Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Femme Feelings

As a thirty-year-old queer femme, I've come to be quite comfortable and proud of my gender, my self-expression, my femininity. It has been a long, complicated journey, and still is in many ways. But I'm also past that youthfully-self-obsessed stage of really needing to figure out my identity, and what I'm saying to the world with how I present myself. That seemed like a really heavy thing when I was younger, and now it feels more fluid and more like it's something that doesn't need to be shouted from the mountain tops at regular intervals. It's almost inconceivable that I actually care so much less about what the outside world thinks about me because of how I project myself.

But there are still battles to fight with owning my femininity, and am constantly reinforcing that I should focus on the empowering aspects of it all. Most of the outside world sees it as something for them, for their consumption and evaluation and very vocal assessment of. In some ways, it kind of is. That's a huge part of patriarchy and capitalism - people's bodies, especially women's, are not their own. My femininity is in everything I do, it's how I move through the world, how I connect with others. But it is also intensely mine, and loaded with my own layers of insecurity, self-confidence, expectations, etc.

I feel complicated about owning these seemingly stereotypical aspects of femininity - being nurturing, open, receptive, warm, enveloping, giving, dolled-up, on display, etc. I have enough of a knowledge base and self-awareness to know exactly what each piece means, but I still knowingly participate. I tell myself it's okay, I'm not actually a "bad feminist" because I am aware of what I'm doing and owning it, but sometimes it feels like it's not as much of mine as I pretend it is. But then other times, I do feel in a considerable amount of control, and it's exhilarating in a way that I can't properly put to words.

I've got a coupon to try Burlesque classes, which has become a big goal of mine for this Spring (in addition to archery and sword-fighting classes, which I have also already purchased coupons for). This is definitely a queer-punk-femme cliche, and am surprised by how much anticipation and excitement I feel. I am not holding onto any grand schemes of becoming a public performer, but am interested in my pushing my own boundaries to what I feel comfortable with. I carry myself with a fair bit of confidence these days, but still am completely overwhelmed by the thought of physically owning the space around me, and taking up as much of it as I want. I'm looking forward to what Burlesque could possibly teach me - how to move without inhibition, to be playful, creative, performative, unafraid of risks, and to be okay with my body and relish in the space it occupies. Sword-fighting and archery will also add to this, hopefully - to help me break past physically-confining inhibitions - and could have such a profound impact on how I move through the world. Also, all of these new activities will help me live out my dreams of being a bad-ass princess/power femme.

In NYC, with all the street harassment and strangers up in my shit and working for a huge advertising agency, sometimes it feels like I'm slipping away from myself. It's enough to make me want to hide, keep what I can from the rest of the world. But I'm not a bottled-up kind of person, and as a queer femme who also happens to be Sicilian, that's not actually a thing I even know how to do. As I inch closer to thirty-one, I  firmly believe more and more that it's time to let go of what has held me back for so long. To let my femininity grow and shine and feel no shame or degradation. Femininity is absolutely not antithetical to intelligence, independence, strength. It is actually an expression of those concepts. It is not frivolity, it is not self-absorption, it is not superficial or meaningless. My femininity is my direct expression of my truest, deepest sense of self. If that's not femme, I don't know what is.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

To Breed or Not to Breed, That is the Question

I'm at that age ::cough thirty cough cough::: where the majority of people around me are popping out babies left and right. Adorable wonderful interesting funny babies that are growing into even more incredible-to-watch-learn-and-grow mini-humans. I have been stressing/debating about whether to have kids or not considerably more these past few years, what with getting married and turning thirty and all.

Most of my adult life I have felt pretty strongly that I didn't want to have kids. It didn't seem the punk/queer/feminist/anti-capitalist thing to do. Thinking about it usually actually gives me a physical reaction similar to seeing a bag of dog poop or some other abhorrent object. But then some smart and rad slightly older punk/queer/feminist/anti-capitalist friends started making babies, and I saw that being a parent could be this beautiful act that clearly aligns with ones' radical political beliefs and ethics.

Part of my reservations around being a parent involve literally just feeling really weird that I could be responsible for another humans' life. This is sort of out of character, as I'm no stranger to responsibility and taking care of myself, friends, pets, my partners, etc. I've also accepted the inherent adult-ness that comes with a full-time career, getting married, etc. But this situation of creating a human and making sure it grows up happy and healthy and having to sacrifice so much for it for the rest of your life, is a level I just don't know if I can handle.

