Breaking Boxes

I knew yesterday what I wanted to write this post on, but now I can't remember. As school revs up (astonishingly quickly) the time I have to ponder on things I'd like to write about is shrinking. Maybe I'll just have to write about school. This would normally be a total drag, but this semester I have two classes which are so far proving to be intellectually stimulating.

The History of Gender and Sexuality is so far focused on defining and understanding the different words, phrases, and states of being in the vast world of sexuality. It is a place where students are expected to participate in the frank discussion of sexual matters. This is something I love, and don't get to do enough. Astasia and I are able to have these discussions, but most of the people I run into, especially my 19-year-old classmates, are embarrassed or mortified by such talk. This particular class, however, is an upper level class that was full of juniors and seniors before sophomores had started registering, and I managed to squeak into it by waiting for someone to drop out and snatching up the seat, rearranging the rest of my schedule in order to do it. This also means that I get to have a class with slightly older children, who are still much younger than myself. I'll take what I can get.

We talk a lot, so far, about intersex and transgendered people, so far, I presume because they really force you to challenge ideas about gender socialization, the way people are born, and the way society has changed in the ways it enforces gender norms. Supposedly we will move into American history and study the subject within those different time frames. It's the first time a class has excited me in quite the same way. I look forward to classes, even though I have to leave the house at 5:30 am to get there, and I love the readings. I feel engaged at every moment. It's exciting to have a professor with a sharp wit and humor discussing this stuff with us.

Gender has always been a touchy subject for me. I am, apparently, female. My mother, I am told, fully expected me to be male. She had dreams that I was male. She was shocked when I was not. These little factoids did not enter my consciousness until I was much older, yet I developed into what people liked to label "tomboy" right from the starting gate. I played with boys mostly, and sometimes with girls. I played in the woods, built forts, got dirty. I begged for toys like walkie talkies and legos, though for the most part I received more "gender appropriate" toys.

I frequently, as a child, wished I was a boy. Boys get do to fun stuff. They are expected to do fun stuff. When boys are sweaty, they can pull their t-shirt up and wipe their forehead with it, even if it exposes their chests. They can even take their shirt off altogether and bask in the sun, feel the breeze on their skin, play unimpeded. How very convenient for them. They can get dirty, they get all the cool toys. They make all the cool clothes for boys. Have you ever seen a thundercats t-shirt made for a girl? Have you? You haven't. Because they don't.

Yet, as I escaped the controlling influence of my parents, I found that I liked being a girl. I liked it because I could decide how to be female. I could have a custom made thundercats t-shirt made to fit my body. I could wear torn jeans and a wifebeater and fix the lawnmower. I could get as dirty as I wanted. I could wear my hair in a mohawk. I could get a job as a plumber and use power tools. I could do all these things and do them as a woman. I could express my femininity in a way that was attractive and comfortable to me. I could express it as a capable, strong, independent force, complete with T&A. As an adult, being female rocks. I really like it.

It's interesting to me, because I know that my expression of femininity is at odds with society's ideas about what constitutes femininity, and that is what compels people to label me a tomboy, or attribute my gayness to a gender identity disconnect of some sort. Society doesn't know what to do or how to react to those who don't fit into gender norms, so it looks for categories, disorders, stereotypes, anything to organize people into boxes that all fit together nicely. Society needs to know what I am. To myself, I am Grasshopper, I am all the things I love and think and feel, I am a complex human being with a complex set of memories and experiences. To the people who need to know what I am without actually knowing me, I am Grasshopper: dyke, or Grasshopper: Canadian, with all the stereotypes attendant with each limited label.

Those who feel the need to label an individual may make some assumptions that are right, but they are likely to be making even more assumptions that are false. It's interesting to me that so many of these assumptions are made based on the clothes we wear, completely external identifiers, and these assumptions do a pretty good job of ensuring that we never really know one another, not really, not in a way that fosters community and closeness.

