I didn’t grow up with the word “dyke” meaning anything to me. The dialects of Spanish that were my first language don’t have ready equivalents for it, preferring euphemisms that only become offensive in certain tones. I don’t know if the people I came from use “perica” or “tortillera” for themselves, or if they borrow the more evocative slurs used for gay men, or use some other language entirely. My mother preferred to stammer out her disgust in English half-syllables whenever she had to mention queer women, and that sense of wrongness stayed attached to those words in my mind. I was closed to this part of myself in those days, unaware of my queer heritage even as I found no room in my heart for their contempt. The queer community where I finally found myself speaks primarily English, and it’s here that I finally met proud dykes.
I’m still getting used to that word.
I don’t take up the kind of space that seems to come with “dyke.” The visual language of power that dyke-dom seems to encompass doesn’t work the same way in Spanish, and I wouldn’t know how to begin conveying that image in a way that would make sense to my people. The finer points of that language barrier are worth an essay in their own right…which I, being me, eventually got published.
More than that, though, I grew up autistic and emotionally abused, and didn’t find my gender until I was nearly 30. My people have a way of cultivating the hidebound, controlling, conservative Catholic conformists in their midst and making them the standard that everyone else sees, and that is who and what I escaped when I found my way here. Two thousand kilometers meant I could finally make my revolt against every bar of the prison they tried to build around me, and so I revolted. Seven years of soul-searching and life-queering later, here I am: short, dainty, and, just, so very femme. In my elegant smallness, I find my transgender lesbian freedom. There is power in looking weak and being strong, power I can make even my people understand.
So am I a dyke? I don’t know yet. But I know, around you lot, I’m home, and that’s far more important.
Delivered to the Ottawa Dyke March, 26 August 2017