Thursday, November 12, 2009

Genderized Baptism

Black t-shirt peeled over my head and on to the floor.
White and silver athletic shorts pulled down across my thighs and on
to the floor.
Bike riders abs barely noticeable in the stained glass window reflection.
Lavendar sports bra holding my body tight like a second skin tugged
over my strong neck and on to the floor.
You ok with this?
Are you?
I will turn my eyes.
No. Don't make it uncomfortable for me.
Ok. Get in here.
Black boxer-briefs unveiling my full body whisked down my legs and on
to the floor.
I lay behind her in a porcelin tub.
A red light dangeled above us.
I held her from behind.
I hid my body from her.
She began to sing.
"Hello Seattle, I am the crescent moon, shining down on your face."
My knees covered by hands, her knees outstretched as her legs lay on
the bathtub interior.
Warm water caressing our bodies, in and out of skin folds and in
between our hands.
She turned to me.
Kisses that were as delicate as crunching fall leaves outside of the window.
Bodies melting in the warmth of our breath and the warmth of the tub.
As my head dropped and my eyes closed, and shook.
Tears spilling out.
I apologized in to her own deep eyes.
Is this ok.
Yes, I whispered.
Clutching the sides of our indoor pond I let myself go.
Deep emotions that exist in parallel with my body.
A long-standing hate for parts of my being are being lifted as she
kisses my chest.
Tangled together and feeling separate from my body as my mind searches
for ways to be ok with this nakedness.
I didn't ask for these accessories.
I sleep at night without my protection, but awake as gingerly as
possible and slide it over my head, and on to my body.
It feels good to be held, even if by too-tight lyrca.
We laugh and spill saline water over one another's heads.
She said we are now baptized.
New beings.
New connections.
New acceptance.
New new new.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Internal and outward expression of gender

Great article, especially because it is In the NYT, which is important because principles and parents and youth and queer folks and straight folks may absorb this mainstream news coverage. I only wish that the writer would have focused more on gender fluidity where the binary is challenged. Here we see that, again, roles in these folks lives are cycling through male and female personas; an, often, unfair and stifling path for many of us. Genderqueer does not solely mean no gender, and bringing this variance up could free the mind from assumptions about biological boys in lipstick and girls in baseball hats (although I heart that look!). There is a lot in between those poles, and as a person who wears skinny jeans with boxer briefs, and small t-shirts with a body hugging sports bra, I may sit in this unapproachable gray that still gets stares, glares, and questioned accusations of what I am "trying" to be. More articles expressing the realness of identity - something very challenging to describe - would be greatly beneficial to those of us who also say (like the blog) that labels are for jars.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bags packed.

If you were leaving home to start a new life, what would you take with you?
-Splendid Isolation
-Face Time
-Love Monster

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fog covered hands.

All of this commotion in my head, but the silence bumps into the isolation outside of my lips. I open my mouth – ready to kiss, to scream, to lick, to feel, to whisper - out rolls a tiny bee – wet with saliva – look how beautiful it glistens on its wings. It pollinates my soul, and allows my being to flower, or maybe de-flower. Like a plant waiting for the reciprocal importance of carbon and oxygen giving and taking, I wait for that hand to pull me off the ground, and throw me back on that soapbox of which I dream about. It’s mad tall – high as the clouds, or at least taller than you, and you, and you, and you.

Ripped from the pages of that conformity nothing, family and friend oriented, and creative comic book my character is born. Dusty five-pocket jeans with that red belt that doesn’t quite hold the waist above the top of my privacy, and those paint splatter high-top Chucks that are just raggedy enough to be hot as ever to every fine thing that walks past me; the red in my cap pulling on the color of my eyes, begging the browns to shine through the sadness.

I bang that confidence out, even if meekly, or weakly, or in bad taste as I cuss…shit, fuck, damn…or wear the fashion oh-no(!) when I wear that rad black a-line with that beat-up belt, because I didn’t start on this journey simply to get hijacked by a wolf in a puppy costume.

