Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Flying Blind in Paris

Kelly Jean Cogswell

803 words.

Last week, the French TV networks showed the new transgender mayor of Cambridge, England getting feted after winning her election. A couple of nights later, it was queers getting bashed at the Moscow Gay Pride.

France is literally in between. On the legal side, there's a pathetic civil union bill and no hope of better as long as the little Bush, Nicolas Sarkozy, is the head of state. In society, most queers still operate on the "don't ask, don't tell" principle, which has unexpected implications since my gaydar has been haywire in Paris these last few months.

First, it was these two long-haired femmes in the subway with curvy waists and tight low-slung pants that were making out. Nice to see lesbians kissing in public, I thought, watching an old lady looking at them in disgust, until the pair got on the subway next to me and it turned out the shorter one with the flowing curls and soft little ass was actually a guy, then I gagged, too.

Last week, it was the dyke couple in my favorite grec frite place across the street. The two shorties with crew cuts and heavy metal tee shirts were feeding each other fries and sharing a gyro. One clearly had tits, but when I checked out the other more closely, he was concave where he should have been convex, and vice versa.

After I got over my disappointment, I wondered what straight French guy would want a girl with short hair and no makeup.

In Paris, lipstick is issued at birth to females, while males of all orientations are allowed to run the gender gamut from the testosterone-defined hulks to the Oscar Wildean, ruffle-wearing aesthetes who for all that pink, haven't left their macho entitlement at home.

If anything they're worse, dominating in mind games rather sheer bulk. It's hard not to look at the large, hard bodies of Serena Williams and Amelie Mauresmo this week at the French Open and wish they'd break these skinny little men in two.

American men stick out a mile here, with their thick arms and stiff ham-legged strides that make it seem like all the discs of their spines were fused together after kindergarten.

Even the American fags I saw last month at a wine fair have clearly spent way too much time at the gym, as if taxis hadn't been invented, and they expected to have to haul every crate home with their bare hands and then dig a cellar to keep it in. Do they have the same text inside, the same stories, these guys intent on changing the book cover?

Is it different when men and women transgress? When the TV featured the transgender Cambridge mayor, the journalists did a couple of interviews with men on the street who were asked how they felt about having a transgendered woman running the place, in fact, the first trannie mayor in all England.

It was clear they were looking for a couple of juicy insults, but even the tough, shaved head, footballer types said, "I think it's great. It shows Cambridge can still lead the way."

For them, crossing gender was a sign of progress -- despite what the mayor, Genny Baily, told the London Times, "People can take me as a role model if they want... But for transgender people, all we want is to disappear and become normal."

If Mayor Baily wanted to disappear, would she have run for office? Would she have chosen for her life partner another trannie woman making them doubly visible? You have to suspect a huge, unseemly "masculine" desire that she's forced to hide, now (s)he's a woman. What could it be, something on the national stage, even the PM spot?

More than the Williams sisters with their enormous shoulders, it's female ambition that creates real outrage these days. Fury comes from women as much as men, leaving only a hair's breadth between the rock and the hard place.

In France, that's where the former presidential candidate Segolene Royal is living again as she begins the battle to control the Socialist Party whose old bull elephants would rather trample the first new growths of political bamboo in years, than cede control to a woman.

Polls still show her the embodiment of the left in France, more than anyone else, but the old boys won't back her, as they didn't in the election, preferring to watch the rightist Sarkozy win, his two older sons shaking their long bleached blond hair at the cameras, his step-daughters smiling their lipsticked smiles which should not be dismissed.

Segolene smiles as brightly as any of them, but pairs her gender to an open, unsheathed ambition that will end by creating space for women, especially dykes who need that model of audacity and desire more than bare, naked lips.

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