Friday, June 19, 2009

Old lesbians who look like men who look like old lesbians...

I was walking behind this couple today. The person on the left looked like a pretty normal straight woman. On the right was someone with short but thick wavy hair, white sneakers, Dad jeans pulled up a little too high and a navy polo shirt. I immediately thought of one of my favorite websites, Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians. Thinking for sure this man walking in front of me was going to bear a striking resemblance to Billy Jean King, I passed this couple, turned and realized that this man in front of me actually was an old lesbian. An old lesbian that had no doubt been mistaken for a man at some point in her life. An old lesbian that was probably made fun of as a child for being a tom-boy. An old lesbian who, well, looked like an old lesbian. Here I am preparing myself to have a chuckle about the fact that this woman looks exactly like what she is. The irony is fantastic.

Every day gender blurs a little more. Girls look like boys who look like girls. I don't and never have advocated for a gender free society. I think the distinctions between the genders are important and wonderful. However, I'm all for the freedom to take on all those traits at once. Now that I am a man I feel much more comfortable taking on more womanly traits, traits that would have made me ashamed and uncomfortable in a world that saw me as a woman. Sometimes taking our genders full circle is what we need for everything to make sense.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The meaning of our stories

I've been really struggling with meaning lately. It started on a personal level--what's the point of my work? It snowballed out of control from there. What's the point of any artwork? Is it a commodity? Is it entertainment? It's tough to be an advocate for the art when you're in the throws of an existential crisis where you're not sure you believe in art at all.

The downward spiral continued with wondering what the point of anything was? Why write if no one reads it? Who cares if someone does read it? It got even more ridiculous when I starting thinking things like what's the point of going to the gym? To get healthy, eh? Well, what's the point in getting healthy if we're all going to die eventually anyway? Why spend time with friends? Why drink a beer? Why laugh? Why talk? Why bother? I was close to believing there was little point to anything. My new philosophizing was leading me to a life where one would go through the motions and spent the rest of their time in a dark room staring at a blank wall. I knew something was wrong.

Last time I felt this way I saw an amazing presentation on artists in exile--women in the middle east telling their stories. It pulled me out of my funk and made me realize that art had the roll of communicator, telling a story that isn't otherwise told. I'm trying to remind myself of this now. I'm also trying to remind myself that it is darkest before the dawn. When I had my show in January I could see that the works had meaning for people. This was both energizing and perplexing.

Coming out as gay is community building, I think transitioning is an inherently isolating experience. We may find other transpeople to share the experience with, but for some reason these friendships have always felt oddly competitive. His voice sounds deeper, his arms are more muscular, his facial hair is growing faster. Maybe that's just me. Instead of coming out we are trying to fit in--fit in to our bodies, selves and a community of men. This is something we do alone. The more I "succeed" as a man, the more lonely it begins to feel.

Still, our stories are important--all of our stories. Instead of acting like a three year old and continually asking why I am learning to accept and believe this. The memories that connect us and the stories we tell keep time moving and turn our interactions into something bigger than ourselves. Rather than trying to figure out what that something is (which I think is pretty much impossible), I should just give in and contribute to the story.