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?