A public service announcement in a pseudonymous sort of way: if anyone reading here attended a Fancy Pants University that leads its alumni/ae to think fondly of having the rocks of New England in their muscles and their brains, please remember to vote in the alumni organization election; it's important. Only 21% of alumni/ae have voted so far, alumnae tend to vote at lower rates than alumni, and the alumni organization's leadership has the ability to affect FPU in some very real ways. Please vote--and that link above tells you where I stand on the current controversies.
Anyway. Back to business. I've been planning a post for a while now titled Same Same, But Different, but after I read my friend Joyce's thoughts on her old male self, this other title popped into my head. Or at least it popped into my head this morning when I remembered my dream from last night, which started at the (in my dreamworld) ranch that was the boyhood home of Writer Colleague, whose sibling had recently announced she had transitioned from male to female. The rest of Writer Colleague's family wasn't quite settled on this, but Writer Colleague was determined to support his sibling, and had written a little poem about how much good he wished for his sister, and put an American flag sticker on the poem, and ended the poem with the line "And may all these good things also flow to Joyce." [Point of clarification here: I do have a real Writer Colleague who really did grow up on a ranch, but not a ranch that looks anything like the mountainous ranch in my dream; Writer Colleague doesn't write poems for publication, doesn't decorate his work with flag stickers, and to my knowledge doesn't have a transsexual sibling.] Politica, Curious Girl, and I were all at a big dinner at the ranch, and CG was charming Writer Colleague's father while the sibling and Politica talked politics.
All of a sudden George appeared, and said, "Susan! it's great that you're here. Because it's snowing, we can head out into my hometown and I can show you around." Sure enough, in the magical dream ranch, it had started snowing. George took my hand, Politica and CG followed, and we went through a curtain of snow into George's hometown. I've never actually been to George's hometown, but I'm pretty darn sure it doesn't get much snow, magic or otherwise, and it probably doesn't have a lovely little canal winding through it with bridges and big stones for Curious Girl to excitedly jump across. We all walked around George's town, with George pointed out the landmarks, me saying things like, "George! You're right--your ranch was a great place to grow up. It's out in the country, but look how quickly we came into the town for all these great stores and things to do." I looked at George's old school, the opera house, restaurants, benches, and parks. It was a great walk. When I woke up I had to smile, because this little town in my dream was just green and treed and lusciously wet in a way that the general area George grew up probably isn't (but Joyce will correct me if I'm wrong, of course).
I had a lot of dreams about George when I first learned about Joyce, and it's odd that I'm continuing to dream about all this. Usually I'm a pretty rational person who talks things out while researching and reading. I dream a lot, but this is the first time in a while I've been aware that I'm dreaming around the same kinds of issues in a short period of time. I'm not entirely sure how to interpret these dreams yet--part of the series is more a dream feeling, dreams about freedom and energy. This dream seems to be integrating my past and present, bringing together figures from today with friends from long ago, with a personal tour of George's past, too; I think I'm mixing themes from our relocation and house hunt with my thoughts on gender in the world, too.
Joyce has been writing a bit about how to integrate George with Joyce--her metaphor for what George needs now is retirement. In the first post I linked to above, Joyce wishes George a playful retirement. I guess he's doing some playing in my dreams, and that's fine by me, as being in touch with Joyce so much more frequently these past few months has made me wish I'd been in more frequent touch with George. So dreaming George is just fine by me. I hope it's fine by Joyce, too. Maybe this post is one kind of postcard Joyce is hoping to get from George from his retirement on occasion. Who knows?
I saw George in New Orleans (I'll say George, as that's what the nametag said, and that's what the male clothes suggested, even though I've been writing to Joyce, and using Joyce in talking with Politica and anyone else about Joyce-in-the-present). It was kind of anticlimactic, hence the "same same but different" title I'd planned. George looked almost giddy at times, but otherwise, it was really kind of just the same as any other conference dinner we might have had. Mary, George's wife, seemed a little more nervous, having had a little less practice telling the coming out story. But George seemed relaxed and happy, and that was just good to see. We had a great meal, a nice walk around the neighborhood, and I went home feeling happy to have seen George and Mary, looking forward to seeing Joyce and Mary.
