Tag Archives: gender

Fun with gender roles and stereotypes

So, you might have noticed that I haven’t been posting much these days.

I’ve been busy with work and kids and wife (she’s a handful). And writing my new book.

That’s right, folks. Sometime in 2018, you’ll be cracking the spine of my new book and breathing in that new book smell. Can’t wait, can ya?

You can read all about it over on my publisher’s website. As per usual, I’ll be writing about gender, butchness and how I never knew I was a lesbian. I swear, it’s true.

Which brings up this photo of Middle Age Butch back in the day.

IMG_1958

I’m three years old. It’s Christmas Day. Apparently, I’ve gotten a gold wristwatch as a present. See how it sparkles. That baby with the big bowling ball head is my brother. He got a sleek silver train and a Fisher-Price pop-up toy for Christmas.

That other baby is not real and is sitting inside a baby stroller that I’m posing behind. I’m wearing a shiny dress and shiny black Mary Janes. Do you see my shiny smile?

The only thing missing is a husband. A boy in a three-piece suit, his tiny hand clutching a leather briefcase. And off we’d go into the sunset. Me, Husband and Baby.

I wonder if there was ever a chance for my story to turn out differently than it did. This photo makes me think that the answer to that question is no.

But still, I can’t help but wonder what my life would have been like if I had been dressed in bright red pajamas that Christmas morning and had a silver train to scoot along the floor.

* * *

Who is this little girl? Where is she going? Why does she need a watch?

Feel free to offer a caption.

 

 

Advertisements

Pride and reading diverse books

IMG_1250 (1)On Saturday morning, W and I were up early packing her SUV and getting ready to head to our local Pride festival.

“Why do we do this?” I asked as I rubbed sleep from my eyes and loaded another heavy object into the car.

It rained during set up but then the sun came out. We all started looking for rainbows.

My best friend came and spent the day with me. And there we sat on a beautiful Saturday afternoon watching waves of people clad in whatever makes them happy–high heels, rainbow flags worn as capes, trans colors, combat boots, preferred pronoun stickers. I started remembering why we do this year after year.

One miscue: I wore my “I Love My Awesome Wife” tee. “Is this your wife?” everyone asked, looking at my friend. Everything does come full circle. When I came out, everyone thought my friend and I were a couple because we were so close. (In case you were wondering, W, my awesome wife, was manning a different table.)

IMG_1247I was promoting a local book group that I head, as well as my big butch memoir, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender. We handed out lists of recommended LGBT books and rainbow bookmarks with affirming statements like “Believe in Yourself” and “Be Unique.” We asked people to share a book that inspired them or made them feel not so alone by writing the title on faux library cards.

We talked about books. I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear young people chat excitedly about their favorite reads.

Here are some of my memorable moments from the day:

IMG_1260A 13-year girl so excited about books that she jumped up and down. She told me her favorite book is Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On. “About the worst chosen one ever and how he finds out he’s gay,” she wrote on her library card. I don’t know about you, but that’s a book I want to read. When I told her I was a writer, she jumped up and down some more. “Me, too!” she said.

A woman who recommended the book Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner. She told me that she discovered the book when she was a kid at her local library. She checked it out and took it home. When her mother found it, she burned it in the backyard. She couldn’t go back to the library because she was unable to return the book. My heart broke for that little girl.

Everyone who picked a “You Are Amazing” bookmark and said, yes, I am amazing and will take this one.

The fact that one of our son’s friend who identifies as trans was forbidden by his parents to go to the Pride festival with us. I saw so many parents walking around with their kids. But it’s important to remember all of the kids who have parents who are not accepting or supportive.

