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Archive for August, 2010

I work at a camp two days a week (or rather, I’ve just finished working there). Once in a while one of the kids will ask me if I have a boyfriend. I never know what to say. Mostly it’s little girls, between, oh, 8 and 11, and one of the best ways to put them off is to ask if they aren’t a little young for boys? They inevitably ensure me that THEY do not date boys because boys are ucky, but they have these friends, right, and they date boys, and it’s all very dramatic. It’s an excellent diversionary tactic.

Two weeks ago was my last day, which was good because working at camp is pretty exhausting. So this little girl (who has been to the workshop I’m teaching twice already, and seems to be rather fond of me) has already commented on my pretty rainbow belt (shut up) and listened to me tell her how bad I am at being a girl because I was never any good at braiding gimp (SHUT UP). After a while she asks me where I got the belt, and I laugh, and say half under my breath that my girlfriend gave it to me (sorry, Jim). She either missed this or misinterpreted it — but she gave me another shot to out myself within ten minutes, although I didn’t think of it like that at the time.

“Do YOU have a boyfriend?” she asks. And I sort of blink at her, and then I think of Jim. About seven times out of ten I’ll call Jim my boyfriend, or my gentleman, and it feels a little odd to call hir her; if I’m not talking to my parents I usually use the masculine pronoun. Although I will tell people I don’t know well that I have a girlfriend, in my head I have a boyfriend. I’ve always been wildly attracted to androgyny and masculinity in females, so this isn’t as startling as it might seem to people who only know me as “the lesbian.” (I’m queer, guys. There’s a difference.)

The moment with the little girl has passed by now, and that’s fine. Because inasmuch as I glory in having this handsome funny gentleman of mine, I also really hate appearing straight to other people. Like. Really hate it. I’ve had for the last four years an enormous amount of lesbian street cred, and I’m something approaching a Gold Star lesbian (has never slept with a man and has no intention of ever doing so), and I’m a combination of appalled, amused, and puzzled by people who want to sleep with people of the opposite gender. I don’t want to be seen as straight because my queer identity is super important to me, and because I don’t like the idea of BEING straight. (I am aware that I am being – to a degree – intolerant, but fuck y’all, this is MY being.)

But I love Jim.

And Jim looks like a guy. Ze passes excellently and is really handsome and that is a big part of why I love him. I respect and like hir gender identity. We talk about it a lot and I’m right there for hir, whether it is a skirt-and-bra day or a binder-and-boy-pants day. In fact I rather prefer the latter! I just. I am very secure in that I’m queer, and fuck what people think, but it does scare me a little, that I could spend a whole day out with my boy and people would think I was straight. It feels like when I first came out, but in reverse.

Let me also make very clear that this is completely my problem, and not Jim’s. I hate people who make their issues someone else’s fault and responsibility. It’s my job to work it out in my head, the same way I first worked out how I felt about dating someone who wasn’t exactly a girl, when I’m a lesbian. It’s already starting to feel like it’s not a problem. I love who I love, and I know what I am.

And that’s got to be enough.

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The water thrusts me towards it, until
I am ankle-knee-hip deep,
mouth already tasting salt, hands
cupping up the liquid as if
there is no other choice, small ripples
cresting on my skin, muscles
tight and shivering against the cold, sand
pulling at bare feet, reluctant toes. It takes
everything not to fall down into buoyancy, let
the ocean overtake me,
waves breaking down a body
(no more than bones and meat
and sun-scarred skin) that is
no longer fully mine, letting something
out to swim and twist and sink
as wind and tides will let it, within
the boundaries of the blood-deep sea.

(I continue not to make this a poetry journal, but it’s easier to talk about the ocean in poetry for me, so this is what you get.)

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This morning I got dressed without really thinking about it, like most days. I’m not at my best at 7:30 am and usually pick up whatever is topmost on the floor or in the laundry basket. This morning it was my khaki-green shorts (men’s department, Walmart, aren’t I classy?), my green Goliard shirt (not fitted at all), the usual bandanna (red), flip-flops, and Jared Steed’s belt (which he stole from his brother, who stole it from his girlfriend, who stole it from an ex). I stumbled out the door, to my car, and blearily watched two chubby golden retrievers wander about the yard. It wasn’t until after I came home, drank some coffee and ate my breakfast that I finally got a look at myself in the mirror. I looked – not really boy, not really girl? I sort of blinked at myself and then, somewhat startling myself, I said out loud, “I like it best when I look like this.”

