Posts Tagged ‘gender’

Because why should it surprise me?

February 8, 2013

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How easy it is to learn, as easy as it is to breathe. With no pressure, no expectations, no forcing studying of subjects children aren’t ready for or interested in.

Coconut has quite an academic bent, being excellent at both maths and literacy. She is drawn to literacy – loving written books, oral stories, always asking what signs mean, reading some words on her own. She also carts a notebook and pencil everywhere she goes and can often be found poring over it, doing her ‘writing’ and daydreaming. You can imagine how this makes my heart swell.

Maths, though, is everywhere. You can’t escape it. Building with Legos, noticing patterns, counting, using money, measuring, comparing sizes, shapes….your child is exposed to math whether you are consciously trying to do so or not! Coconut does like math games on the iPad, and she chooses to play the ones for 5-6 year olds, as the others have been outgrown. Maths is a casual thing to her, just something she knows how to do.

When she was two, she did her first oral addition. ‘This doll has one bed, and this doll has another bed. That is two beds in this dollhouse!’

This last week, she did her first oral subtraction – first I’ve noticed, anyway. TMD was off sick, and planning to sleep while the rest of us went off to Nana’s house to play. Coconut assigned meaning to placeholders, in maths speak. In real person speak, she used her fingers to represent members of the family. ‘This finger is Mummy, this is Mama, this is Snort, this is Coconut, this is Nana. There are five of us. But Mummy will stay home, so I will put this finger down and then there will be just four of us.’

This shit really struck me – look! She’s learning! She understands addition and subtraction, she is able to do math on her fingers and not just the iPad! I felt amazed. But thinking about it, why the surprise?

She is left to her own devices most of the time, follows her own interests. Of course I guide her, we talk about what we are doing in real life, I answer her multitude of questions. But maths is real to her because we use it. Maths is real because five of us were going to go somewhere, but only four went because one was ill. Girls often do well in maths and science in school until about puberty, though girls are often less confident in these subjects in general. I’ll leave speculative and researched reasons aside to say that in THIS house, in our life, girls live and breathe math and science and they triumph.

We can all make skirts, we can all read together, we can all build structures and do experiments together. We can do what we want, when we want, without being made to feel that we ought to do more, that we aren’t capable enough.

And when I look into my daughter’s eyes, when she casually points at words at age two and reads them, well, I confess I feel relief. Learning is happening, whether I am conscious of it or not. We can’t help it. I just hope the lessons, morals, and ideas we learn continue to be as amazing and productive as the years go on. It’s amazing to see their minds blossom, the connections they make on their own, the mathematical and literacy related leaps they make. I am always surprised by how much they know….which means I have to continue growing and learning and trusting.

Even if I have to use my fingers to count all the ways we develop.

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Toes.

September 7, 2012

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Flair board

March 14, 2009
My current flair board I’m about to erase (see, this is the energy!):
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New pretty (minimalist?) one:
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I can’t wait to find out what these babies are. Did I mention we find out on TMD’s birthday?

For John.

September 19, 2008

I sat down on a bench at – where else – my train station this morning. No sooner had I read a couple of pages of The Stand, the guy next to me said, ‘Look at this.’ He held out a very tattered book full of notes in the margin. He flipped to the title page where he had drawn out an elaborate mind map and pointed to the middle circle.

‘This says women like men with emotional variety. Do you think that’s true?’

An odd beginning to a conversation with a complete stranger, but also a complete delight. Our conversation meandered along – gender politics, accents, counselling, psychics. At the end he offered his hand and asked for my name.

If there were more Johns in the world, what an exceptional chance we’d all have for early morning meaningfulness.

fifteen minutes preparation. (breast reduction, part one)

July 7, 2008

I may be unable to breastfeed, because when I was twenty years old I had a breast reduction. Most of my life I had allowed myself to be defined by my breasts – not on what other people said, though once I was in university my friends had plenty to say. No, I defined myself by having the biggest breasts. I don’t know what breasts meant to me then – being grown up, free, better than other people?

