My new/old office is so peaceful that it’s almost a shame I have to work in it. The walls are a soft, medium teal. I have pillows arranged on the window seat, books on the shelves, and my G&L Blues Classic guitar hanging on the wall. I have both soft lighting, for when I want it, and an overhead light for when I need it. I’m hoping it inspires me. I wrote a few pages yesterday, and I did feel inspired then. Today I’ve got much more on my mind.
When I was growing up, there were two things I wanted: to be one of the boys in the family and to grow up beautiful. Those two things seem at odds, do they not? But the older I get, the more I recognize that what I am is two spirit. You can read more on the etymology of that term and all its connotations at the link I provided there. What it means to me is that I have always straddled that line between male and female, and no gender at all. I know it’s hard to understand for some, because we’re used to seeing two roles in our culture. Note that those roles are artificial and man-made. I don’t buy into the whole idea that God, our creator, made us to fulfill certain roles. Now, sex is different. Because I was born into a female body, I was able to enjoy the things only a female body can do — give birth to and nurse children. As I’ve said before, being a mother was the greatest job of my life (and still is). But I looked at the roles inhabited by the people around me and decided something must be wrong with me. I wanted to work hard alongside my dad in his construction business, but I also wanted to enjoy the beautiful things that only a woman can enjoy in traditional culture (wearing pretty things and growing my hair long, because in the time of my youth, you were still considered a “hippie” or “queer” if you were a male with long hair). No one could have told me what to make of my feelings, so I kept quiet about them. I had a girlfriend as early as kindergarten, but as I grew older, I liked boys, too — a lot, at least in theory.
Amy Ray discussed this once in an interview for Garden & Guns, and it was as if she were speaking for me.
As a little girl, Ray was obsessed with David Cassidy. “I wanted to be him,” she recalls, laughing. She remembers watching The Partridge Family on television in her family home in Decatur, Georgia.
I, too, had David Cassidy plastered all over my walls. No Donnie Osmond. He was far too “nice boy next door with too many teeth” for me. Cassidy exuded sexuality that I was too young to understand, but he reminded me of the effect my brothers had on girls. All of that was beyond my grasp as a young tween and teen. Later, my obsession turned to Deep Purple, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, and KISS. I fantasized about meeting these men and enjoying their company, let’s say. But my closeness with girls never ebbed. Boys ended up causing me more trouble than they were worth (as much due to my own gender confusion as to their ineptitude), but I went on to marry one who was gentle, funny, and kind – at least until we hated each other for things we couldn’t fix.
But I’m confusing you here. Gender is not sex, and sex is not gender. To put it in a rather hackneyed but accurate way, gender is between the ears and sex is between the legs. (And sexual orientation is who you prefer to sleep with.) I was born in the female sex but between the ears, my gender is fluid. For me, the two concepts are a little intertwined.
I tend to become friends with men rather easily, because in many ways, I think like them and identify with them, just as I did with my dad and my brothers. Being a Marine wife was brutal for me, because I just didn’t fit in with the wives. I had no respect for most of them, with their stroller army, Tupperware parties, gossipy chatter, and idleness. No, not all were idle. Some were teachers and others were going to nursing school (again with the traditional roles). But many of them around me (the enlisted wives) enjoyed not working and not having to do more than care for a house and kids. That was not for me. Again, I found myself thinking something was very wrong with me. Although I had what I needed – food, shelter, and clothing – it wasn’t enough. I worked in food service just to be out of the house. When my husband left the Marines, I started working in the corporate world, eventually climbing into the largely male world of network engineering and management.
For a long time, I confused my angst over my gender with something outside myself. I did things to attract the attention of straight men in order to feel better about myself. I skirted the edge of being beautiful. Somehow, I never felt beautiful or particularly feminine. There was something a little scary about it all for me. Inside, I knew that my sexuality wasn’t entirely straight, but I wanted the energy of men around me. The only way to do that was to become an object of their lust. Does that make sense? It took me a long time to understand that the male energy was within me and needed the company of men without all the other stuff.
Now don’t misunderstand me. I like the company of women, too – but lesbians rather than (most) straight women. We have something in common. We like to sleep with other women. That’s where we get and give our emotional and physical energy. Yet, even with many lesbians, I have so little in common. It goes back to that two spirit thing.
Here’s something that bugs me…
I’ve joined a few lesbian-centric groups on Facebook, and I’m thinking about dumping them. I’m so flippin’ tired of the language. No, we’re not “womyn” or “wimmin” or any other bastardization of the term for a group of us. I’m not afraid of men, and I’m certainly not afraid of those three letters being part of our word. Have I been hurt, used, and objectified by men? Yes. I was molested as a child by my first girlfriend’s father in the church nursery (he was a deacon). It took me until my 40s to recall that and exorcise it. But you know what? It didn’t make me hate all men. It made me hate him, at least until I let that shit go. He no longer has any power over my body or mind. The two guys who took advantage of me in high school and hurt me? One ended up in prison and the other in a prison of his own making. They got what they deserved. And I have flourished. That is success, baby. Dealing with your own shit is success. You can’t let the past dictate the future.
