13 October 2008

Thoughts about Wyoming

With the ten year anniversary of the hate crime that took Matthew Shepard’s life, I am thinking about Wyoming. As are so many us.

Have you been to Wyoming? Have you driven through the state or visited Yellowstone? I’ve done both in the last decade.

My daughter and I took a road trip through the upper Western states when she was transitioning from middle school to high school. She had gone to an “alternative” middle school, run by hippie-ish types that encouraged self expression, among other things. Part of her self expression was her pink, orange and purple hair. As we left Yellowstone, driving through western Wyoming, she got a scarf out of her bag to cover her hair. I asked her why and she said, “They kill people for being different here. I don’t want any of them to see my hair.” What’s a mother to say to that?

This spring my girlfriend and I flew out to Michigan to collect my daughter’s car and drive it back to Portland. On day two, as we approached the Wyoming state line, we got into an argument. We spent a couple of hours in stony silence. As we drove through Laramie we both started crying. “Why are we doing this to each other?” we cried. “We have to be strong together to fight against the assholes of this world.” We felt very strongly the sorrow, fear and shame that linger in Laramie; or at least linger in our minds when we think about Laramie. We couldn’t stop there, even though we needed gas. We couldn’t set foot on that ground, spend money in their town, even look away from the highway. Every fence reminded us. We pressed on through the town and filled the tank away to the west, in Rawlins. We were on edge through the whole state, and Utah wasn’t much better. We didn’t really breathe easily until we were cruising through the Gorge on the outskirts of Portland. So. Glad. To. Be. Home.

And, Wyoming? I don’t hate the place. I don’t hate the people. I don’t want to increase the balance of animosity in the world; I want to reduce it. I don’t feel safe in vast areas in the middle of the US, and I resent the fact that I feel I must be on guard when traveling in those places. But I am determined to give everyone a fair shake, an unbiased hearing before I make up my mind. There are probably wonderful things about Wyoming and I would be happy to hear about them. True, I’ll never live there, but I would like to travel through it or visit without fear.

26 September 2008

IMPOSTER

I said earlier that I wore scarves to keep my neck warm. That’s true. Scarves, like all accessories of femininity, are mysterious objects to me. I never learned how to wear them or apply them or accoutrement with them.

Today, however, I am wearing a scarf. I’m wearing it because:
a) it’s keeping my neck warm
b) I got it at Race for the Cure last weekend and
c) it’s pretty and matches my shirt quite nicely

But, here’s the thing of it: I feel like an imposter. Like a female impersonator when I wear a scarf as decoration. I feel as if there is an aura of inept about me because it is so obvious that I don’t know what the hell to do with a scarf.

Mostly, I just drape it around my neck. I like this particular style of scarf because it’s long and linear and looks ok just hanging there. The ones that are big squares are harder to deal with, for me. I’ve seen women who tie a scarf quite stylishly or even artistically and they look so… put together. They usually also have some sort of jewelry attached to their upper body. A pin. Or, is it called a brooch or a broach? That sounds like a grandma word! And, of course, all the coordinating stuff like earrings, necklace, bracelets and rings all matching.

I’m not much for jewelry either. A number of years ago my friend Lisa suggested that I wear a necklace to “break up the vast expanse of d├ęcolletage”. Well, shoot. Ok, yeah, I’m a chesty shaped girl, it’s true, but vast expanse? So, naturally, I took her advice. Lisa is my diametric opposite when it comes to accessories. She has them, understands them, and wears them. And looks good in them, looks like she should.

I wear a little silver necklace most of the time now – because of the vast expanse. I bought it in Mexico when we were down there on a short get-away. It does its job re the expanse, and I think it also gives me an ever so slightly more girly look. I’ve been pretty neutral for many years. As androgynous as a non-bound chesty gal can look.

Also, I’m now sporting a little silver ring, courtesy of my beloved. We got them this summer when we went to the beach for the weekend. We were staying in Lincoln City and drove south to Depoe Bay to eat at the Sea Hag. While we were perusing the shops I had a little fit and said, “I want you to buy me a ring!” Well, not here in this gift shop full of plastic starfish and tacky t-shirts, she replied. We made our way all the way to the end of the boardwalk and the last store was a silver jewelry store. She doesn’t like the fact that she gave me a sterling silver ring, devoid of bling. Personally, I suits me just fine. Matches my little necklace and goes great with this scarf!

22 September 2008

tomboy femme and soft butch

Tomboy Femme meets Soft Butch

Tomboy femme meets soft butch and sparks fly! But, who’s who? Or, who wears which label? With me and my beloved, the labels are fluid and the roles are not fixed. That’s how we like it.

Why is it that the lesbian community wants definitions for every gender and gender role? Maybe it’s not a lesbian thing. Maybe it’s our culture. I find the labeling constricting and resist it as much as I am able. On forms, instead of a couple of check boxes for gender there should be space for a paragraph. Or no gender question at all.

Many lesbians will recall that their childhood years were spent as a tomboy. Not every tomboy grows up to be a lesbian, but lots of us did. Being a tomboy was having the freedom to dress like your brothers, climb trees, ride fast, play sports. To live those years as androgynously as we chose.

So, who’s who in our relationship? I’m the tomboy femme. I wear jeans and t-shirts when I am not at work. Also, I’ve never really gotten the accessories thing. For instance, scarves are to keep your neck warm, not to dress up an outfit. I’m handy with the tools I own. I’m a black belt in my martial art and I can kick your ass.

But, I’m the one with the long, pretty hair. I’m the one who owns and even wears skirts occasionally. And high heels. I like doing the laundry. I love the smell of clean clothes! I’d rather sweep and vacuum than mow the grass. I absolutely do not want to mess around with cars.

And my girl? She’s the soft butch. She’s sporting the short, but not buzzed, hair – think Ellen-esque. She always wears jeans; unless she’s wearing sweats. She works in construction. She fixes everything in our house. She would rather mow than vacuum. She does the car stuff.

But, she blow dries her hair. And has it colored. She primps more than I do! Although she likes being the Daddy, she does not like being mistaken for a man. She wears earrings. She is pretty, and she knows it.

I’m not femme and I’m not butch, and my girlfriend is neither as well. We’re just a couple of quirky girls making our way in the world. We don’t feel obliged to fit into a category; you can’t use us as a definition of anything.

Sometimes I want to shout, like Popeye, “I yam what I yam!”