It’s interesting how when climbing the mountain we are jazzed as hell to have that fanny pack around our waists – filled with life’s most precious items: a Band-Aid to fix, a picture of special someone’s; a mint, just in case we get lucky, and a swig of ginger tea so that we can smooth the cobwebs in our throats and scream at the top of our lungs when need be – and we have those argyle wool socks, a stick to support us, and a flashlight and map to guide us through the winding difficulties. And then, just when we get comfortable with the heat on the back of the neck, and the cold running across nighttime faces, we arrive at the clearing.

Oh snap!! Look at that view; it’s glorious. We worked up to this point, where panting and breathing our eyes lock and I feel so filled. So beautiful, so loved, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a boy t-shirt or a young woman’s teeny bopper tiger-striped tank top that I have strewn across the floor right before I stared at that forgiving and accepting face and allowed the tears to roll down my cheeks. Like a garden hose dripping on the rose buses. I can still taste that rubbery, metallic aroma on my palette – it scares me to remember, and it is impossible to forget.

Then the climax of the hike, the berry-picking, bear-lookout, cashew-chomping adventure is over. Sweet and salty. What else is there to crave if I am standing here with only my heart to comfort me on the top of this mountain where half of my hand is covered in fog? But like a ghost’s shadow, I feel the eyes of something staring me down – waiting to swoop down like an eagle to a mouse. Fight it! My journey is so far from being over; I turn around only to see an endless mountain chain waiting to be explored. This is just a hill.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lovely Paint Splatters

Green, orange and purple paint cover the soles of my Chucks, and the soul of my being.
Thirteen weeks of design, direction, community, youth, art, love.
Breathing it in, soaking it up, adoring the pulsating energy of the way it moves across the concrete and fills in space that is both metaphoric and tangible.
I woke up this morning and drank soy-filled coffee and danced to music in my head.
The sun streamed through the window of my sublet and the butterflies started up again.
Don’t get me wrong, the wings of those critters make me move, get up and embrace the challenges that stop me in my tracks. I want to run and hide, but I am better than that lost child I may have been years ago. But, oh, sometimes it could be rad to sit on a soft window seat in an old house in the woods.
That’s what camping trips are for.
My calling is here, and there and anywhere where I can give and take, a place where reciprocation is real and being a mentee and a mentor create sparks all around me.
I dreamt of this day.
She is sleeping beside me, and as the burrito shell rises and falls, I fall deeper in like.
They pull on their beat-up t-shirts below me as I rise above the world on the scaffolding.
We are all the same – young beings wanting to share our moments with those who make us giggle and build walls of trust that stick harder than mud and honey.
A handful of queer youth represent themselves with smiles and shy eyes on the site as we carry canvas and near empty paint cans around the lot littered with slushee cups and beehives. They see us modeling the behavior of love and kindness, helping one another with a squeeze here, a drink of water there.
“Let me clean your brushes,” I say, as our eyes linger longer than 1, 2, 3, 4…small shoulders waiting to be brushed by a hard-working hand that only hours before filled in an abstract design created from the depths of her inner heart chamber.
It’s beautiful.
They know. All of them. We didn’t say a word – or at least not with our vocal cords.
“If you have the shorter hair does that mean you are the boy?”
With a slight headshake, discussions ensue about gender and the societal ways pearl earrings and baseball hats have pre- disposed body types to cover.
We smash that.
No jabs or sneers, all people have respect on the site, and I don’t think I have ever been so proud of the young hearts in my community.
Like parents of a large family, we move through the days with advice and questions and care. They fight, they drink, they smoke, they cuddle with their mom or their partners, and we talk about it.
Double their age and they look up with appreciative eyes – we are doing what they may have never seen before: being self-aware and self-loved, while also playing a committed role of oohs and ahhs to the person who sits across from each other as we eat peas with parmesan.
Like fireworks. It works.
No roles assigned – you be in front of me, and then I will be in front of you. You wear my shirt, and I will do the laundry this week. You teach me how to do that trick and I will hold your hand as we sip wine from plastic cups.
They see us. All of them.
What a gift for us, for them, for the movement towards Yes; Acceptance!
I have been moved before, but this is not the same. It shoots through my veins like a rocket. “What comes is better than what came before.”
The most natural light to penetrate my skin in my lifetime. So good. So right. Thank you.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Shampoo. Rinse. Condition. Rinse.

