Sunday, June 30, 2013

Daisy Top

I just recently discovered Raising My Rainbow, a beautiful blog run by the mother of a gender nonconforming kid. It's sweet, and funny, and has a lot of great information.

Reading her stories made me remember something from back when I was around sixteen. I was the nanny for a family, and became very close to the kids. One of them was a young boy who I'm going to call Jordan. Jordan was a hard kid to handle, sometimes he got really angry or aggressive, and his moods were more unpredictable than the average six-year-old. It was hard on me as a teenage babysitter, but I was really fond of him too, and wanted understand and empathize with him.

Jordan loved to play elaborate make-believe games, and I loved to play along. I'd done the same thing as a kid, building imaginary worlds and roaming through them. To be honest, I adored getting a chance to be six years old again, playing pretend with no one to judge me. In those games, Jordan was always a girl. I guess I didn't think it was weird, which is unusual considering the homophobic culture I grew up in. Jordan loved being "a baby girl dragon" or "a baby girl dog", and romping around having adventures. Sometimes I was the mom dragon, sometimes I was the kid coming to the pet store to get a puppy, sometimes the puppy got kidnapped because she was magical. One of his favorite "girl" names was Daisy Top. I have no idea where that name came from, but he loved it.

I distinctly remember one of the first times Jordan and I played make-believe. "I'm going to be the mom," Jordan said, "you can be the dad."
It made me laugh, "but Jordan, you can't be the mom."
"Why not?"
"Because you're a boy. Boys aren't moms." I cringe now, thinking of how easily those words came, and how  I didn't give them a second thought.
"But why not?"
"Because..." why not? I was stumped, aside from explaining sex to a six-year-old which I wasn't about to do. "You'll have to ask your mom why not."
I don't think he ever did.

I got to talk to Jordan's older sister recently, and she told us an anecdote about finding out her brother had been wearing her underwear to school between gales of laughter. And I laughed, and I started to wonder.

I'm not around Jordan at all anymore, and I'm not in any place to make definitive assessments of what sort of identity he has. What I do know, is that when I realized Jordan might be gender nonconforming I started to cry. Deep, gut wrenching sobs. Because I know what he's going to face. Because I know he's going to grow up in an atmosphere that could leave him hating himself. Because I told him he couldn't be a mom. Because he has nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. Because when I was told a story about what in all likelihood could be a struggling child trying to express his identity as best he can, I laughed along, rather than standing up for him, because I was too scared of what they would think of me.

So, if there's any way for my thoughts to make their way across the air to find their way to you Jordan, be Daisy if you want to be Daisy. I will never think less of you for being so brave.

Friday, June 28, 2013


I am not a fruit. I know, I know, you never would have guessed it. I am not a fruit, nor am I a seed. I am not an arrow, and I am not a soldier--or any part of an army, for that matter. I am not even a gift. I am myself, and I belong to myself.

There is a trend among Quiverfull circles (and other Christian circles to a lesser extent) to view children as objects, that is--as should be glaringly obvious--to objectify them. Blank slates, fruit of the womb, arrows in the quiver, a man's seed, even the soldier analogy is objectifying in its premise of conformity and hierarchy. Of course objectification does not rely purely on language, but language is a powerful indicator of where ideals lie. And these phrases are indicators of how the people who use them view the roles of children and parents.

Calling children "gifts" is one of my least favorite terms, because it is so objectifying, and possessive. One does not give a gift for the gift's sake, but to bring pleasure to the receiver. A gift is an object, a tool, a non-entity. The one given the gift can do whatever he or she wishes with it. Of course, no gushing parent calling his or her child a "precious gift" is really trying to say "look at this baby. It's mine, all  mine and I will do what I like with it so it grows up to be exactly who I want it to be or else", but again, language is an indicator.

The soldier or army analogy is even worse. Comparing children to soldiers is sick. Child soldiers are a tragedy. The militarization of Christianity is a subject unto itself so I'll leave it at "Comparing children to soldiers is sick". That rather sums it up I think.

