In the Orthodox morning prayers, men thank God for not making them a woman. The traditional explanation is that men are obligated to more commandments of the 613 in the Torah, so are thanking God for giving them more rules. Obviously, especially in my lifetime which coincides so with much of the public life of feminism, this rankles. So many men have taken to saying the woman’s morning prayer, which praises God who “made me according to His will.”
So here’s the thing. When I say “according to His will” – or, more agnostically, “as I am,” I mean: not straight. Not cookie-cutter. Not with a script and a program.
I have had experiences that would not only be out of the realm of every one of my straight friend’s, relatives’, and co-workers’ experiences, they would be foreign concepts to them, beyond their lexicons. Or, at the very least, the poorly-understood punchline to a stereotypical joke.
And I’m not just thinking about things like sex club events. I’m thinking of people, people I know and value, whose lives would be beyond the experience of most and the comprehension of nearly all, but who are daily a part of my life.
(Thanks to a lovely and talented friend visiting from Vancouver for being a sounding board for some of this when we went out for drinks yesterday – when I was, to be honest, thinking how lucky I was that we were doing so, and that if the universe were a more just place he’d be spending that time fucking someone instead of discussing queer culture with me. But luckily for me, that’s how the time went.)
I’m grateful that class and status work very differently in our queer lives.
I’m not by any means saying that it doesn’t exist, of course. Nor am I saying that race, class, or gender don’t matter and don’t affect anything. That’s just crazy talk. Alas.
But what is true, I think, is this: there are added dimensions of status and class – chiefly, but not solely, because sex is involved. And because sex and gender are what makes us “The Other.”
Here’s one thread of it. I am reasonably certain that none of my co-workers or relatives could comfortably say something like (and I’m choosing the sentence formulation specifically for its cliché elements) “Some of my best friends are escorts/pornstars” – and mean it. I can. Lots of us here can. And be serious about the “friends,” and often, “best friends” parts, too. And, of course, I’m not talking about those of us who let a guy pay our bus fare once or twice – though, in the greater design, it’s more a matter of degree.
Part of it is that, in an arena in which sexual attraction and sexual activity carry cachet, it defines added dimensions of status and class. And those dimensions can – imperfectly – cross class and race lines. And sometimes, gender (or at least gender identity and expression) as well.
It goes beyond the commercial-sex arena, too. There is the guy who lives on near-subsistence wage but puts on the best parties in town, where the door is controlled by the bouncer equivalent of Cerberus. (Good puppy! Good puppy! Good puppy!) There are, parallel to this, more central to some and extraneous to others, the title and Imperial Court systems.
When social and sexual currency adds these dimensions, the way our paths interact become more complex, and richer. Not without their own problems and challenges, of course. But more complex, and richer.
So, yes, I’m thankful for what’s added to my life when “some of my best friends, and dearest loved ones, are pornstars/escorts/titleholders/Imperials/etc.” and in which assumptions about anything, including race, gender, orientation, class, and status are not automatic or trivially made.
I can’t imagine living a life in which none of the following have happened, just to name a handful:
- Hearing a certain trans adult entertainer used as a punchline, and being able to turn to the person who did it and say, “He’s a neat guy, actually – had a coffee date with him last year.”
- Hanging out with a few friends in “the business” and chatting about the important things in their lives, which for the conversations about which I’m thinking included pianos, arts administration, intermediate education, and comics.
- Possibly being the only person ever to broker a three-way conversation between a pornstar/escort (I’d say “pornstar/escort/law student” but that would make it a little too obvious), a theatrical producer, and an award-winning comics/TV/play writer in which the commodity that would change hands was neither sex nor cash, but rather, a (blank) novelty flash drive.
- On a different subject but one under the same umbrella, knowing a member of my co-ed college fraternity whom I called “brother” in the sense we used where everyone, whatever the gender, was a “brother,” but who subsequently could be taken as a brother in the most all-male club as well.
- Being in a small group that heard the current president of the World Bank start a sentence with “when we shut down Pfizer.”
And that’s just scratching the surface of the richness of experience that being queer has brought me.
So, thank you, universe, genes, hormones, whatever, for making me as I am.