I was in third grade when I got my first bra; it was a B cup. The next bra I got was a D cup. And from there, they grew and grew. I grew and grew. I remember feeling fat, out of place, but when I look back on pictures of the younger me I am not fat. I see myself as an awkward, out of place, non-fat little girl. I didn’t feel little when I was twelve; I felt old, weary, wondering already if this was it. Unable to picture a place in life when I would be happy; unsure what happiness really was. None of that particularly bothered me. Because I had always been unhappy, I didn’t realise what ‘happy’ was.

I was content when I was alone, though. Free. When it was just me and the woods, or just me and my notebook, or just me and my toys. I played with toys for years past when I imagined other people did – just now, I stopped myself from writing ‘girls.’ I don’t think I felt like a girl. I didn’t want to kiss boys or wear make-up, and my first attempts at powder were an unmitigated disaster.

My one connection to the women’s world was my breasts.

I didn’t think of them as being unnaturally large until camp, when I was in university and in a world populated by forests and raunchy talk. I remember those breasts, my breasts; I once held a giant maglite under them. I have a picture of me with a milk carton neatly balancing on the top. Those breasts that hung to my waist, nipples way down at the bottom instead of up in the middle, where I thought nipples were supposed to be.

My breasts let me down in high school. No matter how the boys touched or kissed or sucked, my nipples remained flat. I would peek at other girls when I had the chance; at a camp reunion, the first time I saw another pair of breasts, I was shocked to see that the girl next to me had nipples that poked out. I always wondered if I felt like a Barbie – big breasts with no nipples, just a smooth softness. No boys complained. My best friend’s brother once gave me a great compliment on them, in the middle of the night, secret in our world on the couch.

He wrote me an insulting email last year, and I took it as a compliment. He spoke about those teen times when we fumbled and tried and then he would ignore me, he said they were his hottest fantasy and he thought of me still. I think that’s what I needed; I needed a boy to love me, to desire me, to want me. I was never the girl boys talked about, wondered about, competed for. Or at least I suspect I was not.

My big breasts did not win the boys over, and when I stepped into a world of women there seemed to be only two alternatives – giant, swaying breasts not confined in a bra, or tight, small, perfect breasts in or out of a bra. I was neither. My breasts were beautiful, and nippled, round and soft, full and womanly. I liked the way they looked, but worried about what my male roommate said were ‘baseball nipples.’ I began to carve a public identity out of my breasts; or rather, I allowed Chirp and other friends to do it for me.

I became the girl with the giant breasts. Maybe they were proof of who I was, who I would become, what my potential was. Maybe they were signs of everything that was going wrong. Maybe they were sexual, maybe they were fat, maybe.

Every year I saw a nice Jewish doctor for my cervical smear and breast exam. (Even now, I don’t like to give myself self-exams. The idea of pushing, pushing, trying to find a lump, repulses me.) My doctor was gentle, showing me how to relax my inner thighs, telling me her sister was gay, listening to me. The only bad thing she ever did was tell me I would have to pick – while either was okay, I had to like boys or girls. I could not like both. She made me angry, and I didn’t say anything.

I mentioned the pains – deep grooves from my underwires that never went away, that hurt all the time. Extreme back pain. An inability to sit at a table or desk without heaving my breasts onto the surface in order to give myself from support and ease the weight. Now I wonder if those things were true; even as I can see the red gashes, I wonder if I made them up. So strong are my guilt and doubt.

My doctor suggested that a breast reduction was something that might be able to help me. And because neither she nor the surgeon said I needed to lose weight first, because both agreed it was a good idea, because no one I knew said maybe it wasn’t, I did it. But mostly I had my breasts sized down in order to prove to myself that they were large in the first place. I remember holding the pillow on my lap during the drive to the hospital, wondering why I was doing this. Not believing I would do it.

Yet I did. Or rather, I allowed it to be done to me.

fifteen minutes up.

