Parton Me: Persona Non Gratified

I got a new haircut. I’m not happy with it. That’s not true. I’m happy with it. Exalted, even. I’m just not happy about it. By the time I began transition, I had a very pronounced widow’s peak, and while hormone replacement works wonders, it does not a miracle make. I’ve traditionally worn my hair long to keep my temples warn, and for years it’s been great, but after temporarily switching to a lower concentration of estradiol, the thinning returned. It could have also been the relapse into disordered eating, two messy breakups and/or not taking my prescribed vitamin supplements. A veritable rogue’s gallery of stressors. Any of them could have robbed the bank.

I was losing a lot of valuable time staring at myself in the mirror and crying over the impending loss of my mane. I decided to get it cut short to make the most of what I had left, as its generally understood that shorter hair gives the appearance of thicker hair. Let my scalp figure out this whole hair loss thing. If it all falls out, then when I shave my head, people will just assumed that was the plan all alone and I won’t have to find a place for all the “Get better! You can beat it!” cards.

I was feeling pretty good about it. I was proud of myself for trying something new (this is the shortest I’ve ever had it since I was 12) and for doing, what I felt, was the mature, fashion-conscious thing.

Without thinking, I updated my look in my dating profiles and in a new CL ad.

And without thinking, other women wrote me.

“I like feminine women. They don’t always have to be in dresses and makeup, but they need to have a feminine look to them. Your hair is too short to be feminine.”

“Are you a butch or a femme? I can’t tell with that hair.”

“You saw you’re a femme, but idgi (translation: I don’t get it [and neither do I!]) with your hair. Did you mean that you like femmes or are a femme chaser?”

“Are you a guy?”

I took down all the new photos, deleted my CL ad, and now find myself checking my hairline at EVERY reflective surface I pass.

The moral of this story is that when some radscum asks me where do I get off calling myself a woman and what shared womanhood experiences do I have that warrant that identity, I will say that I, like every woman ever, has had every inch of her weighed and judged. From the width of my hips to the size of my breasts to the length and part of my hair. All to determine whether I’m all the woman (or the woman I claim I am) that I can be.

In a way, radscum, you telling me I can’t be a woman because of my penis, by policing my body for not meeting your standard of aesthetic validates my womanhood by imposing on me the shared experience of body policing. Checkmate, radscum. You’re out of your element.

BUT NEVER MIND THAT SHIT.

Ms Black Dahlia, 

I’m a 30-something bi lady currently dating a guy. I recently found out, after meeting his family, that my guy was a bully in high school and college. He told me he dropped out of college to pursue his passion, but in reality he was expelled for assaulting a gay classmate. I have confronted him about this, and he shrugged it off, saying “it was taken out of proportion”. Do I push it further? Should I be concerned that he hasn’t “reformed”? Am I a bad queer if I stay with him? Do you think I’m leaving myself open for future violence?”

You are already “open for future violence” by being a woman and in a relationship with a man. According to the Domestic Violence Resource Center, one in four women has experienced domestic violence in her lifetime. The Bureau of Justice Statistics predicts that three women are murdered by a boyfriend or husband EVERY FUCKING DAY. This is important shit to consider after discovering that your partner has a published record of hate violence. This isn’t one of those “what happened at the San Joaquin River” stories. He was expelled. They write that kind of shit down. In someone’s file cabinet, right now, there is proof that your boyfriend caused intentional physical harm to another person, and furthermore, that record is likely annotated with notes on why your boyfriend attacked him. Given that he lied to about why he did not finish college, I can guarantee you those notes do not end with “and so they dueled, for they knew there could be only one.” Take that to the bank. If I’m wrong, you are entitled to my collection of Kaiju Big Battel DVDs.

I’m not going to tell you whether staying with him makes you a bad queer. That’s up to you to figure out. But I’ll tell you this much. Your boyfriend beat somebody so bad they fucking threw him out of school. Almost certainly because the other student was gay. If you bring your queer friends around this shitlord without disclosing his history, you are a terrible friend.

This isn’t cancer, or working without documentation. Violence is not a private matter. Violence mars the victim, the victim’s support network, and those who may have witnessed it and were triggered by what they saw. Publicly assaulting somebody is essentially throwing a trauma grenade into a crowd. And even if he doesn’t punch any your friends in the face, I personally don’t trust him, with his record, to avoid saying anything shitty to your friends. As a friend, we are obligated to do our best not to knowingly invite harm into our friends’ lives. Inviting your friends to hang out with you so your boyfriend with the violent past can call them names and make veiled threats is needlessly endangering them, physically and emotionally. He’s a homophobe, and a violent one. These things are likely to happen. Whether or not you continue to fuck him is your business and your business alone. I didn’t get into the queer liberation movement to tell people what they could and could not do with their bodies.

You are not a bad person for dating him. Even if he begins to abuse you. Which I think he will. Does he know you’re bi? I’m guessing no, because if he was, his response to you calling him out on his lie would be “yes, I beat up a gay student in college, and I know that was a terrible thing to do, and I can imagine how that would make you feel unsafe, and I’m sorry and mindful of it”. It would not be “taken out of proportion” WHICH ISN’T EVEN A THING YOU CAN SAY OR DO. You either blow things out of proportion or take them out of context. His excuse was so terrible he didn’t even bother to make sure it was grammatically correct.*

*This is, of course, negated if English is not his first language. Or if he’s Ricky from Trailer Park Boys.

An abuser does not cap themselves off at one victim. They might get caught before they get to their second, or be so overwhelmed with guilt they get themselves some help, but nobody, ever, says “okay, I’ll do this once and never again”. The longer you stay with him, the greater the probability you will be next. If he doesn’t abuse you for being queer, or because you make him feel less adequate of a man, than he’ll just hurt you because he can. Just as you can’t deter a rapist by “dressing less provocatively”, you can’t deter a violent abuser by keeping them away from the things they’ve lashed out in the past. They will, without help, always be violent. It is not your job to be that help. Do not fall on a grenade for him. He is not worth it. Your love, no matter how pure and true, will never be enough to “redeem” him.

If you’re so concerned of whether he’s reformed, advise him to see a therapist.

And then leave him. Explain why you’re leaving. Tell him you’re leaving because he has established a history of violence and you do not feel safe around him and his lies about his past. Whether or not you keep him as a friend is your business. As is whether or not you decide to stay with him anyway.

Like I said, I’m not telling you what to do with your body, but you did ask me for advice, and this is what I’m telling you I would do.

I would leave. I would leave and be thankful that I avoided the possibility of violence.

And focus on my band, my zinemaking, and other things that make happy and whole and remind me that I do not, ever, need to stay with an abusive partner, or anyone at all, really. I can do this all on my own. Sharing myself with others is a privilege I afford others. It is not necessary to my survival.

What’s love got to do with it?

You can write to me at BlackDahliaParton@gmail.com

One response

  1. Jamey

    As someone in a relationship with a violent man, this is a timely reminder. Thank you.

    July 11, 2012 at 2:31 pm

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