I suppose in that way, we use labels and stereotypes to hold everyone at arms length. Sometimes, this is exactly our intention, other times I think we do it without meaning to. In both cases, we rob ourselves of knowing all kinds of fascinating people and benefiting from relationship with them, and all the wonderful ways they might enrich our lives with their defiance of our little boxes.


Ambivalence and the Tie that Binds

The last couple of days have been defined by project "fish tank in tv" and now that it's completed, I have had the opportunity to spend some much needed time with myself. The new tank is set up, filter humming. The tv with the moving pictures is off. I have been asking myself why I've been in such a weird funk lately. I have a tendency to understate the pressure I may be under, and I suffer from the refusal to ask for help of any kind. When the pressure is manageable and I don't need any help, I get by just fine.

However, as stated in my last post, I am no longer an island. Other people have to put up with me when I am wallowing in occasional puddles of quicksand, and there are people who would help me, if they only knew how. And I have been forgetting that the first blog I ever started was not a place for me to talk about things to other people, but a place where I sorted through the magnificent clusterfuck inside my brain in an attempt to save money on therapy. Here I am with a blog and the definite need to convert thoughts to words in the only way I've ever really known how. How did I ever forget the role that writing has played in my sanity for most of my life?

I suppose I let myself believe that "my readers" don't want to read "my drivel" and I should just write when I have something brilliant to say.

I don't have anything brilliant to say. I've been living without any kind of structure for about a month now, and that stresses me right the hell out. I never get up or go to sleep at the same time. I don't eat regularly because I have no routine, and no matter what I've done during the day, I have no way of knowing whether it was the right amount of things, or too few. Basically, I need to go back to school.

But I'm stressed about going back to school. All new classes means I have learn an all new schedule, I have to make all new friends. It takes me roughly one semester to make friends, and then it's over and I'll have to make new ones. Being back in school means that I switch immediately to the opposite end of the spectrum. I will leave the house at 5:30 am and come home around 7:30 pm..... if I'm lucky, and I'll have too much work to do all the time, it'll never be enough, and I'll never have any time for leisure activities. I will struggle to make time to spend with Astasia, or, god forbid, have sex.

Then there's my dad. My father has driven my stepmother out of the province, and now is busy training my thirteen year old brother to be as abusive as he is. They live alone together in a house in a backwater shithole of a town. My father has discovered facebook, which means he has managed to find some poor girl younger than I am to agree to marry him, but she lives in the Philippines with her tiny daughter. He wants to take my brother to the Philippines with him, so they can start a new nightmare there, the four of them, in which event I'd probably never see my brother again. Since my stepmother won't sign for my brother's visa, I'm hoping my father's selfishness will win over and he'll run away to the Philippines, never to return. My brother can witness what a douche he is and we can all be free of his bullshit.

But then, that probably makes me a bad person, because my wish for myself inevitably puts a young woman and her child in harm's way. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. If I do nothing to prevent this, do I bear responsibility for all the terrible things he'll do to her? Is there even anything I can do? Does anyone know a hired gun who will work for I.O.U's?

Since christmas back in Canada, the issue of my father, how much I hate him, how much I love him, and how much I wish me and my siblings could all just be free of him has been a constant theme at the back of my mind. It reawakens questions for me about my own upbringing, and whether I can break the patterns of my origin as I build a family with Astasia. I would happily die before damaging my own family the way he has damaged us.

But then, spending time with my mom and stepdad and the fundamentalism that defines their life and therefore my relationship with them provides me with an unwelcome perspective. It was likely my father's unconventional ideas and quirky influence that enabled me to step away from religion. If that's the case, I have a lot to thank him for, don't I?

Back to the fish tank. It is complete, and it was a lot more work than I expected it to be. I began the project with gleeful abandon, having wished my whole life that I could have an opportunity to do exactly this. In the back of my mind, I remembered my father, and the gleeful abandon with which he began all of his projects.