I'm so discomboulated this spring/summer that I can't remember whether I've blogged about the conversations I've had with Curious Girl regarding Joyce. CG hasn't met Joyce yet (nor George either), and while she's heard me and Politica talking about George/Joyce, I don't think she's really been tracking the conversations. A few months ago, though, we were driving around and CG announced that she was hungry. "My tummy is hungry. He says we need some food." She paused. "No, she says. My tummy is a girl." (she's often quite put out when her violin teacher refers to some of her fingers as "he," as in "tell your thumb he better move up here....") I laughed. "Do you think my tummy is a girl, too?" Yes, I learned. "Do you think all girls have girl tummies and boys have boy tummies?" CG said yes. I realized this was a great opening, and explained that I had a friend who was a boy on the outside but who always knew that he was a girl on the inside, that he had a girl tummy and was just a girl inside, and so now he was going to be a girl on the outside too. CG took this in, and asked how. Medicines and some doctors were helping him. "Will she still sound like his regular self?" was CG's big question.
This conversation has stayed with her, I've learned, in two ways. We talk a lot about what our new neighborhood in Germany is going to be like, and what CG's friends will be like there. We want to move to a neighborhood with kids, she knows. "I think there will be kids who live near us," CG pointed out recently. "Will there be girls?" Politica and I didn't know, of course, and we said we'd just have to see. "That's right," said Curious Girl. "They might be girls, or they might be boys, or they might be girls on the outside and boys on the inside, or boys on the outside and girls on the inside. We'll just have to see." Politica did point out that most people are kind of the same inside and out, but we all agreed, we'd just have to see.
Still more recently, CG said, "I hope Historian Friend's New Baby Boy is a girl when he grows up." I did some combination of "hmm. we'll see. isn't Baby great?" and CG said, "yes, and then he can go to the doctor and the doctor would cut him open and there'd be a girl inside. Yay!" So I leave you with the matroishka doll theory of gender identity, one which will doubtless get greater attention here in the Granola household in the future.
I created the category gender matters when I first wrote about Joyce. Gender does matter, but one way it has mattered to me since I've been writing and talking to/about Joyce is that gender makes connections. I feel closer to Joyce now that George isn't keeping secrets. I introduced myself to Joyce's best friend in Bedford Falls at our conference in New Orleans, something I'd likely have been too shy to do had it not been for the gender matters Joyce has raised. Her best friend introduced me to his wife, too, and we all had a great conversation in the book exhibit.
I've been far away from Joyce during most of the overt struggle with her gender, so I've never had to stand by and watch George struggling with depression, fear, and the other truly difficult aspects of living with gender identity disorder. I hope my distance from those darker times, and my delight in a friendship so reinvigorated since this announcement, doesn't lead me to underestimate past difficulties here. But I just feel such delight at connections (re)established. It's rare that anyone has the chance to make a new friend building on such a long acquaintance with an old friend. To borrow a phrase from CG, Joyce is special to me, even though I've yet to see her in person (a feeling that's not strange to write out here in blogland, where we are used to making connections with people we don't (yet or ever) know in person). I wondered whether I'd miss George once Joyce fully emerged--and I don't, exactly, as George seems to pop up not just in memory but in dreams. I can't remember, really, whether Joyce was in my dream, too, but I have a feeling she was somehow there, too, hanging out with Writer Colleague's sibling.
So I'm dreaming, and thinking, and talking about gender. Nice to think about gender in ways that don't involve princesses, I must say. It would be nice to think about gender in ways that lead to a nice bloggy conclusion, but a conclusion doesn't seem to be emerging. That's OK for tonight, I think, so I'll just leave it here. More thoughts to follow, I'm sure.