Tag Archives: gender

Leaving the center empty for God

 

downloadI’m still reading Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts. This story about Nelson’s relationship with her “fluidly gendered partner” Harry takes a look at the hot button topics of sexuality, gender and what it means to be a family.

It’s been taking me longer than usual to get through this slim book of less than 150 pages. It’s a heavy read, packed with thoughts and insights that seem best suited for slow, meditative pondering.

In the pages I read last night, Nelson writes about a lecture she attended given by poet and professor Anne Carson in which Carson spoke about the concept of leaving a space empty so God can rush in.

imagesNelson said she had heard about this concept from a boyfriend who was into bonsai. In bonsai, people often plant a tree off-center in the pot to allow space for the divine.

“But that night Carson made the concept literary,” Nelson writes. “I went home fastened to the concept of leaving the center empty for God. It was like stumbling into a tarot reading or AA meeting and hearing the one thing that will keep you going, in heart or art, for years.”

That’s what I’m thinking about these days. Leaving the center empty for God in my writing and in my life.

The Argonauts is a terrific read. Dense and intense but worth the effort.

P.S. I’ve been sleeping better.

I find that when I’m focused on social media and the news, I have a bad day,” I told W yesterday at dinner.

“And when I stay away from social media and the news, I have a better day,” I told her.

“Then stay away from social media and the news,” she said like a Sapphic sage.

images-1

Night, night, you big butch.

That’s been helping, plus W has been rubbing my face with lavender butter before bedtime. She rubs the thick cream on her hands and then smooths it on my forehead, my temples, the back of my neck and a little under my nose.

It smooths over the jagged edges of the day. I have been sleeping like a baby these days.

Plus, it makes me feel like I’m being taken care of, which is a nice feeling right before bed.

We just ordered a new batch of butter. Check out Renaissance Lavender on etsy if you are in need of a magic sleeping potion.

Book launch!

leavingnormalNew year.

New book.

New look. (Seriously, how cool is that cover?)

Today’s the big day, folks. The second edition of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender has launched with my new publisher, Regal Crest.

The book has added content. Count ’em, nine new chapters.

And while I’m bragging, the first edition was a Golden Crown Literary Society award finalist in the category of creative nonfiction.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way by liking my posts and reminding me that I have a voice and that my words are important. You guys have always made me feel like a big butch rock star.

If you bought a copy of Leaving Normal last time around, thanks! Consider picking up a second copy for the added content or donating to your local high school or LGBT group.

A bunch of you have been patiently waiting for the second edition. You can order a print copy or e-book through most online book vendors. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon and Bella Books.

If you’d like a signed copy and maybe some free butch swag, you can send $16.00 via PayPal to rae.r.theodore@gmail.com. The book costs $12.95, plus $3 for shipping.

Also, reviews are so important. They help with visibility on sites like Amazon. If you’ve read the book, please consider writing a short, honest review. It will only take you a minute or two and this butch will be very grateful.

What to buy a butch

W is easy peasy to buy for. She likes things that sparkle (silver jewelry), things that smell good (handmade soaps) and things that taste good (salted caramel chocolates and Cheerwine cherry soda). Plus, purple things and pretty things and spiritual things and soft things. Also, scarves and bags and really good socks. See what I mean?

She thinks I’m hard to buy for. I tell her that I’m not. Butches are easy. Hey, not like that. But you know what I mean. If you’re struggling to find something to buy your masculine-of-center girl for the holidays, read this handy-dandy list:

Handy-dandy list

imagesCheck out the wristbands and cuffs at Lucky Dog Leather. W bought me wide black and brown leather cuffs on one of our first Christmases together. I loved them. I still do. They are cool and stylish and need I say very, very butch.

Is your girl a sporty butch? Get her tickets to a game. Or a jersey or other team gear. We can never have too much. I tend to like the old-timey vintage stuff. Make sure you know her favorite teams and players.

downloadIf she’s a reader, get her a copy of Ivan Coyote’s Tomboy Survival Guide. If you want to see a butch cry, watch her read this book. Really, any of Coyote’s books are great, but this is their latest. And do I dare say best?

I have to give a shout out to My Booket List, which was created by a friend of mine. Your book loving butch can record all of those books she wants to read in this cool little journal.