I’m not a feminine girl. Not really. Jim, talking in terms of how our relationship is set up, calls me his femme, but that’s different from being a femme. (Likewise, he’s my butch, but that’s different from being butch.) I like skirts and low-cut shirts, I like the way my legs look in heels, but ninety percent of the time I wear jeans and tee-shirts. If I’m going to idly grab something to wear, that’s what I’ll grab… because it makes up a lot of my wardrobe. When I do wear skirts, I’m pretty bad at it. I walk big, I sit with my knees apart, I stand on one leg and run and climb trees. I wear sneakers with them. I also don’t think about what my body looks like. Twice in that last week, someone has commented on how I look, and I’ve been absolutely floored, because I had no idea! I don’t know when my chest is unusually uh… present, as it was the other night dancing, because I pay no attention to it. I just don’t think about it. My body isn’t something I consider, I don’t check it in mirrors, I don’t follow that stereotypically feminine model of primping and worrying about my appearance. I don’t really consider myself as much of a girl, although I mostly love being one.

(Except for my period. For a week every month, I despise being female. I wish I could be something else, I hate my body, I’m uncomfortable and out of control and angry and upset. That’s the only time I feel dysphoric and like my body is wrong. For a really long time, I had a lot of trouble believing that any XX person could welcome or enjoy or even be neutral about having their period. It continues to horrify me every month.)

I’m not terribly masculine either, though. My hair is too long, I like skirts too much. I enjoy flirting my hips and although I am dying to borrow and wear Jim’s old binder (I long for a degree of androgyny some days), I love my curves. I can never quite bring myself to shave my head, and although I love my boy’s clothes, most of what I own is pretty fitted. Although I walk big and firmly, I swing my hips quite happily. I’ve recently discovered the joy of well-fitted bras and how good they look. I don’t own a lot of plaid (and yes, there is my stereotypical lesbian comment for you).

On the lesbian spectrum, I lie between butch and femme. There isn’t a word for this, really, but I think there should be.

On the gender spectrum… I’m female but not necessarily feminine. I consider myself a girl – although solidly a tomboy, because I don’t subscribe to a lot of the things that are considered girl/lady traits. I don’t want to, so I play with my gender. I think about how I present it.

But… for me, this is still a casual thing. It’s just that – a playground. At the end of the day I’m a cisgendered queer female. (Cisgendered simply means your physical sex matches your gender; therefore, not only am I XX, but I’m a woman.) And I present as such most of the time, which is what gives me the freedom to sometimes mess with it. There aren’t going to be consequences because it’s not a permanent way of living, it’s just something that gives me a lot of pleasure to occasionally delve into. I am not trans, I’m not genderqueer. I am comfortable in my body most of the time. I like it, I like the way it looks, the way it feels to be inside it.

And I feel like gender isn’t something I should be talking about, that it’s weird for me to talk about playing with my gender when there are people who struggle with it every day. Jim deals with it all the time, trying to figure out how to present, and whether it’s okay to change his name, balancing personal need and family opinions, who is actually trans. It’s weird to say I don’t really want to be just be a girl, I want to have elements of male and female. Do I have the right to want that?

I think I do, though. I think everyone should be able to play with what they are, and how they present themselves to the world at large, whether they’re cis or trans or something entirely else. I’m just a person who wants to be in a way that makes them comfortable. I want to sometimes bind my chest and pass as a boy — not because I want to be a boy, but because I want to acknowledge what is masculine about myself.

Weirdly, it’s dating Jim – who is a transgender/genderqueer-tending-male individual who looks very masculine and passes on a regular basis – that has let me start thinking about my own gender and playing around with it. He offered to lend me a binder, is going to help me dress boy, talks to me about how he thinks about gender, and lets me work out how I do. I really value it.

I am so much more aware of how I do gender these days.

Later: heteronormativity, horse shows, and humming.

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Short explanatory post.

Reason one is because, well, I remind Jim of Bones McCoy — but I’ve mentioned that. Reason two has more to do with one of the things I collect. I collect Breyer Horses, model dragons, books — and bones.

Well, bones and fur and feathers. I currently have Badger (she’s a badger skull), a small rodent skull from Tasmania, five unidentifiable leg/vertebrae bones from Tasmania, two horse teeth. A rabbit skin. A fox tail. An Aussie possum tail. A number of feathers that I found out on my dog walks, some shells. A keel bone (Jim gave this too me, and I have yet to put it out, since I FORGOT IT AT HIR HOUSE). I have a small butterfly knife as well, a magpie-beer bottlecap from Oz, a smooth white stone. A quill pen.

I desperately want more skulls. I love the lines of them, and stroking the long slope of their noses, and thinking about they were when they were alive, and touching the hinge of the jaw and the join of the neck. I took Anatomy and Physiology in high school and I’ve never forgotten learning how to look at bones.

I am waiting until I am out of the house to buy more, so my mother doesn’t squawk. I like predator-looks better, so I’m thinking ‘yote. What I really want is hyena, though — or cougar. My other two totems – Przewalski’s and Badger – are both represented on what Caroline used to call with mild horror “the shrine”. I want my third!

Coming up: gender.

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