Kid Girl Woman Human

September 13

Leslie,

I want to be able to say, “when I was a little girl.” I want to be able to say, “when I was a little girl” without people assuming that I identify as a girl now. Because I want to be able to talk about my childhood and take ownership of my childhood in the names and identities I grew up in without betraying who I am now.

I don’t want to give up the home of my childhood or be shoved into one that is far too tight and uncomfortable for me now.

I want the comfort but not the dysphoria. Here are the things I bite my tongue to stop myself from saying:

When I was a little girl, my best friend was a cat named Charlie. I was by her side when she gave birth to her first litter. I was 5 and I knew from the wind in her eyes what was coming. When I was a little girl, all the cats in my neighborhood approached the sidewalk as I walked by. They don’t any longer because I am no longer that little girl radiating special energy.

When I was a little girl, I was a rebel. The kind who sat up straight and followed instructions but was just as antsy for recess and OUTSIDE as anybody else. I bit the buttons off my red sweater on the top of the playground’s volcano to prove I wasn’t tame.

When I was a little girl, I folded a lot of origami. When I was a little girl, I brought my paper shopping bag full of snowflakes with me to the neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant because I didn’t want to be apart from them. I forgot them beneath the table when we left. I still feel sad.

I wore puffy purple jackets as a young girl. A perfect parade of puffy purple jackets. I loved my coats very much.

I refer to myself as a kid frequently. Refer to myself as a present-day kid, a never-gonna-grow-up kid, but instead take-charge-throw-it-down kind of get-stuff-done-when-I’m in-my-element person. Don’t mistake my scrubbiness for flubbing it.

Because I don’t see myself as a woman. I am not a woman. I will not grow up to be a woman.

And I am not sophisticated enough to call myself adult.

But I don’t want to recollect my childhood as a “kid” when that word wasn’t always my main home.

Give me “girl” for these select memories. But please don’t mistake it for more.

September 12

Dear Leslie,

I want to believe that my letters to you will be constant and regular. Both because I want to be a disciplined writer capable of maintaining a blog (this is a blog, I’m self-conscious, but this a blog), and because I do actually have plenty to say and learn.

As frank as I am, however, as open as I can be about my body (who cares if it’s my period and I say my body is heaving its guts out of my vagina), my genderqueerness, and queerness, I have to admit that some things are difficult to discuss and sometimes I’m just too sobered by reality to discuss gender and sexuality. I’ve been blessed with a Santa’s sleigh-full of opportunities and privileges growing up as a middle-class queer white kid in Portland, Oregon, but my upbringing doesn’t negate the existence of a socially constructed gender binary with very real influences on my life. Things here in Portland are better for me than they would be most places, but my gender is still an invisible box on most forms and dating sites are an unwelcome reminder that gender identity and expression play big roles in even non-hetero realms. I can throw my arms wide, drop a shoulder, shimmy, wink, and joke about my queerness as I have countless times before eventually scampering or strolling into another subject, but I can’t summon that casual demeanor all the time. 

There will be times when I don’t write you because I don’t know how to say something or if I am willing to say it and times when I don’t write because I feel grateful and content with my situation and therefore believe I have nothing to say. There will also be times when I just don’t write—who knows why. Writing can be funny like that. Sometimes I have whole pages written in my head with copies already made and filed away yet those words never leave my head. I will work on that.

I want this to be a place where I write you regardless of how I feel.

First Day of College

September 8

Dear Leslie,

Five years ago on a late September morning, my mom and I loaded my things in her red Nissan Sentra and left Portland for Eugene. In carefully packed boxes and bags were my linens, toiletries, very new computer, school supplies, and clothing for life at the University of Oregon.

We drove south through the Willamette Valley on I5 to UO, before joining the zoo of excited and frazzled first years and parents trying to navigate parking and a somewhat helpful campus map. We carried my things into Hawthorne, an old “honors” residential hall, and a 4-story brick building with students on the upper three floors; “girls” on the second, “guys” on the third, and “girls” on the fourth. The dorms.

Designated housing for honors college students, I would learn Hawthorne actually contained a broad mix of various honors and non-honors students compared to DeCou and Dyment. This would be the place where I met my next door neighbor and fell in a goofy and sweet love within a couple of months. This would be the campus where we walked hand in hand for a year and called each other girlfriend, curling up in the comfort of our lover’s “her.” I knew none of this my first day while standing in my room. And I didn’t know I’d be touched by licks of depression as early as my first term while staring at a star-flecked Willamette River or end up nearly submerged in an ice-capped ocean I’d barely survive my second year. I didn’t know I would leave Eugene without a backwards glance in June 2012. I didn’t know that my soon-to-be girlfriend, eventual ex, eventual near-stranger and I would adjust our pronouns and nouns for each other years down the road. I didn’t know I’d stop calling myself girl and lesbian. Left smelling the sweet grass, trees, and sand from the volleyball court, and the carpeting, furniture, and cleaning supplies of Hawthorne while chatting with my new roommate and planning my side of the room, I was just filled with excitement.

Kinds of Quiet

August 30

Dear Leslie,

There are multiple kinds of quiet in a storm. There is quiet when winds pull and push air molecules, and water violently and lovingly beats and scrubs gutters, rooftops, and sidewalks. There is quiet when the storm passes, and sound is vacuumed with it. Quiet takes on a different form—different from that audible roar. So much non-sound creates its own pounding eardrums, compelling everything and nothing to be heard.

I experienced both kinds of quiet while reading Stone Butch Blues. I sequestered myself from the rest of the house while reading and have remained still since. Still, quiet, churning. It’s not a bad quiet, Leslie. It’s the kind of quiet that is loud, full, and promising of good. Even when it hurts.

Thank You

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I bookmarked pages upon pages last week

as summer waned into early autumn, Leslie.

I huddled with your words

on the floor of my bedroom, on the couch,

outside, and in my therapist’s lobby

but didn’t know what else to say

during or after the reading besides this:

Thank You.