The Crumple of the Architecture
If anyone wants an origin story for the queer gender of my weird girlhood they need only to imagine my bedroom carpet. There were three bedrooms in our split-level house in rural Nova Scotia — one with beige carpet for my parents a smaller one with deep pink carpet for my older sister, and another small room, with blue-hued turf, for me. Though this part of Canada remains economically the house we moved into had been designed with the expectations of the inspirational suburbs two children (a daughter and son) were foreseen by someone. Did this laying out of the nuclear family underfoot enmesh gender between the toes of my young fat body. Did its light blue shag anticipate. It’s not an origin story — but call it a tonal and textural foreshadowing; call it a premonition of magical proportions.
I have no interest in determining a point at which my gender began its ongoing unfolding I am as theorist Susan Stryker puts it “agnostic as to origin” of my capacities to become other. But in what follows a meditation on texture as a vector for gender queer experience. I do not forget that my blue room was incredibly important to me. I hung plus-sized quasi-butch women’s shirts in the closet (which I would come out of at age fifteen). I slammed its hollow-core door after fighting with my parents about the lust that did dare, sometimes, to speak its name in our village.
Yet it wasn’t a purely “masculine” room, a “boy’s” room, or otherwise homogeneous in the implications of its surfaces. The blue carpet was soft and fuzzy the posters (first of athletes, then of the Spice Girls, then of the Dave Matthews Band) were glossy and reflective the heads of the eighteen or so nails on which I hung my baseball caps were sharp when empty but supported a delicate (if butch) cloth sculpture when all were occupied. My youth-bowling-league shirt was stitched with campy embroidered badges and the pillow on which I sat at night to write tortured poems was downy (if not as fragile as my young queer heart).
Consider how easy it is for us to recognise ways in which colour is gender-coded: pastels are innocent; a green hanky worn in the back right pocket means “daddy”; parents use pink and blue onesies (as the designers of our subdivision used bedroom décor) to communicate the status of their child’s genitals to onlookers. And when Janelle Monáe was illuminated by blue, pink, and purple rays in her video “Make Me Feel,” the idea of “bisexual lighting” took off in earnest.
We know that color also marks other registers of the body and its experiences. You may get a pink slip at your blue-collar, park in the blue parking spot, and be compared to a food with a coloured outside and a white interior if you’re a racialized person with a putative aspiration to assimilate. We have favorite colors, and we identify as colors: white collar; red state; owner of a green business avoiding morally gray areas; wearer of those rose-colored glasses that represent enforced optimism yes believer in the hetero normative playbook of the silver lining.
My opening premise, then: texture is every bit as color, as thoroughly fabricated in gender and norms. It slides if slyly into our designs vocabularies and tastes. Texture and gender are mutually defining.