IMG_1252Here are the book recommendations we received from young and old, in no particular order:

  1. Carry on by Rainbow Rowell
  2. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer — I’m not the only one who wants to live in a bus in the wilderness.
  3. When Women Were Warriors by Catherine M. Wilson — Gay ladies who are bad ass warriors.
  4. Kase-san and … by Canno — Manga series with two cute lesbians.
  5. My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger — When I was trying to find myself in 8th and 9th grade.
  6. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  7. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Saenz
  8. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
  9. She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  10. Life’s Golden Ticket by Brendon Burchard
  11. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
  12. Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  13. Shark School by Davy Ocean
  14. Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
  15. The Plucker and The Child Thief by Brom
  16. Annie on My Mind by Nancy Gardner
  17. Steven Universe comic books by Jeremy Sorese
  18. More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
  19. The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron
  20. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
  21. Echo of the Boom by Maxwell Neely-Cohen
  22. And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson
  23. The Women Who Raised Me by Victoria Rowell
  24. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash
  25. Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl by Satoru Akahori
  26. Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamilo
  27. The Dish Ran Away with the Spoon by Susan Stevens Crummel
  28. The Longest Mile by Christine Meyer

What about you? What book made you feel not so alone?

The Wonder Woman movie belongs to us

This is my Wonder Woman memory.

I’m 7 or 8 years old.

My mom is buying my brother and I stretchy, plastic figures shaped like superheroes.

I don’t remember which Justice League of America superhero my brother selects. The colors blue and red are stuck in my head, so I’m guessing it’s Superman.

aquaman

I pick this guy.

I pick Aquaman.

I don’t remember leafing through the figures as they hang in their packs from a metal peg on the rack.

But here’s what I know: There isn’t a Wonder Woman in the bunch. Wonder Woman is never an option.

Sure, I like Superman and Batman and the rest of the Justice League of America superheroes as much as the next little girl, but I love Wonder Woman with her golden lasso of truth, invisible jet and bulletproof bracelets. Spink! Spink!

I never identify with Superman or Batman, even though I’m a tomboy and admire their super strength and athleticism. Back then, I find them too masculine with their dark features and chiseled chests.

I am always a Wonder Woman girl.

xena

Look for Middle-Age Butch in the background.

Xena: Warrior Princess comes on the scene in 1995. I watch the reruns in the early 2000’s when I’m coming out. And here’s where it gets tricky—that fine line between wanting to be Xena and wanting Xena.

After much contemplation, here’s what I decide:

In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings …

A land in turmoil cried out for a hero.

She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle.

And she was Middle-Age Butch, a mighty princess butch, durable and sturdy like the fabric flannel.

The power … the passion … the danger.

Their courage will change the world.

But back to Wonder Woman. My experience was always one of lack and longing. A Wonder Woman-shaped hole.

Even at a young age, Aquaman was my way of compromising, of finding some middle ground.

dolphin

I heart Aquaman.

He certainly wasn’t Superman or Batman. He couldn’t fly or really fight. He had nice blond hair. His superpower? He could talk to fish. I suppose I found Aquaman sensitive because he was able to communicate with dolphins.

So that’s one of the reasons why the Wonder Woman movie is a big deal to me. I’ve been waiting most of my life for Wonder Woman. Just Wonder Woman. Having a choice of Wonder Woman.

I’m struck by the movie’s tag line:

“The future of justice begins with her.”

This movie belongs to the little girl who played with a bendy Aquaman figure because there was no Wonder Woman option.

It belongs to all the little girls, back then and now.

wonder

The Flannel Underground

images

This could be my closet

At dinner last week, one of the kids asks me if I have more flannel shirts like the one I had given him to wear in his school’s production of Annie Get Your Gun last year.

“I don’t know. Why?” I ask.

“It’s for a friend,” he says, “whose parents think flannel shirts are too masculine.”

“Is she a lesbian?” I ask.

“Trans,” he says.

“A transguy?”

“Yes.”

I pause.

“I don’t know,” I say. “If his parents don’t want him wearing flannel shirts …”

I pause again.

“Look, I don’t agree with it, but he’s not my kid,” I say. “I can’t be some underground supplier of flannel for your friends.”

