Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Dog Days Are Over

Summer is coming to a close quickly; I start school again on Tuesday evening. 

I'm not ready. I'm not ready. I'm not ready.

I'm such a sucker for the long nights, Sunday evenings on the porch with friends and a suitcase of beer, deep sunsets out my kitchen window as I'm whipping up dinner for 10 people. There's something about summer that is so warm and carefree. A friend recently got a new tattoo, "Endless Summer" scrawled upon her arm, and I've been reverting to that image often this week. It's a quote from a novel that I can't remember, but I comprehend the sentiment down to my soul. 

I fight change so hard, even though the whiffs of fall have stirred me into a frenzy lately. The other morning I woke up and the central air had clicked off for just a few minutes, and I swear the clear sky out my window carried a breeze. I threw on a long-sleeve wrap, just in case, and was rudely awoken by the 95 degree heat on my doorstep. 

Most of my friends adore fall. I admit, I can't wait for football season. I can't wait for the heat to abide so I can play in Audubon Park on weekends and go for walks in the Quarter without sweat dripping down my back. Festival season will start up again. Friends will come to visit, and I'll have an excuse to travel home for a weekend. There's a lot for me to look forward to, even if it feels bittersweet right now. Decadence is in two weeks. I've got half my costume picked out, and I can't wait -- the glitter, the crowds, the queers, the madness. I adore it. The weekend after I'm flying to San Antonio for the wedding of two amazing gay men, and, to sweeten the pot, I'm staying with my best friend I haven't seen in months. These mitigate the end of summer, a bit. 

In my head I have a list of things I wanted to accomplish before the end of summer. A trip to the beach. A night at the clothing optional pool, hopping from the sauna to the pool and back to the cabana bar. The contract work I owe my old job. A membership at a gym and a commitment to go. Quitting smoking. Taking photos of the city. I have, so far, accomplished none of this. But I have spent many fantastic evenings serving dinner and playing UNO and dancing at the drag shows and... so many things I can't cross off a list because I never dreamed to put them there in the first place. I suppose there is an ever-unending list of unaccomplished tasks. Dreams will always remain dreams until they become goals, or better yet, priorities. 

I am ready for school to be done. I'm so fatigued with this degree. It's a wonder I haven't quit by now; I'm not really sure what my motivation is anymore, except to finish what I started. I haven't been enjoying my classes. I don't really know if I see any purpose, and it's looking like I won't finish until December 2012 the way I've put things off. I hope that part flies by. It always does, except when I'm rolling my eyes through three hours on a Tuesday night, ready to go home and eat and shower. I suppose I'm only finishing because education is a privilege that I have access to. Because not finishing doesn't feel like an option. Because I hope someday this degree is useful -- and in some ways, it has been already. Because the thought of quitting and beginning again terrifies me. I don't think I have the drive to do this again. 

(Repeat these words to me, please, two years after I've graduated when I have some wild hair that I want to do this again.) 

Oh, sweet summer, how I'll miss you.

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Grant me a reprieve from the anxiety that comes with change. 

Grant me faith to keep going, and peace to live in the moment. 

And, you know, while I'm asking for shit, a pony would be great. But I'll settle for someone who will let me tie them up. :)

Monday, August 15, 2011

The King of (Wishful) Thinking

Her hand rests on my shoulder for a second before she begins to run her fingers down my side, across my ass, looping back up across my thighs. I'm lying, propped on my side, in the big bed, almost swimming in blankets. There's a late afternoon sun struggling to slip through the holes in the curtains, and I can still make out the tinge of green in her eyes in the light.

Her hand rests for a moment on my thigh, and I have a fleeting thought of shame, self-critiquing the size of my body, the parts that aren't soft enough, aren't thin enough, aren't hairless, aren't... I look up at the wall behind her, my eyes land on a photo I took of a friend years ago, and I push the thoughts back where they belong. I have strict rules about the bedroom, and one of the most sacred is not to critique my body or anyone else's in this space. Bodies should be adored, worshiped, touched, fucked, and even (consensually) flogged, abused, and manipulated -- never treated with shame and disrespect. I bring no judgment of someone else's physical appearance here, and I expect and demand the same -- of myself and others.

"Where are you?" She sees my eyes wander.

