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Archive for the ‘people’ Category

Something that flat startled the hell out of me, several months into our relationship, was finding out that Jim is nearly two years my junior. I’m coming up on twenty-four my next birthday (which granted isn’t until September), and he’s coming up on twenty-two. Our birthdays are only ten days apart, which is convenient for someone with an awful memory for dates, and that’s all I knew for a while. All evidence suggests that this must not be true, since we met on OKCupid, which lists your age, but all the same; I remember being totally floored when I found out he was so much younger. I tend to automatically assume that anyone who doesn’t have gray hair or baby fat is essentially my age, and treat them as such. Jim and I are at parallel stages in life, and we’re stupidly happy; it’s only when someone points out that he’s my brother’s age, and I’m his sister’s, that it becomes in any way relevant.

This is what you might call a trend—and not just with partners and lovers, but with all different kinds of people in my life.

My best friend since I moved to Westford (not where I live, but essentially where I’m from) is someone I met as a very young child, the summer before I turned nine. We both have extremely vivid memories of meeting each other with our mouths full of blackberries and my hair in my eyes; we were pretty much inseparable for the next ten years. She tells me that when I went to college, she felt lost–I did too. You spend your life with someone, and then move, and there’s a big empty space where they were, a quiet spot in your day where before you talked for two hours at the barn. The thing about Meg—who I love, who became my sister—that always amuses me in a low-level way is that she is well over two years younger than I am. That means she was, when we met, six. Six and almost-nine is a big difference at that age–I’m not sure I even noticed. I have no memory of ever thinking about it, until I moved up to middle school or high school or college, and she was left behind.

I am not a stranger to leaving people behind.

When I was in Australia, I met Jory in the flesh.  I actually met Jory online a number of years ago; he was one of the most established people on the forum we were both on, incredibly well-spoken, very smart, very thorough. When we met up, in the Melbourne zoo in August of my Junior year, I wasn’t real clear on what Jory looked like, having never seen a picture and not actually knowing what a quoll (the stuffed animal he said he’d be carrying) looked like. I spent the first five minutes walking through the zoo, peering at all the people around my age, or very slightly below it–and so was deeply disconcerted to encounter a small and obviously much younger person grinning and swinging a spotted rat-like toy by the tail.

At that point, Jory was still a teenager. I was just about to turn twenty-one, only a few weeks shy. Our experiences to that point were continents and countries apart, because between your late teens and early twenties—between highschool and college—is sometimes this yawning gap where you do an enormous amount of growing up.  We should not have had much to say to each other. The ensuing visit with his family should have been awkward. I should not have come back to their house again and again, should not have attended birthday parties, slept over, memorized the walk from Glen Waverly to his house—

And yet. But still. Because in not very long at all, I was reaching out to hold Jory’s hand in the dark as we talked about all the things you can’t say during the day. I remember that grip so vividly, so viscerally—in that moment, there weren’t years between us, there were two exhausted, lonely, shaken young adults who needed to hold someone’s hand, who needed a lifeline.

…I have a friend right now is quite literally old enough to have birthed me; in a few more years, I’m sure I’ll haves ones young enough to be my kids. (Give me time, I’m only twenty three.) Because when I fall for someone, as a partner or as a friend—and don’t let anyone fool you, all good friendships involve falling a little bit in love, the same way all good partners are also your friend—I forget everything about them except the things that made me love them in the first place.

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When We Talk About Love

I watch the TV show Bones because I am crazy for two different people.

I mean it’s also great television, or I wouldn’t still be keeping up with it, you know? I love Tempe and Seeley; I think it’s a smart, blunt, funny, gruesome show. It gets a little too human once in a while (I just like the dead bodies and Bones’s complete inability to figure out how to be a real person), but mostly I enjoy it to the hilt. I like Angela’s ludicrous magic art-science solutions and Hodgins’ crazy eyes and the faces Cam makes and the Gormagon killer.

But mostly, I watch it out of love.

I started watching Bones with my girlfriend at the time and our mutual friend Em. Now, I liked Fe (short for Favorite Ex) pretty completely, but it’s Em I want to talk about here. I respect her in a shy, cautious, adoring manner, and loved that she seem reasonably fond of me. She’s very smart and very outspoken and very independent.  Although she has a romance-novel streak, her entertainments are typically very intellectual.

