The most important thing to say about Hannah Gadsby's stand-up Netflix special, "Nanette," is: Go watch it. Maybe you'll love it, maybe you won't. You may not agree with all of it, but you will chuckle, and your eyes might even get a touch watery. The morning after I watched it, I made a list of reactions/realizations.
Like many people, I cried a little when I watched "Nanette." Not because I have experienced the things Gadsby has experienced--I haven't. And not because I felt sorry for her--I didn't. No, I cried because I recognized the important power of Gadsby's story, and because it made me realize the important power of my own. I cried because of all the times I've used myself as a punchline to make myself more accessible to people. I cried because I realized I chose my occupation partly because I thought it was one of the few places someone like me would not have to worry about poor treatment. I cried because this turns out not to be true. I cried because of the ways I have failed to listen to other people's stories. I cried because of the ways I have failed to tell my own.
I got a grant at work that enabled me to fly out someone I wanted to mentor me for a few days. I chose someone I like and admire--someone whose work I think is top-notch, and who I've long thought of as a half-friend, half-mentor, even though I only see her for a couple hours about once a year. For purposes of this entry, let's call her G (random, not her real initial).
I figured it would be fun. I figured I'd have a nice time and learn some things from her. What I did not expect was that spending a short but sustained amount of time with her would be so awesome for so many reasons.
For one, having another butch in my work department made me hold my head higher somehow. I am not the only queer person in my workplace, but by my (possibly inaccurate, who knows) observation, I am the only one whose female self-presentation deviates from what we might think of as a feminine gender norm. For three whole days, I got to not be the most masculine female-identified person in my department. (Maybe we're tied, but her voice is deeper and G can buy men's clothes off the rack, so I think she wins.) It is hard to pinpoint why this made me feel so great. There was one time when we were in the elevator and a feminine woman walked in, and I thought, "In this elevator, at this moment, we are the norm!" Something about this just felt super good. I don't know how to describe it except to say that I do not usually feel like a non-strong or a non-valid person, but in that moment, I felt extraordinarily strong and unquestionably valid. I felt like there was something that I am usually carrying, and for those three days, my arms could rest because I did not have to carry it alone.
In addition to being the only butch (again, to my knowledge) in my department, I am one of the only people (again, to my knowledge) from what I would consider a working-class background (I'm not first-gen). G shares a similar background, and there is something about hanging out with another working-class butch in an academic workplace that I absolutely love. Intersectionality matters, people! Also, neither of us married to someone whose gender presentation differs that much from our own, either, which is something which, as I've written about before, I feel like I share with almost zero other butches.
Perhaps these feelings of strength/camaraderie/validation would be tempered if I didn't like G so much. But I do. And so does my wife, which rocks because DW isn't enamored of most people (she'll deny this and I'll end up having to take this sentence out, but I swear it's true). Regardless, I feel like something clicked. Who knows if G's experience was the same, but by the end we felt like real friends, not just mentor/mentee or work friends. It made me really happy.
This feels like the most childish entry ever. Oh well. I don't care. I like my friend.