Yes, I said ‘not.’

May 30, 2008

I’ve thought of all sorts of quirky things to write here, and then forget them by the time I have access to a computer. Am currently at work, living in dread that a homeless gay kid/adult is going to come back. We don’t work with people over the age of 19, but he was 20 and looked so sad I couldn’t turn him away. Fuck, I hate housing. In this country, once you’re 18 or older you stand little to no chance of getting social housing.

I don’t know what the solution is. On one hand, I can see that it would be impossible to live in a world with more social housing than private; it’s just not practical. But then you have these real, live people living rough on the streets. Because I am not a government bigwig, I am not in a position to pass laws without reallyunderstanding the impact they have on local people and communities. I am in a position where I am meeting these people face-to-face every day, hearing terrible stories of suffering, abuse, hardship. Joy, too, but that is much rarer.

In other news, two nights ago I had a dream about Boy I Almost Married. Last night I had a dream about Boy Who Was My First True Love. Apparently I am being treated to top ten list of past lovers/boyfriends/girlfriends. Except I don’t think there will be any ex-girlfriend dreams. I’ve only properly dated one girl before I got with TMD, and she was not exactly serious relationship material. As TMD always points out, I once shouted, ‘I don’t even like you as a PERSON!’ when I was breaking up with her.

TMD was sat on the balcony of our apartment during the post-breakup weirdness/warfare, and she actually wrote in her journal something like, ‘I would NEVER date Existere.’ Thanks, hon.

Okay, not sure where this is going now. Sexuality is just a big topic politically and personally at the moment. Corporate T stayed over on the weekend and starting talking about ‘that one scale of sexuality.’ I assumed he meant the Kinsey Scale and offered up a piece of education. 0=straight as an arrow, 3=bisexual glory, 6=gayer than gay. Then all the other numbers are in between.

When I offered up the piece of information that I was probably a four, he was a wee bit shocked. Still, I’ve got to carry out the bisexual lesbian pride! In case you are not hip to my lingo (which is very old and stolen from stickers the bisexual pride people put up when I was in university), it means my core identity is lesbian, but with a bit of bisexual flavouring.

Ah, from homelessness to being queer. What a political activist I am turning into.

Not.

How do you say ‘bin’ in ___________? (Or: create your own family when you need to.)

April 19, 2008

Opposite Gender Soulmate (OGS) and I have been emailing up a storm in the past few days, trying to figure out the how, when, and where of intercontinental friendship turned same-city-friendship-for-a-week. He asked what we were going to do, and I pointed out that my city was about 600 times the size of his. I offered historial sights, walks along the river, touristy bullshit, gay things, our house, and on and on. I asked him what he wanted to do. I also told him that a hug would be the best.

This is what I got back:

I’m not going to plan to “see _______” on this trip. I’d need a lot more time and not be in work mode. And I also don’t want to spend like it’s a vacation. But fortunately company pays for my food, so that will free up a little bit of my own money for some sightseeing and adventure.

I think it might be nice to go walking in your favorite places. Learn about what your life is like. See gay things. Have a good meal or two. Remember the first day we hung out in [university]? Lunch and then lazy walking around and frivolous shopping and getting to know each other… let’s do that.

A hug will be wonderful!

I remember that first real time we hung out, and how magic it felt. Like walking right into someone else’s heart, and letting him into yours, and just instantly being comfortable. I remember his flip-flops and his made up stories about a trailer trash girl named Amber. I remember how hot it was, how good it was to laugh so loudly. Instant friendship, just add water.

I remember that I needed to change my pad (all stories go back to poop or periods, don’t they?) and put it in his garbage can, and he told me that the tissues he’d ‘used’ earlier were in there. The possibility of a Pad Baby seemed too good to not share, even with someone I’d talked to for less than 24 hours. When he was more amused than grossed out, I knew I’d found what Anne of Green Gables would call a kindred spirit.