A huge problem with this sort of objectification is that it feeds into one of the most important underlying concepts of fundamentalism. Control. Objects and soldiers are things that the parents can control. By reducing children to "blank slates" waiting for the "way" to be carved into them, children are made easy to control ("guide", "mold" or "raise up" are preferred terms).

I wonder if this is why so many Quiverfull "success" stories focus on pregnancy, babies, and young children. Because there comes a day when children aren't children any more, and some of them decide they don't want to wear the uniform. When you subscribe to the idea that children are given to parents so that their parents can turn them into soldiers, if it doesn't work out the child is counted as a failure. This failure is usually seen as the child's fault. They "aren't spiritual enough", they are "hardhearted", if they had only listened when they were young. Generally no matter how happy or healthy the child turns out to be, if he or she isn't a soldier for the Lord, it means failure.

It's a recipe for pain, and sometimes even abuse. Children are simply people, treat them as anything else and hearts are liable to get broken.

Friday, June 21, 2013


There is an enoughness to being that satisfies me. I do not need heaven, I do not need hell, now is enough. I am content, friend, to breathe this clean air. 

There is a completeness to existence that makes me whole by virtue of being alive. My heart beats, I am here, and that is enough.

When I meet your eyes, whoever you are, I am made real by your realization of me. You are made real to me, and though we might not speak one word to each other, we have shared a moment of reality. I see you, blue eyes, brown eyes, green eyes, grey. I see you. See me.

The world is us, and we are the world. Life flows from one to another. Perhaps, like energy, life is never created or destroyed, it merely changes form, as the sun gives life to the grass, as the parent pours life into the child, as lover pours life into lover and friend into friend. We are motion, we are each other, and we are uniquely ourselves. We are enough.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Lady Doctor Pt II Queering the Doctor?

Continuing my response to this article I'm going to (briefly) talk about SEX!

Now don't get your panties in a twist, I mean sex as in the people we are, not the fun stuff. Discussing the Doctor regenerating as a woman is important from a feminist angle, but it seems even more important from a queer angle (note, I'm using queer here to describe all forms of what is traditionally considered "deviant" sexuality, that is, encompassing LGBT and anything else out there. I know it's not a perfect word, and it can be controversial, but for the purposes of being able to explain what I mean in a hopefully clear and concise manner I'm going to use queer as a catch-all).

If the Doctor were to regenerate as a woman it would do more than give the show a powerful female lead, it would give it an opportunity to explore and challenge conventional ideas of sex, gender, and sexuality. After all, isn't that what Doctor Who is all about? Exploration?

I wonder if some of the "The Doctor can't be a woman, it's not canon" and "The Doctor shouldn't be a woman the show would suck" responses come from people who don't want their ideas of what it means to be a gendered being pried into. When taken head on, sexuality becomes a hard thing to pin down; it's not as cut and dried as some folks want it to be.

Doctor Who has the potential as a piece of storytelling, to push people out of their comfort zones, to challenge their ideas of gender and sexuality, and do it in a way that is accessible to people with  heteronormative view of the world.

One of the ways fiction, particularly speculative fiction, is effective is its ability to expose us to new ideas, to challenge the way we see the world and to do it in an empathetic and non-threatening way. I think that Doctor Who has a chance to do that, and the result would (if written well and handled correctly) be incredibly powerful.

More than anything, I would love to see a lady Doctor because it would blow traditional ideas about gender and what it means to be gendered out of the water, and explosions are fun.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Lady Doctor? And why don't boys read books about girls?

I stumbled across This Article the other day. It bothered me, but I couldn't but my finger on why until today (at work, of course. One thinks a lot when pulling things out of boxes and putting them back into boxes all day long).  Now, first off, I thought a very good point was made about the lack of role models for boys. Positive role models are good. Positive role models in story are incredibly powerful (I am living testament to this, check out my post here). The thing that bothers me however, is the idea that positive role models for boys must be male.