Shampoo. Rinse. Condition. Rinse.
Blowdry. Curl. Pull it back. Use a headband. Clip bangs to the left. Clip bangs to the right.
Hide behind it.
Flaunt around it.
Chop it, I said.
But, you will look like a boy.
I won’t look like a boy; I will look like me with short hair.
She struggled. I struggled. I paid and then repaid and finally paid again to own my own clippers.
It's almost like they scream at me. Ahhh. Your hair. It's so short. You are so bold. I want to roll my eyes and say why are you ok with accepting the binary, with perpetuating this idea of woman equals long hair, or pretty or feminine or weak.
That comment is not a compliment to me.
Hyper boy to hyper girl to hyper boy-girl. Gender fluidity. Variance. Queerness.
Pulling the dress over my head, and pulling the tights up to my waist no longer felt right. I no longer felt safe. I no longer wanted the attention that I allowed people to give me. It was early, I was waiting, there was a breeze through the vent, down my shirt. Cleavage. I was exposed. I ran. I changed. That was the last time, and I felt empowered. I felt in control of stares and acceptance or not.
The other day I stood baseball hat cocked to the side (hmm interesting word choice), jeans slung low, t-shirt hanging somewhere between clutching and floating; one hand around a cold beer, and the other in my pocket. She grabbed the handkerchief around my neck and said, "it must be hard to get all of this attention by being genderqueer." What was that look in her eye? I avoided. I shifted. I thought it about much later, in the comfort of my own head. I am still getting the attention that I don't know that I want. I am a woman. I am masculine in dress. I am feminine in thought.
And I hate these labels.
The idea of a box makes me gag and reach and scream for air. Yet, I am lucky. I can work this body and spirit in ways that others can not. I am privileged.
He waited in the lobby for me to come and save his day. I said hello and he followed me to the back room where we sat. Daniel. His name is Daniel. Nine years ago he begged and pleaded with his family to understand where he was coming from - the male perspective. They didn’t. He begged and pleaded with the medical world to hear him and transition him. They did. Today he yearns and begs and pleads with the inner psyche to allow Diana to come back. He is a transman who no longer wants the body he thought would make him happy. He passes. To me. To the world. I didn’t know there was a Diana hiding beneath Daniels eyes until it spilled from this person's lips. Daniel's pronoun preference, for the first time in nine years, as this individual sat across from me in the stark white counseling room, was female. She was enlightened and ready to face the world, but testosterone effects are nearly irreversible.
As my body changes I make alterations that feel safe to me - clothing, demeanor, exercise, a slow in my eating so that I can appear more like a young boy, and less like a voluptuous woman.
I am privileged.
I am moving through the world as a passing, dykey lesbian.
I fulfill expectations, and I also break the mold of what people expect of me - I don't bind. I don't take T. Under my clothes I sometimes wear a-line tanks and boxer-briefs. In a few short months I will wear a suit to job interviews. In the summer I will wear a two-piece bathing suit. I will bike. I will cuss. I will tell my partner that I love her. I will still feel vulnerable naked. I will be a vegetarian and choose salad over steak. I will pay for dates and allow the door to be opened for me. I won't grow my hair out again, except under my arms. I will sing and I will laugh, and I will be non-gendered, and all-gendered, and a hater of gender.
I'm proud to be a gender fucker. I am proud to be accepted and loved and questioned. I enjoy the challenge of stopping heterosexist and genderphobic perpetuations, and yet, I also am aware of the ways I facilitate these cycles.
Gender and orientation are so complicated, and so beautiful at the same time. As a social worker I am learning to be respectful of self-determinating individuals, while also moving through my own, ever changing me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Queer Discrimination

A new report states that queer families are living with less than their hetero counterparts. It is estimated that:

One in five children living in a same-sex household is poor compared to one in 10 for children in opposite-sex married families.

Nationally, 24 percent of lesbians and bisexual women are poor compared to 19 percent of heterosexual women.

15 percent of gay and bisexual men nationally are poor compared to 13 percent of heterosexual

Discrimination is the hypothesized reason for the differences. In a world where so many people think that with the passing of many bills and legislation that the world is unmarginalizing, these statistics smash the utopian image of equality.

