By Ahalya Raman
I notice that one of my laces has come undone. This is the worst place for them to drag about. I hop out of the stall and to a sink. I hear the three people behind me whispering to each other, but I can’t get the soap out fast enough. One of them has decided to take charge of the situation:
“Excuse me”, she announces.
“This is the LADIES’ restroom.”
I turn around to face the keepers of this sacred space, but before I can even formulate a response, PRINCESS NOKIA and her squad burst through the bathroom door. She immediately breaks into song and demands of The Keepers, “Who that is, ho?”
“That girl is a TOMBOY!”
We’re all bopping and dancing now. The Keepers included. When the song ends, The Keepers – under Princess Nokia’s watchful gaze – realise they were never The Keepers to begin with. That in fact, everything they thought they were Keeping, was just an illusion. An apology rolls forth, and Princess Nokia and her squad vanish.
Obviously, this never happened. The part where Princess Nokia showed up, I mean. But I wish it did, because the other stuff – being asked to leave spaces, or prove my gender, happens all the time.
In bathrooms, at airport security checks, at the movie theatre, on our local buses. Everywhere.
Friends and family (often self-titled feminists), tell me to “Dress more like a girl. Or at least grow your hair out.” They point to my jeans, my short hair and my beat-up sneakers, and say, “What more do you expect?”
For all the people who have offered me snatches of discordant wisdom and jarring insights, and to anyone who relies on gender binaries to question the validity of an individual’s rights and way of life:
Wish You Would Listen (2016): A Very Short Playlist, Because You Missed the Point of Feminism
Mykki Blanco – Wish You Would; High School Never Ends
Princess Nokia – Tomboy
Blood Orange – St. Augustine
Frank Ocean – Endless; Blonde
Christine and the Queens – Tilted
Ahalya Raman is 5’5″ on a good day, a primary education teacher by training, and is partial to good music, idlis, and noodles.