And as I said earlier, Bones is a smart show.

So we three, and sometimes others, would sit and watch it. This was a highlight of my week, sitting with Fe and Em and being shushed every time I tried to say something. I seek community, no matter how tiny, and I felt accepted into a group those days–because Fe and Em are so tightly connected, so linked to each other. Those evenings ended when Em moved into the Archaeology Dork house, and I didn’t keep up with Bones as I should have. Wasn’t the same.

Two years later I met Jim.

He watches Bones too, and I idly started watching the newer episodes with him because I remembered the Gormagon plotline from when I watched with Fe and Em, and remembered liking it–but mostly because I really, really like Jim. And when I have a partner, or want to be friends with someone, I tend to try to access the things they do, look at the things they like, see if I can love the things they love. It’s a way of falling for someone, and showing them that.

 

And whether it’s reading Rumi or watching Bones, I usually end up in love with something other the person I’m after.

 

 

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My name is Bones.

…or Edie.

Or–rarely these days–Talia.

I do have a perfectly serviceable birthname which suits me fairly well, but I decided to leave it off in favor of anonymity. I’ve also gone by other monikers; some of them the proper sort of nicknames that are derived from my the one I was born with, some more along the lines of “short stuff”. I went by Aurélie in highschool, from four years of full-immersion French classes. I picked up bossmare and hyena-girl somewhere along the line. I like names. I like the flexibility and the chance to take on a slightly different personality.

I’ve been moving between names without thinking about it for a long time, not just with myself but with other people. Cris and Liam were the same person, who was sometimes called Dragon; so were Melissa and Byrd, Fey and Heather, Carolyn and Leyna. Kendra was Kendra or Dama or Dee, depending on what year it was. Grace and George are she and he, two individuals in one mind, one body, one personality. We’re all of us in our twenties now–somewhere between 23 and 26, and these were names we took as kids, ten years ago. When I talk to these people about each other, I still use the names we used in those days; so do they. When I talked to my parents, or to those friends outside of that little gang, or now, to my post-highschool friends, I called and call them by the names they were born with. (Except George, who is always George.) This is a way that I show love; private names, private stories, things that are just-between-us-two (or three, or four).

I never even thought about the swapping back and forth, and I rarely slipped up, which considering I was also swapping pronouns was pretty impressive. I was doing things like this within moments; getting off the phone and saying “Bye, Liam,” and then instantly saying to my mother “Cris wants to know if (whatever)”. I lived quite happily in two realities, and although parts of them eventually came crashing down, it’s a skill I kept.

(Incidentally, and for those who don’t know, I was called Talia.)

When I started spending a lot of time online, I ended up in a slightly different but surprisingly similar situation, in that when you’re online, you choose your name. Hapa, Juno, Luna, Winger, Pocky–these were names people went by because they worked for them, because they matched with their identities and views of themselves. We don’t get to choose our names as a general rule; our parents choose our birthnames and our friends choose our nicknames and our lovers choose our pet names (in case you weren’t listening, that’s where Bones is from). But online we choose who we are; there are people who don’t know me as anything other than Edie.

I think what I was trying to get to, in a roundabout fashion, is why it’s easy for me to swap people’s names and genders in a way that gives other people a lot of trouble. I have, sort of by accident, rather a lot of gender-variant friends and partners, and sort of by accident I’m comfortable with swapping names and pronouns over. I’m always annoyed by people who mess up pronouns again and again, who don’t listen for sentence and context clues as to how one should be referring to an individual, who don’t ask, when they hear those clues and are confused, what name and pronoun the person prefers. I used to say, “Who are we being now?” to my friends, and change how I addressed them accordingly; these days I say, “What pronoun would you like me to use?” This wasn’t a hard transition, no pun intended; more like walking over a bridge than jumping a chasm. I don’t understand — and yet I do — why people find this hard.

I grew up like this. Not everybody does.