Last week President Obama signed the United Nation's Statement of Human Rights, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity document, which serves to "reaffirm the principle of human rights...that everyone is entitled to the enjoyment of human rights without distinction of any kind...that non-discrimination requires that human rights apply equally to every human being regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity...and that (the UN) is disturbed that violence, discrimination, exclusion, stimatization and prejudice are directed against persons in all countries in the world because of sexual orientation or gender identity, and these practices undermine the integrity and dignity of those subjected to these abuses..."

And while the president's signature doesn't make it illegal to oppress, it does finally add us to the list of countries who defend this human right (the U.S. was the last of all Western nations to sign it, thanks in part to the consistent refusal by former President Bush to recognize the importance of engaging in identity politics). There is hope, and we are lucky to be a part of such a strong administration, who may just bring the humanity back to humans and our rights.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Genderphobia is unproductive.

Recently it seems that gender has been the underpinning of many conversations. The concept of gender, and the need to mark the irrelevance of a binary that is not based on realities for so much of the population, is simply too hard for people to wrap their brains around. The other night, for example, I was at a talk about transgender individuals and a person in the audience was attempting to pick apart the issue of gender and gender identification. First, it should be said that education is a beautiful thing, and if people are asking questions, that can only be powerful and positive in the long run. Still, it amazes me that these questions exist.

For example, a question about surgery was asked: (which, of course, erroneously implies that actual reconstruction is the only way one would identify as a way to name their gender) "so, if a person is born a male and then only dressed the part of a 'female', are they just pretending to be a 'female' then?" The thought process of people - me included of course because I am also a product of our genderphobic society - fails to break free of the binary. It seems super hard for folks to just be comfortable with an individualized expression of self. Even people who are enrolled in my social work program exist in a bubble of norms where many don't even question why it is that they feel uncomfortable with removing gender identity disorder from the DSM, or ripping the labels off of the restroom doors that determine who is allowed to come in and pee. What is that really makes someone a man or a woman? Is it a dress or a beard, or a way of thinking, the desire to have children, a career in construction? How did we lose ourselves in these stereotypes in which we are now mostly blind to, and therefore cannot disentangle?

A co-student of mine said that someone in her class talked about the non-acceptance to trans folks at an all-women college. The concern was that a trans woman was accepted, and the general feeling around the campus was that this person used their male privilege to get in to the school and change the ways the administration operates. Clearly, there is a serious disregard for a holistic view of someone - this student was being judged only on what anatomy was between their legs, and not on how they truly identify. In the clause for acceptance at this all-women's college, I wonder what is written. Is the word vagina actually spelled out? And even if this was so, how does the school feel about trans men; how do they conceptualize what it means to embody the energy of a female student?

At the end of the day, it appears that genderphobia hurts those who are gender non-conforming, AND those who can't see beyond the binary because perpetuating a norm means the perpetrator also has to absorb the norms...everyone stuck in a pre-designed box doesn't seem like something that a society that fights against the idea of dictatorship in other countries, while asking its citizens here to carry their own weight as individuals, would uphold. But it does. Feels ironic to me.

Friday, January 30, 2009

More than the threads on my back.

On Masculine Females, as described by Leslie Feinberg in "Transliberation," an anthology of thoughts collected about gender identification.

The term masculine female elicits many responses in me. The book written by Feinberg seems to want to eliminate the idea of the binary, but what this term seems to do is perpetuate them - or does it? Meaning, perhaps it's only my thoughts that draw up a curvy woman with breasts and hips, who rocks a pair of sagging jeans, walks with her shoulders, has shortened nails and sits with her legs too far apart to be crowned demure by the "feminine" committee, when I hear masculine female. If that's the case then I am not sure how this definition breaks down the concrete identification and societal meanings that lay as the underpinnings of what it means to have an M or F on their government-issued ID. It is, once again, pushing us to catagorize ourselves for the masses.

That being said, in my world, I sometimes feel as though I fall under this label (even though I am being more mindful of the negative ways self-adopting labels affect my psyche). I'm not trying to rid the English language of gender representations, but I am trying to break people away from sticking to their hard fast rules of either all male or all female. I like to talk about the continuum, and I enjoy seeing people happy in their bodies -- be it within the societal terms of male or female, or in the gray that is the creation of their own world.

