and that expectation was being completely subverted. He looked like his chair was made of thumbtacks. Because this was not his space; it was ours. The queer people. The trans people. The women. For once, this dude was experiencing what it felt like to be marginalized. For once, he was experiencing what it felt like to be the punchline. And he did NOT find it funny.
For a freshly out queer girl like me, for someone who only got brave enough to put an equality sticker on her car two days ago, this was a powerful high.
So when Cameron came out after the show and there was an opportunity to walk up to her and say hi, naturally, I couldn’t talk. I could only squeak. I think I thanked her, in a high falsetto nothing like my actual voice, and we took a photo, and I giddily tripped on out of there.
But if I hadn’t been so damn starstruck, I would have thanked her properly. I would have thanked her for and Rhea for showing me my first glimpse of a world in which I was the comfortable one, a world where I could be a woman and queer and dating a trans guy and yet I could move safely through a space without worrying about what someone might make of any of that, and the person who was on the defensive, the person who was the minority, the person who felt he had to navigate carefully through uncertain waters, was the straight cis forty-something man.
I don’t say any of this because I dislike straight people or cis men. But I think that it is healthy for people who have lived all of their lives with an expectation of ease, comfort, validity, respect, to experience what it feels like when that expectation is turned on its head. I think it’s healthy for them to get a little taste of what our lives are like. And I know I’m late to this ballgame — that so many wonderful people have been queering small and large spaces in this way for decades. But I only just discovered what it feels like. It feels like home.
So despite the strides that marriage equality and other civil rights are making in our country, I just want to tell Cameron and Rhea and everyone who works towards visibility: what you are doing still matters so much. It matters to me and people like me. And I am grateful.