“My Favourite Drink is in Your Hair”

Posted: 09/02/2010 in Girl Stuff, Queer
Tags: , , , , ,

Until I went to the Monster Ball, I didn’t truly understand what it means to be a fan of the world’s biggest pop star. I just approached it the same way I as I do any other fandom; I have my own reasons for loving her and my own way of expressing it. I never expected to get much more than incredulity and other kinds of shit for it and I largely stayed out of the fandom because my participation in others has always been fraught with all kinds of dramas and nonsense that I just do not need getting in the way of my appreciation of the material. I’m incredibly blessed in my current engagement in the comics’ fandom but that’s come after a lot of heartbreak and the pure magic that is Twitter applied correctly.

While I don’t spend nearly as much time engaging in fannish activities relating to Gaga as I do comics (and my blossoming obsession with all things Batfemme), I tackle it the same way. Draw fan art, dissect it with a vengeance in conversation and prose, and finally cosplay. Cosplaying was my original outlet for presenting as female, even back when I just wanted to try the idea out for fun without any real sense that it was the beginning of my explorations into my gender identity. To know me now, it would seem natural that my first gender variant cosplay (I don’t refer to myself as a crossplayer because I’m presenting as my true gender and want to be accepted as such while in costume) was Annie Lennox in her classic suit and tie outfit from the Sweet Dreams music video (for a Halloween party, but it was a strange and bewildering choice for me. All I really understood was that I was struck by the idea and I was drawn to her androgyny).

I developed a kind of performative approach to presenting as female because my first few outings literally were performances. I drew a lot from drag queen culture and diva worship but applied it towards different ends. Their expressions of femininity are extremely different from mine, so I adapted the model to suit my sensibilities. I grew up on Catwoman, Shirley Manson, and Lara Croft so I suppose you could see how my tomboyish vision of femininity failed to alert me to my gender variant nature until I found myself in a space that encouraged exploration for it’s own sake. I am far more of a fishnets and leather girl that I ever will be evening gowns and fake eyelashes. Long nails are right out because I have no interest in cultivating them or scratching my girlfriend’s vaginal walls with the fuckers. I know there’s a way to finger a girl while being the owner of a french manicure without puncturing her uterus. I’ve seen porn where they do it just like you have too, but it’s one of life’s mysteries that I’m content to let stay that way. Cringe inducing digressions aside; I just don’t really believe in the ornamental, Pygmalion school of femininity and it seems to mark me out quite a bit (that’s a pun on the name I was born with, btw) among my peers in the trans community.

So I was pretty much counting on being a bit of a curiosity by showing up at the Monster Ball dressed in a personal variation of the Coke can hair curler look from the Telephone music video. I expected to see a few girls in the curlers, but I was also expecting the frosty cosplay politics to follow me in from the comic book world. I forsook the idea of trying to reproduce the original costume and did the kind of personal variation that rarely gets much love from the details obsessed comic fandom. The only things that I had set in stone were that the colour scheme would be red and black since it’s my Kate Armor and that I had to do the jacket and the curlers. For a top I settled on an American Apparel bandeau bra and cut off jeans because I had no interest in fussing around with taping when I knew I’d be drinking and needing easy access to the pesky man parts for evacuating the bladder. The idea of knee socks over fishnets was inspired by roller derby fashion and the fact I have a nasty shaving cut on my right shin that I just did not feel like showing off. It all came together fairly well, but I was extremely cognizant of the fact that it was a Stephanie Brown cosplay; improvising at the last minute.

Amusingly enough people seem to think that the coke can curlers were hard to do and until I actually thought about it, so did I. Thing is that it’s just a variation on an old trick that used to be big in the sixties with orange juice cans. All you really do is put a hair elastic around the can, roll the hair around the can, then fix it in place with bobby pins. It took me about ten minutes to get them fixed well enough to stay in place for about four hours until they started unrolling from all the bouncing around I was doing.