He nods his head.

Underground supplier of flannel, I say to myself. I sit a little taller in my chair.

“I’ll take a look at my flannel shirts in the next week or so,” I say. “I probably have some I don’t want. I’ll give them to you. They’ll be your flannel shirts. Whatever you do with them, that’s your business. I certainly can’t be responsible for what you do with your clothing.”

“Got it?” I ask.

“Got it,” he says.

I feel a little bit like a hero. Passing on my used flannel shirts to kids who need them the most.

For armor.

Or camouflage.

Comfort.

A second skin.

The intersecting horizontal and vertical stripes forming hundreds of tiny crosses as they cover a new body.

 

Butch’s best day ever!

Guys, yesterday might have been my best day ever. It was like seeing a rainbow, getting the perfect haircut and winning free flannel for a year all in one day.

IMG_1137It started off with a delivery of boxer briefs that I had ordered from Groupon a few weeks ago and then promptly forgot.

I mean, who doesn’t like new underwear, especially when it’s delivered right to your house.

Then we went to a bowling fundraiser for my nephew, who has cystic fibrosis. There was bowling and all the pizza a butch could eat.

And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I won a bucket of booze in a raffle.

IMG_1132The big price was a bottle of Jagermeister Spice. I’ve never tried the spice version, but this butch runs on Jager.

We headed for home, and then I ran out to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day at my local bookstore, which was hosting a release of a fiction anthology created by local authors. I bought a copy of the anthology that all of the authors so kindly signed and got to pick out a free book courtesy of the store.

When I got home, high from an evening of talking about books and smelling fresh ink on the page, I found another delivery waiting for me.

IMG_1138Two pair of new sneakers.

I’ve never owned a pair of Brooks before, but they seem super comfortable and good for walking.

And a butch can never have too many pairs of Chucks.

So, to recap.

One. New underwear.

Two. Booze.

Three. Books.

Four. Sneakers.

* * *

What four things would be included in your perfect day?

 

The case of the missing hair stylist

imagesSo, I went to get my hair cut Friday afternoon because I was starting to look like a character from the Flintstones.

I drove down the street to the Superhaircuttery where I get my locks lovingly shorn.

“Is Crystal here?” I asked.

“Crystal doesn’t work here anymore,” the receptionist said with a smirk on her face.

“Okay.” I paused. “Can you tell me where she went?”

“I don’t know,” she said, even though I knew she knew and she knew that I knew she knew.

“Sorry,” she lied as I walked out the door of Superhaircuttery for the very last time, one single tear cascading down my cheek.

images (1)This, folks, is an emergency. A butch emergency. Code flannel. Crystal has been cutting my hair for the past five years or so.

W doesn’t get it.

“It’s a Superhaircuttery,” she said. “Why don’t you try one of those unisex places?”

It’s not about the place. It’s about the stylist.

Someone who won’t refuse to cut my hair short.

“Are you sure you want it that short?” I’ve had many hair stylists ask.

“You can’t cut it too short,” I’ve told them, even though they never cut it short enough.

True story: I once got my hair cut twice in one day because the first stylist refused to cut it as short as I wanted.

Someone who won’t refuse to square off my sideburns. “Square sideburns are for men. Angled sideburns are for women,” I once had a 17-year-old hair stylist lecture me.

Someone who won’t chase me out of the shop because I’m a woman. “I don’t cut women’s hair!” a stylist once yelled at me when I entered her barber shop.

Crystal knew my usual. A number four on the sides and back. No fringe. Cleanup the sideburns. Scissor cut the top. Short, spiky.

I find myself stuck in that middle place again.

There’s no haircut place around here catering to butch women.

I picture myself walking into a beauty parlor or barber shop and holding my breath, bracing for the reaction.

Steeling myself for acceptance. Or something else.

To ‘sir’ with love

download.jpgRachel Maddow is my spirit animal.

