Long-haul trucking is part of the landscape in America. The images appears in movies, televisions, and novels mostly with a one-typed description of truckers as masculine blue-collar workers. But, with Anne Balay’s Upcoming Book Semi-Queer, a swarm of rainbow-like brushes are added into the picture.
Image via Chicago Tribune
Anne Balay is a transgender writer, professor, activist, car mechanic, and licensed commercial truck driver with a PhD from the University of Chicago. She used to teach courses about gender and sexuality at the University of Illinois and Indiana University Northwest. She’s currently a visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College. With her interests in the blue-collar working environment, she has published Steel Closets: Voices of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Steelworkers (2014) and in this late September she is going to refresh our mind with Semi Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers (2018).
Born in a blue-collar family, Balay deeply understands working-class LGBTQ people’s lives. The journey of writing working-class LGBT community started from her finding nothing about related records in the library. She was unsatisfied with the lack of the history which suggests that most of the LGBT people documented in literature are not working class. So, she writes the history and aims to turn it into an archive of blue-collar minority.
In Semi Queer, Balay reveals her interviews with sixty-six gay, transsexual, and minority truck drivers across the nation. According to Balay, there’re increasing numbers of immigrants, queers, racial minorities, and trans people joining in the trucking industry because, in this struggling society, no other work is available to them. In the process of talking, formally and casually, with truckers, she learned that trucking provides an opportunity for safety, a “welcome isolation,” and a chance to be themselves despite the long-hours, underpaid, demeaning, and dangerous working environment. She commented:
Though the industry continues to present itself as white, male and socially conservative, that’s more a nostalgic fantasy than a representation of current reality…The narratives of minority and queer truckers underscore the working-class struggle to earn a living while preserving one’s safety, dignity, and selfhood.
One piece of case extracted from Semi Queer was released in Jerry Davich’s column in Chicago Tribune. Dana Rose Gropp, a 35-year-old professional trucker from Hammond, is a transgender. Dana used to be called Ben yet during that time Dana felt lost. At the age of 21, Dana came out from the closet and became a gay man. Now she is on her way to becoming a woman. As a professional truck driver, Dana is happy to be herself especially in work. She said:
Twelve years ago, when I first started driving a truck, I never thought I would be able to do so as Dana…It’s a tough world we live in, but I’m tired of being afraid every day about who I really am. I don’t want to hide my true self anymore.
Now, besides her trucking career, Dana has co-founded an LGBTQ support group called Rainbow Wisdom Circle on Facebook. Her transgender life is cheerful and she’s satisfied with her finding value and purpose in driving a 53-foot rig. “Our world is changing in amazing ways, and I want to be a part of it, including my job as a truck driver,” said Dana.
This is how the magic happens in these lives of gay, trans, and minority truck drivers. “What I learned is that there’s some magic in trucking – such as time alone to think and the feeling of being useful – that fits queer and trans people really well,” Balay said according to Jerry Davich, “They experience a lot of growth and discovery in their truck, and they have adventures. But the job is so over-regulated and micromanaged that it becomes almost impossible to do it right, and to make money. So it’s a contradiction.”
I’m ready to read this amazing and insightful book! Check here for pre-order info.
Featured Image Via Amazon and Anne Balay.com