Sunday, June 5, 2011

Visibility and The Dress

When Linds and I started to talk about getting married, I had a really hard time visualizing myself in a white dress. In fact, by the time we got engaged, I was adamantly opposed to wearing one. I never wear white. I've never been particularly comfortable in white. I'm most definitely not a "virgin" (maybe someday I'll write a post about my disdain for that word), and I am very turned off by the historical context of the White Wedding Dress. Furthermore, I effing love purple and wear it most days. Eggplant, my favorite shade of purple, would also look amazing against our fall theme with lots of orange and yellow accents. I haven't really started dress shopping yet, but whenever someone asks "What are you going to wear?", I've been answering "PURPLE! No wedding dress for me. Gross."

Well. Something very surprising happened last night while Linds and I were at a U of M School of Social Work reunion. The party had moved to Babs, a swanky (relatively speaking) bar downtown. We were sitting right next to the entrance, which is down a long flight of stairs from the street. Around midnight (I know, I was out until midnight. Crazy.), a woman in our group announced that some people who were trying to join us were stuck outside and had been told that no one else would be admitted until a bridal party with a reservation arrived. This definitely piqued my interest, and I spent the next ten minutes glancing at the door every few seconds in anticipation of seeing the group and what they were wearing.  They finally began streaming in and I saw that the bridesmaids were dressed in EGGPLANT. I was thrilled, and unabashedly stared them down in an attempt to make out the details. After a two minute lull in the procession, a fellow bar patron opened the door to leave for the night and shrieked "Ohmygod, THERE'S A BRIDE!!!!". Everyone in our section of the bar turned to look, and when the bride walked through the doors (looking quite uncomfortable, I might add) the entire bar started clapping and cheering for her. I watched her move through the room as women (yes, 100% true in this case) at table after table turned to see her and pointed her out to their friends. And then I was tearing up. And frantically trying to stop. "Am I drunk? What the hell is going on?". I began to social work myself (clinical training = blessing and curse). "Diana, what feeling words are associated with your tears? Where are you feeling the sadness in your body? Can you pull out a cognition for me?" And eventually, there it was: "I want that too."

Then, panic. "Holy shit, Diana. You are a disgrace to all gay women and all liberals and all feminists. How could you want to wear a white dress? How could you be so shallow? You need to be ON. You need to send a MESSAGE...with EGGPLANT." You need, you should, you need. Etc, etc, etc.

Then I looked up and saw Linds, and I landed back in reality. I forgave myself, and smiled, and texted Laura: "I just had a breakthrough at Babs...I want to wear white."

Now let's be clear, before I go any further. Do I want an entire bar of strangers cheering for me? Absolutely not. But do I want people to look at me and know I'm a bride? Yes. Yes I do.

As a gay woman on the femme side of the spectrum, I struggle constantly with visibility. It really bothers me that people assume that I'm straight when they look at me. That may be difficult to understand, but it's difficult to explain--particularly in a blog post. Visibility is important to me, and I realized last night that our wedding will be no exception. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I do want to be recognized as a bride.  I'm not even sure why, other than the obvious and shallow. But what I am trying to repeat to myself is that I deserve whatever experience I want on that day. I don't need to saddle myself with the pressure of The Big Gay Counterculture Non-White Wedding (and by the way, I've seen pictures of close to a hundred gay lady weddings--and the vast majority involve a white dress).

So. I'll be wearing a white dress, with lots of eggplant accessories. Please don't judge me.

5 comments:

  1. No judgement whatsoever!! You deserve to feel exactly like the beautiful bride you are sure to be!!

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  2. Ahaha, send a message with eggplant. We're funny sometimes.

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  3. hey diana!
    firstly, i have been loving this blog.
    secondly, relax! remember that being a liberal gay feminist isn't about making yourself radically different from other people for the sake of being different--it's about exercising your right to do whatever the hell you want! so i say: do whatever makes you happy!
    i love the eggplant accessorizing idea. no need to be ashamed about about a white dress! whether or not we like it, we are products of our american culture and the image of a white wedding dress is burned so deeply into our brains, it's pretty much natural to want to have that white dress moment.

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  4. As a moderately effeminate gay man, “visibility” is both a blessing and a curse for me.

    It sucks to feel out of place and stared at sometimes, and to have to hear people whisper things about me and my sexuality as I’m passing by or having a drink at a bar. If I sense that I might be judged or ridiculed because of who I am, I have to try really hard to become somebody I’m not in order to avoid pain. Individuals who “pass” may not have to struggle with this brand of oppression as regularly, but I feel like these individuals face other struggles.

    For example, if a person has a problem with dudes who like dudes, they’re most likely going to avoid me entirely, or address me with a curt attitude; worst case scenario, they’re crazy foaming-at-the-mouth bigots who can be confronted and/or laughed at as such. However, bigots and ignorant people interact with Queer folks who “pass” before they realize that they’re actually interacting with “one of those people.” It’s the moment of realization that holds the potential for incredibly hurtful, awkward “oh, you mean… you’re gay? oh…” ickyness. Most of the time, I don’t have to deal with that. So, this is one of the ways in which visibility becomes a blessing for me! (Although, sales clerks—invariably older ladies—do sometimes ask me if I’m looking for anything for my “girlfriend” or “the lady.”)

    Anyway, I think I can understand, at least a little bit, how heteronormative assumptions and “invisibility” can be aggravating for you.

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  5. PS, I love you and I love this blog =)

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