If she’s a writer, try a Moleskine notebook and a silver astronaut pen (you can pick up both at Staples). I’ve always got these hiding out in my pockets. Just in case.

If she’s into comics, there’s tons of cool Wonder Woman stuff out this year. Pick her up a copy of Jill Lepore’s Wonder Woman, which details the history of the Amazonian Princess. Wonder Woman’s story follows the rise of feminism in this country. It’s a fascinating read.

Beer her. If she’s a beer fan or fanatic, pick out some new craft brews for her to try. The staff at most beer shops are knowledgeable and can steer you in the right direction. Create a custom six-pack just for her. Nothing says I love you like beer.

download-1Buy her a new necktie or bowtie. One that matches her eyes or your new dress. One in her favorite color. One that you think she’d look particularly handsome in. We love it when our ladies buy us ties. It makes us feel special and sexy.

Make it personal. There are tons of sites that let you create personal merchandise. Think mugs and tees and hats. How about a T-shirt that says “World’s Best Butch” or a mug that just says HANDSOME? I’ve had good luck with Zazzle and Shutterfly.

Make her something. We like it when you use your hands. Get crafty and make her a Sharpie mug (look for instructions on the Internet) or knit her a scarf. Bake her favorite cake or pie or whip up a batch of your famous tomato sauce.

download-2Socks. A good pair makes us feel warm and fuzzy on the inside, too. You can buy those butch socks here.

How about a fun pair of fleece PJ pants? Find a design that matches her passion. Star Wars, Harry Potter, beer, football … You name it, they make it. Or a fleece blanket.

Flannel. Need I say more?

Oh, and you. You know that’s all she really wants, right?

* * *

What do you like to gift your butch? If you’re a butch, what do you like to get?

 

Costumes

images6

I was this guy. Cool, I know.

My favorite Halloween costume was a sea monster. Actually, I was Sigmund from the TV show Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. It was a costume that came in a box, probably from Kmart or some other discount store. My mom taped crepe paper streamers in different shades of green to the body of the costume to give it an authentic sea monster feel.

I was in second or third grade and really into the show. I even had a Sigmund and the Sea Monsters lunch pail. I know. I was so cool.

I don’t remember many other Halloween costumes.

I think my first costume was a lamb. Not too far from the black sheep I turned out to be.

I was a witch one year with a black wig with streaks of white and long black plastic fingernails.

img_0795

Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cooler. And yes, that is a mullet.

In college, I was usually some weird androgynous superhero. I always started with a cape because who doesn’t want to rock a cape. And added face paint. Colored hairspray. Suspenders. I was like the love child of Superman and Elton John and the members of Kiss. With some Phantom of the Opera thrown in for good luck.

One year, I bought a blue and gray fedora in a thrift shop in town and designed some weird old man costume around it. The costume was a dud, but I liked wearing the hat.

These days, I’m not so big on dressing up. When you feel like you’ve been wearing a costume for the better part of three decades, Halloween dress-up loses its luster. If I had to dress up, I’d probably toss on a Phillies jersey and cap and call it a day. Maybe add some eyeblack if I was really trying.

Most mornings, I smile when I get dressed. I slip on a pair of jeans or cargo shorts, a pair of boxer briefs, a T-shirt with or without another shirt underneath depending on the weather. I don’t worry about “appropriate” or the difference between boy clothes and girl clothes. Instead, I focus on wearing clothes that make me feel good. Happy. Clothes that make me feel like me.

And I say a quick thanks to the person who runs the joint. Thanks for getting me here to this place where I can finally wear the clothes I want all day, every day. It was worth the wait.

Other fun Halloween facts:

  • I don’t have a favorite candy, although I usually eat everyone’s Whoppers and Almond Joys. (No one here likes coconut or malt flavoring. Losers.)
  • We used to live in Battle Creek, Michigan, which is the home of Kellogg’s cereal. Many of our neighbors handed out mini boxes of cereal instead of candy, which my brother would refuse with a polite “no thank you.”

* * *

Your turn. Favorite Halloween costume? Favorite candy?

 

Lawnmower lingo

IMG_0647When W came home from work yesterday, I was assembling my new electric lawnmower on the front porch.

