Sunday, February 8, 2009

Male Gender: Ripping People Out of Their Comfort Zones

Addendum; Focusing on the memories of this experience was a rather intense experience and things became rather convoluted at the end. Writing at two in the morning probably contributed. So I have cleaned up the end of the post.

Ok. I just couldn't really fit this into a comment. JLK has been writing a series on gender, that will encompass several parts. She's on men, chapter three now and my response to this in particular, is a very good introduction to how DuWayne became interested in gender issues. The whole sub-series on men (part one) has been fantastic and fostered some really interesting discussions. I feel kind of bad dragging my butt back here, but I realized that one, I had more than can reasonably be shoved into a comment on someone else's blog and two, it really does describe my first awareness of gender, outside the context of physiology.

Be forewarned, this post is a very frank discussion of sexuality and contains rather graphic descriptives.

But manhood is not something that, once reached, is permanent. It can be taken away at any point - through the loss of a job or income, lack of a significant other (or one who leaves), loss of hair, sexual impotence or infertility, expressing emotion in public. and myriad other things. A "real man" is always in control of himself, his family, and his emotions. A "real man" doesn't have those problems.
More...The first time I wore a skirt, I was bumming about, having just come back into town after a year on the road. I was hanging out with a bi-women, who was definitely inclined towards the "prefers girls" end of the spectrum. Having since met the other three men she had ever been with at that point since, I was struck by the fact that we were all rather pretty boys. So I'm hanging out with this women, Kaylee (she was "less than" thirty, I was nineteen) about thirty hours after I wandered into town and she was washing all my clothes (I had been in the woods for a week or so before I took four days to hitch home - basically on a whim). We were hanging out in her living room naked, after she had spent a good forty minutes scrubbing off the road grime in the shower. She lived very close to the coffee shop and we were both really in the mood for a coffee, but of course my clothes were all in the laundry. She got this almost menacing grin on her face and said she could probably find something for me to put on (keeping in mind I was a sight bigger than she). She ran upstairs for a few minutes and came back down with clothes on, carrying a fucking hippie shirt and a bright yellow, long and light hippie skirt - also wearing a massive, shit-eating grin.

I shrugged, put it on and was forever hooked. It was the most comfortable thing I had ever worn. And when we strutted into the coffee shop, there wasn't a single person in the place that failed to look. At least half the people there knew me and many of them weren't even subtle about their disbelief (more than the skirt, most of them hadn't seen me in over a year). To make matters more shocking, one of my closest friends ran up and gave me a hug, lifting me off the ground in the process. Then, a spur of the moment thing, he kissed me full on the lips - even slipped some tongue. We all sat down, Kaylee sitting close and doing naughty things under the table, when she whispered in my ear that I was causing her to get a lot of dirty looks from some of the women around us. Long story short, when we headed back to her place, a couple of girls went with us, along with my rather voraciously welcoming friend Chris. Fun was had by all.

Now seeing a guy in a skirt walk into a coffee shop with a hot woman and get kissed by a guy friend, was fairly shocking in Kalamazoo, MI, midwest U.S. in 1995 - don't get me wrong. But to explain the extreme of that shock to many who witnessed it, I have to backtrack by several years.

I was such a boy growing up.

I loved playing with toy guns, watching westerns, reading adventure novels - I was bent on the idea of becoming a bounty hunter/private detective until I was eight. With severe ADHD, I had the impulse control of shark in bloody water. I was a boys boy. Because of the attention of a couple of awesome men in my life, I learned to become intimate with nature. I learned about the plants and bugs that would keep me alive if necessary. I also learned to read tracks. I managed my first kill at eleven, taking a 'coon out of a tree with my fucking BB gun, dogs finishing it for me. I carried a buck knife with me everywhere, when I wasn't in school (sometimes when I was). And as most of my friends were the "losers," because they made the most loyal friends, I was extremely introverted and utterly clueless to the notion I was pretty hot - I had to kick some ass on occasion. I did not like people picking on my friends.

I bought my first shotgun when I was twelve, after making top score in marksmanship and weapon safety in the hunter's safety course. I bagged my first buck that winter. After tracking it for an hour and slitting it's throat with my knife - tears in my eyes, I decided to never concern myself with the fucking trophy head again. I never had to track a deer I shot again - if I couldn't get a clean kill, I didn't shoot.

And then there was sex. After I became dejected by the intense hypocrisy of my church, other concerns really got me.

Thinking there was something wrong with me, when all the guys were bragging about sexing their gals, I started sexing some of their gals - though mostly girls I met at the college library, researching for debate (that was my "sport," along with solo and ensemble). I developed a reputation as the goto guy for first timers. (girls who really didn't like me, would recommend me to their virgin friends - like me or not, I was rather fond of them:) I was decidedly not into relationships (probably why some of the girls really didn't like me), preferring to stay open and free to play with a variety of girls. And while I was generally pretty low key about my adventures, the girls weren't always - excepting the ones who had BF's.

So now you have some grasp of why DuWayne walking into the coffee shop wearing a skirt and being kissed by a boy was extra-especially shocking. I didn't exactly have a reputation for being effeminate. Rather the opposite, according to some old school friend/acquaintances, for some I was one of the measures they used for their own masculinity - an ideal as it were. And most of my friends knew that I had been gone for over a year, hitchhiking around the U.S.

