Thursday, April 09, 2009

Some Things I Needed

So. It might be redundant to say gender issues are a theme of my life right now, but the past few days have just been... you know when you're reading a book, and you get to the chapter that uses the title in a bunch of sentences? It's been like that.

I had dinner with the wonderful Jennifer Miller on Tuesday. Here's the short youtube version of the documentary Juggling Politics about her political Circus Amok:

On the way to see her screen the film and perform that night, I got harassed for the first time about my buzz cut. Nothing traumatic - a gang of ten-year-olds shouting. I didn't hear most of it. A friend told me later that they asked if I was a boy or a girl.

The next day, we workshopped a short story in a fiction class that had a scene implying rape was justified/healed by pregnancy. I wish I was surprised that some other people didn't understand why it was upsetting.
Later that day I watched the single most disturbing film of my life. There were multiple graphic rape scenes. My professor apologized afterward for not warning us about them. I was trying not to break down for the rest of the three-hour class.

Today in another class were talking about Alison Bechdel's Fun Home. That's always a little bothersome because I'm practically a Bechdel fangirl, but also because the book deals with sexuality and gender a lot, and I'm constantly being reminded that my understanding and experience with these topics (and therefore the connections and reactions I have with the book) doesn't match the majority. There's a lot of examples I could pull out, but what affected me today was Bechdel's story about seeing a pornographic wall calendar and feeling inexplicably exposed and ashamed, and then telling her brothers to call her Albert instead of Alison. Other students assumed it was just another example of wanting to be butch and masculine, but I think the inclusion of the calendar points to something else - the inherent vulnerability of being female.

So my head is swelling with all of this and more. Shaving my head has spurred some thoughts on where I fall on the gender spectrum. The other day a friend online posted something I really needed to read: she, like me, was wondering about her gender identity, and she, like me, had the thought, "Who the fuck am I to be transgender? How dare I?" I have this feeling, like, if I wasn't strictly female, I would have figured it out by now. Which is, of course, bullshit.
I also found Alison Bechdel's coming out story online this week, and this scene was really significant:

Speaking of shaving my head, I posted some photos on my facebook account, and somehow the whole of my extended family knows about it now. I expect this entry itself will be read by at least one or two family members that google me with enough intensity. I don't know if I can express this without sounding like a hypocrite, or self-important, but, the thing is, if I write publicly about my personal life (which I have, more in song than here, but I hope this blog is headed for a more personal tone), I don't do it for people that I know. I'd prefer if people that I know let me choose how and when I share things with them. I write publicly in the hopes that someone else needs to hear something that I have to say; just as I needed to hear about Jennifer Miller and Circus Amok when I came to accept that my body would never match ideals about hair (without much unwanted suffering), just as I needed to read that Alison Bechdel was still struggling with her identity at age nineteen as I'm still struggling with mine at age twenty-one, just as, in that fiction workshop, I needed to hear that one other person was upset by that scene before I could say it myself.

Today on Feministing, this song was posted:

I've been listening to it kind of non-stop all day. After a week of feeling drained the casual nature of misogyny and the normativeness of ignorance about gender's complexities, I needed this.

(edit: CocoRosie's history of racism has been pointed out in the comments on Feministing. Ugh. Their song made me cry, but, ugh.)

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