Two weeks of identity politics, and I keep trying to remind everyone to bring back in desire into the conversation. Why must the conversation keep returning to specifications of sexual identities (not sexualities, even, not desires)? I know, I know, privilege makes it hard to fully understand the vulnerability of claiming a political and sexual identity. But what I'm asking for is about moving further down (urgh...sorry about that), exploring the constructions of desire, which is not exclusively about sexual identity, and I would argue is more than the performance of desire and lust and love and politics.
I am just not convinced that any of us can speak fully about ethnic/racial/sexuality positions without first discussing what desire means or looks like. And further, as I'm on the soapbox, the presumption that these identities exist in direct opposition to a predictable and definable heterosexual desire irritates me. The (presumed) staticness of heterosexuality upsets me. I have yet to see forms of my desire, or the powers that come out of engaging with one's sexuality and desires, represented in any of the conversations these last two weeks.
Part of it is that I feel quite uneasy in any political identification with sexual groups, which of course leads to inevitable alienation everywhere (can this be my identity politics -- the politics of alienation??), and part of which is due to a confusion about my ethnicity in general. The labels I sometimes claim are much more about the labels I assume have been ascribed to me. Too tiresome to express ambivalence about ethnicity, when I tend to think my class has defined me far more than my ethnicity (though even as a teenager, I felt very aware of how groups of teenagers in stores in NY were treated, and I knew that my white skin and uniform skirt made me far more invisible than the public school, non-white kids). And because the fact that I hold dual citizenship in a Latin American country and the U.S., and yet feel that I've been seriously uneducated about that ethnicity, it all makes me uneasy. And because I think American identity is wrapped up in strong forces of assimilation that make it difficult for many of us to find ourselves, or stake a claim anywhere, I hesitate before I sigh and call myself white, heterosexual...blah blah.
Oh, wait. What I wanted to say is that I want to start a coalition of women in skirts on bikes of some sort. Today one of the women on her bike, as I rode up Market St., complimented me on how cute I looked, and that it was hot (desire represent!), and how much she liked my boots, and we talked about riding in a skirt and how we preferred it. (She was not wearing a skirt, but she explained she often does.)
A) I want a solidarity of women biking in the city, which I think is really important. As much as I enjoy men on their bikes, and checking out their asses, I also like passing them, and speed-demoning and weaving out of traffic. Most of them don't know how to do a city ride. It's a unique biking form. Really.
B) As she and I discussed (it was amazing in our red light-length conversation how much came out!), there is a form of power in biking in a skirt. She suggested that it makes people pay more attention to you -- which can be good in a defensive biking sort of way.
My skirt biking days began early. From 2nd grade until 7th, my dad and I rode the tandem everywhere. He would "drive" me to school, and until 4th grade (when I asserted my independence and right to use mass transit), would pick me up and drive me home. Whenever we went out to the theater or to doctor's appointments, we'd ride the tandem. By 7th grade, I switched schools and had to start wearing a uniform, and I decided I wanted my own bike. It never occurred to me (and probably not to my dad, either) that a girl on her bike, in a uniform skirt, might have been just asking for attention. But I also learned to be tough and challenge the catcalls, and I think it made me pretty fearless.
I find biking a powerfully liberating way to inhabit space. There are no spaces that I don't feel safe on my bike -- even places that might be a little scary on foot suddenly feel like places I can reclaim. The freedom of zipping around and getting directly from point A to B without depending on anyone else is phenomenal. I used to bike down 5th Avenue after being at high school parties, and the streets would be empty at midnight or 1am. I've (recklessly) biked home drunk, and I once had a serious accident on 8th Avenue at 14th Street (a major intersection and merging of avenues) with no cash in my pocket to take a subway home. I've biked in snow and rain and sleet.
What's strange is that for the last six and a half years, I hadn't biked much. I've had a spate of stolen bikes, and I started to feel that I wasn't meant to have a bike. Last summer in the desert, I had a bit of a bike revelation -- and decided to confront the endless parade of stolen bikes by learning more about how to use and fix my own bike. It was a further level of independence, since for so long I've depended on my dad or the repair shop to fix the flat or tighten the brakes.
And, I've never owned a woman's bike. Not sure if I want to.