Any notions I had beforehand about what the Gaga fandom is and how I would be received began to crack before I’d even reached the stadium and were completely shattered by the time I got to my seat. Because I was running absurdly late due to last minute costume adjustments, we barely had enough time to pound back a beer at a nearby bar before walking over to the stadium, but it was apparently enough time for a woman to come over and ask for my picture because I had her favourite drink in my hair. I’m guessing it was the Jack Daniels, she seemed more that type than the Rock Star + Vodka. Either way, it turned out to be a portent of things to come because on the five minute walk down to the Rogers Center I must have been stopped about a dozen times to pose for pictures, something that hadn’t happened to me since I was Spider Jerusalem at the 2006 SDCC.

It was beginning to occur to me that the world around me was beginning to surprise me in terms of how it regarded me. Earlier that same day, I was finally refusing to act intimidated or shy about buying make up or womens’ clothing and that had at least as much because the women I dealt with treated me with respect as it did any new-found assertiveness on my part. The crowd was probably about 80% cisgender ostensibly straight women and they embraced me as one of their own in true Monster Ball style. Gaga herself has made it incredibly clear what her position is on her LBGT fans is as well as her perspective on the issues they face, but it was incredibly heartening to see those same values embraced by her fandom. I’m not going to say that they’re all perfect models of what an ally should be, but it begins at having an inclusive and celebratory attitude towards the involvement of transpeople in your fandom. It may seem frivolous, but I genuinely think that one of the best ways to bridge the gap between different perspectives is by sharing the things we love. My first experiences in befriending LBGT people was through the comics fandom. They educated me on queer issues through our shared experience of comics which eventually lead to a greater understanding of myself.

It’s a firmly held belief of mine that no matter what your ordinary level of engagement in pop culture is, in times of personal strife we always reach for it some degree whether it’s a comforting song, an inspiring movie, or a superhero whose example we admire. Lady Gaga’s rise to prominence ran almost exactly parallel to one of the darkest and most challenging times in my life. There was a period of time in which I looked in the mirror and had no idea who was looking back, but as my personal crisis deepened my engagement with Lady Gaga as an artist and a person deepened accordingly until I saw her posed on the cover of Q magazine with a dildo down her pants and I burst into tears. The transphobia that gave rise to all the nasty rumours about her being transgendered or a hermaphrodite struck me on a personal level because of how ignorant and mean spirited it was, and then here she was responding to it in a way that was empowering to not only her but gender variant people everywhere. It was a very clear sign that she was embracing us when she could have easily met the criticism with nothing more than a dismissal. Instead she said “Fuck you. You want to give me a dick? Fine, I’ve got a dick. What’s wrong with that?”

So naturally the point in the show where she made reference to her giant penis was, oddly enough, one of the moments that I teared up over. The second was when she explained the charity for homeless LBGT youth who had been kicked out of their homes by intolerant parents that the tour is supporting. The third was when she explained the purpose of the Monster Ball. The point was to create a safe space for all of her Little Monsters to truly and freely be themselves, that it’s a place that always exists despite it’s fleeting physical form as a concert tour. It was really hard to keep my composure when she said that the point wasn’t for us to love her any more than we already did, the point was for us to love ourselves a little more. In that moment I felt just like every troubled Little Monster does when they hear those words; that they were meant for me and me alone.

There is no fandom or affiliation on this Earth that I could ever be prouder to be a part of than I am to be a Little Monster.

  1. Cissy-Chan says:

    I think I just got to know you a lot better. I was seriously confused when I started reading this, then I took a look at some of your older posts. I am sending huge hugs your way for no other reason than that I want to. I too feel a little connection to Lady Gaga, she does what makes her happy and doesnt let anyone get her down about it. As a kid who grew up ostracized by people her own age I like that I can find a commonality with Gaga and be myself. And I like that you found someplace to feel normal and happy too. I think I love you a little Emma. If that makes sense.

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