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A “dyke” on a bike

January 16, 2009

Yesterday I rode around the city with my camera, stopping to take pictures every now and then. I wasn’t binding: I needed the full capacity of my lungs, plus I didn’t plan on meeting anyone. I guess I looked like a girl, because while I was stopped, a car went by and a kid shouted from the backseat: “torta!” Torta means cake in Spanish. In Argentina, it also means “dyke.”

For a second I was petrified, watching the car move away, the kid still looking at me through the back window. Then I waved. He waved back. I wasn’t offended by the remark; I consider it an honor to be compared to my dyke sisters (except for the whole being-a-woman part). Waving was a way of showing him that he hadn’t affected me; a way of showing him that, for some people, gay is okay. Plus, it’s a friendly gesture. You can’t stop hate with more hate.

But I wonder what his waving back meant. Was it another mean gesture? Why did he shout at me in the first place? Was he really homophobic, or was he just having fun without thinking about what he was saying? What did his parents do about it? Was he imitating them? If he was mimicking something he had seen, maybe he didn’t mean to hurt me —maybe he wasn’t thinking about my feelings at all— so maybe when I waved, he just responded to my friendliness.

This is the first time I’ve been called “dyke” while on my own. When I was with my (ex)girlfriend we used to hear it sometimes. But this kid didn’t see me with anybody, so he didn’t really know my orientation: it was gender-phobia more than homophobia.

I waved to prove that I hadn’t been affected; but on my way back, it was getting dark, and I pedaled faster whenever I crossed a group of young people, especially if they were mostly male (and therefore stronger than me). So homo-trans-phobia ended up causing ageism/sexism on my behalf. Where does the chain of fear stop?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2009 7:38 pm

    If you don’t mind me asking, how do you refer to yourself in Spanish? I live in the U.S. but I will be studying in Puerto Rico for the next few months and am not sure, as a transman who does not pass very well, if I should go ahead and use masculine endings or put up with people thinking I’m female for the sake of avoiding confusion and possible transphobia. Or perhaps the spanish-speaking trans community has invented gender-neutral endings? But that’s probably too much to hope for.

  2. genderkid permalink*
    January 17, 2009 8:10 pm

    I use masculine endings when referring to myself –estoy contento (I’m happy)–, but only in situations where I’m out as trans, or if I’m with strangers, since I pass pretty well.

    You say you don’t pass, but in Latin America, women are more feminine and there are less proud butch women, so it doesn’t even occur to people that a masculine-looking person could actually be female (I think). It depends on how manly you look, though: if people only realize you’re female after looking carefully at your chest, face, etc, then you should be fine: no one will double-check. In the US, lots of women might have short hair, but when I cut mine, people immediately started seeing me as male. This is just what I believe, though; get a second opinion if possible. Plus, Puerto Rico is probably different, since it has so much US influence. Maybe people are already used to masculine US females.

    I never know if I’m really passing, so if I’m talking to dangerous-seeming strangers, I avoid explicitly gendering myself: I don’t even use feminine endings, in case I am passing (then I’d be at risk for homophobia); besides, I hate using feminine endings for myself. I just avoid using words with endings: so instead of “estoy contento“, I’d say “estoy feliz”. Sometimes I end up saying really ungrammatical or weird sentences; but it works.

    Good luck in Puerto Rico! That sounds exciting.

  3. genderkid permalink*
    January 17, 2009 8:27 pm

    Oh, about gender-neutral endings: no one uses them in speech — although the ending vowel E has been suggested, instead of the feminine A or the masculine O.

    In writing, however, you might be familiar with the use of @ to mean a and o (“latin@s” instead of “latinas y latinos”). An alternative to @ is x –latinxs–, which I personally prefer because it includes alternative genders beyond A and O.

    • May 5, 2014 12:53 pm

      In Spain not many people use the @ symbol, though I have seen it in trans spaces. I always try to make my sentences avoiding any type of gendered words or I mix up different pronouns and endings in the same sentence. For some reason, it seems to confuse people.

  4. January 18, 2009 3:13 pm

    great post and I think you did the right thing. I once was called a faggot, and I responded yeah I am and PROUD. lol how can one respond to that when I took their insult and didn’t let it hurt me.

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  1. Answering “is that a boy or a girl?” « genderkid

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