I was talking to my friend J today about blogging, and I realized what it is that feels so safe here. I am able to present myself truly and without filters here because it’s inherently a truth-telling mechanism. I love that. I have my private life and it stays as private as I need it to. But if my life somehow offers an example that others might find valuable, it’s tremendously empowering to ME that I can present that example openly and without worrying about any kind of rejection.
You, dear reader, may disagree with me. You might openly disagree and leave me a message about which we can converse. But you cannot reject me. You may simply go away if you don’t like what I say. That’s not rejection, that’s choice, and choice is empowering. For example, if you don’t like abortions, don’t have one. That’s your choice and your right. However, it’s beyond your rights, imho (gentlemen), to tell someone ELSE what their choices are. And that is what I have come to see has happened not only to me, but to a LOT of folks in my generation. We were given choices. We weren’t asked questions to find out what we thought, we were told what to think. From the beginning, from pink and blue, all the way up in life, it’s choices between: off and on, left or right, up or down, lots of binary choices… Those are safe ones. Yes or no. No messy maybes in the way…
But what happens if you have a personal awareness that “binary” choices are inherently incomplete? That’s part of my story. I’m a maybe. I’ve always been a maybe. I have dealt with what is now called “gender dysphoria” since I was old enough to perceive myself as a person separate from others. I had a father with a wicked sense of humor, heavily tainted by the sexism and male privilege taught from the cradle in Texas, which is, indeed, “a whole nother country…”, and he thought teasing was a way to make his children strong enough to deal with the outside world. So I was given some strange ideas about how the world was, from the earliest time I can remember.
I was told, at a most formative time, that had my parents not gone to the drive-in the night my mother went into labor, my parents wouldn’t have had to rush to the hospital. While rushing to the hospital, we hit some railroad tracks real hard, and my balls got knocked off (I’m not joking. I still don’t know whether my father was joking or seeing me as the “male” person I had to be if I wasn’t a frilly lil girl). The “joke” goes on, if you can believe it, with the “fact” that my name was going to be Eli, had I not been born a girl. All of this would have been just a bizarre joke had I not already questioned my gender at the age of four when I had the first of many dreams of being a male person. Nothing particularly interesting about the dreams except that I was always a boy or a man, never a girl or a woman. There were other pieces to this puzzle, including the weirdly prophetic “poor lil girl ain’t got but one mama” (later in life, when I identified myself as a lesbian soccer mom, that came floating up from somewhere in my memory.), and the always popular parental temporary tattoo: “sweet” (in ballpoint pen) over one lil pectoral muscle, no mammaries in sight for years to come, and “sour” over the other…
Later in life, much later, I sat at lunch with a friend who suddenly blurts out the question, “Do you have a nickname?” I asked why, never having heard this question so pointedly before. She replied, “your name is so feminine. Surely you don’t go by that name all the time? You must have some nickname that people call you, don’t you?” I didn’t. I had lived with that name for nearly half a century, and I had tried on several occasions when younger to change it, but no one took me seriously. I was forced to stick with that name until someone poked me in the brain and made me think for myself. A month later, I went to court, and changed my name legally to the name I now bear. No man gave it to me, no one assigned it to me, I chose it myself, and it is deliberately a non-genderized name. It’s one both girls and boys are given often, and its a name that means something to me. All three names do. I made sure of it. I renamed myself to fit my view of myself. To hell with the rest of you, this is me, not that, was my thinking. But it didn’t settle the gender thing for me. I still wasn’t a girl or a woman of any kind, yet I certainly did NOT want to climb into that man box and attempt to be THAT kind of person. That didn’t feel any more right to me than my assigned gender did. (I must say, tho, had I been offered a pill, pre-puberty, that allowed me to choose, I’d have different plumbing than I do now… Then, I would most CERTAINLY have chosen the other box!)
