Tag Archives: bullying

When I See Pink I See Red

why-i-hate-pinkI have an aversion to groups of girls. It is deep seated. The girls at P.S. 40 Manhattan were a mean bunch, a nasty clique. When I see a group of girls together, I flinch. I don’t see them as adorable or playful. I don’t trust them. I can’t remember back to when girls were just girls.

I went to school, from kindergarten through sixth grade, with the same twenty or so girls. Line up, recess, lunch, dismissal. Outside the classroom I was a target. Push, elbow, poke. Eww, keep away from me, you’ve got cooties. 

Teased and shunned. For being fat, for wearing ugly clothes, for being a misfit. Eww what’s that smell? Get away. There were two ringleaders who kept the other girls in line. They weren’t girly girls, they weren’t rich girls, they weren’t smart girls, but they were good at what they did. I had no friends at school. Wendy and Julie saw to it.

Don’t let her touch the ball, we’ll have to decontaminate it. I did not want to play their games. I did not want to sit at their table. I see London, I see France, What is in your underpants? I did not want them to police my behavior or my gender (if I’d only had the terms to describe it then).

Before I started kindergarten, before I knew the jargon, before some of the jargon existed, before I could formulate the words, I knew I was not like them. I was a boy and I was attracted to women. If I didn’t have the thoughts concurrently, I intertwined them quickly. Continue reading

I’d Like to Talk to My Dad

My 6th grade graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

My elementary school graduation in 1970. I might have been happier in a jacket and tie, but pointy collars were in style.

It was a simple question, an ice-breaker at a meeting. If you could invite anyone over for dinner, dead or alive, who would you choose? We were going around the circle, and I wished I was more imaginative. My immediate reaction was “I’d like to talk to my dad.”

I could have said Emma Goldman or Magnus Hirschfeld. John Lennon or Rosa Parks. Would Mahatma Gandhi be looking at his watch, wondering if he had to stay for coffee and dessert? Would Audre Lorde have to feign interest in my writing? Would she wonder why she was brought back for this when there were so many more interesting things she could be doing?

My dad would be tickled that I choose him. He was forty-three when he died; I was thirteen. I wish I could talk to him. I’ve got questions. Continue reading

A Perfect Summer

Gracie gets in the way during the photo shoot of my camp mementos.

Gracie gets in the way during the photo shoot of my camp mementos.

The summer I was seven was a perfect summer. I went to sleep away camp. My grandmother paid for it so that my mother could have the summer off; I was getting on my mother’s nerves. Saint George’s Camp for Girls was a traditional camp, run by the church that housed my brother’s Cub Scout troop. 

My brother was going to the boy’s camp and I insisted that if he went I went. I didn’t want to be stuck at home with my mother. She did not know what to do with me.

Sending us to camp was a lot of trouble for my mother. She had to buy trunks, sheets and blankets, sleeping bags, and camp uniforms. Labels had to be sewn into everything, including our socks and underwear.

I’d never spent a night away from my parents. I’d never been allowed to pick out my own clothes. The camp uniform was a pair of navy blue shorts topped by a white T-shirt with “Saint George’s Camp” in large red letters across the chest. Campers were only required to wear uniforms for prayers and dinner, but I wore my camp uniform all the time. I was proud of it and liked it better than what my mother had packed for me. I also wore my New York Mets cap; I only removed it for meals, prayers, swimming, bathing, and sleeping. Continue reading

Not the Retiring Kind

 

Avenue H Station, Brighton Line. The rocking chairs are real and I will not be sitting in one.

Avenue H Station, Brighton Line. The rocking chairs are real, but I will not be sitting in one.

I put in my papers to take early retirement from New York City Transit. I’m embarrassed to write that sentence because I barely feel like an adult, much less one eligible to collect a pension. Six years ago, right before July 4th weekend, my boss called me into his office to tell me I was being involuntarily re-assigned. While he was talking I started thinking about retiring.

The demotion caught me by surprise. I had gotten myself into trouble with the President of NYCT; he was making unreasonable demands of my unit (Subway Schedules). I patiently explained why I disagreed with him. I was respectful and on-point. I did not defer to him, but I was not insubordinate. We took an immediate dislike to each other. My queerness did not help matters. Continue reading

My Mother’s Obsession

I spend a lot of time thinking about how people see me and what I look like. Not because I am vain and stylish, but because my mother was obsessed with making me look like a girl. We were both unhappy with how I looked; we had different ideas on how to solve the problem.

no-clothes-for-butch-dress-upEvery day I struggled to get dressed and go to school. I hated wearing skirts and dresses. I hated wearing tights. I hated wearing Mary Janes. I hated wearing pastels, lace, bows, and anything that had elastic in the waist or a zipper in the back. I threw a lot of tantrums. I wanted to look like a boy not a girl. I could not understand why my mother insisted on putting me in clothes I hated.

By the third grade I had acquired a wardrobe of drab unadorned dresses, and dark Oxford shoes. While I despised these clothes, they were the least objectionable of what was available. I wore them like a prison uniform. The clothes were ugly. but innocuous enough that I could numb out in them. I refused to inhabit them. I daydreamed my way out of them. Continue reading

Sticks and Stones

A couple of posts ago, I referred to myself, in my youth, as a stone butch. This created a controversy. Everyone has their own ideas about what a stone butch is. All negative. And they didn’t include me. Butch, no argument, but not stone. That is because I am, and aways have been, a big softy. A big hugger, a big kisser, and a big cuddler. I’m sweet and I’m considerate. With humans and with dogs. I just don’t like taking my clothes off or having my “girl” parts fiddled with.

No seat at the gender tableStone butch sounds hard and immovable. Stone butch sounds cold and rough. It isn’t. I’m not made out of bedrock. I am a butch with contradictions. I am a butch with limits. Some labels are too hard, some labels are too soft, and none of them feels just right. Not even the little bear’s. Continue reading

Embracing Contradiction

what-a-butch-lesbian-really-looks-like

Roman mosaic – Conimbriga, Portugal

My mother was a bully. She was abusive. I thought it was my fault. She wanted a normal child and she got me instead.

My mother felt cheated. She wanted a daughter. I was supposed to be sweet and polite, neat and nicely dressed, smart but deferential. I was supposed to go along with the plan. My brother complied. I resisted. Resistance is not the same as doing what you want.   Continue reading