The first time I wanted to have this conversation,
I was eight, listening to Father Finn
Rail against what was happening then
In 1959 to our Country and I had been watching
My sister and her friends sneak down the isle
Kleenex bobby pinned to their hair and how mad
My mother was that they did not wear their hats
And the Father went on in the background
Until suddenly I heard the phrase 'sex change'
And he was talking about how shameful that was.
I wanted then to tug at my father and ask
What is wrong with Christine Jorgensen;
Why was she so wrong to want to be a woman?
But I knew the script already:
Be constructive; these things go away.
So the conversation was put aside,
Until Rhonda took my bearded face
In her large hands,
Looked me in the eye and asked the question,
What brings you here?
And everything around this moment whorled
Pieces of feeling snapping into place
So I could start this conversation
And come out into world
As the fireworks crackled all around.
Actually this is for last week's 'assignment' and it is quite autobiographical. This was a difficult poem to write because I wanted to deal with the sorts of unfunished conversations that people have as they are growing up, conversations about sex, gender and identity because of the way we socialize kids. I think things are a bit better today than in the 1950's and early 1960's, but as I look around at society today, kids, especially boys are still socialized in the same sort of way-don't cry like a girl, that (insert your favorite stereotypical behavior) is for sissies, don't cry or show any emotion. Girls too are under great pressure it seems to conform to binary gender stereotypes-at least I see that having raised a daughter but there is greater scope for gender expression allowable for women.
I was amused the other year with the television show "He's a Lady", where men made themselves up as women. On the one hand I thought that this was a positive show and done very tastefully-plus I did get some tips on passing. But on the other hand the there were segments in the show where the men had to be shown doing all sorts of macho things. That's OK to a point if it shows that people are comfortable with their gender, but often it struck me as overdone and saying: "no way am I feminine, it's all outside. I am still a square peg in a square hole and all of you round pegs need to get with the program"