I don’t feel the need to exclude men from my life. I don’t feel the need to have a woman-only space. I’m not fighting the current in that way. Instead I fight the traditional culture (call it the patriarchy if you must) by taking care of myself and my own needs. I pay my own bills, buy my own cars, have my own friends, and live a life that I want to be living. Like my father before me, I earn my living. I don’t particularly like taking care of a house outside of the necessary maintenance, but it’s a part of life. I don’t feel the need to have a wife to take care of me, although the companionship would be nice. I can cook. I don’t feel the need to “be the man” or pose in any way or objectify a “femme” woman, but I do see that in many places in the LGBTQ+ community. Role play. (And some of the women who act and dress butch are far more “femme” than you’d expect. Not everyone! Please – no hate mail. But I’ve seen it a lot.)
Given all I’ve just said, I can’t help but wonder if this is really all because I’m of two spirits. Putting aside the physical limitations with which I find myself, I can change a tire, change the oil, fix the plumbing, and care for most things. It’s the physical limitations that now constrain me, rather than a lack of know-how or a box someone put me into as female. The last thing my father told me on this earth is to never forget how to take care of myself. He taught me that in so many ways. I identify with his work ethic, if not with his treatment of women. But I look so much like my mother. Go figure.
Sometimes it is nice, though, to have a woman-centric space for a short period of time. A gathering at a local hot spot. A party. A cruise. But I’ll tell you, I’ve never seen such anti-male sentiment than I saw when I was on an Olivia cruise. Judy Dlugacz, the founder of Olivia Travel, is an amazing and kind woman who does not discriminate, but she can’t control the women who choose to travel with her. I met some dear friends through her travel company and enjoyed myself completely. Before a cruise, the company sets up a Facebook board for the given cruise’s travelers. For this particular cruise, some women were going off on that board because there were going to be male crew members and musicians. Give me a fucking break. You really want to erase half of the planet? You want all men to die off? What are you so afraid of? I had a loving husband for 27 years. I’ve got a wonderful son. I know and admire many men. Amy Ray was on that cruise with her band, and I heard that her guitarist caught a lot of hate from the female travelers who wanted to know why Amy couldn’t form an all-female band. A couple of gay male couples were on board. Oh, the humanity! “Where is our wimmin-only space??” they cried. Ugh. And a transgender female who made the journey was made to feel unwelcome and isolated but we’ll talk about TERFs (trans-exclusionary radical feminists) another time. This is what I don’t like about my community. We fought so hard for our rights so we can go on to step on the rights of others?
I wish for a place where I could have the company of other women-loving women but also of a variety of men. And yes, some straight women – not the narrow-minded ones, but the kind of women I tend to be friends with – smart, funny, and independent. I’ve sort of found that in my own little burg. I have a circle of lesbian friends, but I’m not particularly close to most of them. We’re acquaintances. I have men I adore, most of whom I’ve played in bands with or taken music lessons from. Some, I’ve worked with. I have straight female friends who, again, are more acquaintances than close friends. I have very few really close friends, because I’m just different, you know? I choose carefully who I left into my inner circle.
Here’s what I want you to take away from this. Your sexual orientation – who you prefer to sleep with – does not and should not restrict the kind of people you can connect with and be friends with — or travel with. I have to wonder sometimes if some of these women are so anti-male because they’re afraid of their own feelings. Is it easier to reject men outright than to occasionally feel attracted to one? Attraction, after all, is between the ears, just like gender. I do find myself attracted to different men, but if my mind drifts toward anything more, I just laugh it off. I don’t want that. So I can be around men of any ilk and not worry. Afraid you’ll be raped? Well, I’d say you’re not hanging out with quality men. Rape, after all, is an act of violence, rather than of lust. If you truly want to exclude all men, then we’re probably not friends. After all, it took a man and a woman to result in your existence. It’s just a biological fact. Doesn’t mean you have to want to sleep with men.
For me, I had to get back in touch with my feminine side during my cancer struggle. After all, the cancer was in the tatas! Nothing more feminine than breasts! I was surrounded by pink. I even wore pink sometimes. Female nurses (and doctors) took care of me (except for my male gynecologist who confirmed what I thought I had felt). I don’t know if that’s because more women tend to gravitate toward patient care of this type or if there’s a feeling that women will be more comfortable having such intimate exposure with female caregivers. I often joked that everyone in Frederick had seen my boobs. There was a male technician who helped with my radiation treatments. I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed for him to see the cancerous part of my body. It’s science. He wasn’t ogling me. But the nurturing spirit of women was a comfort to me. I had a few favorite nurses who got me through it, physically and spiritually, even though I was so sick at times that I didn’t even recognize my very favorite nurse behind her mask. It was an awful time.
I’ve become more comfortable again with my feminine side, though it doesn’t represent me fully. I’m just not fighting it so much these days.
Got a question? Leave it in the comments. It’s my last day of a long weekend, and I hope you feel as relaxed as I do. Back to the grind tomorrow, folks.