What the Fuck!?!

About a month to six weeks after the infamous yellow skirt, kissing boy incident (I have friends who still bring it up) I was on a whole lot of acid, having a more sensual, than sexual encounter with a few friends, when it suddenly clicked. I was a fucking outlaw. I had broken sacred, fundamental rules of masculinity and worse, social labeling.

I won't lie and say that I didn't derive a great deal of pleasure from the shock value. I most certainly did. I was (and in some ways am) a radical. But for the most part I liked wearing these skirts because they were really comfortable. Also, I had discovered that if the person you're with is also wearing a skirt and no unders, you can easily get away with public sex, as long as no one gets too loud. I hadn't begun to consider the social implications of a man's man like myself breaking the conventions I was breaking. Mostly I just figured it kind of fucked with the older folks (most anyone over thirty) and close minded neanderthals.

Suddenly, as I was laying there, my head against the breasts of one friend, my fingers tracing the contours of another friend's torso, it blasted me like trainwreck (this was not an uncommon occurrence when I was on lots of LSD). I am a man. Yet I was doing things that men just don't do. And I wasn't being sneaky about it, hiding in my bedroom (not that I had a bedroom, or a home per say). I wasn't ashamed and really and truly didn't give a fuck what anyone else thought about it. My masculinity wasn't defined by the clothes I wore, my compassion and empathy or my exceedingly rare, but cold rage and even more rarely expressed ability for righteous, unflinching violence. My sexuality wasn't defined by the pleasure I took from the bodies of many girls and a few women, nor was it defined by my complete comfort with the notion of sucking the cock of another boy who might be a part of a particular sexual encounter.

My manhood was not defined by my cock and lack of uterus, nor by any social conditioning.

My manhood is simply - me. My sexuality is mine and mine alone.

This experience set the foundation for the first interaction I had with a male born women. While it was certainly a new concept for me, it was easy to extrapolate my own experience with gender identity onto that of someone else.


JLK said...


I am once again speechless at how open you are, and I envy some of the experiences that have made you who you are today.

Breaking the rules of gender is something we should all do at least once in our lives. Not on Halloween or for some costume party, but for one normal, otherwise uneventful day.

In a similar vein, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on and reading "Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man" by Norah Vincent.

(my verification word is "nosuffer" hmmm...)

sandy shoes said...

Ah, to be shocked in Kalamazoo in 1995...

This post reinforces my belief that there is no telling other people what they are, or were, gender-wise. Gender is so internal and so personal a thing... and so variable in its fluidity*, that constructing another person's is both fruitless and insulting.

*I know women of transsexual history who are very invested in a gender binary, and other transgendered people who see themselves somewhere on a spectrum, and not viewing their genital configuration as in any way reflective of that.

It's all fascinating, and part of why I find "This Is How It Is" kinds of statements on this subject so tiresome.

DuWayne Brayton said...

Don't envy them, please. While I don't regret who I am and that which has made me who I am, my life has been rather more difficult than life should be. I look at many of my choices, many of my experiences as having happened to me, so they needn't happen/be made by others.

I am as open as I am for a couple of reasons.

I am very angry a great deal of the time. It often feels to me, like the purpose of human existence is simply to hurt each other. To feel superior to someone else and make sure they know they're inferior. All too fucking many of us feel the need to hide our insecurities and our fears behind a tough exterior that betrays it's weakness in it's need to target the most vulnerable of our members.

I have quite a few friends who are transgendered. Probably a dozen and a half, two dozen. I would say that maybe four of them are actually reasonably content with their lives. Every one of them knows who they are, what they are - within a certain range. The reason I suspect this is the case, is that we don't embrace them and too often target them for their vulnerability. We abuse them, the notion of there very identity to the point that many of them come to believe it. And even if they don't buy into that fucking bullshit, they still have plenty to be bitter about.

So any mild discomfort. any lashing against me for exposing myself this way, is a small price to pay if it helps others understand gender. Well worth it too, if it provides a transperson or anyone else feeling the brunt of others weaknesses, smashed against their vulnerabilities some comfort. None of us are trash, none of us less than another. All of us are humans muddling along, doing our best just to be.

I have known vulnerability. I have walked the streets with nowhere to go. I've been lost, thousands of miles from home, alone. I have slept outside, with no security - often fearing the police more than potential attackers. But I have never known the vulnerability that so many I love so very much have faced in every moment. And I love them all.

I expose myself, because it is the least I can do for those whose lives are pain. I know pain, I suffer - sharing my love and anger at our dysfunction eases it just a little. And I hope it eases theirs.

Besides, there is little to fear from my exposure. It may jar some into a new understanding. It may help some. And those who take issue with it, really aren't fucking worth concerning myself about.

On a side note, I got me another skirt during my trek to the salvation army store for pants and a belt. I will begin my rabble rousing at school on Tuesday.

I also had a cathartic bit of "manliness" today. Cut out a buttload of standing dead trees and took the lower branches off several pines. Then we lit off the old burnpile, next to the new. Should all be dry enough to burn off tomorrow. Nothing says catharsis like a chain saw, big fire and a logsplitter (that's for tomorrow:)

Candid Engineer said...

You tell one hell of a story.

And I love your candor, love your honesty, wish everyone in this world would be a little more open with ourselves and with each other. I, myself, wear my heart on my sleeve, and I wouldn't have it any other way.