20+ questions about gender & sexual identity (pt. 2)

Continued from last Saturday: 20+ questions from my special niece for a middle school project she was doing.  Now answered after she began high school half a year later. (Hi, Mickey!)

  • How was your relationship with your father?
Thank the heavens I can use the present tense here. My dad, aka Pops, has, like my mom, always been my champion. And like her, always only to the best of his ability. In some ways I think he has been capable of understanding my gender variance a bit more empathetically than sympathetically, which is the best my mother could get to.  Even then, she was only partway through the process of knowing who I was as an adult before she died.  While my mom was an atypical woman, it wasn’t her gender or sexual identity that made her atypical. I think this is a tad more the case with my dad.

Also, he always has, and continues to invite and delight in lengthy philosophical conversations about society.  He has taken an interest in conversations about gender and sexual identity for as long as I’ve been willing to have them with him, and I think I was a way better Intro Women’s Studies teacher as a result of the hours I’d spent trying to make elemental cases for my dad.  At ninety, in many ways he’s still a very open, curious person. Even if strong and complex feelings confound him.  As they do many.

  • Did you feel different from your peers as a child?
No, but then again, boys in the neighborhood and the occasional scrappy girl were the people I considered peers. I had years and years of youthful refuge in the socially acceptable gender space tomboy. There’s a word for the kind of gal I felt myself to be; people know it; it’s not automatically pejorative. Only hitch was, it was time-dated to expire at the onset of puberty, at which point I was supposed to become a proper girly-girl, interested in boys that way. That’s where I began to feel like a weird imposter. Since I tried to fit in, conventionally, ’til I got to my first year or two into college, where I found a lot more elbow room again.

Read more20+ questions about gender & sexual identity (pt. 2)

20+ questions about my gender & sexual identity (pt. 1)

{Ed. note: As one mechanism for staggering through National Blog Posting Month (did anyone notice I stumbled on Thursday? good! didn’t think so! out sick that day!), I’m going to root around in my COPIOUS  unpublished draft file and try to finish the ones that have withstood the test of time. }

About a million years ago, I received a series of questions for a middle school project from Mickey, one of my special nieces. “Special nieces” being the daughters of my friends, one of whom is one of my oldest continuous friendships, dating back to September 1980, the other of whom is her former spouse and the donor chum and thus special uncle to our children (more on extended familial nomenclature here). The whole family, thanks to the bond we’ve forged with love, trust, and biology, is more than special.

But so! Way back when, I told her I would try to answer them all, and since she is internet-savvy (what person over the age of 12 isn’t these days?), and knows I write here (for better and for worse, I’m sure!), I asked what she thought about my answering via a post, so as to have the whole conversation get wider. She liked the idea, and said she would link to my reply in her Tumblr site. So! Hey, Mickey! Here! Months upon months–indeed, a whole school later, ya big ole high schooler–below are my replies to your questions:

  • Where did you grow up?

The suburbs of the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • How big was your family as a kid?

Four people: a mother, a father, and a sister. We didn’t see the extended part of it very often during my growing up years, so it felt pretty “nuclear,” for all intents and purposes. Even if I knew there were others of our clan somewhere a few hours or states away.

  • What gender do you identify as?


  • What is your PGP (Preferred Gender Pronoun)?

“She” is totally fine by me, but I am never disgruntled when people read me as a he, and only “correct” people  if our exchange goes on and on and I figure eventually they’ll get embarassed if they all of a sudden realize they initially got it “wrong.” On a recent trip to New York I counted well over a dozen references to me as “Sir,” and was quite tickled. I consider it a sign I’m dressing smartly.

Read more20+ questions about my gender & sexual identity (pt. 1)

A brief gender-nonconforming kid resource roundup


Halloween trick-or-treating peanut, Berkeley, CA (2010).

Visual coda to yesterday’s post, in which I mentioned our boy’s Halloween costume choice of last year. I wrote a few words about it at the time, here.  If I were to have to guess now, I’d say there’ll be a long gap ’til the next such outfit makes a Halloween appearance, though of course I could be wrong. In the intervening year, his haberdashery pace car has shifted from Big Sister to Main Boy Chum at Preschool.  For all the complex reasons that are behind such evolving self-understandings. Advancing years, increased exposure to peer groups, push of culture, pull of self, survival instinct; you name it.

The costume  above met a glowing reception throughout the neighborhood last year, though, and not just because there were blinky red lights underneath the tulle (yes there were).  I mean, really. The kid looks better in that outfit than I ever could.  Also? At least the grown-ups in our neighborhood love kids unconditionally and clearly share our conviction that the best thing we can do for them is clear the runway ahead and help them take flight.

Re: clearing the runway and helping kids take flight (into a world they’re in the process of making) – below, I’ve collected a smattering of nifty resources by and for parents of gender nonconforming kids. Halloween’s pretty much the primo occasion for this, since it’s the one day of the year kids have a wide(r) berth to explore performing different identities.

Read moreA brief gender-nonconforming kid resource roundup

Treat or trick!

Halloween: not just for kids. As any student of Bakhtin or Butler will tell you, grown-ups get a lot out of dressing up, too.  For many years, since the kiddles became of trick-or-treating age, I’ve dressed up as a Fred MacMurrayesque dad. Moustache, tie, plastic pipe, sweater, newspaper under my arm, slippers. (Fred would have been cleanshaven, but I couldn’t very well walk around simply looking like a mannish lesbian, could I? I mean, where’s the theatricality in that?)

IMG_2091_2Not realizing the careful periodization in the 1950s, a straight woman friend, mom of one of my daughter’s chums, thought maybe my dad outfit might be improved by rigging up a TV with a sports game on it somehow extended in front of me, maybe with a bowl of chips affixed to one wrist and a beer to the other. At the time we were talking, her husband was off at a day-long 49er’s game (if you factor in the generous tailgating time built in pre-game) while she was saddled with both kids: who’s to blame her for veering toward the Archie Bunkeresque?

A rolling Barcalounger would have really been the only proper way to execute this concept, but then how would I be motivated to get up and reposition it from house to house? The kids are too little yet to be able to push me in a wheeled Barcalounger. You can see the challenge.

One sad year I was a walking ballot, with the exact language of Proposition 8 written out on one side, and the line-up of presidential choices on the other. Suggested votes “X’ed” in, natch. (In the fog of the intervening years, the kids now have it that I was one of the sycophantic playing cards in service to the Queen of Hearts in Alice’s Wonderland. All in all, I felt just about as effectual.)

Read moreTreat or trick!

Battered out in Alabama

I usually don’t pass on news items here, mostly because my discretionary time for posting is limited, and I know folks get news elsewhere, and my “beat” here tends mostly toward the parental. But I saw this at Towleroad, and felt compelled to draw it to wider attention: “Lesbian Beaten by a Dozen People at an Alabama Bar.”

The short version: a woman was jumped by 12 people; clear indications were made that she was being singled out for her appearance; she was the only one cuffed and arrested by local police.

Andy Towle embedded  video from the local news station on it, and I’ll let you see it over at his blog. But  I want to send you to it with a few quotations.  From one of the men attacking Laura Gilbert:

If you want to look like a man, you’ll get hit like a man.

And from Laura Gilbert, to the reporter:

I’m an American just like the rest of us are. I have rights. I have the same right as y’all do. Supposedly.

Please go check it out here.