I will admit that as my body and mind develop and becomes more of my own, there have been times where I considered altering my physical and mental states to match my thoughts on how I felt comfortable. But after talking it out through my dreams, the pages of my journal, friends and the Internet, I felt similar to Feinberg's discussion on how people sometimes adapt themselves to the "trying to be a real man," ideal. Here's the problem we do not live in a bubble and I can't easily escape the definitions and interpretations that have been pounded in to my head. I am, however, very mindful of this, and each time I slip into my jeans and t-shirt, I am also mindful that I am not slipping into a dress. I am also aware that it hasn't always been like this.

It was election day 2008 the last time I wore a dress. I was asked to do live blogging at the LGBT Center as the results came over the wire. I remember feeling both beautiful and uncomfortable. My worries were my own, and I didn't let people in on the fact that lately I would leave the house in dangling earrings, only to stuff them in to my pocket three blocks down the road. It was a full month since I last dressed like this, but I wanted to try it on one last time, just in case.

At the time of this transition I was dating a woman who had known me back when I wore calf-high suede boots with a vintage-looking jersey dress. I was shaving my armpits back then, and I wore my shoulder-length hair pinned back in the middle - a slight twist on 1950s rockabilly. As I began to stretch my wings, I wasn't sure how to hold the balance between the old and the new me. And then I had to determine whether it was old or not -- were the dresses new and jeans and t-shirts old, as opposed to the other way around? I remember all through middle and high school my lanky body would hide beneath Dickies, which are cotton, creased pants mostly worn by maintenance workers. I think I had a pair for every day of the week. When I made it to California post high school I hung around with skateboard kids who, like me, drank 40 ounces of beer, and pretended to not care if we looked good or bad. But then I got a corporate job and everything changed. There was a dress code and a command for respectful attire. I felt the pressure to react in the most feminine way I had ever done in my life: tight shirts and slacks. I guess I felt good, but whenever I would meet my friends after work, I wanted to rip my cleavage-laden top off of my body and replace it with the warm and relaxed hooded sweatshirt that we all wore as we hiked around the San Francisco bay area. I felt grown up, and maybe that is what I also associate with being feminine.

I'd be lying if I said that conformity is not an advantage, and a privilege. I look back and see how cleaning up my image and mouth earned me more respect. Later I understood that I can still be me - a strong woman who cares about her Independence - in a pair of jeans, boat shoes and a nice sweater. The sweater may have been pink, but I was moving back to my comfort space. I looked simple and fem, while still kicking ass while playing darts at the local bar where I threw back beer after beer. Eventually I moved back towards A-line tanks and shorts, sometimes intermixing my style with a skirt; and gender non-conforming flip-flops. It seemed like we all looked alike under the hot sun.

NYC is where much of my life turned. I was finally out as a gay woman to my family and friends, and soon I began to shift (once again) my identity to find out how I could get a date, look good and be successful; feel right in my body - both on the inside and out. It started a happy mix of societal interpretations of gender, then a hyper stage of femininity, and, finally, where I am at now: a point in my life when I simply cannot live without my baseball hat. I feel the best that I have ever felt in my life - armpit hair puffed out, short hair, makeup-free face, and of course my confidence.

I know that it's more than hair and clothes; it's me pushing me from the inside-out. I remember being afraid of going through that with the same woman that I was dating while flaunting myself in a dress. I wasn't sure that I was strong enough to work through all of the emotions that come with the physical and emotional stages I was sifting through - I wasn't feeling affirmed, and would never ask for it, so I broke it off. My world and my affirmation to myself and to my growth was too important to me to not make sure I was both caring and being cared for.

When I was home in Pittsburgh, PA (my hometown) for the winter break I realized my outward appearance has an effect on people. The first night I was home a man stopped me as I walked towards the little image of a person in a dress on the women's restroom door. He asked why I looked like a boy, and also included how he could see my "femaleness" underneath all of the clothing. I asked why he thought there was one definition to explain what an M or F looks, acts, feels like. Reflecting now on the long debate about MY gender and MY sexual orientation with this stranger, I realized something: perhaps I am a masculine female; a person happily stuck in my own interpretation - my own shade of gray.