“It’s so cute!” she said.

“Really?” I said.

She knows how I feel about the word “cute.”

“Oh. Right. Handsome.”

“No,” I said.

Neckties and squared off sideburns are handsome. Me? I’m a handsome devil. But a handsome lawnmower?

“I have no clue,” she said.

Once again, my wife was flummoxed by my rules.

I looked at the sleek neon green, lawn-cutting machine.

“Try sporty.”

“Your new lawnmower is sporty,” she said.

We went inside for dinner exhausted by our exchange.

 

 

 

Dads and daughters

images[2]Growing up as a tomboy (or mini-butch), my dad taught me how to do the important things in life:

  • Fish.

Keep score at a baseball game.

Throw a split finger fastball.

Shoot pool.

Tie a necktie.

Shoot a layup.

Cook breakfast.

Be loyal.

Be patient.

Never force things.

Work hard.

Keep calm (before it was even a thing).

And always listen to your wife.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

* * *

What did your dad teach you?

 

The magical, mystical butch

W’s brother is getting married this weekend. On Sunday, W and I coordinated our outfits for the rehearsal dinner and wedding, making sure my ties won’t clash with her dresses. It’s so exhausting being a lesbian power couple.

Sunday evening, I ended up running out to Kohl’s department store to pick up a few things. I am mostly over the awkwardness that comes from shopping in the men’s department. But on this particular shopping trip, I found myself feeling a bit like a strange mythical being. Kinda sorta like a centaur — one creature from the waist up and another from the waist down.

images7RMEIAOUWhile I was standing in the checkout line, I channeled my inner unicorn and reminded myself that I am a magical, mystical creature. I am a big, bad, beautiful butch. I stood head up, shoulders back.

As I daydreamed about rainbows and flying horses, I heard the cashier’s overenthusiastic cry.

“Can I help you, sir?”

I strutted to the register and placed my items down one at a time:

IMG_0472One Chaps-brand purple plaid necktie.

One pair of navy suspenders.

One Casio-brand retro wristwatch.

One white, wireless brassiere.

Welcome to my world, I thought. Imagine what it’s like to be me.

The young woman quickly rang up the items and placed them in a bag and sent me on my way.

I hurried home to show W my new wares.

* * *

For fun, check out this quiz that answers that age-old question: What kind of magical creature are you?

imagesAFUH18YFI got Liger. “You are like a lion and tiger mixed bred for skills in magic! You are unique and not afraid to be yourself. (And you actually do exist.)”

How did they know?

What kind of magical creature are you?

You can take the quiz here or just respond with the creature you think is most like you. Oh c’mon, it’ll be fun.

 

 

Bathroom strife

This morning, I camped out at Panera’s.

I was focused on writing a new story but my ears perked up when an older woman a few tables away started talking about President Obama’s mandate that all schools allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice.

IMG_0217

My new favorite notebook. Oh to be as dashing as this zebra.

It was the word “transgender” that caught my attention and caused me to reach for my rainbow zebra notebook.

She said the word like this — TRANS gender? — as if she were angry and it weren’t a real thing. Like fat-free butter or a lesbian who has never attended a potluck. I avoided looking at her, but I imagined her shrugging her shoulders and making a sour milk face.

“All it does is cause more strife,” she said.

I wanted to tell her about the strife I feel as a butch woman when I’m out shopping or to dinner and need to use a bathroom. About the strife I feel when I have to determine whether I can skip using a public restroom and make it home in time.

imagesAOKP5L5M

Um, hello, that doesn’t look like me.

About the strife I feel when I open a door emblazoned with an image of a person in a dress with an impossibly round head and arms thick like salamis and the word “WOMEN” or “LADIES” printed below and prepare to be misgendered and humiliated.

About the strife I feel when I rush to the first empty stall and hold my breath and let out a tiny puff of air when I lock the door and hear the click of the slide bolt.

About the strife I feel as I wait in the stall and try to pick the right time to leave. Now. No, not now. Now. This time for real. 1, 2, 3. Now.

About the strife I feel when I notice my heart beating too fast in my chest.

About the strife I feel as I try to blend in when I’m at the sink washing my hands, even though I haven’t been able to blend in for most of my life.

