Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

On Cheryl’s Birthday, Femme Earrings, and Social Media

September 19, 2011  |  journal entries  |  2 Comments

I’ve returned from Dark Odyssey’s Summer Camp, which was phenomenal and I have so much to say about it, like all the retreat/weekends I’ve been on lately—and since there’s so much to say it’s so much harder to say it, because I get overwhelmed, so I don’t write anything at all. The weather at Summer Camp—cloudy, sometimes rainy, not very warm—was excellent for my butch outfits (v-neck sweater or sweater vest over button down and a tie, suit jacket, leather jacket, jeans, boots) but not so excellent for Kristen’s outfits, who wanted to bring sundresses and the tiny little bow shirt but instead brought jeans and boots and sweater dresses, no less sexy but less exhibitionist fun perhaps. I mention that mostly because someone asked. But thankfully the sun was out when we had a quick portrait session with Stacie Joy, so there might be some shots of Kristen’s (gorgeous) tits in the future, we’ll see how they turn out.

My processing of the fourth amazing erotic retreat/weekend in three months is derailed a little bit by today’s date: it’s Cheryl’s birthday. Nicole Fix, who spoke at Cheryl’s memorial, wrote a lovely piece for GO magazine about it.

This weekend, at a lovely moment in bed, I don’t remember which one, Kristen was wearing these hoop earrings in square shapes, and I suddenly had a strong remembrance of exactly their source. I didn’t want to interrupt the moment, but I felt a strong surge of emotion, grief and sadness and the tragedy of it all.

Later, when we were just chatting, I said, “I love those earrings. Do you remember where they came from?”

She had shadows in her eyes right away. “Cheryl.”

“Yes,” I had taken them from Cheryl’s jewelry collection, when I was helping Kelli clean out Cheryl’s apartment, to give to Kristen. Cheryl was known for her hoops, one of her signature looks, along with her red lipstick, and I snagged a lot of the ones that Cheryl wore regularly. “But also, I gave them to her. On her birthday last year, you and I bought them together, but I picked them out. We brought them to Sideshow along with some little cupcakes.” I’m kind of good at picking out jewelry. I love that skill, love being able to provide just the right thing for the femmes in my life. I’m glad Kristen has some of her jewelry, but sometimes it’s shocking and catches me off guard.

We held each other in silence for a few minutes, remembering. That was such a great night. Sideshow was just starting to take off. We had a fabulous line up, Back to School. I miss Sideshow. Cheryl hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer yet. No one knew that would be her last birthday.

“Wasn’t that about a year ago?” Kristen asked. We couldn’t remember Cheryl’s exact birth date, but it was in the fall, right? Was it September or October Sideshow?

When I got back to my computer this morning, the first thing in my Facebook feed was all sorts of folks posting on Cheryl’s wall, “happy birthday!” as if they don’t know. As if they were wishing her to have a happy, celebratory day. I know that’s what Facebook does—”so and so has a birthday today, wish them a happy birthday”—and that’s how folks respond, by doing what a social network program automatically tells them what to do, so the response becomes “happy birthday,” regardless of the relationship or the knowledge we may have missed in the last few months.

I cringed, and teared up, but more than that feel protective of Kelli, and of Cheryl becoming some sort of public persona/domain figure which people don’t really know, but on to which they project. Apparently that is an ongoing problem for close friends who have died, especially in the queer/performance worlds. This is new for me.

Thinking a lot of Cheryl lately, and especially today. I miss her so much.

My favorite shot of us by Syd London

Gender Celebration Blog Carnival: Living Gender

July 15, 2011  |  journal entries, on butches  |  6 Comments

Ellie Lumpesse has been curating a Gender Celebration Blog Carnival, and today’s my day to participate. The topic is “living gender.”

You can check out a few of the other participants, if you like: Curvaceous Dee wrote about what makes her a woman; Sexpert Jane Blow wrote about her perceived gender; Eusimto wrote about gender anarchy; Dangerous Lilly wrote about labels and being politically correct. Still to come are neamhspleachas and Ellie.

I hope this Gender Celebration Carnival will keep going! I think it could drum up some great conversation.

I don’t know when it happened exactly.