If the doctor in a female body can no longer be a positive role model to boys, that is a sign of sexism just as telling as if the doctor must remain in a male body. Story is important, it is more than a form of entertainment it is a form of communication between people, and between individuals and themselves. How we interpret story is as important as how we create story, and if young boys grow up in a society where they cannot interpret positive female role models as people to be admired and emulated that is a problem worth addressing. There is a truism in publishing, girls will read books about boys, but boys will not read books about girls. This has often been construed as something more damaging to boys than girls, and while I am not undermining the troubles sexism has brought down on men, I think when we look at the ideal behind "girls will read books about boys but not the opposite" we see that the issue is more subversive and dangerous than perhaps it appears.

Girls seen emulating traditionally "male" qualities are often seen as strong and independent, and quite often praised (of course, this is not always the case). Boys seen emulating traditionally "female" qualities are seen as weak and confused, and generally discouraged from this sort of play. The ideal behind "boys won't read books about girls" is that girls' things are of less worth than boys' things. This is an ideal that feminism actively works against, as it is the basis of too many unhealthy assumptions and practices in society.

In the end, the reasoning behind "The Doctor is a good role model for boys, therefore should not be a girl" seems to me to be an inherently sexist idea and ultimately perpetuates a culture that devalues "women's things" (which, apparently, means their bodies too). The Doctor can be a role model for boys, and for girls, in a male or a female body.

I'd like to address this issue from the Queer side of things as well, since I think that was a point of view the article completely failed to see. Check back for that, I might have it done Thursday? Only a day late!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Little Things

Today at work it was warm enough to open the doors, and let the breeze in.
Today I woke up early enough to stretch, and eat breakfast before I left; that was a great success.
Today I bought mini-bagels.
Today I wrote for half an hour outside a coffee shop; I am a productive person.
Today I had yakisoba for lunch.

It was the little things that carried me through the hard times. Some days you move from breath to breath like climber moves from handhold to handhold. For almost three months now I have been breathing and living, without struggling to keep my head above water. When I think of the little things, I remember when those things kept the water from closing over my head. It reminds me of the final lines of "Wild Geese", by Mary Oliver:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things

Little things.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Ballpoint Rebellion

When I was small, I wanted to grow up and be a knight. I wanted to carry a sword and protect the weak. I wanted to have adventures, to build willow withe huts in the depths of the forest and to storm castle gates. I wanted to ride dragons, cross deserts, and hunt the white stag to win a wish. I wanted to break down dungeon doors and carry innocent prisoners to freedom.

When I was small I was told--blatantly in some cases, subtly in others--that girls did not do these things. Girls were not supposed to do these things. In fact, the ideology seemed to suggest, girls who did these things were somehow wrong. Unnatural. To be pitied, and even feared.

My family was certainly conservative and--although they did not follow the ideals of the Christian Patriarchy movement or the other movements that permeate the Christian homeschool community as religiously as some--the ideas nevertheless seeped into me. There were nights whenI cried into my pillows, asking God why he made me with such a thirst for adventure and a passion for justice and put me in a woman's body (never did I wonder why my body had anything to do with my role in life in the first place).

I crushed my fighting spirit, beat my desire for change into submission, and tried to conform my unruly wanderlust to the pigeonhole of "biblical womanhood". Outwardly, I made it work. I was already beginning to feel alienated from the homeschool crowd as I moved into junior high, but that was the only crowd I had. I made it work, even though I was miserable. There were a lot of things that brought me to severe depression in my last few years of high school and my first few of college (genetic predisposition being a major factor), but the fact that I was in all facets of my being living a lie did not help at all.

There was one place though, one place where I was safe being the hero, one place where I could be a woman and warrior and not be ashamed of it. That was where I waged my ballpoint rebellion. I fought with stories. I fought with vibrant, violent heroines, system smashing girls who carried swords, slew tyrants, smoked and swore and saved the day. I kept the person I wanted to be alive in words until the day I felt brave enough to let her out.

I chalk up my fairly easy acceptance of my homosexuality and painless (for me) break with Christianity to the freedom I had in these stories. They were more than stories, they were the world as I wanted it to be. My swordwielding ladies were more than characters, they were images of the me I wanted to become. When my courage caught up with my heart, I loosed the lioness.

Words are powerful, sometimes in very unexpected ways.