Monday, March 05, 2007

I am I, Sir Eli

At karaoke last week, I got a compliment from one of the other regulars, Orlando. He's there every week, usually in a tie or a nice sweater, with his carefully coiffed 3 day beard, and always singing "This Love" by Maroon 5 or "My Humps" with Miss Jackie or both. He's super friendly, and sweet, and I just like him to pieces. Thursday I guess he was a little drunker than usual, because he sang something different...Man of La Mancha, which I just loved. Usually I get a little impatient with the Broadway Boys who come into karaoke and try to show off their coulda-been-a-contender/headliner chops with Suddenly Seymour or what have you. But I happen to just love "Man of La Mancha"- it's such a roaring, uplifting song, and it was on this CD that I was briefly obsessed with late middle school- "My Favorite Broadway: the Leading Ladies." Anyway, awesome song, Orlando did quite a credible job with it, and when he got off the stage I high-fived him, which he graciously accepted, before leaning in to close (and somewhat beery) range.

"Eli! I really don't want to be offensive, but can I just tell you something?"

Oh, shit. I really hate it when people preface statements with some variation on "No offense, but..." because invariably they're going to immediately follow it with something extremely offensive. Everytime I hear such words, it makes me tighten my stomach like Houdini getting ready for a punch. Still, I like Orlando a lot, and he's never been anything but sweet, and I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I said "Of course! What's up?"

"You look so damn good these days! Seriously!"

I started laughing a little at this point, and he leaned in even closer to give me a hug, repeating "Seriously! I mean it! You're so cute! If I saw you in a bar somewhere, I would be all over you, I would rip you a new one!" He pulled back from our hug, and, misinterpreting the look on my face, backtracks a little "Or maybe you'd rip me one, eh? Eh??"

At that point, all I could do was laugh a little more and tell him to stop making me blush.

A sweet compliment from a sweet guy, and I can take it almost 100% unproblematically. The tiny bit of hesitation comes from the slight backhanded nature of the compliment, which Orlando could clearly feel, too, else he wouldn't have prefaced such a nice thing to say with a preemptive apology. Non-trans folks complimenting trans folks on how "good" we look often carries a flavor of patronizing approval that doesn't sit entirely well with me. It's kind of like saying "aww, good for you, you look just like a real boy now!" as opposed to, say, the 'fake' boy that I used to look like?

I don't need someone to tell me how "real" I look at any given day, or whether or not I'm measuring up to their standards of maleness, thank you very much.

But that's not what Orlando said. What he said was, basically, 'You look hot!' and I am more than happy to lap that up like a kitty with cream. Sure, he thinks I look hot now where he didn't, say, a year ago, because now I've got a flat chest and scruffy little sideburns and a voice that's more Johnny Lang than kd lang. (ha! I wish! in either case!) But I don't think that there's much value judgement implicit in his compliment. He wasn't telling me that he respects my masculinity now where he didn't before- in fact, he's always been respectful, and has never messed up my pronoun, unlike Miss Jackie, who after months of a clean record has she'd me twice in the past two weeks, though both times, thankfully, off the microphone. Orlando was telling me that now I look like the kind of boy he finds hot, and that is something I don't really begrudge him.

I know that not everyone who "likes boys" likes every kind of boy. Plenty of people only like hairy guys or twinky guys or guys with big butts or guys with flat chests. I don't think it's so unreasonable for someone to say that they find me hot now and they didn't when I looked like a dyke, and vice versa- I don't expect folks who were attracted to me when I was a dyke to want to be with me now that I'm a guy. If they do, hot damn, more power to them. And I think it's a bit close minded to say "OMG I could never hook up with a...." fill in the blank with some sort of categorical preference: man, woman, trans person, what have you. I think life's generally more fluid than that, and you're possibly going to miss out on some hot action if you don't let yourself try something that's outside the realm of your experience or expectations.

So I just gotta say, thanks, Orlando. I'm real glad that you told me that you think I'm a hot guy now, because guess what? I think I'm a hot guy now! and I like it when people agree with me.

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