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ISSUE 121 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 5/2/2008

Fear empowers prejudice

By Sean Miyamoto
Contributing Writer

Friday, May 2, 2008

Who am I? How do I see myself? This is the quintessential question for any quest into nature of one's identity. But I pose this question to you: who's asking? Is it ultimately me posing the question to myself or is it actually society forcing the question on me? Is it a moment of personal liberation from social boundaries, or is it a social imposition of categories on my own flesh? Who am I: queer, feminist, gender-queer, deconstructionist, student, brother, son, friend, lover& faggot.

On Friday, April 18, not too long ago, around 6 p.m., I heard a single word. It was unexpected. As I was walking back to Thompson House after dinner, I heard someone yell from a van driving up the hill on Ole Ave. By this time I was walking on the sidewalk, having crossed the street after descending the stairs. Whoever it was yelled, "Faggot!" I couldn't see who it was as the van drove off too fast. However, the yeller is irrelevant. What matters is the action.

I admit, I started laughing. By this time, they had driven way too far to hear, but I replied, "Yes&"

I am not writing this article to rant. I'm sure you've heard it all: prejudice blah blah blah& heterosexist& blah blah blah& it's time for change.

Rather I propose a moment of reflection, which I'm fairly sure the Lutheran faith (if not the Christian faith) is familiar with. Let us begin with the question: what inspired this yeller to proclaim the words, "Faggot!"? Was it the fact that this yeller had only moments before a fabulously brilliant Pride flag passed, blowing vibrantly in the wind? Did this flag agitate the yeller -- and if so, why? It is, after all, just a flag. Was it the fact that I was dressed in well fitted matching clothes with a fashionable flair, and that my hair was unabashedly styled in a wild manner -- and if so, why? An appearance is just an appearance.

That moment when someone, anyone, looks at me and feels compelled to act offensively, (or even thinks offensive thoughts about me) becomes a mirror -- a mirror in which I can see myself. However, it is not a straight forward mirror. The reflective moment is a multidimensional mirror and therefore becomes ambiguous and hard to decipher. I live to create those moments. When I move a certain way, say specific words, dress with elegant style, use copious amounts of product to make my hair fierce, put makeup on, wear a dress, walk in high heels or anytime I act in a feminine way, I draw from two parts of my identity. First and foremost, these moments are a tangible expression of my feminine identity. Second, these moments are a manifestation of my inner Socrates. Yes, I can be a queer Socrates, Socrates in drag, sauntering across campus with a click-clack and a huge question mark. I'll admit, it's not a very sexy image, but Rufus Wainwright already took "Gay Messiah," and I'm not as self-righteous as him anyway.

But what questions am I asking as the queer Socrates? Let us look closer at this mirror. I want to address you who yell "faggot" from your window. In the mirror, I see you reacting to my appearance. My appearance is a transgression of what society considers to be normal. In fact, society makes a stronger claim; society claims my appearance is not natural, that I should be expressing masculine codes. Your reaction is a response to this transgression, an offense to the fact that my appearance is "unnatural." I wonder if the reaction is only out of anger, or if anger is hiding fear of my transgression.

Fear that the transgression breaks down the very fabric of your reality, that with this transgression all of society will crumble. In your reaction, I see someone trying to impose their own ideas of what is natural; I see an attempt to punish me for this transgression, and an attempt to patch together the social fabric I have torn apart. In your reaction I see myself: someone struggling with reality. I see this, do you?

Sean Miyamoto '08 is from San Diego, Calif. He majors in philosophy.

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