I’m happy to report that I’ve been in a pretty good place lately, feeling mostly happy. I’ve been trying to take a step back, see my life as a whole, instead of just my gender expression. In general, that’s been going ok. I’ve said before, and I’m coming to believe on a deeper level, I basically live the life I feel good about, feel comfortable in. I have a spouse and a family who love me as I am. My friends also. I work in a field, with a population, that takes me as I am whether they can figure it out in terms they understand or not. By way of example: a resident’s daughter came to me the other day, wanting to thank me for the love and care I show her mother. She reported that her mother’s life is made exponentially better for my pastoral presence. She made my day. In fact, I’m blushing just remembering her saying that. She then said to me, “the only tiny glitch seems to be that she can’t figure out what gender you are.” I looked her straight in the face and said, “me neither. your mom is in plenty of, if not good, company.” We laughed and she said, “who really cares I guess. the reality is you’ve got the goods and we are so grateful you are here!” More blushing. And assuming that having the goods means something positive 🙂
Anyway, I’ve been feeling somewhat glib just living my life in the spaces in between. Just being me and not trying to put too fine a point on it. Even deep sea fishing with Jo a few weeks ago I strolled into and used the men’s bathroom on the ship and no one batted an eye (except my kid to tease me a bit). Small disclaimer here though, it was purely accidental… it was just the restroom closest to where we were fishing, I didn’t see the sign and, well, I needed to go. Really though I’m feeling quite content, not pushing any agenda or trying to be anything I’m not either way.
And then I went to the bat mitzvah party of one of Emily’s congregants. I have a paper bag handy here in case merely describing it I begin to hyperventilate. Every single song for a solid hour was orchestrated by a caterwauling D.J. who split the room repeatedly into “Ladies on this side! Gents over here!” and “Girls, show these guys a thing or two! Guys, let’s show them what we’ve got!” Women swirling in circles on one side of the room and men clapping, stomping, cheering on the other. It was an indefatigable division of male and female in mock antagonistic competition that flaunted pink vs blue, twirling dresses and muscular suits. I was only antlers short of deer-in-the-headlights paralysis. Every time I thought it was over he’d cue another round of raucous rivalry.
Neither fish nor fowl, I sat awkwardly in the corner trying desperately to disappear or at least appear indifferent/unaffected. No one else seemed to mind or notice. I sat alone, with the 4 or 5 elderly people in the room who were avoiding hip fractures. I felt awkward, freakish and ashamed. I studiously avoided making eye contact with anyone, specifically and especially those involved in the fracas on the dance floor.
So much for serenity and composure and cavalierly living in the spaces in between. Aside from the shame, I also felt a growing irritation. Why do I have to choose?! Why is gender, choose one, a required field in so many places?! At least Victoria’s Secret has a third option: prefer not to say. Not that that’s so much better. Aren’t there other ways to relatively equally divide a room full of people? How about, “everyone with brown eyes over here!”, or, “everyone whose name begins with A through L over here!”?? I know, “let’s have people with winter birthdays on this side!” There have to be other ways. Be creative people!
I realized later, in the comfort and security of my car, driving home, that indeed I did have a choice in some respects. If I’d really wanted to participate (and quite frankly, even if there were no gender distinctive requirements I would have avoided participation like the plague), what would have happened if I’d just gotten up and alternately joined either line? Self assurance goes a long way. I have to remember that. Like the sailors on the fishing boat or the elderly woman and her daughter, who might be curious about my gender, but really they don’t care. I think along with integrity I might need to work on my aplomb.