Girl Pattern, Boy Pattern

Parents who want to do right by their children have a lot on their plate, and I do not envy their task.  It is far too easy for even the best of us to end up duplicating the errors that were inflicted on us, or picking up new ones from parenting trends with little basis in reality.

One reality that many well-meaning parents don’t know how to acknowledge is how to make sure that their children don’t fear disclosing their membership in gender and sexual minorities.  This society is hideously transantagonistic, and children notice this well before they have a word for it, and that can make them scared even when they shouldn’t be.

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Girl Pattern, Boy Pattern
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The Most I’ve Ever Been Hurt

I learned something this week.

I learned that I can beg and plead, at the brink of tears, more emotional than you have heard or seen me in more than ten years, for over an hour, and you’ll be unmoved.

I learned that I can pour my soul out for you on the page, in the form of communication in which I’m most comfortable, and you won’t bother reading it for comprehension.

I learned that you’ll always default to trying to be my emotional inverse, calm and collected when I am urgently emotional, shrieking and yelling when I’m quiet, because you never had any higher end than trying to make me doubt my own feelings and replace them with yours.

I learned that I can make a tiny request, that means more to me than anything, and the measure of your response will be how inconvenient it is for you.

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The Most I’ve Ever Been Hurt

Small Rock

I have lived long years of endurance.

Long, long years of loud rooms full of people I never learned to like, who couldn’t be bothered to learn to like me either.  Long years of being at parties but not part of them, dreading the part of the night where the group splits into smaller groups that head to different places, not having enough of a link to any moiety to make any path make sense, too determined to have “life experience” to give up right then.

Long, long years of being only minimally able to care what I was wearing, because none of it seemed worth excitement.  Long years of burying myself in oversized Hawaiian shirts and their kin with East-Asian-inspired prints and jeans that just barely fit into the rough, unkempt aesthetic of the 1990s.  Long years of intensive patterns and cycles maintained because as long as I maintained them, I never had to think of what might replace them, never had to face the yawning, perfumed void over which they stretched, never had to know why.

Long, long years of holding a beloved pet behind a locked door and weeping softly, without knowing why.

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Small Rock

How The Parents Learned

At the end of April, you wrote me this:

“Please get a hair cut and take that nail polish off, I gave birth to a boy six pounds five ounces on November 27, 1987 and it was the most glorious day of our life. We love you and went thru a lot to educate you and try our very best, best, best to love you and cherish and supported you in all of your accomplishments.  We are extremely proud of you but we cannot accept this thing that you are going thru now.  Please dont let Yeyo see you with painted nails and long hair, hes 86 years old let him remember the way you were when you left to Canada.”

 

That hurt.

Six months later, it still hurts.  It would still hurt even if you hadn’t brought it up every few weeks since then.  It would still hurt even if you didn’t invoke the specter of saddening Yeyo most of those times.  It would still hurt even if you hadn’t shouted at me about how I should just go ahead and start wearing dresses and makeup, if I was going to do absurd things like grow my hair or paint my nails.  It would have hurt even if I thought you were keeping this knowledge away from Dad out of trying to protect me, instead of out of shame.  And it still hurts.

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How The Parents Learned

I Have Always Been So

I never liked eye contact.
I used to sit next to people and talk to them facing straight forward.  I didn’t notice that I was doing it or understand why I was doing it.  I knew that looking to the side for a conversation’s length made my neck hurt and turning my whole body was a bit crowded in those closely-spaced chairs, but it was an effort didn’t even begin to start making until sometime in high school.  People noticed, people commented, I blamed it on my neck (which was not a lie), it kept going.
 
I used to practice eye contact, picking people at random in crowded classrooms and just…making eye contact.  The majority of those times ended less than five seconds later with a “What the fuck are you looking at?” glare.  This was not encouraging.  Across the room it was bearable, but not for the other person, it seemed.  Up close, eye contact was overwhelming.  I remember an elementary-school dance in which making eye contact with my dance partner was so intense that I could not endure it for more than an instant and spent the whole time staring at her collarbone, the ruffles on her dress, my shoes, anything but her eyes.  And they were very pretty eyes.  Other times eye contact with someone I needed to talk to would transfix me, keeping my eyes trapped as a sense of alarm and discomfort slowly swelled in the background.
 
