Living in the margins…

So I have finished my workout at the YMCA and now I am in the sauna – the dry sauna is admittedly my reward, the best part of going to the gym. I’m laid back, bare ass naked with Melissa Ferrick’s 70 people at 7,000 feet streaming, a bit too loudly into my head. When boom – interruption. Girls squealing and running in from the pool – they sound in that 4-6ish age range running, laughing, shouting. The voice of an adult…”girls in the showers and NO ONE is to go in there”. Based on the sounds of the voices I am quite sure she is referring to the saunas. I am relieved, admittedly I hate when kids run in and out of the saunas. I turn up the iPod even louder thinking about how wonderful is it to be so hot, my tight muscles relaxing…the sweat is beginning to pour off. I keep whiping my face and pushing my short hair back and off of my forehead. I can hear the girls but I am doing my best to tune them out. Relax, unwind, sweat.

Suddenly I hear a piercing shout, an alarm call, uttered with the shear, sincere force of a four year old panic. “boy, Boy, BOY”. And more squealing, then a knock on the sauna door (the sauna I am in has a glass window). Suddenly I realize the “BOY!!” they are referring to is me.

Ha. I pull up the towel to cover my ample and generous bosom that is obviously confusing and scaring the children. I hear the adult moving outside, I hear a muffled “he covered up” or that is what I imagined I heard. I hear the sound of an adult reprimanding them and telling them to move along, get dressed and so on.

After some more sweating – I got up and left the sauna. I walked out and there was this adorable little girl who was still quite clearly confused, she was still staring at me.

I wanted frankly to open the towel and flash her …say “see – girl” but I didn’t think it was a good idea for a queer woman to flash children in the locker room at the Y. I could’ve said “don’t you see my toenails and the pretty pink polish?!” But instead I just smiled and headed for the showers.

40 years ago, 30 years ago, even 5 years ago having a little girl scream “BOY” would’ve been devastating now it doesn’t particularly bother me. While I know I am a woman, reminded lest I forget at least monthly – I think of myself as genderless. And I prefer it that way – not to be easy to label, or define, or stereotype. Just another queer human being. Or more preferably just a human being.

That’s my life in the margins – and one tale for this week of living in the shades of grey.

Andrea Gibson’s new book arrived today titled “Pole Dancing To Gospel Hymns” and I’ll leave you with this poem from the book. It’s so nice to know I am not alone.

Swing Set

“Are you a boy or a girl?” he asks,
staring up from all three feet
of his pudding-faced grandeur.

I say “Dylan, you’ve been in this class for three years
and you still don’t know if I’m a boy or a girl?”

“Uh-uh.”

“Well then, at this point I don’t think it matters,
do you?”

“Um…no. Can I have a push on the swing?”

And this happens every day.
It’s a tidal wave of kindergarten curiousity
Rushing strait for the rocks of me,
whatever I am.

In the classroom we discuss the milky way galaxy,
the orbit of the sun around the earth or…whatever.
Jupiter! Saturn! Mars!
“Kids, do you know that some of the stars
we see up in the sky are so far away they’ve already
burned out?
What do you think of that…Timmy?”

“Um…my mom says that even though you’ve got
hairs that grow from your legs
and the hairs on your head grow short and pokey
and you smell really bad like my dad
that you’re a girl.”

“You’re right. Thank you, Timmy.”

And so it goes.
On the playground she stares up
from behind her pink powder puff sunglasses
and asks, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No,”

“Ohhh” she says. “Do you have a girlfriend?”

I say, “No, but if by some miracle twenty years from now
I ever finally do, I’ll definitely bring her by to meet you.
How’s that?”

“OK…can I have a push on the swing?”

And that’s the thing.
They don’t care.
They don’t care.
We, on the other hand…
My father sitting across the table at Christmas dinner
gritting his teeth over his still-full plate
his appetite raped away
by the intrusion of my haircut.
“What were you thinking? You used to be such a pretty girl!”

Frat boys drunk and screaming
leaning out the windows of their daddies’ SUVs
“Hey are you a faggot or a dyke?!”
And I wonder what would happen
if I met up with them in the middle of the night.

Then of course there’s always the not-so-bright-enough
Fluorescent light of the public restroom,
“Sir! Sir! Do you realize this is the ladies’ room?!”

“Yes, ma’am I do.
It’s just I didn’t feel comfortable
sticking this tampon up my penis
in the men’s room.”

But the best is always the mother at the market,
sticking up her nose
while pushing aside her child’s wide eyes
whispering, “Don’t stare, it’s rude,”

And I wanna say, “Listen, lady,
the only rude thing I see
is your paranoid, parental hand
pushing aside the best education on self
that little girl’s ever gonna get
living with your Maybelline lips, Stair Master hips
synthetic, kiwi, vanilla ‘spilling beauty.
So why don’t you take your pinks and blues,
your boy-girl rules
and shove ‘em in that cart
with your fucking issue of Cosmo,
‘cause tomorrow
I start my day with twenty-eight minds
that know a hell of a lot more than you do,
and if I show up in a pink frilly dress
those kids won’t love me any more or less.”

“Hey…are you a boy or a…oh, never mind,
can I have a push on the swing?”

And someday,
When we grow up,
It’s all gonna be that simple.

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5 Responses to “Living in the margins…”

  1. I can relate to that experience.. thanks for posting.

    I loved the poem, I am going to try to get my hands on that book.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    J.

  2. Great post. I love this poem too. I remember getting called ‘him’ quite a few times during my younger days. I guess I just wasn’t the frilly type. Never will be. And that’s fine by me.

  3. glued blue glass Says:

    Great poem. It’s a great response to your experience. Thanks for introducing me to her. I may have to buy her book too. She should give you a commission.
    About the young girls… Slowly our education system will expose them to the many perspectives and ways of being/living. I was at a curriculum review meeting a few months ago and one of the student observers noted that the curriculum was heterosexist. Just the fact that she could see that made my day.
    You are an inspiration to others by sharing this experience and how you’ve come to react to them.
    Thanks

  4. TaraDharma Says:

    my wife, er, domestic partner, is often mistaken for a man…and she hates it. Butch she is, and butch she looks. Woman she is and woman she wants to be called.

    and now our 13 year old daughter is getting the same sh*t at school from the girly girls. Oy. She’s struggling with that. Growing her hair long, starting shaving her legs, having more ‘girly’ clothes. It sure starts early, don’t it?

    Found your lovely blog via Pacific Girl. Left a couple of comments on your flickr photos (fabulous). I’m in flickr under “Shannon’s Sister.” I’ve got some cutie dogs, too, that I love to photograph.

    Have a great weekend!

  5. Thank you all for visiting and your generous comments. Andrea Gibson is a very talented spoken artist performer — if you look alongside my blog you’ll see links for “deeper wells” and in labels that I have posted about her before.

    Very talented and inspiring — I’m sure she’d love to have all of you buy her book and if you do, you won’t be dissapointed.

    Her cd’s are wonderful too. I have them all.

    -janet
    …thanks so much for stopping.

    …yes I like to photograph dogs my own and those of my clients.

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