Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'll Show You Mine ... If You Show Me Yours

One of my first memories when I was a little girl was the discovery that my two brothers had been furnished with an extra part of their anatomies that I did not have. It puzzled me, and I didn't think it was fair. I felt cheated. I went around to all the little boys in the neighborhood, asking them if they had one, and could I please see it. They all had one, and they were extremely proud of them, and very happy to show them to me. In fact, I remember one instance where several of my little male friends were so excited to show me the wonderful things their appendages could do, they all lined up along a fence and had a (*cough*) contest. I was so angry at not being able to do what they were doing, I went home and told my mother. She made me sit on the chesterfield for the rest of the afternoon with the dreaded words, "Stay there until your father gets home...!" I sat there trembling in fear and anger.

When my father finally got home, he laughed for quite a long time, and then he had a little chat with me. I don't remember exactly what he said, but he quietly explained to me why little boys have that "extra bit", and little girls don't, and whatever he said, I was happy. From that day on I was glad to be a girl, and I felt girls were somehow special and mysterious. Boys really were "snakes and snails and puppy dog's tails" and little girls were "cinnamon and spice and everything nice". I love being a woman.

Last night I was reading about Chaz/Chastity Bono, and how she felt she had been born into the wrong body. All her life, instead of feeling like a female, she has felt that she is really a male. She has recently undergone sex change orientation so her physical body will be in alignment with how she feels inside. I should refer to her as him, because he is now male. It occurred to me how difficult it must be to be born as one gender, but to know in your heart that you are actually the other gender. How on earth does that happen? I think, also, it must be more common than we realize.

I believe most people have identity issues of some sort or another. As the Scottish poet Robbie Burns said, "O wad some Power the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!" But more to the point, wouldn't our lives be so much easier if other people could see us the way we see ourselves. It's frustrating and sometimes hurtful when people treat us differently than we are. It's as if they don't see us. They have pre-judgement -- or prejudice -- based on how we look. Occasionally in life we meet someone who sees right into our soul, and they know us, and they connect with the real person. I think that must be what love is.

Chaz Bono has a lot of courage to do what he is doing, and I really applaud him. He doesn't want to live behind a facade any longer. I think he may set an example for other people, who want to throw off the artificial guise they show to the world, and just be themselves. As with Chaz, it takes a lot of courage. Or, to quote another famous poet:

"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."

... Shakespeare


Susan said...

Your photo header took me by surprise. My grandmother used to have that print. Can you tell me who the artist is?
What a wonderful child hood tale, thanks for sharing it.

Jo said...

Hi, Susan...! That is a painting by Renoir called "A Vase of Chrysanthemums" painted in 1890. Isn't it wonderful? I thought it was perfect for fall.

Mary Anne Gruen said...

I think you're right. Love does seem to be able to see into the soul. It would be a much better world if everyone's "vision" was a little sharper in this respect.

Russell said...

So many things could be said after reading this post! Heh!

I found the first part of your post much more interesting than the rest of it and could say something quite rique, but I am sure you know what it is....! Heh!!

But, sure, yes, I would be happy to ...!! I mean, uh, discuss this topic more at, uh, length ... if you would like!

Alissa said...

This reminds me of my father's story of going over a friend's house when he was a kid and seeing his friend's younger sister naked. Having never seen a naked girl before he assumed she had been in some sort of horrible accident and felt bad for her!

This past week an agent I queried about a novel I had written, wrote back with a lengthy message that unfortunately says he will not be representing the project, but one thing I found interesting was that he was surprised by the dark nature of my book having first Googled me and seen a "sweet, innocent" looking woman and knowing that I had worked in a library, he expected something much lighter. He admitted his foolishness in judging a book by its cover.

Arley said...

I had a similar experience as a child with a neighborhood boy. He would show me how "his worked" but I never had the courage to do the

I strongly believe a person is born in the gender which God has chosen for them. If someone believes they were born with the "wrong gender" then they really should seek professional help. I'm not trying to be insensitive, but if you look at it logically, our entire genetic profile is completely mapped out for us the moment we are conceived. Unless someone is born a Hermaphrodite, their given gender is correctly chosen for them.

kenju said...