I’d like to meet him at the airport with a sparkly sign, but like all good friends, it’s just not needed. It’s been a long time since I saw this boy, and I suppose now he’s a man. A long time since I met this boy-man, since he strummed his guitar, since we Powered Through on novels, since I cried about my mother’s rejection of my sexuality.

This boy was with me when I had no one else – except Cookie – and he was the first person to tell me that my upbringing, particularly my relationship with my father, just wasn’t normal. He took me to fireworks at his house, I took him to the most special place on earth to me: camp. He became a Girl Scout as I evolved ever more as a queer girl.

We lived together in that apartment with the wonderful balcony and potato maggots under the microwave. He slept on the floor under a velour light green blanket, scaring the shit out of me on several occasions. I forced him to drive me to class. We lived a life of driving across the street to buy all of our meals at a cheap gas station fast food restaurant. Him, me, Super Fly Gay Boy, and Ex-Girlfriend shared that space together.

A clear shower curtain and a pink sex toy named Jimbo.

And next Sunday, he will see this new city I live in, this new country I am part of. Old and new coming together, and I can’t wait.

Do something real today. I dare you.

March 21, 2008

I was severely annoyed to find a group on Facebook yesterday dedicated to ‘not allowing lesbians and gays in my country.’ A very wide mixture of people had joined it, in the hundreds.

This inspired me to use the ‘notes’ facility for the first time in ages, and I asked people if anyone knew how to report offensive material. Then I hunted around, figured it out, and posted another note explaining how. I also sent an email to many of the people on my friends list.

I got an immediate response from most of the people I contacted. Everyone complained about this group.

This morning, FunkyGayBoy let me know that the group has now been banned. That feels really good. I think I am missing my activist-y roots. I was a regular cowboy bisexual rampager when I was about twenty years old. No, I never painted that giant rock on campus or chalked sidewalks, but I did Gay Myself Up.

Purple hair, pink hair, shaved head. Pierced tongue (god, I miss that. Tried to get it repierced with Blondie a few years ago, and was told my tongue was all fucked up. Sigh.), rainbow accessories, Birkenstocks. Overalls. Tye dye. The Indigo Girls. Yes, I was loud and proud and wanted no one to mistake who I was.

Now, people are surprised I’m queer. I look straight, whatever that really means. I guess it means I pass as being ‘normal.’ No one would ever make an assumption about my sexuality – an assumption that it was other than heterosexual, anyway. I have been feeling more and more enraged lately with how this makes me feel. On a recent training I went on, a simple condom demonstration pissed me off so much I felt the need to share with the group that not ALL teenagers use condoms. Lesbians, for instance – ones without sex toys, anyway.

The constant assumption that everyone fits the status quo actually hurts my heart. I feel part of an invisible minority. If I were Asian, everyone could tell by the colour of my skin. Because I am queer and ‘normal looking’, no one can tell how very different I feel. My experience of the world is radically different than that of straight people, and well meaning colour-blind, ‘everyone is the same’ people really miss the point.

Argh.

I feel very, very committed to getting my MSc and working with trans people who are considering transitioning. The huge impact this has on sex, relationships, core identity, social perceptions – wow. I take my hat off to those brave people who are strong enough to challenge perceptions about what gender means. I find the courage to be yourself just about the most attractive thing in the world.

Righteousness.

January 22, 2008

Back to condoms, and inclusiveness.

I’m on this advanced training to do sexual health work with young people. Today, we had to plan and deliver a session to our colleagues for feedback. Two girlies I adore delivered a session on condoms. It was a good idea. Person A wants to use condoms, Person B doesn’t; they try to convince each other.

I looked at my blank piece of paper where I was supposed to list all the reasons I wouldn’t use condoms, and in big, angry letters across the top I wrote:

Lesbians don’t use condoms.

I was shocked the the anger I felt at not being recognised or included. And if I was a teenager, I can only imagine my response would have included a fair helping of feeling uncomfortable and isolated. Then my eyes drifted to the top right of the handout, and the name of the book popped out at me. It was very gender specific – two genders. What if I was a trans teen?