Then the project became hard, and tedious. The tank wouldn't fit and I didn't have the right tools. Work slowed down. I wanted to call it quits, and leave the project for a time in the future when I did have the right tools, and I had more time to work at it occasionally. But in the back of my mind I remembered my father, and the many times he abandoned a project midway through. The half built vehicles in the yard. The marriage he trashed shortly after I was born.

I will never be my father. It is the mantra I have repeated to myself since the day my mother told me she was getting divorced. I will never do what he does. If he does something, I will do the opposite. I will never ever, come hell or high water, torture, apocalypse, zombies, or plastic television molding melted to my cutting wheel, never no matter what will I ever be my father.

So I kept working. I finished it. Astasia and I set it up today, filled it with water. Soon Armani will upgrade to his new snazzy digs, and he too will have something to thank my father for.

This is not the end of the story, though, because I have to ask myself if my father is still controlling me. What if, from way over in that ramshackle house in Western Canada, though I haven't spoken to him in months, he still wields power over my actions?


Living Arrangements

I have been busy these last couple days. My "turn the spare bedroom into a living room" project morphed into a "turn the old tv into a fish tank" project, and the two things are keeping me pretty busy.

Astasia and I occupy the second floor of her parents' house, and we are starting to look for ways to make it more like our own apartment. Somehow, having our own living room makes a difference. The bedroom can now be a place of sleeping and sexing, and the living room a place of tv watching and tv destroying. Even the dogs seem to far prefer this new arrangement

Before moving here, I was an independent bachelorette. For five years I occupied a small two bedroom house in a poor neighborhood in western Canada, the last two of those years were sans roommate. Living completely and utterly alone affords one certain freedoms and privileges that other people don't have. The freedom to do the dishes once a month, for example, or live as though on a nudist colony. You can declare any room with a book case a "library" and then masturbate there, loudly, if you so desire. You can use Bruce Lee wall hangings as curtains.

Blissful as that sounds, however, I shudder to admit that I am like most people in that those specific freedoms are not worth the loneliness that accompanies them. I have always craved companionship, even when I refused to admit to it. I loved having sole control of the remote but I would have happily forfeited that control for some quality snuggling. In the library. Loudly.

Now I have the companionship I crave, and more of a home than I could possibly afford. In these days between holiday torture and scholastic torture, I'm attempting to exert some control over our small space. I have not yet declared any room a library. It's better that way.

It would be easy to feel a disproportionate amount of nostalgia for the house I once inhabited and the liberty I exercised while there, but I think it would be wrong to forget the reality of the situation, my extreme loneliness, DVD's played on repeat, the mouse infestation, the ever climbing rent. Sometimes when I live in someone else's house it's easy to say, " I remember when I could cook dinner naked and then eat it while watching Star Trek and doing ninja training during commercials" but the truth of the matter is I wouldn't go back to that life. Not in a million years.

Being part of a family means you trade in certain freedoms for privileges of far higher value. Freedom is meaningless without anyone to share it with.


Word of the Day...

My browsing as of late has been a sort of stream of consciousness affair. There was, of course, a shooting in Tucson. Much is being made of the possible effect of violent right wing rhetoric on loony nutjobs with overly easy access to guns. Since I don't frequent right wing websites or watch right wing news programs, I have not been witness to the apparent scrubbing of tweets and crosshair graphics, and I guess I'm not terribly interested. There will always be irresponsible jackasses writing irresponsible shit, and other people ready to blame the behavior of violent crazies on irresponsible jackasses.

But I said stream of consciousness, didn't I? From the shooting in Tucson I follow a link that says the Westboro Baptist church is planning to picket the funeral of the 9 year old girl who died in the shooting. So now I've moved from right wing nutjobs to religious nutjobs, and Astasia will attest to my obsession with religious nutjobs, in particular the Phelps family and their bullshit church. I clocked many hours reading about the abuse of Fred Phelps towards his family, and I follow the blog of Nate Phelps, one of three Phelps children who managed to escape their father.