I’m pretty sure that when I started this entry a month ago, it was supposed to be about gender pronouns and the way the way people around transgender individuals handle their transitions, but it didn’t turn out that way–that’s actually something I’ll handle later. Seven years ago today I lost one of those private identities pretty much for good. I learned what it was like to have to talk about yourself almost as another person, and while it’s not the same as listening to my trans* friends try to talk about themselves before they transitioned, it runs parallel. How do you talk sensibly about someone who is and isn’t you? How do you draw the line between selves, and how far do you let that line blur–or isn’t there a line? Does that self become, at some point, a different person, who you can talk to and understand and remember, but separate, or was it always you at the bottom of things?

These are questions I’ve been asking myself for years. I know this bit of the post at least is coming off self-indulgent and silly, but having a partner who has deeply examined themselves and their identity, in a really meaningful way, can mean you start to do a lot more thinking.

I’m Bones these days, and happy being her. But sometimes, I miss fitting so comfortably into Talia’s name that I didn’t know where she ended, and I began.

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First, let me direct you over to The Analytical Couch Potato, where you will find the blog it took me three hours and a lot of ranting at Jim to write. If any of you are interested in the full text of it (about 500 words longer, The Editor and I did some cutting), let me know and I’ll message you.

One of the things I cut was this line: “[Tranny] is not like dyke, or fag, or queer — words which have been reclaimed by the current LGBQ population as descriptors and positives.” I didn’t want to take it out, and neither did The Editor (who is fascinated by the general subject of changing connotations) but it wasn’t essential and anyway, I have my own blog to talk about things like that.

And trust me, it’s going to need the space.

One of the tags I use for these entries almost every time I write is “dyke”. On one level, it sort of misses the point of having tags if I use the same one over and over, but on another it’s the single most accurate word to describe a lot of what I talk about and where it comes from. That’s because I have to admit that my primary self-identification, at least in my head, is as a dyke. These days I’m much more likely to explain myself to people as a queer woman, and when I first came out I usually put it as “I’m a lesbian”. The latter seemed simpler; the former is more accurate, as it encompasses the fact that I date and sleep with gender-variant individuals, and doesn’t imply that I am only attracted to them because they are biologically female (something on which much, much more at a later date).

But dyke is more than just a descriptor — it’s a word I chose because it was a way to take what I felt about being young and gay and under a lot of pressure and turn it all around. Part of it comes from that deep place inside every queer teenager – hell, maybe inside every teenager – that knows what it feels like to be taunted with words that you know are hurtful, but whose meanings you don’t know, you just know that there’s a nasty punch behind them. It’s worse than knowing what the words are; I could shake off taunts about my glasses or height or tendency to read ALL THE BOOKS, because whatever, man, nothing I have not heard.

I got called a dyke starting in middle school, and I didn’t really figure out what they meant for years, but it bothered me nonetheless. Calling myself a dyke once I got to highschool was a way of disallowing them to hurt me, of saying, Yes, this is me, this is my word, this is who I am and you cannot take that away or change it. This was before I was aware of the historical connotations of dyke, and the expansive butch and dyke subculture of the 50s (read Stone Butch Blues sometime, it might just change your world), and that by calling myself one I was in fact joining in a movement of reclamation that would, within my lifetime, change the word queer from a painful slur to an encompassing term that brings everyone from gay men to asexuals to intersex people together and allows us to become a kind of family.

(Remember, though, that families sometimes families fight; that’s a whole different post.)

I call myself a dyke now because it gives me joy. Because to me it connotes strength and fierceness and an ability to get through a whole lot of shit by just lifting up your chin and walking with confidence and with purpose. It’s about picking up a haybale with one hand and moving sets and being strong for people who need me to be strong. It is the hand on the back of your neck or the small of your back that says, I will protect you. As a public speaker, I love the challenging pop of the K, the way it is a short, sharp, look-you-in-the-eye-and-dare-you-to-retort word. I love the way it can be affectionate, from a person who has earned the right to call you that.

I’m tired now, but that’s something I’ll talk about tomorrow eventually; earning the right, and why you have to do that, and why it’s important. I’ll talk about agency and those words that, in the queer community, are unacceptable. And I’ll talk about why I think reclamation of slurs is so important, and why I think it happens.

