I’m still feeling very weak and shaky after the vomiting bug, which is probably partly to blame for my general gloomy feeling. But I have been harbouring a gloom for a while. It is something to do with gender – gender and identity and belonging and homophobia and a load of other stuff.
I don’t think this gloom has been prompted by any single event IRL, more a build up over time. I'm not having a go at anyone, except perhaps myself. A while ago I wrote about how we came to leave the lgb parents’ group – didn’t feel at home there any more really. But, for a while now, I’ve been feeling less and less at home in a lot of the circles in which we are currently moving. Just feel like I’m moving in a different orbit, which is no new feeling, and not always a bad one. But at the moment I feel like I’m often calling across a chasm when trying to communicate with people – and am often being misunderstood (and no doubt misunderstanding others) because of it.
Gender is a big part of it. I was very much a young, and ardent, feminist in my late teens and early twenties. For those who care about the distinctions I identified mainly as a socialist feminist, but felt that I learned a lot from the radical feminist writings of the 70s and early 80s too. Feminist is not a label I’ve ever really abandoned but a lot of things happened to me over the years that made my views more sketchy and harder to define. I was knocked sideways by separatists (some of whom I encountered in
But some things didn’t change. Some things that I hold very dear inside me did not change. I do still believe in the patriarchy (how could I doubt it) and I do still hold that gender is largely a straight jacket in which we all exist. I feel that I have spent a decade biting my tongue over every gender based generalisation I’ve heard around children. From the moment P was born it started – and suddenly I’m all out of patience and my bitten tongue is biting back. I think that part of it is just sadness, real sadness that the same gender based bullying and control exists in all the kids around me – the same stuff I knew as a child and the jolly spin-off homophobia among the teenagers. I’m damned if I’ll just sit back any more when my boy is scoffed at for his ‘girly’ taste in something – and steadily pushed into a box where he thinks that to be a boy is to hit people hard and glory in it. Damned if my daughter has to come to me full of concern about why her peers are trading homophobic insults.
When I was at HESFES I was sitting in a tent full of home ed folk. Two men hugged on the stage and the teenagers beside me exploded into the kind of homophobic banter that I knew so well from school. The ‘urrrgh! homo bum fun going on…’ kind of comments that I have not been around since. I said nothing – why the hell I said nothing I do not know. But, then, maybe I do. I didn’t want my kids to notice. I wanted a fun evening when they just didn’t hear it, and I didn’t hear it, and I didn’t respond. I wanted to feel like we belonged.
But, I’ve been lying to myself. My children are old enough to hear it all. They hear every little gender based generalisation too. I have to keep up the opposite view – I have to keep saying, explicitly, that a shell covered box is not a ‘girly’ choice, that two boys touching each other are not ‘perverts’, that the crap on the TV is crap. Because the armoury is still there, *everywhere* we go. The assumptions that cast some people into a world of ‘freaky’ are still well at work. The kids who merrily call each other ‘gay’ in my hearing are not getting the message from anyone else, so maybe I’ll just start pointing out that I find it offensive. What the hell, I couldn’t be feeling much crummier than I do today.