I had one of those "you show me yours...." moments when I was in second grade. He showed me his - and I ran away home.....LOL

Owen said...

Love your Renoir painting in the title bar... wow...!

Guess they're fairly universal, these "show me" moments, discovering the differences. Must be tough to want to desire recourse with surgery to re-formulate one's body to better conform with one's self perception. I would rather suspect that many people are curious to know what it would feel like to be the other sex... but few, very few, go so far as to try to get there. And even after surgery, do they really experience anything like what the real thing is ? I wonder...

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I am not sure how I feel about gender reassignment. I have known people with all the characteristics of the opposite sex who seemed to be comfortable with the equipment they were born with. But, who knows if that is the way they really felt. We all present a public facade, don't we?

So much we don't know.

Virginia said...

may I just say up front that you look damn good for 897!

That said, you're right you know. We all have to be what and who we are. I applaud those that take that giant leap. Our society has a long way to go in that respect.

Merci for stopping by my Paris blog. I love Paris so much it hurts. What's a "girl" from Alabama doing racing back and forth to France for pete's sake? I'm besotted. That's all there is to it.

Marguerite said...

Loved your childhood tale! And I think that each person should do what's best for them, too! Thanks for visiting!

ivan said...

Ah what the hell.

"But Sam, you made the penis too long!"

JR's Thumbprints said...

I thought I'd stop by to see what developments are taking place in your neck of the woods, to see whether there'd be any discussion about an upcoming Olympic event. I guess this counts as one.

Jo said...

Mary Anne, yes. I we could all learn to be less superficial... For some reason George Clooney-type looks do not impress me at all. Give me someone with a kind soul any day. Not to say that George Clooney doesn't have a kind soul, but his looks don't impress me. :-)

Russell, you never fail to make me LAUGH RIGHT OUT LOUD... :-)

Alissa, there's a good example. Who would ever have thought that someone with such a sweet face would have a dark nature? Not all is what it seems. :-)

Arley, well, I think possibly some folks maybe be born with more of the hormones, etc., of one sex than the other, even though they look like the opposite sex. It's still such a grey area.

Kenju, LOL...! Love it...!

Owen, what a good point. Do they ever really get to "the other side"? I believe Arley may be right, that we are what we are born.

Kathy, yes, sometimes I think some of us are like "The Picture of Dorian Gray". What is really underneath?

Virginia, I always say New York is the centre of the world, and Paris is the centre of the universe. My daughter is hoping to take her children there soon, to show it to them. Last year she took them to New York. What wonderful places...!

Marguerite, yes, to thine own self be true...

Ivan, oh, goodness... *heh*

JR...! Mental telepathy. Just today I was wondering how you are.

Cedar said...

Leave it to you to broach this topic. As you may have heard I am a lesbian and as lesbians go I am not one of those L-Word lesbians I am rather on the masculine side of the lesbian spectrum even more so when I was younger. Even though I have a lot of masculine traits I have never thought about becoming a man. I don't feel like I am a man trapped in a woman's body, I just feel like I am a lesbian.

I am not sure how I feel when people like Chastity Bono come out and say they are a lesbian and then come out and say, no I am a man in a woman's body. What message does that send out to the straight community? The rest of us are in denial? We really want to be men? And the only real lesbians look like Portia de Rossi?

I don't know I find it all really confusing and I have friends who are FTM and they try to explain it to me and I still don't get it and the testerone injections make them all aggressive and in your face and makes them uber male. It's like they take on all the attributes of men that make some men assholes.

And the burning question Chasity's lesbian girl friend not trans-straight?

I am sure the next generation of LGBT's gets it much better than I do.

Firefly said...

I just had a good laugh imagining you standing there in disgust cause you can't take part in the contest. Well now you can. There is a new product on the market that targets female hikers. Its a type of funnel that you ... um... utilise to ... uh... relieve yourself while standing. *big innocent smile*

Cloudia said...

