53, by Ray Rea


Yes, 53. What comes into your head when I say that? Probably a lot of things, a lot of assumptions. The weirdest thing about being over 50 is having to deal with younger people’s assumptions of what that means. This is as true in the gender non-normative crowd as it is elsewhere. The assumptions about age are all there in the trans* world.

Last night I sat through a college production of the musical Grease. I’m not really familiar with it, but I remember that I used to be around a big crowd of second wave Butch/Femmers who loved Grease. The movie with Olivia Newton John and John Travolta was released in 1978, when they were in high school, and so it was both nostalgic and romanticized for them. The film’s policed versions of gender informed their own takes on it.

That group was a few years younger than me.

In 1978 I was listening to the Sex Pistols, Tom Verlaine, Brian Eno and 801. Grease was of no interest to me. In 1981 I was bartending in a seedy punk bar in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. At the time I thought I was a straight girl.

The “straight” crowd that I lived in was bent. I had more bandwidth around how I performed gender in that punk/ new wave scene than I had years later in the B/F scene of the queer 1990s.

Now, 2013, I’ve heard every possible assumption about what my background is. The funniest by far was when a young FTM guessed that I had been a lesbian feminist separatist. I have never been separatist in my life, a lesbian only for a bit.

I’m not saying that I am an “elder”. That word connotes wisdom, and I still make a lot of mistakes.

Making an assumption about what an older queer type has been through in earlier life is also a mistake, just as the same is true for younger queers. We had a lot of different lives. We are still having a lot of different lives.

Want to go to the movies? Anything but Grease.

Context: This piece is from a play that is currently in development.

More information: prodcoor (at) gmail (dot) com

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