(Also, if you missed it, there’s a new post right below this one that goes with the topic.)

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…that I’ve been talking a lot more about LGBTQetc topics than many of you might be used to. I was — all things considered — pretty quiet about them during college, and aside from the constant refrain of “Hello, my name is Bones and I’m a lesbian”, I didn’t start talking about more than the most basic of queer subjects until fairly late in the game. I mean, everyone knew I was for equality (duh), not getting beaten up for being different (duh), and civil unions for all couples, which would have the the same rights as afforded by what is currently known marriage, and then a religious ceremony if you want it (admittedly not so duh).

Part of the reason I’m talking more about this stuff now is that I have more time to actually work through it properly in my head before I say it. Part of it is Jim, as dating him opens up a new section of worries and issues in the queer community to talk about. Part of it is that I’m living with a straight kid now (and more on my living situation later) and find myself having to explain things more frequently, in simple language.

And part of the reason I’m talking more now is because I’m a lot angrier.

I’m angry about a lot of things.

But I am not always angry! I am simply always thinking about things these days. Sometimes I’m confused? Or speechless or flail-y or just hurt. Or I am terribly amused, because something  is just so… I don’t know. Suddenly hilarious in a way it totally never was before? Like, I was listening the other week at work to soundtracks, and I was a chunk of the way through RENT when I started to laugh out loud at my desk. Now as a rule, I can take Rent or leave it (this pun was not on purpose), but there’s some great stuff going on with Tom Collins and Angel that I see as surprisingly analogous to what’s going on with me and Jim. I’m going to use two songs – Santa Fe and You’ll See  – to prove a bit of a point here. Here’s a quote from You’ll See, and then another from Santa Fe.

[COLLINS]
I like boys

[ANGEL]
Boys like me

[Angel]

New York City!

[Collins]

Uh-huh.

[Angel]

Center of the universe.

[Collins]

Sing it, girl.

Angel is, or appears to be (for those who have not actually seen the bloody movie which is NO ONE), a crossdresser or a transvestite. Or possibly transgender — there’s really no way to tell short of asking her, which is of course impossible. Angel is referred to by both gender pronouns through the movie; Mimi refers to Angel as being female and “looking good” when she comes back from her near-death experience where they saw each other. So I don’t know, but now I wonder; Collins is exclusively a gay man, but Angel is almost always referred to as female or feminine. Six months ago I wouldn’t have even though about that relationship, you know? Now I hear how Collins addresses Angel! As his Queen, and I wonder – does he mean that as a queen-y gay man, or as a woman? Does he struggle with his sexuality because of that? Or does love make everything easier?

So that makes my day when I hear things like that. But unfortunately I am more often angry. Here is a list: I am angry when someone does not recognize the difference between gender and sex and swaps back and forth between them in a piece of supposedly scientific writing; I am angry when someone uses hermaphrodite instead of intersex in a piece of supposedly scientific writing; I am furious that people still think it is okay to ‘fix’ intersex kids, and will do so without any compunction; I am angry because my boyfriend is not protected at work by ENDA, but I am (at least in Massachusetts, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals are protected against discrimination in their place of business, but those in the trans spectrum aren’t); I am angry at Glee and how they handled Rocky Horror; I am angry at my mother and family for making assumptions about my sexuality and about Jim’s gender, and how those two fit together; I am furious at those people in the queer community who are cruel to trans people, and who try to decide my identity for me when I date one; I am spitting mad about those individuals who use ignorance as an excuse (more than once; I’m ignorant too, sometimes).

I share a lot of these furies with Jim — the main difference is that where Jim is shy and introverted, I am really, really not.  That means that when I am angry, you hear it and you hear it often. My (straight) roommate gets the brunt of this sometimes; however, this is already a long entry.

But that’s why you’re going to hear me a lot more often these days, talking about gender and sexuality with an undercurrent of poorly-concealed rage. This Thursday I’ll become a contributing writer at the Analytical Couch Potato, talking about Glee and transphobia, where I will be flailing angrily — with Jim’s help — about reader’s response and linguistics and ignorance and fear.

Check it out.

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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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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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