For these two weeks, I would like to offer a piece of prose written as a way to summarize not only what I’ve been mulling over from our Humanities lecture, but also the writings of the indigenous writer Tommy Pico, and other errant thoughts I’ve had over my many identities and how they overlap or separate; being a human and having an identity is much like being a venn diagram while also being like oil and water.Anyways, here’s my writing.
the nature of the body
The nature of the body is mercurial.
As I would pass through different spaces inhabited by different people, who I was or
who I was perceived to be would change.
In the locker rooms, I was thin and effeminate; the other boys would tell me so as they joked about how I should be in the other change room with the girls.
In the Kootenay Country Co-op, I was affluent; my fresh clothes and the handful of dollars spent on organic food made me like-able because I could afford indulgences. My lack of a part time job spoke volumes, in conjunction with my fashionable clothes, allowing me to move between cliques at school with relative ease.
In the AB ED class, I was expressly first nations; the other students who weren’t indigenous were resentful of our privilege of missing morning classes to sit in a circle and basket weave, ignorant of the fact that we were learning through story telling of the genocide that had happened to our ancestors – the schools our ancestors attended that were both alike and dissimilar to the one we were in now. The colour of my skin felt like a bright reflective surface in a dark night despite its deep tanned tone.
In the home of my parents, I was white; their house was in a nice part of town with a well maintained lawn and two point five cars in the driveway. I could get out of a parking ticket or being written up for riding my bike without a helmet because my dad knew everyone and everyone knew him. Their reputation and their skin tone was my shield – my buffer, but it could not last forever.
In a line of cars at a police blockade, I was potentially a statistic. Once, I forgot my second piece of government ID and had to hand the officer my Registered Indian card; wanting to crawl out of my skin, the policeman asked me to get out of my car. I walked the line down the middle of the road, caught between my two worlds; If I tipped to far to one side, this grey liminal space I occupy would fade as fast as fog in the morning sun leaving me bare. The breathalizer produced negative responses three times and then I was let off with a warning. My spotless ’92 Toyota Carola and equally feckless driver’s history couldn’t save me from 250 years of prejudice.
In white or affluent spaces, I was white. In liminal or poor spaces, I was brown; lesser than until I was branded indigenous – the lowest spot on the totem pole as it were.
My safety and I were caught in an ever spiralling dance, drawing nearer or farther with each new step but never touching.
In the queer community, I was an object to be owned and coveted; gone were the spaces of high school where I felt ugly or worse, invisible.
My dating app inbox was filled with men lusting for this young body and for it’s many qualities I was taught to be ashamed of – for it’s slender hairless frame, for it’s dark skin.
In Nelson, I was effeminate and stylish-
In Vancouver, I was masculine and, dare I say it,
Men would guess at my race, always getting it wrong.
“I love Brazilian men,”
“Mexicans have big dicks, don’t they?”
But when the “I” word was mentioned, I would be hit with “You’re so beautiful for an indian guy.”
That, or they would block me.
Their hunt for exoticism was too far afield to find something so close to home desirable; how can a man want fuck that which he has already conquered.
My body was something to be owned, to be acted upon, consumed but never really valued.
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but so is disgust. Repulsion. Worth.
The gaze of the viewer would flatten me, simultaneously interrogate and simplify my body,
projecting what they wished
brown – any brown
I learned, once I joined dating apps, that beauty is subjective as I am subjective
and that I would much rather have someone value my mind over the vessel that houses me.
The nature of the body is that it is mercurial,
My bodies physical form, it’s appearance, it’s constituent parts, stayed the same but it was the gaze that changed and thus my body changed with it.
The view of another changed the view I had of myself,
refracting and distorting what I saw
or how they saw me.
The privilege ascribed to your body is
always under negotiation;
how you are seen
is under constant negotiation.
The narrative given to bodies stays the same.