Dancing in the Variance


Fiercely Interdependent
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In a farmhouse, on a farm. With goats.
Are you a boy or a girl?

Oh, if it were that simple, what a miserable world I would live in.

I've come to know that my world is indeed full of colorful, gender variable and variant people who know and live in the power of their unique gender identities. Last night, I went to my first drag show and danced in the rich, in-between spaces that arc the spectrum between "male" and "female." Each individual stood empowered in the self-discovered space of hir own riotous, peaceable, beautiful, uniquely expressed gender identity.

At the end of the night I was asked, "How did it feel being a sexual (gender) minority tonight?" This I thought about briefly, then answered in two different ways.

My first thought was "comfortable," but this was incomplete. I was indeed comfortable, but immediately upon speaking this I realized that I had been comfortable not as a gender minority. I had been comfortable because there were no gender minorities in this temporary autonomous zone of self-expression and empowered acceptance. The place had been filled with an array of people who had possibly only one thing in common: we had all, to some extent, examined our genders and found them to be quirky, different, variable and varied, very interesting, intensely colored, pleasurable, dressed-up, painted on, or any of ninezillion other adjectives that you might pick out of the closet and try on in front of the full-length mirror, finding the cut and the fit just right for your body type, your heart, your mind and spirit.

After dancing, I had sat spent and sweaty on a day-glo carpeted bench near a pool table and not far from the bar, vaguely bathed in black and white reruns of the Andy Griffith show, a figure skating competition, a dishwashing soap commmercial. Looking around at the faces, expressed souls, at the bodies dressed and decorated in whatever fashions suited them, I felt not only a sense of comfort, but of happiness and joy. I rested there in this somewhat chaotic continuum of gender, a three- or more dimensional spectrum where a dynamic peace circulated and recycled itself, born anew with every passing second, and I realized that living a life confined to strict gender roles--even one that makes room for cookie-cutter stereotypes of "gay" and "lesbian" along the sidelines of "straight"--is an exercise in censorship. And not only the censorship of others, if you count yourself among the "normal" heterosexual "majority," but of yourself. If we tacitly accept that there are only two or four genders (male, female, plus homosexual male and homosexual female), we do a disservice to ourselves and our community. The disservice to the community is one of disrespect for those who have come through a struggle to self-identify somewhere along a huge continuum of gender, while the disservice to our self lies in denying that self the right to inquire and explore who we are as a uniquely gendered human being.

People expressing themselves along this continuous and shifting flow of gender seem to not only accept themselves in their gender uniqueness (which may not remain the same over time). In addition, there is a natural corollary to this acceptance that expresses itself in a deep respect of every individual's right to self-determination. This right to self-determination is only ostensibly about gender. I believe that it bleeds and leaks into every aspect of living. Because expressing your unique gender identity involves introspecting, analyzing, and processing the kind of person you are and the kind of life you are called to live, it is a deeply political and spiritual process. It's not about sex, it's about living.

In engaging on any process of self-discovery, our lives are inevitably deepened and enriched. In my own experience, only by subjecting myself to the fundamental aches and pains of being at home in my unique body, mind, and spirit have I been able to come into an awareness of the miracle and joy of being alive. Complicity and unexamined acceptance of defined roles of any kind are simply not options for those of us who want to know who we are and what being human is for. I am thankful that my eyes have now been opened wide onto a new palette of colors that I have within myself to express myself. My own gender identity deepens as I breathe this morning's breath, reflecting on the deep play of drag queens, the catcalls of beautiful boys, stoic pride of courageous gurls, and beyond all stereotyping: the substantial and tangible freedom of colorful human beings who are not intimidated by bold self-expression.