Posts tagged ‘junior high’

Waiting to Breathe- Am I Bisexual?

Where we last left our bumbling heroine, she was living in Dubuque, Iowa with her brother and parents. In junior high, I found my elementary school friends growing apart from me. They had discovered the fascinating trio of Clothes, Boys and Makeup, oh my! These failed to impress me (junior high boys, really?), so I focused on my studies- particularly enjoying art class and social studies and immersing myself in fantasy novels and mythology. I also had a few years earlier, failed to see how wonderful puberty was supposed to be– it mostly just seemed messy and smelly and annoying. Kinda like junior high boys. I enjoyed being a girl with free mix of tea parties with dolls and dress up as well as playing with mud and collecting bugs with my brother. Becoming a “woman” seemed like a joke when “gifted” with just with the physical features and none of the social perks. It just seemed like a longer to-do list- shave your legs and arm-pits, dealing with acne, wearing a bra, wearing make-up and “the right” clothes.

In elementary school we heard this on the playground:

I Love You, You Love Me! HO-MO-SEX-U-AL-IT-Y! People Think That We’re Just Friends, But We’re Really Lesbians! Ha-ha  and that is SOOO GAY! (That’s the Barney Dinosaur theme song, in case you are from a different time or place and are blissfully unaware) Things were also “retarded” about as often as they were “gay”. That was about it, as far as my awareness of other sexualities were concerned. They were just slurs, playground taunts.

In junior high we graduated to rumor-mongering!

I bet that art teacher is gay! He wears an earring, and has long hair! Whoa…he must be a (gasp!) hippie!

At this point I realized that this was actually A Real Thing, that some people were attracted to the same sex. Cross-dressing was also A Thing that apparently some people had a big problem with, though I thought their objections were pretty silly, considering how I was coming to view gender roles and expectations!

Then after junior high we moved to Saint Paul, Minnesota. Instead of Central in our neighborhood, we chose Arlington Senior High School. It was brand new, with lots of computers and was organized into “houses” so you would take your basic classes together with the same group of students, and had block scheduling so there were only 4 classes a day instead of 7, which made things easier for me to handle.  There’s far more I could say, but I’m focusing on identity development.

At some point I went to a movie with a friend, a re-make of The Haunting of Hill House. One of the characters in it was played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, and I realized while watching it that I felt about the actress the way I felt about, for example Brad Pitt. It’s possible I’d felt that before with other women, but the character she was playing in the film was a rather embarrassingly stereotypical bisexual- promiscuous, trying to seduce people of both genders and so forth. My friend was vocally grossed out by this, so I naturally did not confide my new found feelings.

There was, according to a bulletin board, a gay and lesbian (not sure if B & T were featured) student support group at our school. It wasn’t a Gay Straight Alliance, it was a Top Secret Support Group. To get into it, you need to go talk to the nurse. This was well-meaning of the Powers That Be, perhaps to protect the privacy and safety of the students. But I had already been dragged to enough doctors and therapists, I didn’t like the idea of having to go to the nurse to discuss my sexuality. That seemed to imply that I had a “problem” that I needed help with.

My parents while this was going, had switched some of their church-y social justice gears to getting Hamline United Methodist to be a Reconciling congregation, with a statement that gays and lesbians were accepted. The topic had never been broached from the pulpit, from what I was aware of as a kid, nor had anything been mentioned in the church-sponsored sex ed class I had taken in junior high. So as I realized my own sexuality, I knew my parents would be accepting. It was just a matter of accepting and understanding it myself!

This is part 2 of a series of posts on my personal identity development – previous one here.

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March 29, 2015 at 7:37 am Leave a comment

Women-Only Space Does Not Mean Safe Space

I am really sick of the assumption by *some* feminists that women-only space is necessarily safe space. To begin with, I don’t want to have anything to do with all the transphobic crap that usually surrounds it, and furthermore even as a cis woman I don’t feel really welcome in the Girls Only Club. If these folks are so insistent on their narrow definition of womanhood, I’m sure at some point I’ll violate their pre-conceived notions. Too straight or too queer, too butch or too femme. Too something. I’m fine with participating in “anyone who IDs as a woman is welcome” spaces, but I do not go into them with the assumption that they’re automatically safer than spaces with men. 

I was never really a part of your “sisterhood” or “shared girlhood“, so save your cutesy speeches about sleepover parties and announcing when you got your period to your friends. I was That Weird Kid. I did have friends, growing up, but as I grew into puberty being a girl became less about having fun on my own terms- dressing up, having tea parties- as well as catching bugs and playing in the mud- and more about a list of obligations and rules that I had to follow. A few of these things I learned from my mother, who is a feminist herself and not inclined to push me into forms of femininity that weren’t my thing. But most of them were proclaimed and enforced with bullying, shaming, staring and shunning by other girls. In junior high, I got bored with all the fuss over makeup, clothes, diets, boys (really is anyone impressed by junior high boys?) and dances. I retreated to my books. Same with high school. Boys, for most part ignored me, but girls obsessively enforced “the rules”. 

After taking women’s studies classes in college, and observing how my experiences compare to other women, I’ve realized how much gender performance is part and parcel of faking being neurotypical. It’s suspected that women and girls are less often diagnosed with autism, or are labeled later in life because we are often better at passing as neurotypical, often by mimicking others, and just being quiet and withdrawn. My partner jokes that I have “male pattern autism”- I threw tantrums, I expressed loud opinions. My behavior was impossible to ignore, so I was labeled at fairly young age (at about 8 or 9) Anyway, I’ve gotten to the point that whenever I see a book or article, or hear a statement that “women think this way, communicate or develop this way” or whatever, I just think “That’s neurotypical women they’re talking about.” And most of the time whatever generalization was made doesn’t fit me very well, and may not even fit a lot of neurotypical women, but least of all me!

Now, I have indeed been bullied, harassed and sometimes abused by men but those experiences haven’t taught me that men, as a category of human beings are to be feared. I’m equally cautious with men and women in general social settings, though more cautious with men when walking down the street. 

So really, I ask you is really so much better for womanhood, girlhood, femininity or whatever to be defined and enforced by women rather than by men? I think the nastiest tool of the patriarchy is not the average man, but rather other women, even ones who call themselves feminists. We are our own worst enemy. I’m not letting off the men off the hook here, certainly they should be held accountable *as individuals* for their actions, but let’s not pretend we have this glorious utopian sisterhood. 

From transwomen and transmen, and cross-dressers and all manner of gender-diverse folks, I’ve learned that there are so many more options of who I can be as a human being, I feel more comfortable with being a woman in my own way *because of them* They are not in any way threatening to my identity as a woman. If they threaten yours, I think you’re the one who needs to work on having a healthy gender identity, one that’s based on being yourself rather than worrying about how other people identify.

August 29, 2014 at 1:29 am 2 comments


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