If you are feeling confused about your gender or sexuality, being utterly ignored in sex and relationships training is not a good thing. It could make you feel like a freak, alone, angry, sad, upset. All of which are not okay if you are trying to impart feelings of good sexual and emotional health to young people.

At the end of their session, I voiced my concerns.

After the whole day was over, one of the lovely girls asked me outright how they could have been more inclusive. Another staff member hopped in and said it had never crossed her mind that condoms wouldn’t be good for everyone. And the thing is – that’s what I expect. I expect heterosexuality to be taken as the norm, for the lesbian/gay/bi/trans community to be not included in those thoughts.

All of these books or workshops always include a few, well placed sentences that affirm being gay. (Being trans is just never mentioned – do people not realise this exists, or do they not know how to talk about it?) Those sentences piss me right the fuck off. I want to believe the person saying/writing them has good intentions, but it would be so much better to be inclusive in EVERY activity you did, rather than throwing in a token bit about the gays and expecting it to all be okay.

Lately sexuality has been on my mind a lot, and I suppose I was hurt today that two friends (who I plan workshops with in real life) would never even consider that their session could leave me/a gay teenager out of the loop.

If you are a gay teenager, or a trans teen, and you have found this site…guess what. You are not alone. And we are not freaks.

‘Very’ is underated.

January 6, 2008

Can’t believe I have to go back to work tomorrow. I want to keep on living in this land of endless days of annual leave. I want to learn to drive our new car, feeling very cool once I eventually master a manual. I want to wander around the city with people from Alabama. I want to watch Buffy all day long, and then sleep in the next morning.

It’s been a long two weeks without work. Normally these long breaks fly by, but I suppose a lot happened. I’m feeling very, very tired – and very, very, very lazy. Still, we own a car. It is the first link in a chain of events that lead to goodness. With a car, we can go explore areas out of the city – driving around to see houses also means we’ll see a lot more of an area than we would with our little bus tickets. And a house means, well, financial security and babies. Though the Baby Research terrifies me – I now firmly think we need to buy a place before trying to conceive. It would be very, VERY easy to spend our whole house deposit trying to make my tummy full of little humans.

I want to see a financial type person ASAP…..because I am dead serious about wanting to quit my job this year. If we want the brutal truth, it would be quite nice to gracefully bow out in March, when my company officially ceases to exist. I have a guaranteed job working for the local government lined up – with the same job title, and a missing job description. I don’t feel too great about that. But there is no denying that working full time on a halfway decent salary will be a good thing as far as mortgages go.

I never fully appreciated anything my parents said about money when I was growing up. Still, once we have a life when TMD is done with her MA and I am no longer studying (though I don’t imagine I will ever really stop, because I am addicted), we will have enough money to live on, even if our salaries are no higher than they are at present. Academia is expensive, yo. (My piece of wisdom for today, in case you were wondering.)

I read somewhere that ‘yo’ may be used as a gender neutral pronoun. It apparently evolved naturally, so will be a more credible word. Last time I checked, I did not use the word ‘yo’ to describe someone as gender neutral….or gender anything. Unless it is the equivalent of ‘hey, you.’

Argh. Anyway.

Laziness.

I need to be putting myself out there, applying for jobs. I tell you something, though, I live a life where things just happen. They always have. When I was first dating TMD, I was living at camp all by my lonesone  – except for the camp ranger. When the end of September came, I needed a job. I was driving the golf cart down to check the mail, my foot slipped, and I ran over the mailbox. It actually wrapped itself around the axle of the golf cart. (Did I mention I was wearing pigtails, black boxer shorts with dancing skeletons all over them, and a tye-dye shirt?)

The camp ranger had company over that day, and both witnessed my glorious collision. Mr. Camp Ranger’s Friend promptly offered me a job.

So you see, I have little proof that sitting on your ass and doing nothing to prepare for your future does not work.