My visit to the Radical Faeries

Recently on gendertrender, several commenters mentioned that while radical feminism has been a lifeline for many ftm detransitioners, there’s no analogous group of “radical men” who welcome mtf detrantioners back. I posted my own musings about this a week ago. In the interim, I remembered my visit to the radical faerie commune, which might be germane to this topic. So I’ll recount it here for posterity.

Many years ago, I had decided to travel across the country and seek my fortune, so one summer I quit my job and packed my bag. I visited Chloe Dzubilo in NYC, and while we were hanging out at the gay pride march I met a man who was driving to back to Tennessee the next day. “Well if you don’t have any plans, you could come back with me and hang out at the commune I live at,” he said. I was sold! Adventure!

We left early the next morning and drove the whole way in a single shot. It was noisy in his old blue pickup, because there was no ac so we had to keep the windows down. We talked a little in the morning, and then spent most of the rest of the drive silently eating a giant bad of carrots. (Like Chloe, he was really into raw food, to combat hiv.)

It was dark again by the time we got to “hippy holler”, as the locals referred to it. Hippies, gay nudists – to a redneck, what’s the difference? We were listening to a cassette a friend from NYC had given me, and I got chills as we pulled down an unmarked dirt road and her naked voice gently floated in the night air: “My life – isn’t – anything – compared to – stars – or – sound…sound…ssssoundddd….”

As it turned out, most of the faeries were away at the Rainbow Gathering that week. Of the people left, there was a large woman in a moumou with her six year old son, a “queer heterosexual” couple with a three-year old daughter who’d decided to go back to nature after a long stint in the wasteland of Detroit, my driver (who was very quiet, it seemed he reserved most of his energy for trying to beat hiv without drugs), and a rascally runaway boy in his early 20’s.

I’d been living without a car for a few years, and I rarely made it out of the city. So being in nature felt divine! I got a room to myself in a half-finished house, which had a roof but was missing several of the exterior walls. After dinner at the main cabin I would head back to my room with a candle. I had a wind-up alarm clock my grandfather had given me in my bag, and I took great pleasure in winding it and listening to it click at night. It was scary to be in the woods, but also somehow I felt really safe.

I was super pissed off at the system of gender at that point in my life – in fact I had just quit hormones (since I thought I no longer needed them, after the orchi), I had decided that not only was I finished with electrolysis, I didn’t feel like plucking my remaining facial hair either, and I stopped shaving my legs. But, I also wore dresses most days – with steel-toed men’s machine shop shoes – it was the 90’s!

I had a lot of fun that week. I ate some great organic food, I hung out with the faerie’s goats, we went to the Mufreesboro jamboree (it reminded me of how much fun I had playing simple music on acoustic guitar or mandolin with my father as a teen), I flirted with the rascal and he ignored me, and I smoked a lot of pot. Then one day I was at the creek with the moumou mom and her son and a few others, and we decided to go swimming. So I took off my clothes and jumped in the water.

The little boy got confused. “But — how come you’re a girl, but you have a little penis?” (He actually used the word little – I guess being around the gay nudists he had a point of comparison, haha.) “It’s just the way I am,” I said. That was a new one but his mom explained that I was different, and then it didn’t seem to bother him anymore. But word spread and suddenly everyone there realized I was trans. “Jeez no wonder the rascal has been ignoring me all week,” I thought, “he’s gay and he thought I was just a regular girl!”

The queer het dad heard through the grapevine on my last night at the farm, and was sad he hadn’t known earlier because he had some trans friend (or something) and thought there was a lot to talk about – or something. He was a nice guy and I took a picture of him and his daughter with my peel-apart polaroid camera (yeah, I was a hipster before it was cool). He had installed solar panels to run his computer, so that he could continue to produce his zine “off the grid.” We made plans to stay in touch but obviously that never happened.

The next day all the rest of the faeries got back, and it sucked, and I was glad to be leaving. Honestly, I’ve never gotten along with gay men as a group. The cattiness, agressiveness, open hostility towards women, judgement, classicism, insane objectification, you name it. And the faeries felt just the same to me as the gay boys I met at the gay support group as a teen. If you didn’t have a dick, you amounted to an inconvenient zero in their worldview. Ditto if you had a dick, but you weren’t hot. And if you had a penis but interacted with people more like a woman – well that was just weird.

Eventually the summer ended and I went back home, after a stop in the never-never land of SF which I will post about soon. (Working title: I won’t grow up!) But anyway, when I got home I ended up moving in with the only punk guy who ever went to the gay youth group. He was super into Race Traitor magazine, and later grew dreadlocks and became a radical faerie himself. But his idea of gender transgression (and the faerie’s idea, as far as I could tell) was to be 100% unequivocally a man in terms of how they related to the world, while occasionally wearing glitter nail polish or a women’s vest, and proclaim themself a gender rebel.

As someone actually alienated from the gender system, as in not fitting into it whether or not I tried, It made me think that their smug, self-congratulatory “rebelliousness” was really just a mask for a deep-seated, entirely fundamental dis-ease with actual gender fluidity. Just like my roommate’s subscription to Race Traitor, decision to live in a black neighborhood, and childlike fascination with the band Crass was not an indication that he was thinking critically, but that he was truly and 100% a product of the white, liberal suburbs.

Sad to say, but the radical faeries were certainly not the radical men the GT commenters have been talking about!

Note: originally posted here.

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