I have the ubiquitous fears most others have - not wanting to become our parents (even though we all do), not knowing if I'd screw my kid up, etc. But I also intrinsically have this sense of uneasiness around creating life. While I am extremely grateful that I exist, that I am in fact alive, I also have an intense comprehension of the fact that existence is not consensual. We don't ask to exist in this world. But of course, we do. Our parents end up having children, and here we are. They do their best in their own capacity to protect us and prepare us for the realities of living in this world. However, nothing can really fully prepare us for the realities of decades of adulthood better than living, making mistakes, and (hopefully) learning and not repeating those mistakes. Becoming an adult is not easy. It's lonely and scary and overwhelming and intimidating. But of course, once you master the art of taking care of yourself successfully and independently, it's wildly empowering and liberating.

Even with that sense of pride in making it through my 20's and knowing that I'm more than just okay, still moving forward, still ambitious, and still full of dreaminess and silliness --- I cannot in good conscience force another human to exist in this world. I especially cannot do that to someone who would be born now or in the near future -- this world of self-obsession, oppression, destruction, human apathy, too much technology, and overall destructive decadence. I cannot feel okay about knowing my child will have to suffer through comprehending the fact that we cannot do whatever we want. That we are mortal, terribly fragile and absolutely mortal, and that we will spend the majority of our lives doing things we almost painfully do not want to do (school, work, etc). I just don't know if it's fair to force that experience upon someone else.

I know this sounds really negative and potentially bonkers/not very "me", but it's just a reality for me. It's not pessimistic or cynical, necessarily. It's just one way of looking at things.

I also know, on the other hand, that existence is magical and beautiful and random and once you exist you most likely will do everything in your power to keep existing because not existing is just too horrific to really imagine. This world contains beauty and wonder, despite all the destruction. Humans and other animals are funny and interesting and also awe-inspiring. I think getting to exist fucking rules, though it is not necessarily always easy.

Seeing the new mini-humans that are my close friends/family complicates all of my already-complex feelings on this. New life, soft and unknowing and sweet and tender, is of course deeply intoxicating. Watching children figure things out and express themselves with wild abandon is beyond inspiring, and a good way to shake off the grayness of being tired and older and jaded. I generally keep a strong sense of child-like enthusiasm and wonder in my life, and I do think experiencing the world with a child of my own would only strengthen that sense to an even more ecstatic level.

Then, of course, there's biology. As a queer person with a trans partner, I feel deeply saddened I cannot have a child that is both of our biological makeup. I know that many many parents, of all sexual orientations, go through this for a variety of reasons and it doesn't deter them. But it's still disheartening, as part of the magic of procreation is watching this new life that is a combination of you and this person you love super intensely. I can't help but feel sad and cheated somehow that we can't have that experience.

But then again, the human capacity to love is truly remarkable and we have big hearts that love a lot. As queer/punk/feminist/anti-capitalists, we have fought our whole lives to re-define everything, including the meaning of "family." I think I could, in the end, be totally elated with any child that was mine to nurture and protect and teach, whether they were made up of my genetic material or not.

And finally, there's the Shulamith-Firestone-2nd-Wave feminist in me that can't help but feel rage at the fact that my body would no longer be my own if I had a child, and in this patriarchal society my feminine body is very rarely truly my own as it is. I don't like the patriarchal implications of just accepting that things will happen to my body that I'm not actually going to be happy with.  BUT on the other hand, the woo-French feminist in me feels intrigued and envious of pregnant bodies, in all of their visceral maternal glory. Like I would enjoy taking up space in a world where women are demonized for doing that.  Like I'd relish in growing life, feeding the new born life, showing unimaginable strength and resilience, and showing no shame for the body's natural processes and fluids and changes.

I still don't know what this all means, which is a bit frustrating as thirty-one is coming up quickly and I'm not much closer to knowing what I want. I vacillate between dreams of being one of those fit and fun older child-less couples, with money to travel, tan from all the vacations and with lots of pets to love and dote upon. But I'm also Sicilian, and babies and family are deeply imbedded in me. I also dream of a tiny mini-me, with a traditional Italian name, that I teach all our family traditions to and have wild life adventures with. Maybe that's a selfish motivation, but isn't it always at least a little bit selfish, wanting to see that reflection of ourselves and achieving that slight immortality in having younger generations to cherish our memory?

Whatever, all I know is that I am thirty and baby crazy and baby phobic and I want all the things and I am a Gemini and I am not good at decisions that involve having to pick just one of the options.

Until I figure it out, let me hold your cute babies, and tell me about your life that is child-free or child-filled. Maybe we can figure it out together.