the boi your mother warned you about

11/07/2011

so let’s talk about pronouns and gender identity, yeah? after all, it keeps coming up in conversation, and i’ve been meaning to write something more coherent.

excerpt from an old journal entry:

They/them is a compromise, a way of acknowledging the interstitial space I’m at right now, a space I’ll likely always inhabit in some form or another. An incredibly effeminate (lisp, prance and all) boi-identified person who is terrified of medical transition for various reasons. And I’ll keep my cunt, thank you. But not my tits, maybe? If i had a relationship status with my tits on Facebook I’d say It’s complicated, like anything about gender is. Have been trying to write about my longstanding “need” to present as femme while feeling uh…less-than. And then there are skirts. I’ll always wear skirts. Just because I’m a boi doesn’t mean I don’t get to wear these comfortable, practical garments. Anyone who believes the clothes make the man can fuck off.

It’s difficult to explain what it’s like to live in a female-assigned body, love garments that are often female-assigned (skirts, esp.), and…wish that my body were male-assigned. To wear a dress, to put on “femme” and paint my face, to wear high heels…feels subversive. I look in the mirror, and I see a boy/boi/boy, as I am, as I’ve always been.

A friend asked me how gender fluidity worked in languages wherein pronouns/objects are constantly gendered, like in Spanish or Italian. I told them that I couldn’t speak for every genderqueer person ever, but that for me it felt like less of a big deal to be gendered feminina en español than in English.

In Spanish every noun is gendered. La tarea, el doctor, etc. There are also exceptions where a noun with a feminine or masculine (-a or -o) ending are actually gendered opposite (el aroma, la foto, etc) for a variety of reasons. The gendering of nouns in the Romance languages I have studied works in my brain as such that the gendering of pronouns feels less of A Big Deal ™.

It seems to me like Spanish is already set up to acknowledge that the lives of nouns will sometimes fall outside the gender binary, whether for the sake of brevity or to convey the language of their origination.

For the last couple of years the people who know me best have known me by gender neutral or gender fluid pronouns. Not because I am gender neutral, but because to convey myself with these terms, to be conveyed by others by these terms, feels like the closest I can find to something that fits me without making me itch at its untruths.

I am a boi, “the boi/boy/boi your mother warned you about,” clumsy and hopeful, tight-muscled and big-hearted, but being socialized as female has left its mark on me. I could not walk around in my own too-big boots without having been borne forth by strong women and by strong feminism, and to choose that–to reconcile my boi-ness with that, feels like the place I want to be.

It is hard to abstain from medical transition, as hard as it would be to move forward with it. It is shitty to still bleed, and constantly feel my breasts, that alien weight, at my chest. To have to bind, the sweating itchy elastic band against my chest, rather than to breeze past flat-chested and unencumbered. Who minds? I mind.

But for this time, if I have to walk around in this body, being all awkwardly gender-deviant and foul-mouthed, at least I can make life easier for other gender-variant people by mere fact of my existence. Walking the streets I run into other kids in their varying states of difference, some that mark them early as queers: I’m not the only one, nor are you! I wish I had known other bois when I was a kid, to know that someday there would be a  better question asked of me than, are you a boy or a girl? and always me responding: why does it matter?

It’s not really an answer, is it? when I tell you that I prefer gender-neutral pronouns, I mean. Maybe that’s the point, that I’m tired of having to answer, not because I’m gender-neutral, but because like any protagonist, I have a whole lot of gender (a whole lot of self) under my belt, and I’m just beginning to unpack: femme-boi with an i.

***

oh brother

Drawing the enemy (I am not the enemy, I am your brother) near
the boy/boi/boy your mother warned you about
not because she believed that I was
(what I am, what you are, what we are collectively)
but because she knew difference could be its own
type of injury
and she didn’t want it rubbing off on you
(tho we’ve rubbed off together, fulfilled those fears in ways
she couldn’t even imagine to imagine)
she thought maybe a protection order like hers would save you
from these queer motions
notions of queerness endowed
by the careful fist
–knuckle down, now.
My mother said once
“It’s a hard life. A hard life to choose.”
but I know now I did not choose this life
this life has chosen me
over and over:
choose life, choose me, choose the boi/boy/boi
I was always going to be.

(oh me, oh my, oh me.)

-RD

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2 Responses to “the boi your mother warned you about”

  1. Oscar said

    YES to this:
    something that fits me without making me itch at its untruths

    I have a similar experience to this.

  2. how serendipitous that you should comment on this thing, friend. i utterly had you, so very particularly, in mind while writing that brief pome above some moons ago.

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