"Thinking about gender."

"How so?"

"Hm." Her fingers slow their creep as she focuses on the conversation. I find I'm glancing off into the distance again; it's a protective measure, a precursor to revealing something intensely personal.

"I... I'm thinking about 'genderqueer.' It's been on my mind a lot lately. I was playing online one day, as I am wont to do, and stumbled upon an author I'd never heard of before. Ze had some photos on hir blog, and I realized that ze might be the first person I've ever seen who identified as genderqueer and, yet, was also somewhat feminine in appearance."

"The first? Really?"

"Can you think of others off the top of your head?"

Her silence is telling.

"Ok. Let me change that question. What do you think of when you think of someone who is genderqueer?"

"Androgyny. Playing across the gender spectrum. Younger people. That's tough. It's a complex identity."

"Agreed." Not-so-secretly I love these discussions. "I guess, where I'm going with this... I didn't realize I had any preconceived notions of genderqueer. But when I think through everyone I know who identifies as genderqueer, they are all young, often women, often very masculine or androgynous. Sometimes trans, and sometimes wildly varied in their gender expression. But... and here is why I'm thinking so intently on this... I know that I still carry some of the hang-up that I hate, the one that says that the way you present your body, the way you dress, the way you choose to look, reflects on your gender identity."

"Well, it does." She's very quick to respond to this.

"Does it? Maybe on the surface. But I think identities are personal, identities are chosen and claimed by individuals." I roll over on my back, putting my hands under my head to prop myself at an angle. She runs her pointer finger over my nipple ring, giving it a really strong tug. "I don't give a shit what you look like; you can wear dresses and makeup and tell me your male-identified and I'll use any pronoun you please. I have no criticism of anyone else's gender identity, expression, or pronouns and terminology. But when I flip that back toward myself, I find I still have this mental block that I can't be genderqueer because I'm too feminine physically. Does that make sense? Finding this author, who identifies very strongly as genderqueer and uses gender neutral pronouns -- it almost clicked. Like I had..."

"Realized something was missing?"


"What do you think that means?"

I'm wandering, tangeting round about. We both know where this is going, and mostly, I'm not going to admit that I'm scared. I'm not going to admit I find playing with gender infinitely harder than playing with sexuality. I'm not going to admit, out loud, that I've backed myself into a corner where I'm simply comfortable, or until I've let fear tell me that I'm comfortable, and secretly I'm playing with a lot in my head. Eight years after coming out, I'm still figuring this all out, and it's still fucking scary. Even though... if someone else came to me, I'd encourage it. Hell, I'd tell them that identity and self-awareness are a lifelong process, a part of being in flux, and that changing the way you look and exploring identities is a huge part of growing comfortable with yourself, finding your place. I'd also say that all of this, while fascinating, is also pretty topical. "Do what you need to do to be  happy. Respect and embrace the choices of others in doing the same." I say these things to others, often, over and over again. And yet, I'm boxing in myself.

"I... don't know." But this is what comes out. "I truly believe gender is a spectrum, and the more I think about 'genderqueer' as a word, the more I think it means embracing that -- no matter what part of that spectrum you fall on. I think when I see the boxes for 'male, female, and other,' I unfailingly check 'other.' I think... I need to play with this more."

 "I think you know what you need to do."

I turn back toward her and our eyes lock. She's still dead serious, but there's a mess of playful in the way I look at her. "I do know what I need to do. I need to fuck you."

"Do you, now?" I love when she gets a little rough, a little strong. Ok, maybe more than a little.

I hook my hand behind her head, pull her down, deep into the covers, into me, letting this conversation melt into a kiss.

"I can't argue with that logic." She pulls away after a moment to kiss my neck. "Why don't you get on your knees and suck my cock," I whisper right next to her ear.

"I think I can handle that." With her palm, she pushes me down hard into the mattress. "Your cock, hm? I do think you should put some thought into that genderqueer identity." She reaches down, under the comforter, and slides her fingers down my shaft.


As an aside, after writing this, I was reading Sinclair's blog and found this post on butch identity really interesting. I don't know anything about Butch Voices or their changes and controversy, but I did think the commentary illuminates this idea that identity language is a) incredibly personal, b) empowering, and c) defined completely differently by various people.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea.