One day I just woke up and felt good in my skin. I went to my closet and felt good about the choices of clothing I had to offer. I dressed and looked in the mirror and I felt good about my reflection. I saw a photograph of myself and I smiled, and saw me.

It wasn’t always that way.

I didn’t used to recognize myself in photographs. I didn’t used to feel good about the pieces of clothing I would pull on to pull together an outfit. But somewhere along the way, things started shifting, and improved.

I probably can’t even put my finger on it. Not an exact date or time.

I remember when I threw out most of my clothes that were purchased in the girl’s department, going through my closet and my drawers with each piece: where did this one come from? This one? This one? and sifting them all into neat piles. I remember bringing home bags full of button-downs and polo shirts from the thrift store to try to rebuild some new version of me, some version that had swagger and dated girls and knew how to fuck. I remember buying three-packs of undershirts and three-packs of briefs and trying to figure out from the packaging what size I would be.

I remember trying on various versions of these in photo sets, self-portraits I would take of myself on my bed, against a wall, with an upturned lamp pointed at my face. Sometimes with a timer, sometimes from arm’s length. I have found folders and folders of these photos recently, with titles like “playing butch dressup” and “self butch” and “new clothes” and “wife beater a-shirt.” There were others: “lipstick” and “cat costume” and “corset” and “cleavage,” all carefully labeled in folders, back in the digital day before Picasa and iPhoto would keep everything organized for you.

But it wasn’t all about clothes and presentation.

They say there are many components to gender: chromosomes, genitals, hormones, external presentation, internal sense of self, and yes, of course, socialization and performance. Gender is not all of any of these things, it is not all performance, it is not all socialized. Some of it is innate. Some of it is about genitals. I believe there are many factors.

Gender is also about energy.

I remember studying some classmates in college: the way they sat, the way they held their pens, the way they slung their bookbags over their shoulders and defiantly walked out of the classroom door, shoulders back head high chin up. A little daring, a little rebellious. They sat with their legs open, taking up lots of space. I mimicked them. I practiced sliding low in a chair and splaying my knees.

I noticed that these people got lower grades than I did for doing the same work, because they were perceived to be not paying attention.

And then, when I started mimicking them daily, when my mimery became mine and became a slightly altered version of a copy of a copy of a copy, I started getting ignored by those same professors, started getting glossed over when my hand was up, started wondering why I wasn’t perceived as the straight-A front row apple-for-the-teacher student that I was.

Oh. Right. My gender.

But it wasn’t always like that. It was easier to recognize a straight-A student as a girl, apparently. My board shorts and polo shirts were not proper enough to be seen as part of academia, but my brain hadn’t changed. Curiouser and curiouser.

(That was workable, however. All it took was a few office hours visits with those professors and my participation in class looked much different.)

The other thing that changed was the girls. Suddenly I was visible, a catch, someone dateable. I had three dates in a week, once, in college, and my mind was a little bit boggled. (I didn’t sleep with any of them, or rather, none of them slept with me, but hey, at least I was getting out there! At least I was being noticed!)

I got a Facebook message from the mom of one of my childhood friends recently that said, “You look exactly the same.” I’m not sure what she meant by that, because to me I look so completely different. But I think she was trying to express some gender validation, some gender celebration, telling me that though my external appearance may seem radically different, that there was a similarity, a thread running through all of my life experiences that was me, at the core.

What I want to tell you is that now, I recognize myself in the mirror. Now, I don’t get up and obsess about gender before I even put on my clothes. Now, I get my hair cut every three weeks and keep it shorn tight in the back and on the sides. Now, I don’t debate if it’s a cliche to keep my hair short, I don’t wonder if perhaps I should grow it back out because lesbians should have options, I keep it short because I know I want to. I keep briefs in my underwear drawer because I know all the options, and those are what I like. I collect ties and cufflinks. I shop unapologetically in the men’s department and I don’t even know my sizes translated into women’s anymore: I’m 8 1/2, 34/30, M, 16. I feel handsome and beautiful and attractive and at peace with my body—at least, most of the time. It has taken time, I’m 32, but I don’t think about my own gender, and wonder what it would be like, living daily, if it felt comfortable, anymore.