Sunday, January 18, 2009


I've been chasing something around in my head lately that I'm having a hard time articulating. I like to consider myself pretty open to gender bending, whether I indulge in it overtly myself or not, I'm not the least bit bothered by trans-women/men, effeminate men or butch women. And yet, I identify very strongly as a woman. I have several very good women friends and a core of close women friends that I consider closer than my family in many respects. I enjoy spending time with these women and laughing or crying over our shared experience as women in our communities, families and society at large.

Even as I say this, I realize that I don't really even know how to define the word woman for myself. I'm certainly not the type of woman my mother and sister are. I've always leaned more toward classic/liberal arts education and before leaving Mormonism, had a hard time relating to other women because of this. I've always been more career oriented and reluctant around babies, another characteristic that made it difficult for me to relate to most women in the church. For the last couple years of my stint in Mormonism, most of my mentors were men, and I related better to the husbands (with a few exceptions) than the wives in my circle of married friends.

Now that I've left the church, I've found more like-minded women and formed bonds that have surprised me with their strength. There's something very fulfilling for me to sit and visit with women in my mother's or even grandmother's generation--as if we share a common heritage or culture all our own. My core female friends are some of the most important people in my life. I relate to them and rely on them and support them in their own struggles on many different levels.

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that in theory at least, I don't consider myself to be a gender essentialist. I do think that gender is more fluid than we acknowledge in our society. So it confuses me that so much of my identity is wrapped up in being a woman--not androgynous, not lesbian, not butch, not feminine--but a woman. It's just that my views about gender are so flexible that I have a hard time defining that in any concrete terms. I think of myself as a woman, but I realize that I can't under any circumstances generalize what it means to be a woman from my own experience. So I'm wondering why that label is so important to my identity and why it brings me so much fulfillment.

Anyway, I'm not sure that was as clear as I would have liked it to be. Any thoughts anyone has on the matter would be welcome. How do you define the two genders? How do you see yourself on the spectrum?How do you relate to others of your "assigned" gender? How much of gender bending is perhaps anomalous (by anomalous I mean outside "normal" gender identification but acceptable nonetheless, clear as mud)? How much of gender identity is socially fabricated and how much is biological?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

To My Children

I know that I can be somewhat cynical where my children are concerned. And not towards them, so much as to my own emotional ability to raise them and be fair to them. So let me make a few things clear, both to remind myself that I'm not entirely lost as a parent and to go to a place I don't often go here.

My children fascinate me. I've come to realize this more often in the past couple of months. I think I'd forgotten it for awhile. While I positively loathe pregnancy, I remember being fascinated nonetheless with the concept that I was actually bringing a new individual to life. I remember the anticipation of meeting this person and seeing who he would be (because yes, I totally wanted to know what I was having before I actually had it ;-).

My children continue to fascinate me. They're so small and yet so complete. They have opinions and ideas that are entirely their own, even though Alistiar and I and their other care providers have striven to influence them with ours. And while they have this definite individuality, they are also clearly a product of the two of us and our families. Watching these tensions develop into another person is so intriguing. I get to know them more and more everyday and yet they continue to change in small ways everyday.

I suppose my fascination with their individuality is what informs my parenting (what little of it I actually do). I'm not so much interested in shaping my children as I am in meeting them. I certainly try to make sure they understand important basic concepts, such as "torturing one's little brother (or anyone for that matter) is wrong", "respecting others is important if we want to be respected", "other people see the world differently and that's okay", etc. But in general, I like seeing how they react to problems, I like seeing them interact with others and I like sharing parts of myself with them. I admit it's gratifying when they express interest in the things I want to share with them, but I also admit it's fun to watch them develop their own tastes.

I suppose what I'm saying is that I love my children, fiercely. It's been good to remember this. Indeed, if I'm honest with myself, it's been good to discover this. Theron and Gareth, if you ever have the chance to read this, go in peace, be well, and know that every word of it was written in honesty.