Looking Like That

In my very grad school class, at some point a woman asked me, “So when you’re a school librarian, are you going to fight for librarians to be able to look like you do?”

At this point I really can’t remember if I even had the presence of mind to ask what she meant—I can’t remember what I said at all. I think I was trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and imagine that she was thinking of the fact that I was probably in jeans and a hoodie at the time (as I am so often at school—it suddenly dawned on me mid-spring semester that I probably seemed like I only owned one outfit, since I wore the same jeans and black sweatshirt every Saturday), and maybe she was making some comment on casual versus formal work attire. (But come on, give me a break—it’s school. I dress like a professional the rest of the week; I’m going to get comfortable for classes.)

The more I think about it, though, the more I’m convinced she was actually (even if unconsciously) commenting on the fact that I’m a big ol’ homo. And that irks me a bit.
I know how to dress professionally. I clean up extremely well when I have to. I own a number of nice Oxford shirts, I have dress pants that fit me well, I tuck in anything with tails, and I dream of one day owning a tailored three piece suit.

The catch, of course, is that I’m a woman.

Oh, there are other catches, too—I have multiple piercings, including the dreaded facial piercing. I have extremely short hair, which has been everything from a shaved head to a mohawk to virtually every dyed color available. (With the exception of orange, I guess; doesn’t really go with my skin tone.) Someday soon I’ll probably have a tattoo, although I plan to put it somewhere that can be easily concealed in professional settings if need be.

But the real problem, of course, is that I look like a dyke, and I wear men’s clothes. Or, to a lot of people, I look like a man, but I have that pesky habit of owning a female name. And, you know, breasts.

So when someone asks, “Are you going to fight for librarians to be able to look like you,” she’s really saying a number of other things. First, that there is some norm for how A Librarian looks, and I don’t fit it. Secondly, that being a gender deviant doesn’t line up with being A Librarian. And, of course, that being “allowed” to look this way is something that’s going to require a fight.

Interestingly, librarianship seems to be pretty darn homo-friendly, and among librarian circles you’ll find more ladies in pants than you can shake a stick at. (Why you’d be shaking a stick is something I’ve really never understood.)

But is school librarianship equally welcoming? Am I going to have to fight to preserve my sense of self or compromise to play the part of A School Librarian?

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2 Responses to Looking Like That

  1. linaria says:

    Whoa. Yeah. At my place of employment (which, granted, is university-level), you can’t throw a roll of microforms without hitting at least one person who looks like a big ol’ dyke. One of whom is a very well-respected, well-paid Associate Director. I think that elementary schools may be slightly less welcoming, but they can’t be *that * clueless.

  2. pandanose says:

    Yeah, I would imagine that elementary schools probably have their share of “Maiden Aunts” more than necessarily young dykes. I’m hoping the trend of younger teachers in high schools will help me out when I’m applying for jobs.

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