You have gone directly to the heart of the matter, Jo.
As someone who worked with transgendered adults and especially kids I wish everyone had you compassionate attitude. One kid told me:
"Being like this is like being locked in a shed out back." I don't expect my family can break me out, I don't ask them to understand or DO anything. I just wish that they would stop kicking the shed so hard!"
Thanks for visiting my Hawaii blog. YOU are most welcome anytime!

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Land of shimp said...

I'm glad that people like Chaz Bono now have an out, a way of remedying the situation. I know it isn't easy to be a transgendered person, but it must have been sheer emotional torture for people when there was nothing whatsoever that could be done about it.

I remember in one class studying the history of gender relations we came to segment about women in the old West, living as men, many of whom were not discovered to be women until their deaths. For some it was clearly an issue of escaping confining gender roles, for others there was an element of sexual orientation at play, and for still others it truly seemed that it was a question of gender, and knowing themselves to be male.

I think Chaz Bono is very brave, and people like him can help raise public awareness, and inspire compassion with understanding.

I hope he's happy, having found his true self.

Jo said...

Cedar, you put into words exactly what I was thinking. It's all very confusing. I read somewhere that because Chaz has gone through a sex change operation, that he was never a lesbian at all. And of course her partner would now be with a man. It's very confusing to me.

Firefly, Omigawd...! Just what women need to equalize the sexes. I had never heard of that. I sure could have used one, all those years I went camping. *heh*

Cloudia, how interesting...! You had an opportunity to find our first-hand how people like that feel trapped in their bodies. There is no denying how they feel, is there!?

Alane, I did a post earlier about Helen and Doug. Helen's operation was a transgender operation, and she was in anguish because the operation went terribly wrong. All her life she had been trapped in the wrong body, and everyone else knew it as well. She wasn't just a tomboy, she was a boy. There is no denying how those folks feel, and I think Chaz has really raised the awareness.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've met a few folks with this issue and it's clearly in most cases a biological phenomenon. Chaz sure was better looking as a girl, though.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I was lured here again by your scandalous childhood.

Land of shimp said...

@ Cedar
Wow, what a fascinating question, and one that wouldn't have occurred to me in quite that way. I can tell you what I thought, as a straight woman, when I heard about Chaz and everything he's been through in finding his true gender identity, I just assumed that at one point when he realized, "I'm exclusively sexually attracted towards women." He thought, when he was still in a woman's body, "I am therefore, a lesbian." and that it made sense, but that a continuing lack of peace, and ever pressing questions led him further to, "I am a man in a woman's body."

It doesn't then follow, to my mind, that lesbians are men in women's bodies, not at all, but that in his personal quest, it was an understandable initial conclusion, "I am a woman, and I love other women, that means I'm a lesbian."

But that wasn't his personal answer. I guess that's what it comes down to. When I think about people, gay or straight, that's the first identifying label, you know? Person. Person who is straight. Person who is gay. Person being the operative part in any statement. Some people are straight, some are gay, still other people are transgendered, and the answers for each of us are very individual. That we aren't talking about universal truths, but rather personal ones.

I never thought about Chaz Bono as being indicative of anything other than the life of Chaz Bono. HIs path, journey, was his own.

I think you raise a very interesting question simply because most people, when confronted with anything outside of their personal sphere, do tend to approach understanding beginning with generalizations. "All Southerns drink sweet tea." "You live in the West, you must work with cows." "All lesbians did not play with dolls growing up." "All gay men are gifted decorators." thinking broad, and inaccurate labels to try and understand something beyond their personal experience.

I'm not saying this well, so please forgive me, but I do think the point you raise is interesting. Yes, it would confuse some people, but only those still stuck in the Town Mouse/Country Mouse dynamic stage of understanding...which is a pretty early stage, you know? The people who might be confused by Chaz Bono's story, are confused with or without it, because they are still in the broad, all encompassing label stage.

I think people move beyond that when actually trying to understand other people. I think most are capable of understanding that just as what I do has no bearing on the definition of what it means to be straight for the straight people of the world, my relationship history doesn't provide information on "The straight people of the world do this..." , but it does provide information on who I am.