T. S. Eliot still charms me, years after our introduction, and I find that as I grow older my love for this poem morphs without diminishing. I remember distinctly that my favorite teacher in high school, my junior year English teacher, was a sucker for any poem about mutability. This one comes to mind first for me at the thought of that word. If it wasn't so very long, I'd tattoo the whole thing onto my body. Every time I read it I find myself falling for a different passage.

My birthday is in exactly 11 days, and I've been talking about it almost non-stop. It's not that this birthday is special -- it's not. I adore August; I wait for it, patiently but with one eye to the calendar, all year long. Even the 112 heat index can't sway me, and I find that it is one of the few buoys for me lately amid family drama and the chaos of navigating the healthcare system. August coincides with the beginning of school (which I've never been a huge fan of) and the end of summer, which is always bittersweet. But everyone around me is ready for the end of the dog days, ready for the temperature to drop to (at least!) 80 degrees, ready for the holidays and long pants and the end of summer electricity bills.

Secretly, I love the summer -- kids voices echoing as they play in the streets, long sunlit evenings melting into twilight, beers on the porch, swimming in backyards, nights that call me out till 3am. August is my last hurrah. It's also the month that everything big usually happens. It's when my best friend died -- seven years ago this year. It's a big travel month for me, which is a part of the soul searching my birthday always brings out. It's the two year anniversary of my move to NOLA.

It's also a really beautiful word. August. I'd name a child this in a heartbeat. I love how androgynous it is, and yet, there are these curves to the word, to the letters, than enthrall me.

My birthday is more charming and reflective than New Years for me; it's a time for reflection, a time to gather up all the chaos of the last year and sort through the changes, a time to start looking at the future. I crave the company of friends and queer family most at this time. I find myself going out almost every night this week and probably next. I don't care much for sweets or acknowledgement or big to-do's, but at the point when I'm checking in, feeling vulnerable about what is to come, I love to be surrounded by the people who make me happy. I don't find myself expecting or wanting gifts -- but the opposite -- I find that I want to give more, to mother, to provide for those around me.

I've enjoyed the hell out of being 23. It's been a very good year for me, overall. It's definitely had it's moments -- kicking out  my ex was pretty miserable and the hospital visit in March was something I'd prefer not to live through again. The very recent death of my dog, though I've expected it, feels very much like I lost a close friend and ended an era in my life. It's been hard to let go. But this year I've met and become close to a group of really amazing people. I have a job I adore. My cats are happy and healthy, school is going, my family is still nuts, though I'm learning to create relationships with my generation.

My young cousin was in town this weekend, and talking to her was a really bizarre reality check in my life. I'll have to write more about it another time, when I'm not running late to dinner. But a part of that was a reminder of how blessed I am. I wouldn't relive being 18 for the world. If I could go back to a point in my life, I wouldn't. I'd stay right where I am. If I could call up my 18-year-old self and tell her what I know now, tell her what I have and where I live and let her meet the people who surround me on a daily basis, I would. I'd tell her that it turns out very, very differently than you dreamed and better than you thought. I'd tell her a lot of things, but primarily, that it's all going to be ok -- so don't take anything too seriously and embrace your mistakes.

If anything, that's the same thing I'd tell myself now -- it's all going to be ok, so just fucking enjoy it. And if you're not, then make the changes you need to in order to get there.

I'm looking forward to 24. It's a number that means nothing to me and nothing to society, but I could care less. I'm finally settling into the reality that I'm one of the youngest in almost every setting in my life -- work, friends, school, etc. -- though I suppose that will change as younger people come along behind me. But for much of my life I've been in a hurry to grow up, to be taken seriously as an adult, to have the number to match the feeling. Somewhere in the last year or two I left that feeling behind, and I traded it for the realization that I have time. There's nowhere I need to rush to, nothing I need to prove. I like not knowing what the future will bring. I like that where I am now will be nothing compared to where I'll be next year, in ten years.

I'm not afraid of 30, of 40, or even of 50 and beyond. I fear what declining health will mean, yes. But I've met so many people who take age with a grace that I desire and respect. I can't change that most of life is a march toward death, through mutability, and I wouldn't if I could. I'd much rather embrace it.