Saturday, November 8, 2008

Have we all had gender issues?

When I started to write this piece I knew I needed to do some research on what I was going to tell you. Before I sat down to my computer I had to run into my bedroom, take off my underwear and put on my softest most worn out pair of jeans. Yep, I was right they do feel great---just like I remembered.
You may not recognize this as a lesbian statement.

The summer I was nine I knew I wanted to be a boy more than anything. It drove my mother nuts. One of my most favorite things to get my point across was to take off my underwear and get dressed in my brother's most worn out pair of bib overalls. I thought they felt like velvet on my butt. Being barefoot and wearing those overalls was probably my first lesbian statement.

But it fell on deaf ears and blind eyes.
I told my mother things like: "I don't know why I couldn't be a boy. I can run faster than Kenny, I can hit a baseball farther he can; I can ride a bike and roller skate faster he can. So there! "
She would continue to attend to whatever she was doing and calmly say, "Yes, you can, dear". (She would look up.) GLORIA JEAN! (Bad news when she called me that and spoke in capital letters) Why are you wearing your brothers overall--and do you have on any underwear????"
The only answer she got was the slam of the screen door and I was outside taking up the argument with my cousin Kenny.
Cousin Kenny tried to be sweet, "You can't be a boy 'cause you look too much like a girl with all those curls. Mom says you look like Shirley Temple."

Kenny knew that made me mad. When my reaction brought on a hail of how much better I was at everything than he was----he always played his trump card.
"Ha, Ha you can't be a boy anyway 'cause you can't stand up to pee."

Still mad I headed for the house. He knew my retreat to anywhere would be a relief for him.
I continued to behave like a wounded tiger cub. Never ready to give up the fight and always mad.
By the time I was almost eleven, my menstruation started and I learned about babies. What a blow to a girl who wanted to do boy things. I heard, "Now aren't you glad you aren't a boy? Women are meant to have babies. (My mother, a nurse, gave me a glowing "birds and bees" account of how it was.) And Honey, boys can't have babies," she said in a very tender way.

I was on my feet and half way to the door. "Wow, I'm going to tell Kenny. He will be so mad that I can have a baby and he can't!!!" My mother had a hold on the back of my shirt that I can still feel it if I close my eyes. She told me the rest of the story and why we didn't talk about this with boys.
How awful! This was better than anything Kenny could do and I couldn't tell him.
I kept the news about babies in a smug little place---and I would grin and say.” I know something' you don't! " Wasn't very satisfying and I soon stopped.

Gender identity. Haven't we all felt in crisis over it at some time or another? Being an old queer, I have led a life that had gender identity crisis woven all the way through. Sadly, social constraints and my lack of courage led me thru a life very different than my tough little girl of nine would have chosen.

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