Orcas Island and Intersectionality

I’ve spent the past week at my mom’s house, a much needed reprieve from what I’ve fondly started calling my Stress Bubble at home and work this past month. Working in uninterrupted silence of my mom’s office is so nice. I’m currently looking at my mom’s dog, Gigi sleep for the 10th hour of the day. She wakes infrequently and when she is awake, her demeanor is much more similar to that of a cat than a dog. Her indifference to the humans in her life is comical and endearing. There is only 1 Gigi. Having a break from my life is such a luxury! Sometimes I feel guilty that I like taking time away from Katie, but then I sit on the couch at my mom’s house with a glass of wine and think “how can something so good be bad for me?”

I’ve only seen my mom and Phil one other time since the Outing, back in December. I was more broken then. I still couldn’t keep Katie’s name straight and the emotional terror of family and friends not knowing was still an every-day shadow on our ability to function. While my mom was working late on Thursday, I joined Phil as he walked their newest family member, Buck, a poodle puppy with all the awkwardness of tall legs and all the energy of small child, around the neighborhood. We talked about how Kaite and I were doing. He said Katie and used feminine pronouns. It surprised me the ease of which this conversation happened. I can only imagine how much practice that took for him, as I know how much practice it has taken for me.

This past weekend, Katie and I joined one of my dear friends on Orcas Island to celebrate her 30th birthday. I’d never been there before and, let me tell you, the beauty of Washington never ceases to amaze me. Katie and I had our regular conversation before entering new social situations, the conversation where we plan for the “what-ifs”. What if she’s misgendered? What if the people we don’t know ask intrusive questions? What if being in the hot springs is uncomfortable because you’re still in a masculine body, but you identity as feminine? I’m very conflicted by one piece of our preparation for this trip to Orcas Island that I had a stronger voice in: what to wear to the hot springs. Doh Bay is a clothing optional facility, so we were both ready for that to happen if the group tended that direction. That said, clothing is different now for Katie and so is her body. What if people felt more inclined to ask questions about her privates when she identifies as female? How do we approach that? Logically, to me, it seemed like a good idea for her to wear her swim trunks with a t shirt when she got into the water. I would keep my swim suit on in solidarity. This would avoid any questions about changes in her body since hormones, or any other myriad of things that can come up when people drink and alcohol winds the filter dial down. My conflict is that I don’t know why I cared. Women covering their bodies is something we are trained to do by our society. We are trained to cover our “private areas”, to hold some semblance of modesty. Do I teach Katie the ways of this world I have lived in for so long? Teach her how to protect herself from the judgement of others? How to blend in? Or do I watch her forge her own path, to go naked to the hot springs? I want to protect her, but is that fair to her? This is a conversation I imagine parents have about their children now, transgender or not. How do we train people to make the world better? To be the example?

I’m happy to say, that we walked into the room full of drunken humans, introduced ourselves as Katie and Natalie, and there wasn’t 1 blink of an eye. No one did a once over. No one made comments. It was such a relief! Throughout the entire weekend, there were very few moments where Katie was misgendered and those moments most often came during heightened inebriation. I think that says more about our training to perceive gender based on physical appearance, and less about intent. Katie handles this gracefully. For her, intent is really important here. I take my queues from her. Katie believes that as long as her body looks different from her gender, it only matters that people are trying. I respect that. I admit, I did correct 1 person, but only 1 time. As much as I also believe intent is important, we can’t learn if we don’t see where we are messing up. We have to teach using the right pronouns as much as we have to be patient while people learn how to use them.

My point in telling Phil about the trip to Orcas, is that I feel like Katie and I are both in an interesting gender dance. There is the way the world is, the method I’ve been trained to live in it as a cisgendered, white woman. Then there is the way I want the world to be. I want the world to be a place where people don’t judge people like Katie. I want the world to be a place where our attachment to gender is more fluid and accepting than it is. I want the world to be a place where you can identify however you want, and your body doesn’t have to match. I think we’re getting there, but we aren’t there yet. Katie and I are learning how to navigate a society that is in the infancy of enacting change and redefining itself. It’s learning about intersectionality. Our world is transitioning as much as we are. Not as quickly as I’d like, but it is happening. I have to say, I’m enjoying the view.

One thought on “Orcas Island and Intersectionality

  1. Hurrycain

    Thanks for putting this out there. I had the same concerns, wanting to be a protective friend of you both but it was refreshing to see our newer folks entering the room and not miss a beat. Thank you both so much for putting aside your very real fear and coming to celebrate. I had such an amazing time! 😘

    Liked by 1 person

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