by Jesse Loren
This is probably the most intimate thing I have ever written. It is emerging in the way one pulls a body from mud. You reach in and get nothing. You reach in and maybe get a hand or foot. Sometimes you get the body. The mud is in my head.
Today, my husband got a pair of pruning shears, wielded them while walking out the back door, and said to the dog, “Joe, you are about to get fixed.”
Joe is a long-haired Jack Russell of unknown age. We are taking care of him for my mother who could not handle his exuberance. He is chipped, collared, a frequent runaway, and he is fixed.
The brutal image of my husband wielding the long-handled loppers simultaneously jolted me because of my feelings for Joe, but at the same time something happened to me.
I doubled over as if I was kicked in the nuts. I had the complete phantom sensation of having my penis threatened with mutilation.
Did I mention I am a 48-year-old female and mother or 3 kids?
Is it even possible for a female to have a cremaster effect?
I am totally embarrassed to even talk about this, but I am pretty sure anyone would be weirded-out by this phantom sensation.
It reminded me of one of the most tragic moments in my entire life.
My household was a circus-like atmosphere of music, mystery, and religion, with no shortage of sibling rivalry. One great part of growing up was the encouragement to stay outside. I spent most of my free time tagging along with my older brothers, playing baseball, football, over-the-line, ditch-em, riding bikes, spitting, whistling, climbing walls and scaling fences. I was small, fast, strong, and one of the gang. On hot days, I wanted to take my shirt off with the boys. We were virtually the same. I had little tolerance for the girls in my neighborhood because they were conniving, stealing, mean little girls. I did not understand them. They were incredibly boring. I hated their manipulation and preoccupation with talking and not doing.
Then it happened.
My body betrayed me. I could not take my shirt off and play baseball, but I tried.
In childhood, mom frequently said in conversation with strangers, “When she gets older, I’m going to put her in a box.” The fear of the box crept into my nightmares.
About that time my parents started keeping me in the house.
Puberty terrified me. Even its first inklings.
Becoming a girl was the worst thing that had ever happened to me.
Being a girl meant I had to betray my interests. It meant betrayal of self and isolation. I hated it. I learned to be a girl a lot like someone learns to play the piano. It meant I made a lot of mistakes, especially faking my way through early boy-girl relationships.
I was a hostage held under a foreign government.
Am I going to switch sides, now that I remember? Well no. But I do deeply understand that being born with a gender that doesn’t completely match your mind is a lot like having a cleft palate or a super memory. Sometimes the cleft requires surgery. Sometimes it is hard to fit in. Sometimes it is hard for people to have empathy for people who aren’t like them. Sometimes it is hard to have empathy for one’s self.
There are many versions of gender. To think there are only two versions is about as ignorant as thinking all people have the same intellect, emotion, empathy, and opportunity. Look around. One day in a public school would convince anyone. We are certainly all different.
My husband was only joking about Joe. I told him about my strange sensation and he laughed. The only things that got clipped in my yard were some sucker branches that are taking over the yard like rogue religions going forth and multiplying.