[TRIGGER WARNING: sexual assault, rape culture]
Feminist or a Womanist
by Staceyann Chin
Am I a feminist or a womanist? The student needs to know if I do men occasionally and primarily, am I a lesbian? Tongue tied up in my cheek, I attempt to respond with some honesty. Well, this business of Dykes and Dykery, I tell her, it’s often messy. With social tensions as they are, you never quite know what you’re getting.
Girls who are only straight at night, hardcore butches be sporting dresses between 9 & 6 every day. Sometimes she is a he, trapped by the limitations of our imaginations. Primarily, I tell her, I am concerned about young women who are raped on college campuses, in bars, after poetry readings like this one, in bars. Bruised lip and broken heart, you will forgive her if she does not come forward with the truth immediately, for when she does, it is she who will stand trial as damaged goods. Everyone will say she asked for it, dressed as she was, she must have wanted it. The words will knock about in her head: ” Harlot, slut, tease, loose woman” – some people can not handle a woman on the loose. You know those women in pinstriped shirts and silk ties, You know those women in blood-red stiletto heels and short skirts. These women make New York City the most interesting place. And while we’re on the subject of diversity, Asia is not one big race, and there’s not one big country called ‘The Islands’, and no, I am not from there.
There are a hundred ways to slip between the cracks of our not so credible cultural assumptions about race and religion. Most people are surprised that my father is Chinese. Like there’s some kind of preconditioned look for the half-Chinese, lesbian poet who used to be Catholic, but now believes in dreams.
Let’s get real sister-boy in the double-x hooded sweatshirt. That blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus in the Vatican ain’t right. That motherfucker was Jewish, not white. Christ was a middle-eastern rasta man who ate grapes in the company of prostitutes and he drank wine more than he drank water. Born of the spirit, the disciples loved him in the flesh.
But the discourse is not on those of us who identify as gay or lesbian or even straight. The state needs us to be either a clear left or right. Those in the middle get caught in the cross – fire away at the other side. If you are not for us, then you must be against us. If you are not for us, then you must be against us. People get scared enough, they pick a team. Be it for Buddha or Krishna or Christ, I believe God is that place between belief and what you name it. I believe holy is what you do when there is nothing between your actions and the truth.
The truth is I’m afraid to draw your black lines around me, I’m not always pale in the middle, I come in too many flavors for one fucking spoon. I am never one thing or the other. At night I am everything I fear, tears and sorrows, black windows and muffled screams. In the morning, I am all I ever want to be: rain and laughter, bare footprints and invisible seams, always without breath or definition. I claim every single dawn, for yesterday is simply what I was, and tomorrow even that will be gone.