One of the positive by products of my life as a “none of the above” (the box I wish I could check instead of male or female) is that I’ve managed to break my societal binary training. I’ve managed to develop an awareness of MORE than yes or no: maybe. Maybe I’m not either one of those. Maybe I’m some other kind of human, not just the run of the mill bipedal humanoid. Maybe the aliens DID leave me here, which I sincerely thought, growing up in the Star Trek years (yeah, the original one, kids…). But MAYBE became more than just a question. It represented a whole other possibility, a hugely undiscovered possibility: the THIRD way. More than left or right: maybe there’s a middle, for example. More than on or off, maybe there’s another setting (sleep mode on pcs). More than a binary world, maybe there IS a world in which people CHOOSE how they present themselves to others, rather than let others tell them how to present properly. Two words sum it up: Picture day. That was the worst day of the year for me. No matter what, I had to leave the house frilled beyond belief by a beloved aunt whose fantasies of having a hair salon were squashed all over her nieces’ heads whether they liked it or not. There are maybe 3 of the 12 photos of my scholastic career in which I resemble the person I actually am, and they are the ones my parents hid and DIDN’T show others. Nice shaming technique then, but I know now they were merely showing their own binary training. Those were pictures of a none of the above person, and that was just not an acceptable presentation. Took me nearly 40 years to get over some of this.
Why do I share this now and in such a potentially public way? Because that is the third way. I will not shoehorn myself into a false personage just to make others comfy, nor will I rub their faces in it (by revealing details about my family — my story is mine, theirs is not). I’m not saying this to make those who fit nicely in their assigned boxes feel bad; I’m saying it so they know they’re lucky to fit the assigned box so nicely, and to be careful for those who do not. I’m not trying to make my parents feel bad; my mother, who passed on some years ago, already knows what she needs to know, and my father and I are working on things. The trouble is, he’s no longer the person who did those weird things to me when I was a child. He’s a different person, too. If I have the right (in fact, the responsibility) to show myself truly for who I am, then I do NOT have the right to deny my father the same. He’s grown, and changed, and in fact, was injured in the incident that surrounded my mother’s death, and he just is not the same person he was before that event. I have no right to influence his world in a negative way, as he had no right to do so with me. But I like to think that if he were an adult father of three today he would do things differently than he did in the 60s in Texas. I think we’d landed on the moon before he really got over Kennedy’s death happening in Texas. It’s not that Kennedy died. It’s not that Kennedy was assassinated. It’s that he was assassinated in TEXAS that upset my father. Real wild set of priorities that man had. But “had” is the operative word. That man is gone, and a tired old geezer sits in his shoes, wondering how to make sense of his eldest child. I cannot let that geezer go unloved into the dark. That tired old man made me who I am today, taught me the values I hold dear, gave me true skills to challenge the world and conquer it with. I have to find a third way to deal with him.
So, J, if you’re still with me, there IS a third way for you as well. The things that get you, the buttons that get pushed, those are the things that propel you onto the “third way” path. What does that mean? I don’t know. It’s your life. It’s your challenge. I just know for a fact that you have more than two alternatives. There IS more than off and on. What that looks like for you, J, for your family, for you, my readers, that’s YOUR path to travel. I assure you, no matter how wild the path, it is YOURS to travel and you alone are in charge. Generally, we are born alone, we die alone, and we alone are responsible for much of what happens along the way. That’s GOOD news. Maybe it feels kinda weird now, but it will lead you to a better place, if you walk with courage in the direction YOU feel led to follow. Good luck to all of you fellow travellers. Please share with me if you feel so inclined. If not, find someone else to read. I’m not the only one who’s spilling their guts on a blog: go find somebody inspiring to you, whatever that means. I hope you continue to read my blog, to find out what my third ways have been, but if not, go in peace and be healthy.
For those interested, I recently learned the difference between combusting and vaping plant matter. If you are a chronic sufferer of some health issue and have medical marijuana available to you, or if you want to leave the damaging part of smoking cigarettes behind, please check out my second blog: vaping4life.wordpress.com. I’ve had profound realizations since I began that path, and I want to share them separately from my own experience. So if you want to learn how to vape and what that means to your supplies of precious expensive mmj, or you want to stop paying the large tobacco companies for free cancer and expensive cigarettes, join me there to find out how to have fun and save money with vaping. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back as soon as I can with more about the challenges of maybe and finding that third way. Or something. Who knows? I don’t yet. When I do, you’ll read it. Thanks for sticking with me so far.