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Tuesday, 19 September 2006


Back from France. I miss it and I miss living in the 10th arrondissement and walking to get cheese from the fromagerie and baguettes from the boulanger and produce from the little vegetable market around the corner. It had it's stresses, certainly, but man, the food was better.

Nicole has learned how to roll a joint! huzzah!

Today, in class, we listed to All the Rage by Bob Ostertag (he has some free downloads on his website, you should look for this piece, in case it's available). The recording we listened to was the Kronos Quartet playing with a tape that consisted of a guy talking about being called "queer," getting gay bashed, his friends dying of AIDS and internalized homophobia. Intermingled with that were sounds from a riot. I asked the teacher if he knew if it was the White Night riot (I know KPFA recorded it) or Stonewall or something else, but he didn't know. The piece is extremely powerful. It's the sort of thing that you have to give your full attention to and then you spend the rest of the day and some of the next day thinking about it.

So after the student concert this afternoon, I was thinking about it and walking by the train station on the way home. A guy paused from rolling his joint to spare change me in Dutch. I said "sorry" (conveniently, a word in both languages) and a short guy next to him took it up again in English. I said sorry again, but he persisted and merged into sexual harassment. "Have you ever been with a man?" he asked. "You should try it at least once." Gee, thanks for your offer, but no. Yeah, not exactly friendly when somebody is shouting it across the (bike) parking lot at you.

The Ostertag piece starts with (quoted from memory) "I remember the first time I heard somebody say 'queer' and knew they meant me."

Yeah, French folks thought I was kind of weird and they got that across subtly, but I was in a little bubble of foreignness. I was the eccentric anglophone. Clearly not French. Old ladies gave me mildly disapproving looks on the metro once in a while. Men did not give me the eye. At all. Ever. I was more or less outside of the male gaze for a year. Nobody called me queer. Nobody laughed at me (except for my terrible language skills). Nobody refused to sell me clothes. The bathrooms were more or less gender neutral and the dressing rooms at clothing stores were explicitly gender neutral.

The Hague is a lot like home in some ways. I feel unfriendly male laughter following me around here. FWIW, this not coming from people who 'look' Dutch, but from people who might be other immigrants. I would type more about this, but Nicole's joint rolling skills are starting to effect my typing.

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