Gender Jumble Part 1

Setting out on my morning walk the other day, headphones and sunglasses all set and water bottle in hand, I turned on my ipod shuffle got my dance music cranking and on came “It’s Raining Men.” It wasn’t a surprise, since as one of my favorite songs I have it on the playlist more than once. As I pumped my arms and legs to the beat my internal conversation started, as it always does, and I thought, “why is it that lesbians love to dance to this song so much?” I’ve been boggled by this question for years, and I feel the same way about that silly song “All the Single Ladies.” Why is it that we care little about the words and excuse them for the great beat of the music?

It’s not that I’m against enjoying songs that are written for heterosexuals, because I’ve translated many a Mary Chapin Carpenter song to work for two women, but it’s more the absurdity of it that hits me. What would a group of straight people think about a dance floor full of lesbians singing out loud to “It’s Raining Men?”

Which took me to the concept that I’ve been mulling about for years yet I haven’t put it into words on paper until now.  I call it the “Sexuality Spinner.” Remember those games that had the little spinner with the arrow that you flick to play the game and it spins around to land on a number, color, or word? That’s how I see sexuality. I think of it as an ever-evolving circle, not a continuum or line. I know that for me, I have found myself in various points on the circle at different times of my life. I feel like I continue to move daily, weekly and yearly, bouncing from one point to another.

We all are products of our experiences and gifts. We became who we are and continue to manifest traits based on what we go through in life. Every birth, death, milestone, relationship, job, friend, etc.,  leaves an impression on us that adds to who we are. Amorphous, androgynous, indefinable.

Why is it then, that we are so stuck on sexuality. Why do we have to define as a man or woman? Because of our genitals?

When I “came out” in the mid- 70’s, there were very little resources for me to find out more information on lesbianism. All I knew was that I liked other girls better than boys. Luckily, I had some friends who felt the same way. We could talk, share a few books that we found at bookstores, and figure out how we were going to be lesbians in our small-minded town.

Now, I sometimes kiddingly call myself a “lezzie,” as more of an inside joke with my wife, whose Aunt used to call her that, but in Jr. High School, it was NOT cool to be called a “lezzie.” It was embarrassing, especially since I didn’t know what it was at first, and when I heard the word “queer,” I had to go look it up in the dictionary. It was an “Aha moment” for me, for sure, to know that there was even a word for it! So, did that mean that there were other people out there like me?

I quickly learned that to let anyone know was NOT OK. I also learned, that most people didn’t understand it. My mother found out about me when she followed me up to my room one night when I stormed into the house after being out with my “friend.” We had just broken up from an off & on relationship of 3 years, and I was distraught. I didn’t respond to her much when she asked me questions, but I guess she finally put words to her suspicions and asked me if I was in love with my friend. My non-answer answered the question for her and what she said next is indelibly etched in my then 17 year-old mind forever. She said “I always wondered why you could pee so well standing up as a kid.”

Now, if you still have that sip of drink in your mouth and you haven’t splattered it all over your computer, you’re probably thinking the same thing I did when she said it. “WHAT?!!!”

My mother died in 1996, and I razzed her about that comment up to her death but I never did get an explanation. I’m guessing her thought bubble went…”Likes girls…boys like girls…must really be a boy…must have a penis?”

Any other ideas out there? Because I’ve pondered that comment for 34 years now and I can’t come up with any other possibility. Did I mention that she’s my mother, and that I’m her DAUGHTER, and surely she changed many a diaper of mine and I can tell you, there ain’t nothing surprising down there!

In full disclosure, I can honestly say, that I have had a few moments of penis envy in my life, but most of them involved a car ride and too much to drink. And, I know that if I polled a group of 10 other friends who grew up in a neighborhood and played outside, they would probably say that they were pretty darn good at peeing out in the woods instead of having to run inside to use the bathroom and miss whatever fun was at hand. I had good muscles and I could do it like any other skill. Nowadays, not so well, but that’s TMI.

To get back to my Sexuality Spinner, I didn’t have any brothers, and my parents didn’t have any boys. My father was an electrical design engineer, and loved to work on his Model A Ford car in the garage, tinker in the basement in his darkroom and with his inventions. I was a curious, eager, and smart kid, and I learned so much from him and became very handy at fixing just about anything that broke. I mowed the lawn, took out the trash, cleaned the house, cooked in the kitchen, and did whatever I was required to do as part of the family system. There were no roles imposed. I had no limits besides financial, so if I had the skills and the “stuff,” I could do just about anything. I was encouraged to be independent, innovative, creative, and reach for my goals.

That was the time, I think, that most of the energy for lesbian & gay rights started to really ramp up. Back then, we didn’t want to be lumped in with the men and called “gay.” “Lesbian & strong,” or “feminist,” but not “queer,” or “gay,” Back then, the lesbians were hidden, yet obvious to each other. We had a secret nod. Nowadays, not so much. If you saw a lesbian couple, you would often wonder, “who is the butch & who is the femme,” since that was & is the way it seems to look from the outside.

Roles. That’s what it is about too. Who does what. In the bedroom, the home, the yard, at the dump, kills the bugs, traps the rodents, picks out the curtains, pays the bills, etc. Yet who is to say what jobs we each should do? And if I do more cooking and cleaning, and my wife does the yard work and trash, is she the butch and I’m the femme? STOPPPP!

I’ve never wanted to be a man, and don’t think I need to be one to be strong, teach my kids how to throw and hit a ball or mow the lawn, shovel the driveway, assemble legos, lift heavy objects or talk to my son about boy stuff. And, I don’t think that he is deprived as a boy to have 2 moms instead of a mom & dad, despite what the Tea Party thinks. I’m the one always bawling at the sad TV shows on TV. I’m the one who sews things when they’re ripped and I know plenty of guys who do the same. I’m a butch and a femme and a mother and a sister, a wife and a friend, and I have the ability to be anything that I want to be!

I think that in the future, there will be much more blurring of the lines between “male” and “female” and that the public consciousness will start to allow for that fuzziness more in our language, pronouns, signage, marketing and to inclusion of more trans people in the media.

But more about that in my next blog. Stay tuned, and please leave your comments, whether you agree with me or not!

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jen
    Nov 15, 2011 @ 18:03:00

    Yes, yes and yes! I love this post! I agree with you wholeheartedly and, though historically identified by society as a heterosexual female ally, I have recently begun to self-identify as genderqueer for the very same reasons you have written about! I, too, was raised with only sisters and in a family where the traditional gender roles were blurred (dad was a preschool teacher, mom an MBA). I am truly grateful that my parents were able to afford me opportunities to develop skills typically attributed to males because it has led me to become stronger and more empowered individual. It’s about time the rest of society caught up! 😉

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