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Friday, 22 February 2008

Crossing Borders

The first time that I realized that I was consistently passing was the San Francisco airport. It's an odd thing to realize at an airport. I further realized that it meant if I had to go, I had to go to the men's room. I start rationing fluid intake at that point. I've used men's rooms before, but not such high traffic ones. It would be just my luck, the first time out, to end up next to Larry Craig, who got busted in an airport. Right.

In general, it was really, really weird. I was walking around the non-secure parts of the airport, holding hands with Nicole and straight people smiled at us. Later, a straight, older woman acted flirty with me. Nobody treated me like a criminal. I forgot to take off my hat before going through the metal detector. The TSA guy asked if he could see my hat. I apologized for having forgotten it. He said it was ok and just peered inside it. Later, when a TSA person checked out my synthesizer, she apologized for the inconvenience. Either SFO has changed for the better recently, or TSA agents treat white guys with a lot of respect.

I was not suspicious or threatening or criminal or degenerate. I was a pillar of society. I was . . . I don't even have words. I wasn't even dressed that nicely. Being middle class white guy is really different than being a middle class dyke.

Fortunately, as soon as I got to England, I resumed criminal status, by nature of being a foreigner. Or maybe it was the 'F' on my passport. Who knows. I thought I was being all smart, as I put my landing card in my passport next to the page with the student visa. In any other country that I've travelled to, a visa gets you a stamp right away. And it seemed to be going that way when the border guard scanned my passport through the computer. "Why were you denied entry in November?" he asked. Shit. "Because I didn't have that student visa yet." He told me to wait and I did for about an hour. Then he came back and asked me again and I repeated my answer. "Doesn't the computer tell you?" I asked. "Yes, but it says medication was found on you and maybe you were returned because you were sick."

The whole brouhaha where I had to get a doctor to let me take my zoloft last time. . .. Augh. Jetlag makes me feel like shit and I didn't want to have Zoloft withdrawl at the same time, so I had to jump through a bunch of hoops to be allowed to take it. And now it's in my permanent record. And of course, I felt a slight wave of panic. If they searched my backpack this time, they'd find a collection of hypodermic needles. Augh. I imagined the exchange. Was I planning on coming to England to get free medical care? Yes. But damn it, I'm a postgrad student and postgrads are fucking people and people have fucking medical problems. I'm not some kind of fucking money-bearing robot here to stimulate your fucking economy and get nothing in return.

Anyway, I was admitted, obviously. Later I saw a news story saying that immigrants seeking citizenship would have to "earn" their rights by taking a test to prove that they were worthy. What the fuck? First of all, rights aren't "earned." The whole point of rights is that they're not earned. You have rights by nature of being alive, by being a human, not because you somehow earned it. The whole concept of "rights" is meaningless unless they're bestowed intrinsically.

Secondly, I'd have to take a test to prove that I'm as good as the fucking Brits? Why do they think people want citizenship? Do they think immigrants are just hopeless anglophiles enthralled with every stuffy, tawdry aspect of British culture? Do they just wish we were? Of course, the reason they want us to pass a test to prove that we're maybe (never) as good as them is because they hate us. They know we don't worship them and wish we did. I'm not opposed to tests for immigrants gaining citizenship. I'm against the presumption of unworthiness. I'm against the presumption of criminality and guilt. I'm against being treated as a suspect every time I try to come into the country. If I wanted citizenship, it would be to avoid harassment and to make bureaucratic processes simpler and so I could vote. So I could come and go with my benign prescriptions without having to disclose my mental health issues to a fucking cop every time I try to cross the border of this tiny country.

So to prove my Britishness, I plan to get so fucking pissed that I fall into a canal and then have drunken, sloppy sex with an 18 year old and regret it the next day. Then, I'm going to riot after a football match. Um, and I don't know. I don't want to be treated like a criminal, but I don't know what to do with the straight, white, male privilege that Americans were suddenly foisting on me. I was anticipating the actions of the border guard during my whole trip. In North America, I thought, "Any second and they'll read me and I'll go back to being a dyke. These aren't bad people. I mean, it's not just the TSA agents. It's the guy the other day at REI. It's everybody. They're good people, or at least as good as anybody."

I don't get it. I don't get why Nicole has always been invisible when standing next to me. I don't get why even women and POC are immediately ready to treat a white guy like he's special. Why don't they treat everybody that way? Of course, I knew that sexism and queerphobia existed. I mean, I'm 32 years old and have been read as a dyke for a long time. But SFO was astounding. White guys: you have no fucking idea. Dress in drag for a day for comparison.

3 comments:

Matt said...

The last time I dressed in drag for a day, I got my ass grabbed.

Les said...

lol

Heidi said...

I've never gotten through security anywhere so fast as Heathrow saying I was there for work and with IBM. Immediate stamp, no questions, smile, enjoy your stay. One of the few company perks, I guess.

Doesn't Canada also make immigrants prove worthiness?