I think that anyone who believes that Chaz Bono's very personal story says anything about lesbians, very feminine or masculine, is still thinking primarily in definitive labels.

Oddly enough I watched Milk just the other day, and was really struck by the scene where he encourages gay men to come out of the closet, to let friends, family, coworkers and neighbors know, "I am gay. This is who I am." specifically so that people could no longer cling to their defining Otherness labels, but rather so that the straight people around them would see individuals, people, feeling beings with a sexual orientation different from their own.

It's a concept most can grasp -- pretty obviously, I'm sexually attracted to my husband, but it does not follow that every straight woman out there will also be. That's such an easy one, most people can just say, "Oh hey, yeah, I see what you're saying."

Land of shimp said...

I guess all I'm trying to say is that anyone confused, and who might apply that to you, still has you firmly corralled in a specific from of Tupperware, complete with a very limiting label and beyond that, has all the other lesbians of the world in that same Tupperware container with you, already.

Perhaps anything that makes them peak under that lid is a good thing. To begin to understand the very broad spectrum that exists in being gay or a lesbian, just as there is a very broad spectrum in what it means to be straight.

@Jo - Sorry for the double comment, Jo. Rather than try to edit, I figured it was better to just risk being overly wordy.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What a lovely, funny, compassionate post. Sex reassignments are difficult for the person as well as their friends and family. And when you are a 'celebrity', it must be very hard under the spotlight.

TomCat said...

Josie, I must confessed that I'm pleased your father was able to resolve your confusion. Somehow I just can't picture you as a Joe.

Jo said...

Charles, yes, she was a pretty girl, wasn't she? But I guess she feels better now.

LGS, *heh, heh* I will never forget how angry my mother was, and how my father laughed for a very long time. :-)

Alane, you have made some very interesting points. I think -- from what I understand -- that a person's sexual identity and their gender identity are actually two completely different things. I don't quite understand it, because I am a female, and I feel like a female, and I am "straight". I once saw a documentary about a gay woman who became a man, and then became a gay man. Confused yet?

Bonnie, yes, it must be very difficult to girl bith to a girl, and raise her as a girl, and then she becomes a male. Or vice versa. It takes a lot of love and understanding.

Tom, I will never forget how hard my father laughed - and for a very long time.

Land of shimp said...

That's my understanding too, Jo. Gender identity and sexual identity are separate issues. I'm sorry if I wasn't clear on that.

I was approaching it solely from the "Would this be confusing for other people?" and I do think most people do understand the separation.

Jo said...

Alane, I think it's good that people are talking about it, and are becoming accepting of it. Everyone is different, and there is no "cookie-cutter" stamp for any of us, is there? We have to learn to accept and even embrace the differences. Talking about it helps to enlighten some folks, hopefully at least.

Aidan said...

A really intresting post as usual :) My friends have always maintained that I was a lesbian born into a man's body ...

heartinsanfrancisco said...

You had the most wonderful father ever! No wonder you are such a well-balanced soul.

I never wanted to be male but did envy the convenience of the male equipment, which was displayed by my next-door neighbor when we were about 5. (I wondered what all the fuss was about:)

No one should have to endure a lifetime of feeling like a misfit in such an all-important area as gender. But it's hard to imagine the thought processes which would bring someone to that conclusion without having experienced it.

Deedee said...

I wonder why we all can't just be who we are. Maybe there was meant to be such a human as one who is one gender in body and another in spirit? Why must the two match? In any case, you can live as you feel and who the heck cares what or who others think you are. I guess I don't understand why changing the physical body is necessary - it's only a very superficial and temporary shell anyway.

Anonymous said...

I guess I was just born in the wrong neighborhood....

I went around my neighborhood soliciting every girl I could to swap 'peeks'. I had a pathetic box score (no pun intended). Finally, one girl was willing to go behind a cedar tree and swap peeks. One mind you!

But I will say this, when I scored I scored big because it was the Presbyterian preacher's daughter who lived next door. I guess that's something. :)

Great post!
Alan G