Yesterday, halfway through the homeschoolers QSA meeting, there was a knock on the door. We all turned to look, and the young person who had knocked looked in turn at us. Then she asked shyly, “Am I in the right place?”
Oh readers, is there not one among you who has not asked perself* the same question? I may be 54 and ticking here in the suburban sprawl outside of Boston, but I still have magical thinking that I’ll be able to do it all over again on the other side of the country (San Francisco, here I come!) or in France (J’arrive, mes vieux potes!), or Japan (Yoroshiku onegeishimasu!).
Certainly my poor mother must be pondering that question, as she never in a million years thought she would find herself living in a nightmare version of yucky college dorm meets tacky low-budget cruise ship (aka assisted living). In this new “home”, all the waiters know her name but none of them can manage to make the water hot enough for a real cup of tea, and her husband of 60 years has been replaced by a toddler: oblivious, food-driven, extremely cheerful except when he lets out all the stops in abusive temper tantrums.
Tex and I had a date recently – we went out to eat. It was a cute little place, very neighborhood-y, full of other folks on dates, families with kids. We had a lot to talk about, and were quite engaged with one another, so it wasn’t until later that we realized how unbelievably straight the culture in the room had been. I am quite sure that every single one of the patrons sharing space with us that evening, if canvassed, would swear up and down to “be ok” with queers. Why, the tattooed bearded young man waiting on us even referred to us as “ladies”! But the cumulative effect was that we both woke up the next morning feeling slimed. In his brilliant and restorative book Covering: The Hidden Assault on our Civil Rights (Random House, 2006) Kenji Yoshino speaks about the effects of having to move always in a straight culture, “I felt like Gulliver waking in the land of the Lilliputians, battened down by infinite and infinitesimal threads. Any one of them would have been easy to break, but collectively they immobilized me (p. 61).”
Yesterday, I managed to go sit for a wee bit at the Diesel in Davis Square, drinking a decadent Somerville Smog. The queerness soaked into me and felt me so much better (as Owen used to say when small). I didn’t have to ward off; I could just settle in and smile.
Am I in the right place? Oh heavens, how can I know? If I was in San Francisco, maybe me and Carol Queen could hang out and maybe I’d get to explore being femme in more depth than I have the opportunity to do where I am now. If I was in France I would know how to say all kinds of queer stuff in French and could hang out where Gertrude and Alice did. In Japan? Maybe I’d be doing research on the history of queer in Nihon and flirting with sweet Japanese butches… But here I am, with my best and sweetest Texan butch, two excellent sons, a kitty with more toes than he knows what to do with, a very upstanding terrier gentleman and many, many other blessings. And I do feel that I am very definitely in the right place when I’ve helped open queer space for queer youth, like Fridays at the Queer Mystic drop in night. The youth who come in laugh more, stand up straighter, the look in their eyes becomes less guarded. It’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, actually. And yes, the girl who’d been looking for the homeschoolers QSA was also in the right place that day, and we welcomed her into the fold.
per (person), per, per, pers, perself. Called “person pronouns,” these are meant to be used for a person of any gender. Compare Phelps’s phe pronouns, which are also based on the word “person.” John Clark created “per” pronouns in a 1972 issue of the Newsletter of the American Anthropological Association.
Use in real life and non-fiction: Person pronouns were one of the sets of pronouns built in to MediaMOO for users to choose from. Richard Ekins and Dave King used these pronouns in the book The Transgender Phenomenon (2006).
Use in fiction: In Marge Piercy’s feminist novel, Woman on the Edge of Time, 1976, Piercy used “per” pronouns for all citizens of a utopian future in which gender was no longer seen as a big difference between people.
- Nominative: When I tell someone a joke per laughs. (Or person laughs.)
- Accusative: When I greet a friend I hug per.
- Pronominal possessive: When someone does not get a haircut, per hair grows long.
- Predicative possessive: If I need a phone, my friend lets me borrow pers.
- Reflexive: Each child feeds perself.
On Pronoun Island: http://pronoun.is/per