Yesterday was busy busy busy. I was running from morning to night between tabling at the Rainbow Book Fair (only LGBTQ book fair in the United States) during the day to keynoting The Loft’s annual gala dinner in the evening. It was a great day filled with books, community, and really great conversations. However there were a couple really femmephobic interactions with people at the book fair, and though they certainly didn’t ruin my day in the slightest, I have continued to think about them.
In the early afternoon my partner ran to grab us lunch and I stayed behind at the booth talking about Kicked Out, and the other books my publisher has produced. There was a pretty steady stream of people who would stop for a few minutes, ask some questions, pick up flyers, and occasionally buy a book—all very basic stuff. At one point a woman stopped by and was looking at things on the table, and she asked me a question but I hadn’t quite understood. I thought she was asking the price of a book, she was actually making a comment about it being a nice day. Very minor communication error. Right? Not to her. She looked me up and down and responded that clearly they (I assume my publisher) had only hired me for my pretty face, and not a charming personality.
I was stunned.
All I could think to say was that I wasn’t hired at all and was an author (pointing at the book in front of me). She again looked me hard up and down and said really? You’re Sassafras? With a sarcastic and distrustful tone in her voice. Thankfully by this point some other folks had come to the table and I was able to engage with them and eventually she went away.
Kestryl returned with lunch, and while eating I was relaying the story of what had happened when another woman came over to the table. She was involved with one of the numerous lesbian presses that were at the fair, we chatted about business for a couple of seconds. I thought she was going to move onto another booth, but instead she looked at me and said, “There are great things happening all over your body.” Stunned again, I think I just sat there in silence until she walked away. I assume she was talking about my tattoos, and I like public flirtation as much as the next person, but that was really not the vibe or energy that had been happening in our previous brief interaction (she was so far from my type it’s not even funny). Later I was walking around the different booths and while looking at material at Ms. Inappropriate-Sexual-Comment’s publishing house she mentioned to the woman sitting next to her “that’s the woman I was telling you about.” Her friend/business partner replied “oh wow you’re right, she really does have the whole package, just look at her.” I laughed it off and walked away.
It was gross. Quite frankly, I expect more from lesbians. I expect more from queers in general.
I was wearing a red dress, a really really good red dress. I have a lot of tattoos. I’m not a subtle person visible or otherwise, but none of that should have mattered. The nonconsensual objectification was just overwhelming. I know that femmephobia is alive and well within queer community, and yet I still found it surprising within the context of queer literary space to be reduced to my appearance, and to have my credentials questioned because of how I looked.