Friday, February 22, 2008

Cabin Fever & Gender Expression

It's a snow day! Just when I'm so sick and cranky about being cold, I'm reminded why I love the Northeast. There is nothing like a snow day to bring back childhood memories of goofing off and feeling as though the world has been lifted, with one simple cancellation.

I love snow, when I know that I can stay inside and watch it fall, rather than try to maneuver the slippery roadways. It's silence is what's really divine. A look out the window is proof of the transformation, it seems so soft, gentle and delicate. Ideally, this kind of day should be spent under the covers or fireside with your lover and hot cocoa. Instead, I find myself in the company of my neurotic mother, adding Baileys to my coffee on the sly (she's not a big fan of drinking in the afternoon.) But less about the Mother and more about the Lover.

She lives down south, though she too is from the Northeast. I decided to call her Boots for her Harley Davidson kicks that I find sexy. Or how about just "B"...I'll try that out. This woman is amazing. She's vivacious, and has great energy. We seem to be similar where it counts, yet different enough to bring balance to one another.

I keep thinking about the conversation we had a few nights ago on the phone. Physically, B appears to be butch, her style of dress, shaved head, the way she carries herself. I suppose glancing quickly through heteronormative eyes, she could appear to be a man. So she walked into a women's restroom and the nice restroom attendant with her little basket of hairspray and tampons told her she was in the wrong place. I realize that this isn't a new phenomenon for people who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum. Also, having dated butch women, I have seen his happen on multiple occasions before. My girlfriend being called "sir," the two of us presumed to be a heterosexual couple, aggressive hate slurs being used. Each time something like this has happened while I have been present, I could feel the anger swelling up inside of me. I became instantly alert and more defensive. Sometimes this was for safety reasons, others, it was pure anger. My guttural reactions consist of fear and disbelief. I'm still surprised when strangers feel they have the right to offer up commentary on an individuals physical appearance. Because I am femme, or look stereotypically feminine, my gender identity and sexual orientation are never questioned. This isn't always advantageous, but day to day, living in a small, strongly homophobic area, it usually makes my life a little easier (but that is relative, and a different topic.)

I tried having a more in depth convo w/ B the other night about how those comments make her feel, how being mistaken for a man affects her. As a butch, female identified individual, how does it feel to be perceived as masculine, and mistaken for such on a daily basis. B began to talk rhetorically, "Look at me! Yes, I had on baggy pants, yes my head is shaved. But look at my face, look at my breasts in the snug t-shirt I had on, look at me, look AT me, Look at ME." She went on to say that it hurts her to not be viewed as a woman, when that is such a strong piece of her identity.

Is there a difference between "mistaking" someone for being a gender they don't identify with and knowing they are gender bending and taking it upon ones self to call them out on it anyway? Why do we care so much? I feel that people are fearful of women who do not look the way that society perceives they should. What are we afraid of? Are men are scared that those women will have more power, that patriarchy is threatened by them? After all, "women who look like women," wear clothes that show off the shape of their bodies, and shoes with heels designed to push asses out. Our bras push our breasts together and lift them higher, making them easier to notice. We put paint on our faces and line our eyes to look like cats, like animals. Our suit jackets have tiny decorative pockets and we can't fit anything into the pockets on our jeans. Why not? Why do men's suits have at least five or six places to store money, cigarettes, writing utensils, condoms, watches, and weapons. Women who want to wear women's clothing have no where to put their things, so we carry purses with all of our belongings, leaving everything we have more accessible and more vulnerable. Our breasts, and asses, and even our money are just a grab away.

This isn't to say I don't wear high heeled shoes or make-up, because I do. And sometimes I even revel in them, in how feminine and sexy they make me feel. But I remain conscious, of where I am going, of who I am doing it for. The clothes, and make-up and shoes can be fun, but they do not make the woman.

My woman wears mainly men's clothing; jeans, boots, belt buckles. She shaves her head and walks with a little bit of a swagger. I like her swagger, its her confidence, her inner beauty stepping out, slowly and strong. She sometimes jokes about "being one of the dudes," and I've seen her having conversations with men that I would never have any interest in being part of. I like those parts of us that are different. I love they way that she is both handsome and beautiful. I love how her womanhood rests in the courage she has to be herself. She is not a woman because of her short skirts, or her long wavy hair. She is not a woman because she of her make-up, or the way she crosses her legs to take up less space. She is a woman because she is strong enough to defy boundaries and norms in the name of being in the skin that feels comfortable to her. I'm so moved and proud of that kind of resoluteness in the queer community, in my community.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

this dance

twisting my fingers
through dirty, tangled hair-
working out the knots,
ripping through them-
no apologies
staring at nothing,
taking the form of something
blank space and time;
posing as walls, the ceiling, a coat rack, trees outside the window
i find myself in a meditative state,
somewhere between pondering
and making decisions

i like it here
because it's very non-committal,
because i am not bound to or by anything
i find myself
in this circular maze of dialogue,
unique to any other labyrinth
i've knowingly walked into
this is goofy and silly and ridiculous
so abstract and over-generalized,
with just enough details
to keep me hanging on
wanting more
i've never danced so gingerly
around what i'm really trying to say
mechanically vulnerable
just enough disclosures
amorous words get my point across,
enough 'let me just be honest with you...' moments
for her to know
i am willing to throw myself out there,
a little bit
just enough
i've never maneuvered through anything
in such a rickety way,
this is a genuine, wholesome dance-
there's music and a hardwood floor,
we're standing closely together,
hands linked, arms wrapped-
there is movement,
this must be dancing....
swaying back and forth,
waiting nervously for the music to stop-
for a kiss
or a return to our seats
allowing my hesitations and expectations
to move freely through me,
without holding them up in my chest,
in that tight hard-to-breathe-place
between head and heart
allowing her-
to have this dance.