But here's an interesting tidbit. What do Fred Phelps and the Tucson shooter have in common? They are both left wing nutjobs! I know right? I'm as surprised as you are.

It's hard sometimes to tell the nutjobs apart.

Speaking of nutjobs, my father is a nutjob. I'm currently watching The Devil's Advocate, a movie I saw for the first time at my father's house, when I was far too young to watch such a film. Al Pacino as the devil bears a striking resemblance to my father. The raised eyebrows, the gravelly voice, the declarations of selective truth as absolute reality, the uncanny charisma. The unjustified charm. The devastating manipulation. I remember being greatly affected by that movie, though in my religiously compromised teenage mind I was able to read something significant into just about any source. Watching it again, it's just a movie about hollywood-satan, his brood, and how they're all naturally lawyers. Or, alternatively, it's a movie about my father, how evil he is, and his skill at making everyone around him think they're crazy until they have no recourse but to shoot themselves in the head.

So, to recap. There are right wing nutjobs, left wing nutjobs, religious nutjobs, and prolonged-exposure-to-my-father nutjobs. The latter is not unlike prolonged-exposure-to-Fox-News nutjobs, but results in more severe emotional trauma.

Also, the world is not ending in 2012, as we all thought, but rather in 2011. I can't cite my sources as I've been jumping around from site to site with the randomness of a manic squirrel. My sources don't matter, of course, because they are all nutjobs and it's best if you don't spend too much time around them.


A Tourist in Shitville

I'm trapped in my parents house. I have no car, it's too cold to walk anywhere, I'm in a hardcore religious community where I can be pretty sure every person I meet is opposed to my basic civil rights, and ensuring equitable treatment is dependent on my ability to pretend I am not engaged to a woman.

Oh, sweet menno-ville, how I despise you.

If I had wheels, I could at least take a drive out to the woods where the log cabin I grew up in is inhabited by a pair of lesbians from the city. I could scratch their dogs and finally relax. I can never relax here. Someone's always waiting around the corner to be pissed at me for existing, of that I am sure. I can feel the laser sights on the back of my head. But at the Log Cabin o' Lesbians, I would be safe.

Alas, it is seven miles of frozen wasteland to my childhood home, and my mother and stepdad are both at work with their respective vehicles, and I am left to arrange visitations with the grandparents that can't be told what is really going on in my life, lest they have heart attacks and die, which could only prolong my sojourn in this horrid gulag.

It's like being in the closet all over again. Right now, I have no idea who knows I'm gay and who doesn't, outside of my immediate family. I had assumed that since a certain aunt does know I'm gay, the rest of the extended family would inevitably find out (come on, you know who the gossipers are in your family), but everyone seems to be oblivious. Clearly my mom is keeping her shameful little secret very well, so dropping the news that I'm engaged on any of these people would akin to the golden child of a fundogelical church announcing with absolutely no prelude that they had converted to satanism. So when people ask me how my life is going, I say it's good, I'm doing well in school. Not "It's fantastic, I'm happier than I've ever been and engaged to a wonderful woman who I can't wait to start a family with."

All that is to say, I'm keeping secrets again. It feels rotten. Most days it's just a familiar part of being in steinbach, but not that I've reached day 8, my attitude is getting rotten and my endurance is failing. I came here from a place where everyone who knows me actually knows me, where they want the best and happiest for me and support the relationship I'm in. I voluntarily vacated those premises to come here, and now I can't remember why. Oh yeah, I wanted to see my little brother, who has had such a traumatic year, but I won't get to see him anyway. I wanted to meet my new nephew, who's a baby and not any fun anyway. I wanted to hang out with my sister, who is the only other person who knows how shitty it is to be our father's daughter. I'm glad I did that.

But now I'm ready to go home. I'm tired of feeling like the odd one out. I'm tired of feeling like my happy life is the source of so much misery to everyone else. I'm tired of everything. I'm cranky.

Two more days. Two more days. Two more days. Two more days. Two more days......