Logger Dude – 1979

By Don Orr Martin

Olympia in the 1970s was a small town. Its political life as the state capital was seasonal. It felt more like a logging town. Day and night, overloaded logging trucks rumbled down Capitol Way to the port. I walked that same street as an openly gay man, an exotic character back then. Somehow I managed to avoid getting killed.

I don’t think being gay is a “phase,” but I do think many LGBT people go through periods of our lives when we are gender fluid—trying out different expressions of ourselves on a spectrum of male to female and everywhere in between. I did anyway, and so did many of my friends.

I have a voice that gets mistaken for a woman, and, yes, I tend to swish. Still, I see myself as a physically masculine man. I’m muscular and hairy. I can be overly confident and loud—it was part of my gender training, I won’t deny it. But the toxic masculinity of the boys I grew up with scared me. Through the 1970s and 1980s, I was influenced by feminist consciousness-raising, and I desperately wanted to shed all vestiges of my male privilege. I grew my hair long and styled it in combs and scarves. I wore lots of ear jewelry and dressed in sleek fabrics. I consciously tried to listen more and talk less.

I had a favorite pair of Frye boots that came most of the way up my calves. Pale leather, rounded toe. They looked fabulous. Unfortunately, even Nancy Sinatra wasn’t made to go walkin’ far in these boots. They were not comfortable. Why is high fashion always so impractical? I would have to discuss this with my feminist friends.

So picture this: a young faggot, going about his morning business, in scarves and jewelry, a lovely blouse, pant-legs tucked into a bitchin’ pair of boots, promenading down the main street . . . of a small logging town in the Pacific Northwest in 1979. It’s a wonder I survived. Passing cars would honk or flip me the finger. I just waved, princess-like.

I was right downtown on the busiest street, and this logger dude was walking toward me on the sidewalk. I knew he was a logger dude by the length of his Carhartt work pants which were cut off an inch above the tops of his mud-caked boots. Plus, he had on a plaid shirt, suspenders, and a stocking cap. He was ruggedly handsome—five foot ten, massive shoulders, blond and scruffy. I thought, he’s a lumberjack and he’s okay.

We were about to pass each other going opposite directions when he stopped abruptly. I stopped, too. How could I not?

“Are you a faggot?” he said to me. I was stunned. Wasn’t it obvious?  I was about to reply when he grumbled, “You disgust me. I want to kill you.” 

I suddenly had visions of his calloused hands twisting a choker chain around a downed tree about the size of my neck. He lunged at me like he meant to do a full body check. I pirouetted to one side, flitted past him, and hurried down the block. I turned around to see if he was coming after me, ready to run. I prayed my boots wouldn’t betray me. 

He stood there a moment, shook his head, then walked on. I thought I heard him growl.