I got adept at looking at people’s cheeks, foreheads, the space just to the right or left of their heads, some other object of interest in the room, anywhere but the eyes.   Even when I made a point to look someone in the eyes at the beginning of a conversation, I would end up in all of these other places without a concerted effort as soon as I shifted focus from that specific task.
 
I can look at eyes.  I like looking at eyes.  Eyes are beautiful and warm and inviting and swathed in a dense web of intimacy and connection even when I’ve never seen them before.  Eyes are so much that they are too much for me when they are looking back.
 
I mouth my knuckles.

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I Have Always Been So

Yams for All

We need to change how we think about childbearing.

Having a child is probably the single most expensive decision someone in the developed world can make.  Once a child is born, one becomes responsible for that child’s food, shelter, emotional support, education, and a thousand and one other needs harder to anticipate and describe, sometimes through socialized systems that ease access to various goods.  The guardians of children become their first and fastest path toward accumulating the possessions that they will then use to gain their first taste of independence.  Parents and other caretakers and among the most important fonts of culture, moral growth, and personal development that any person will ever have.  The enormity of the caretaker’s role is so well understood that it routinely features in sexist writings that insist that women should be content with that specific influence on the future and desire no additional option or greater agency than that.

But there is one situation in which that understanding is ignored: the decision to have a child.

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Yams for All

Caring So Much It Hurts

[Spoilers for Series 2, 3, and 4 of Doctor Who follow.]

Ania and I watched the new series of Doctor Who a while back.  We never finished it, though.  We had a lot of trouble sustaining interest through Matt Smith’s tenure as the Eleventh Doctor.  Eleven was a cocksure weirdo who spent entirely too much time leading armies into battle while wearing “pacifism” like a badge and not enough doing the things that made us fall in love with David Tennant’s version.

The Tenth Doctor cared so much it hurt.

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Caring So Much It Hurts

The Why and the How

My mother likes to tell me that “God put me on this earth for a reason,” or liked to.  There are a lot of things like that she used to say to me that she tries not to anymore, after my last few sorties into our conversational DMZ.  I want it to feel welcome, like a level of acceptance I never expected to get, but that’s not what it feels like.  She reflexively reaches to place an affectionate sign of the cross on my forehead at night and instead pulls back, eyes full of pain, and I can tell she doesn’t see the situation at all like I do.

It’s a common refrain, in its numerous forms.  “God put you on this earth for a reason.”  “You have to find what you’re here to do.”  “Seek your destiny.”  “God has a purpose for you.”  Purpose.  Purpose.  Purpose.

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The Why and the How

Chickadee

I don’t belong here.

The paths are the same, the same Australian umbrella trees and thickets of palms and little yappy dogs, the same pervasive sun and smell of car exhaust, but they feel foreign now.  I walk the 33 blocks to the grocery store that sells all the Latin specialties I quickly learn to miss when I’m away, and it doesn’t feel like coming home to something.  It feels like traveling a long way away for my weird exotic tastes, bits of the old country I like to keep around, like the immigrants who define my past.

I lived here from 1999 to 2009, but I got used to counting it as eleven years in my mind.  And I’ve finished with this place.

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Chickadee

The Other Side of the Coin

It’s time for some perspective.

I’ve been very lucky, in many ways. I’m part of the minority of the human race that gets to even try to have a developed-world standard of living, let alone succeed at it. I’ve never lived outside of one of the world’s economic powerhouses long-term and never known firsthand what it’s like to live somewhere where electricity isn’t a dependable resource. The closest I’ve been to the depths of destitution this world has to offer is at a resort run by Royal Caribbean on the coast of Haiti, where I watched the staff (all locals, to RC’s credit) collecting trash at the periphery of the cordoned-off beach. It would not have been a long trek to find villages that would look right at home in DR Congo, and where the only constants were mud and violence.

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The Other Side of the Coin