I looked like the offspring of The Joker and a character from Mad Max. My face was painted white, purple, and silver. I was wearing black, knee-high moon boots, a black mesh unitard, and a black pair of booty shorts. My jewelry, all deep shades of purple and black, matched. I looked hot, androgynous, and evil.
I wobbled my way over to the Uber, and he asked me how my night was going. I said it's just getting started. I was all dressed up to host a party at a popular gay bar in Williamsburg, called The Rosemont.
My Uber driver replied with, "Yeah, you look", he kept nodding up and down while looking at me through his rearview mirror, "You look..."
"Thank you", I said interrupting him. I knew he didn't know how to finish the sentence, so I put him out of his awkward misery.
"So, you like boys or girls"? he continued. I was somewhat surprised that that was the question he asked first. I was also surprised he had the audacity to ask it right off the bat.
"Both", I replied.
"Both?" he said, in utter and complete shock. I confirmed. Yes, both.
"And are you a boy or a girl"? he proceeded to ask. While a part of me was annoyed that he was asking these questions, he wasn't in any way being malicious. He truly was just trying to get what this 6'8'' giant (courtesy of the moon boots) was doing in the back of his car. Given how I was dressed, his questions were definitely understandable.
"I'm a man", I said. (I like to think I've passed the "boy" stage in my life.)
"Okay", he said, still nodding aggressively up and down. "So, do you have a boyfriend or girlfriend now?"
"I am very much single."
"So, who do you date more? Boys or girls?"
"Depends on the person, if I like them."
"And when you date a boy, who's the boy and who's the girl?"
"I told you, I'm a man. So if he's a man, then we're both men." My tone wasn't angry. It was simply matter-of-fact.
"No, no", he said. "I'm not explaining well. English isn't my first language."
"Try again", I said. I knew exactly what his question was. There was no communication barrier. It wasn't the first time I'd received some variation of "Who's the man in the relationship?" when I'm dating someone who is male.
He recollected himself and asked again, "Who acts like the man?"
"We both act like men because we both are men."
"No, no", he said again.
This time I wasn't going to make him ask again, so I followed up with, "Do you mean like who takes out the trash and who cooks"?
"Yes!" he said. "That's what I mean!"
"We both do. Sometimes he cooks and sometimes I do. Sometimes he takes out the trash and sometimes I do."
"Is that okay?"
"Yes, that is okay. I want to ask more."
"If you had kids, who would take care of them?"
"We both would because we'd both be their fathers. Do you see what I'm getting at?"
"Yes, yes, of course." I was 99% sure he didn't actually get what I was attempting to convey. He simply thought I was getting offended, and wanted to deescalate the situation. Surely, he didn't want to do anything to jeopardize me giving him a five-star rating.
I wasn't actually getting offended, but now that we were having this conversation, I wanted to finish it. I figured I have four more minutes until I reached The Rosemont, and I wanted to see if I could explain to him the error in his thinking.
"What I'm trying to say is that you don't need a woman to cook or raise kids. Men can do that too. And when men do that, they're not women. They're still men. Does that make more sense?"
This time he nodded his head a little slower, which told me he was actually considering what I was saying more carefully. I continued on, "So when I date a woman, I don't expect her to cook or clean. I can help her with that. That's not her job being a woman. We can share those responsibilities".
"Okay, I see", he said, right as he was pulling up to the doors of the club. "Nothing really changes. You are a man who dates a man. Or you are a man who dates a woman. But you are always a man. The boy you date is always a man and the girl you date is always a woman."
I smiled and said, "Exactly"!
Before leaving, he shouted through the door, "Five stars, please. I'll give you five stars too". I gave him a thumbs up.
For many of us, myself very much included, I write only to speak to those who are already bi. If they're not bi (or queer), they're at least aware of constructs like gender norms, the patriarchy, passing-privilege, sexual fluidity, etc.
I had a unique opportunity when speaking to the Uber driver. Often, especially with strangers, I don't always like discussing my bisexuality. (Something I discussed last week.) I feel like that's what I do all day for work, and I don't want to have to come home (or in this case, head to the club) and discuss bisexuality with someone I don't know and will never see again.
But this is where true change can happen. I think I reached this guy. God knows he is not following me on Twitter and he has (probably) never read an LGBTI article in his entire life or an article on how gender norms are utter BS.
I also didn't belittle him or make him feel inferior. I didn't tell him why he was wrong. I simply questioned his beliefs in a polite (but still firm) manner, until we reached a point where he understood my viewpoint. Then I elaborated a little more to drive my point home.
Not all people are aware of what they're doing. I think the Uber driver is a prime example of this. We are often so quick to anger. This can be useful, but at times, especially when the person we're engaging with is uninformed as opposed to bigoted, it's good to approach more gently. We don't always need to jump directly into attack mode.
So, I left the Uber, immediately gave him five stars and a tip. In the comment section, when Uber asks, "Write a Thank You Note" I simply wrote, "Thank you for hearing me out".