My job, My sex life

I remember being in second grade and preparing to receive first Catholicism, it's where you make your first confession to a priest and he talks to god and you're forgiven for your sins. So a little girl gets down on her knees in a little room, tells an old man in a dress that she doesn't always listen to her parents, and sometimes fights with her sister. She's then set out of the tiny room to kneel again, this time to repeat the same prayer to an eternal virgin (.....hail mary, full of grace.....) as she asks for forgiveness and questions her worth as a big sister, and daughter. What the fuck??

So here I am, a Catholic in Recovery, feeling like it's time for confession....old habits do die hard. I'm starting this blog because I need another outlet for exploring gender roles, feminism, and healthy sexuality. But! I'm also starting it because a good friend of mine recently started a blog. After reading hers, I was sent on a whirlwind of blog-reading. I can't stop! I want to know more about what people are thinking and what about their lives stands out in such a way that they want to post it and share with essentially anyone. Especially women, lesbian sex-positive women. I started searching and found blogs that review sex toys, discuss safer sex practices, and advertise positive body-image classes. I want to find a way to be a part of that.

It blows my mind what an impact sex has on my life. Sex and it's intersection with violence I suppose is more like it. Sex and force and the questions that can linger, the confusion that victims are left with. My life is largely compiled of grey area, yet my field of work requires boundaries to be clear. I would even say my boundaries are rigid in some aspects of my life, while non existent in others.

I've been preoccupied with sex lately and the role it has in my life. I've been grappling with how to separate all of the pain and dysfunction of my profession with the fantasies and dirty talk that my actual sex life is composed of. (A sex life that currently consists of hundreds of miles of distance, and a telephone.) I hope that I'm phrasing this correctly....I'm having a hard time feeling good about being a sex-positive feminist after listening to experiences of hurt and violence day in and day out. While there must be and clearly is a real distinction between people that hurt other people to feel powerful, and consensual adults who engage in healthy sexual activity, I find myself struggling to find it in all of the grey. (Is my job impacting my positive sexual identity?)

A few weeks ago, I was called out to a hospital around 11 pm to sit with a sexual assault victim.....I got into my car and screamed, "I'm so fucking sick of people being raped!!" at the top of my lungs. I was too angry to cry. I'm so angry. I'm so angry that people hurt other people. I'm so angry that women can take precautions; carry pepper spray, weapons, call friends, walk in groups, carry cell phones, start revolutions, and STILL many of them, myself included, have to live with the fear that our bodies are considered public property! I can take all of the precautions in the world, but that doesn't guarantee that I am safe.

I've never been a victim blamer...."she shouldn't have gone there alone at night..." "she shouldn't have been drinking....wearing that...etc etc...." But I think that somewhere inside I thought that I was immune. Deep down, in some fucked up space; victims are losers, and perpetrators are winners. Victims are blamed, and perps excused. I used to think it could never really happen to me. I've been with the agency I'm at for just over a year. It has taken that amount of time, at least twenty trips to emergency rooms with women and children who have been sexually assaulted, dozens of police interviews, and a handful of court hearings for me to fucking get it. It can happen to anyone. Intellectually, this is something that I have always known, but emotionally, it's finally starting to sink in. I am every one of those women whose hands I have held. I am them, and they are me. How humbling and simultaneously horrifying to realize that I am every woman, and that "she" is me.

I'm both moved spiritually and enraged beyond belief. I am more at peace, yet increasingly more unsettled than ever.

She. is. me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Scared of My Blog

I have to confess, I am scared of my blog. It's true. I've been sitting here with my laptop, appropriatley placed on my lap, typing and back-spacing and over thinking. What would be quality, first blog entry material? Do I explain who I am, why I'm here? In many ways I am a newbie to the world of blogging, but questioning, exploring, writing, trying to express thoughts so that they may become real; those are things I am familiar with. I'm exciting about the anonymity that comes with this, and about the ability to participate in important conversations.

There are many things about my identity and life experiences that impact the lenses through which I view the world. I am both a lesbian and feminist. I am sex-positive, I am the daughter of a union family, I am a sexual assault counselor. So I have a feeling that much of what I have to say is going to be coming from a place that reflects those parts of myself.

I've been preoccupied with gender-role issues lately. My latest attempt at a relationship is with a woman who lives 1,000 miles away, we met through a mutual friend on vacation and the sex was so good we met up again when she was visiting the Northeast, and then again, and again, and again. What we have has begun to evolve into more than just a physical penchant for one another. She's butch in many ways, and I'm loving it. Looking back on past relationships, I realized that my girlfriends have become progressively more butch over time. I'm so interested in exploring this further, as more than just a coincidence. By trade she repairs motorcycles, so the boots aren't just a sexy fashion accessory....more to come on our first encounter, but it involved those boots! Anyway, for that reason, I'll call her Boots. Speaking of her, she keeps texting and I think she needs some this looks like the end of my introduction for now...