About the strife I feel as I fast walk to the door and try to look “natural,” whatever that means.

When I am safe on the other side, I wonder why using a public bathroom should cause anyone so much strife.

 

Wife power

After W and I were married, I felt weird about using the word “wife” to describe myself.

images[3]

I’m more of a Fred than a Wilma.

Wilma Flintstone was a wife. Donna Reed, wife. Carol Brady, wife.

Middle-age Butch? Not so much.

You can read all about my wife angst here.

“How should I refer to you?” W asked.

“I’ll let you know when I figure it out,” I replied.

We joked around with the term “hersband.”

“My hersband will not be attending,” she texted a friend.

But then life went on and we had bigger things to worry about. I never decided what I wanted to be called.

I saved “wife” for certain situations. Like when I made a phone call to get information about local taxes W owed.

“Who is calling?”

“This is her wife.”

Or when I wanted some extra attention at home.

“Geesh, you’d think you’d have some time for your wife.”

“Remember me? Your wife?”

Yeah, I’m that guy.

I find myself using “wife” a lot during our son’s hospital stay. I use the word to explain not only who I am but why I have a reason to be in the emergency room or in the waiting area outside the room where they are performing a procedure on him for the third time.

“That’s my wife.”

“Can you take me to my wife?”

I say the word with authority.

I never really understood the importance of this tiny word. Who cares what we call each other, I used to think. It’s between us. It’s our business.

I was always satisfied with the word “partner.”

I mean, when someone who looks like me drops the word “partner,” everyone knows I’m not talking about my business partner. Trust me.

images[5]But “partner” doesn’t carry the same punch.

Now I see the power packed in the word “wife.”

And I wonder why anyone would want to deny another human being the basic right of being a spouse.

So, yeah, I’m good with “wife.”

* * *

What do you call your other half?

 

Prince

“I’m not a woman

I’m not a man

I am something that you’ll never understand”

— Prince, “I Would Die for You”

His music was the soundtrack to my life. I discovered Prince when most of my peers did — after the movie Purple Rain was released in 1984 and the songs on the soundtrack became a permanent part of our everyday life.

images7FZ0N531As a senior in high school at age 18, I played “1999” every morning before school on the turntable in my bedroom. One morning I would play Side 1, which was comprised of “Little Red Corvette,” “1999” and “Delirious.” The next day, I would flip the album over and play the two songs on Side 2, “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and “D.M.S.R.”

I never tired of those five songs, so I never made it to Side 3 or Side 4 of that double album.

imagesMS624EGMI’m not sure what it was that drew me to Prince and his music. It didn’t sound like anything else I had ever heard. But there was something else. He was dirty and poetic. A cross between Shakespeare and a porn star. Something about that combination appealed to me as I started my journey into adulthood. He seemed to understand all those things I didn’t — sex, love, God, life — so I listened to his music in an effort to crack the code.

When I went off to college, I found a used record store and bought all of his old albums — “Prince,” “Dirty Mind,” “Controversy.” I studied them more than my text books.

My parents never taught me about the birds and bees, but Prince did.

He was my sex ed teacher.

The only reason I know the words to the Lord’s Prayer is because it’s in the middle of his song “Controversy.”

Prince was my Sunday school teacher, too.

He was my church.

He was my religion.

He was my Elvis.

He was my Beatles.

He showed me how to adore and appreciate women.

And he taught me how to be funky.

I know what you’re thinking. You, Middle-Age Butch, got funky? Tell us another tale. What I’ll tell you is there’s a fine line between funk and swagger. And any butch worth her boots has a little swagger in her. You just got to love yourself. That’s what Prince would have said.

imagesZHT5V4H7I don’t think I realized why I was always so fascinated with the purple one until he dropped his name and became the symbol. The symbol was a perfect mix between male and female.

That’s the thing about Prince.

He transcended gender.

I always thought I was in love with the pretty purple boy with the high heel boots and the puffy blouses and tight little body. Back in the day, this in-the-closet lesbian always had a thing for pretty boys with high cheekbones and beautiful hair.

I wasn’t really in love with Prince. We would have made a strange couple.

But he did show me how to love myself.

* * *

My all-time favorite Prince song is “Little Red Corvette.” What’s yours?