The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You
S. Bear Bergman
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Lambda Literary Award finalist
Alternately unsettling and affirming, devastating and delicious, The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You is a new collection of essays on gender and identity by S. Bear Bergman that is irrevocably honest and endlessly illuminating. With humor and grace, these essays deal with issues from women's spaces to the old boys' network, from gay male bathhouses to lesbian potlucks, from being a child to preparing to have one. Throughout, S. Bear Bergman shows us there are things you learn when you're visibly different from those around you—whether it's being transgressively gendered or readably queer. As a transmasculine person, Bergman keeps readers breathless and rapt in the freakshow tent long after the midway has gone dark, when the good hooch gets passed around and the best stories get told. Ze offers unique perspectives on issues that challenge, complicate, and confound the "official stories" about how gender and sexuality work.
S. Bear Bergman's first book was Butch is a Noun (Suspect Thoughts Press). Ze is an activist, gender-jammer, and author of two books and three award-winning solo stage shows. Bergman recently relocated to Burlington, Ontario, from New England.
question, people tend to say that they’re just really curious. They say this in an innocent tone of voice as though surely I can understand, and furthermore, why, I should be grateful. Grateful, I say, that they want to know more about the life and times of the transsexual; grateful that they’re not running away shrieking or throwing rotten fruit. If I push the issue and suggest that querying people on their history, former name, surgical status, and so on is rude, my interlocutor gets angry,
and recreates it. Saying even one sentence about gender without buying into the gender binary requires so many circuitous locutions and scare quotes that I get exhausted. Even me, and I do not mean “even me” because I am so very fabulous or so unusually smart, but after daily battle with gendered language one does build up some endurance, and so when I say it I mean, even me who hauls this particular bucket of water every damn day. There are more locations than girl and boy, man and woman.
travel. We’d leave or send one another detailed instructions, I said, showing her the rumpled postcard on which my instructions for this trip had been written. On the last item, I said, I was being thwarted: the thing I was looking for wasn’t there. “What about the others?” they asked with rising excitement, while their husbands shuffled their feet and looked uncomfortable. Nodding, I said I’d found those: a slip of paper folded up and stuck under a table at the Bagdad Café, and another note at
trip, a bench overlooking the water and also in proximity to a particular sign so it would be easy to locate. I was supposed to be finding a tiny metal box crammed into a crevasse under one of the beams at my feet, I explained to the nice straight ladies, but I couldn’t find it. By then, they were well into their Brokeback Moment, sighing happily over how romantic this was and exclaiming that no one had ever done anything so charming and imaginative and downright magical for them, all the while
about his Malcolmness was killing the deal at the last minute. I had an idea. “Next time,” I said, “you should wear a band-collared shirt instead of a straight-collared shirt-with-tie, and display a dragon adornment somewhere on you as well. Don’t get a haircut beforehand. Speak even a little more softly, and a little more slowly. Let them project whatever Orientalism they have onto you, and then they can understand you as some sort of Tao Master of the Database. Maybe you’ll make more ‘sense’