Something terrible has happened. Something I didn’t see coming. Something I should have considered, back on that day in the early summer when I was casually strolling through the outlet mall, looking for slim-cut menswear and sunglasses.
Cut to the chase: apparently, I carry a purse. Now, I don’t think it’s a purse. My gf doesn’t call it a purse. My coworker once called it my “cool satchel”. But in the women’s restrooms of the American Southwest, it has been proven to be none other than that bastion of femininity, the purse.
I found my current (very loved) purse bag at a Calvin Klein outlet, in the men’s accessory section. Thrilled at my luck! This bag was the miniature of my trusty army green messenger! The one I bought on the streets of the East Village during my butch-in-New-York years! The one with the broken zipper and peeling insides, which was too big for a simple night out!
NOT a purse.
I had been looking for a bag to fit only my smart phone (I swear, these things are like Get Smart’s shoe phone) my wallet, my keys, and my sunglasses. Why don’t you just use your pockets, I hear all the butches out there saying? Well… and I’ve written about this before, but, the thing is, I wear… women’s jeans now. I mean, they don’t LOOK like women’s jeans. They just look like jeans that fit me, you know? They’re not girly or tight or weirdly patterned or anything. They just don’t give me that blocky-hips-penis-bulge thing. And when you’ve recently lost 40 pounds, you want to be able to see it past the fake bulge. (There’s a time and a place for a fake bulge, or a real bulge, but this post is not it.) And women’s jeans don’t really have pockets, because (as I needed my gf to point out) women carry purses.
Anyway, back to the purse bag. So I found my perfect, tiny, masculine (I thought) messenger, just big enough for said items. And I’ve been carrying it almost daily ever since, casually slung across my blazer/vest combos and good to go.
This past week for the holiday, however, my men’s accessory world was blown wide open, right along with my gay-self-defense-dar. That’s the sixth sense us queers develop when we feel our safety is in question, most often employed when entering bathrooms of the proper (cis- or otherwise defined) gender and when holding hands or displaying affection with our significant people in public.
My gf’s parents – all three of them – moved to New Mexico in the past year. New Mexico remains the state where I have felt the most unsafe of any place in this country that I have traveled. Not that anything has ever happened to me in New Mexico, but I have never received more stares, sneers, or emphasized “Ma’am”s anywhere else, including freakier places like Arizona or Nebraska. I’ve had mothers pull their young daughters away from me in New Mexico. And, most of all, I’ve been told I was in the wrong bathroom every. single. time. I tried to pee in New Mexico.
But not this past week. Even though I peed probably 25 times or more all across the Southern and Northern parts of the state. Not when I’m wearing my tiny man bag. Because it looks like a purse.
Now, the rest of my appearance was most assuredly masculine. Same spikey hair. Same men’s blazer/sweater combo. True, I’ve never passed from the front (due to the pretty eyes) but from behind, my six foot frame gets sir’d all over the place. In Vegas last month I even had a man from the bar chase me into the ladies waiting area just to “keep a bro from messin’”. But with my little bag across my shoulders, I have apparently stepped into the unspoken world of feminine agreement. I have made myself harmless, non-threatening, just another dowdy woman with short hair and no makeup.
One would think I would either a) relish the safety of my sudden stealth or b) chuck the purse as far from me as possible to regain my manly composure. I’m surprised at myself, and a little bit proud, to realize that even if some people think it’s a purse, I don’t really care. I like my bag. It holds my stuff. The younger, angrier me would have been up in arms about the ridiculousness of gender oppression, yadda yadda. The younger, more insecure me would have immediately felt like I was doing something wrong in the butch universe, and reverted to a wallet with a chain. But the current me, the me that’s trying to figure out my own style, the me that’s choosing clothes and experiences because they’re right for me and not because “I’m supposed to”, this me likes where I’m headed. Purse or no. So I guess I lied earlier – it’s not so terrible. It’s an uplifting realization – the journey is actually getting me somewhere.