Tomorrow, registration for New York’s first Diner en Blanc begins, and I want to go, badly. It seems like a manifestation of so many things I adore: the power of cities and the cheerful clinging to things passing out of the world just a little too quickly.
Today, I received an email explaining how the registration process for the event will work. It contains the following sentence: “In order to avoid any discrimination toward homosexual couples, you will be able to register up to 2 tables at a time (2 men/2 women).”
At first, I could not parse its meaning, but after discussing it with friends and reading the rules, it seems to indicate the following:
Women must be seated on one side of tables; men on the other. Thus, a single individual may register up to two tables, so if they are gay, they can register themselves and their partner, and then two individuals to gender balance them.
This does not, however, prevent discrimination, as the email suggests. Rather, it places an undue burden on gay couples to find beards for the sake of gender balance. Our gayness is welcome, but only if it looks all nice and neat from afar.
Additionally, who decides what gender I am? Regardless of how I feel about my gender, the reality is I rarely pass as male in the US (I almost always do in Europe, it’s sort of weird), and since we’d be registering on my credit card would my very feminine legal name cause me not to get invited back as per the rules?
And I’m just genderqueer and ornery. How’s it going to go for trans people who don’t have legal name changes yet or who the organizers feel can’t pass? Will they not be invited back?
Diner en Blanc seems like a GORGEOUS thing, and I feel like I am most probably jeopardizing my potential participation in it by raising these questions. But an event that strikes me as about the ghosts of finer things should be not about the world as it was (and is) often cruel, but about the world as we have always wished it to be.
At the end of the day, I have to believe that people like me are part of our collective daydream; sometimes, in fact, it has seemed as if it is only in daydreams that we exist. So I certainly hope the organizers can figure out a way towards making our participation as easy and full of grace as the event itself strives to be. Because the current solution isn’t actually much of one at all.
EDITED TO ADD (8:40pm 8/11): An email from Diner en Blanc announces a resolution to the problem. A discussion of what formal dining traditions should be anywhere in this modern age, however, is probably merited.
5 thoughts on “Diner en Blanc: some accomodations aren’t that accomodating (now with a positive resolution!)”
As someone who is interested in seeing this done in Pittsburgh, your experience is valuable. Do you have a suggestion as to how this could have been approached differently?
Surely the answer is as simple as “don’t categorize guests by gender.”
Sure, it’s easy. Just don’t discriminate based on gender. You don’t need gender balance to have decorum; some rules are best left in the past.
My original interpretation from the LJ post was that it was more complicated than simply don’t categorize people as to apparent gender (which might be different than the gender they identify with). Perhaps I was overthinking when I considered that the organizers wanted people to not have an unpleasant dining experience by being paired with diners who don’t see things the same way.