Last week, she was interviewing a congressman on her TV show. At the end of the interview, she says, “thank you, sir.”

The congressman responds in kind. “Thank you, sir,” he says. “I mean, ma’am,” he quickly corrects.

“It’s alright, I answer to both,” she says without missing a beat.

I bow to Maddow.

I wish I was quick on my feet. It’s probably why Rachel Maddow has a TV show and I don’t. But whatever.

imagesSometimes I don’t mind being called “sir.” Other times it bugs me. I’m fickle like that.

But then I read the comments to my last post:

“Would kill to be sir’d,” someone wrote.

“I’m jealous you get called sir,” another reader wrote.

I’m going to stop complaining. And try to roll with it, channeling my inner Maddow.

* * *

What about you? Do you hate being called “sir”? Love it? Or fall somewhere in the middle? Care to share your best response to being sir’d?

Assorted butch news and other stuff

“And this gentleman is?”

He arched one eyebrow so it pointed directly at me.

I found myself crafting this response in my head: I’m not a gentleman.

But then I couldn’t say those words, because I pride myself on being a gentleman.

“My name is Rae,” I said, leaving him to figure out the rest.

IMG_0745It’s the hair. I haven’t been misgendered for a long time. Then blam. My hair becomes too long to spike up and sits on top of my head like a lid. There’s a bit of an overhang. It’s like having a little roof over the front portion of my head. It’s the Barney Rubble look that I wrote about here.

What’s a butch to do. Keep calm and Barney Rubble on. Someone make me a T-shirt, please.

In other news, I finally saw The Lego Batman Movie. Now, W and I pew-pew each other and the cats with our invisible laser guns after she gets home from work.

In more other news, check out this cool new documentary called Gender Troubles: The Butches. You can view it for free through March 28, sir.

Oh, one more thing, I’m giving away copies of my book, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender, on Goodreads. You can enter to win here. You know you want to. Hurry, time’s almost up.

* * *

What’s new with you?

 

Today I’m a 50-year-old boy

I turn 50 today.

It’s weird because most days I feel like a kid. A young boy somewhere in the age range of 12 to 17.

images

Sir, I’ve been reading this great blog called The Flannel Files.

Most people I know say they don’t feel like adults either. Which means we’re all living in a giant Peanuts cartoon. No adults for miles–just an occasional wah wa-wah in the distance. You can call me Peppermint Patty. Or sir. Take your pick. Even though this lesbian doesn’t rock sandals.

 

W is throwing me a big party on Saturday complete with a party bus. I don’t know the details, so the rest is a surprise.

But today we’ll spend a quiet evening at home with the kids.

We’ll get pizza or some other takeout. I’ll open presents.

download

Super sweet.

I already bought myself these cool black Puma throwbacks as a happy-birthday-to-me gift.

I’m thinking of treating myself to another pair in baby blue.

“Like my eyes,” I told W.

“Yes,” she said.

“My eyes are green,” I said.

“I meant they would compliment your eyes,” she said.

download-1

Super sweet, too.

She doesn’t understand how sneakers work.

I’ll wait for next weekend to see The Lego Batman Movie. Maybe as a reward for getting our taxes ready.

“No thank you,” W said when I first asked her if she wanted to see the movie. She has since agreed to see it with me. Because pity, I guess. But whatever. It’s The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

And I’ll save some birthday money for comic books. To spend at that new store in Philly W said we could visit the weekend we see Cabaret.

I suppose 50 means I’m wise. At least wiser than I was at 49. If I’ve learned anything these past five decades, it’s be true to yourself. Live your authentic life.

Even if you’re a 50-year-old boy/woman and that means sneakers and comic books and The Lego fucking Batman Movie.

Life is too short, folks.

* * *

What Peanuts character are you? What’s your favorite type of sneaker? Put them together and make some kind of drag king/queen name. You know you want to. C’mon, it’s my birthday. Humor me.

Love,

Pat Puma

 

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.