and still there are lines to be drawn, seemingly... this illusive flesh, this web of hormonal outputs has such specific ideas...gender existing without flesh may be the very proof of its relevence to identity.
"this illusive flesh" -- i really like that . . i'm teaching marcom's THE DAYDREAMING BOY tomorrow in my literary narrative class, and will linger for a while on chapter 16 (book I) where vahe (the protagonist) talks about the photograph of a boy which he carries in his pocket -- he identifies and at the same time repudiates his likeness to the orphan who has survived a genocide: "for years i have carried this photograph in my billfold and occasionally i pull it out and stare back at the stare of the boy. i say 'he' for i have always thought him to be a boy, but it is impossible to ascertain the sex of this child; his sex is untellable from the photo, his name not knowable, he is rightly six or seven years old. i cannot remember the name of the journal where i cut the picture from years ago, or in what month or year i began carrying it in my billfold, but i am certain it is not me in the likeness. this is certain not only because the child is older than i am and we do not bear resemblance to each other, but also because his look is one of sorrow and despair -- he wears the mask of the orphan."and earlier on, he thinks (chapter 3):"(i myself having never understood duty like a mistress and the zealot pays and pays to keep her . . . the orphan body for the zealot's duty. the same duty and psalm and speaking to us, exhorting with turgid black rods and their notloves because not lovers of flesh and thereby inuring us to this our orphan's condition: the debt of our flesh and bone.)"the notion of disciplining the body, the flesh, in order to fabricate identities that are both disciplined and discarded by society . . "o he is a boy to have known sorrow."
"I am happy for HIM finding his way from HER, I am happy because that is what he wants, what is real for him. But I mourn the loss of her. The day he had her breasts removed he was so happy, a grin, like out of jail. But I was mourning, mourning for this body dismantled. Mourning the breasts I had held and loved and followed a trail from to all her curves. I thought I was beyond this, beyond caring about this illusion, this body; we call a “self.” But his choice, to leave her, to erase her, it is twisting in me. I want gender to be independent of body. I want gender to be intrinsic. A being is born, and feels intrinsically male, but this being’s physical parts – he is told over and over – are that of a woman. It is in the telling that we create this mythology of gender related parts. Yet there is real drive for them. A person society perceives as male longing for breasts. A person society perceives as female always aware of her imagined penis, so aware of it that she can feel it against her lover, every time. I am not a transgender person and so I can hide behind statements like, “I will never fully understand,” or “it is okay if I don’t understand because I’ll never have to make such a difficult choice or commitment.” But I loved her, and because of this love, I want to understand. Now I love him, of course. But I cannot lie and say I am not angry, that I feel no sense of betrayal. I am angry, I do feel she left us- she left women. Why must I feel this? What lines are drawn inside of me? When I was 9 years old I wanted to be a man and when I was in college there were times I felt it would be natural to have a penis, but I never got so far into these realities that it became a physical must for me. I am trapped between supporting my friend’s difficult choice and on the other hand feeling a death has occurred. In the end, it is nothing, we are stardust, and the love is what matters. But right now, in my flawed human life and struggling human brain I am faced with this riddle of gender. It is not so simple. What does leaving a gender binary behind even look like? How is choosing to be male leaving any binary sense behind? Choosing to be male is acknowledging a gender binary and choosing the opposite side of an undulating continuum. Or is it? If one is fluctuating in a “woman’s” body as a man then crafts a “man’s” body and then is fluctuating inside that form, has anything changed? My friend’s soul has found some new skin to swim in and has left some old skin behind. It is a monumental magic trick. I’ll never forget learning about how transgender people in parts of Indonesia were revered as holding the highest wisdom, being able to walk between worlds. This seems a beautiful conclusion. No parts removed, nothing added, just reverence for the reality as given. I know there will be something lost in this telling. Something will remain to make my process seem somehow weak, flawed, uneducated. My mind has been walked to the edge of reason. Society, eons, nature, my capacity to love, have all been turned inside out. Since nothing but my love can remain, I hold the highest gratitude for my friend, for her showing me the limits of my understanding and forcing me to learn to know this HIM who SHE suffered years waiting to become." - Zoe H. Armstrong 2010