Fonzi Gets Chomped

September 5, 2015, Avonia Beach Pennsylvania, Lake Erie.  We spend an hour or so picking up beach glass while trying to coax Fonzi into learning the joys of water.  He does not mind getting his feet wet, at least.
Nearby, a group of people has five Labradors frolicking in the surf.  Further down, a couple plays with an exotic looking Australian cattle herding dog.
Back, closer to the parking lot again, where Avonia creek scribbles sideways through the sand, another young couple plays in the water with a large, tan, pointy eared dog (This is probably a 100 pound dog.  Fonzi, by comparison, is about 25 pounds). As we wade across the stream with Fonzi, suddenly the dog is on top of Fonzi in the knee deep water, jaws locked on Fonzi’s body, then neck.  The big dog’s owner jumps in, and wrestles her dog away from our dog.  I pull frantically at the tail end of her dog.
In thirty seconds, the chaos is over.  The girl’s boyfriend leads the dog, who is still lunging aggressively, back to their car.  The girl is balling, upset by her dog’s behavior, and clearly worried about Fonzi.  Fonzi, meanwhile is wiggling all over as if he just had the time of his life.  His collar falls to the ground, severed, as he shakes the water and sand from his coat, then rubs back and forth against me as if to ask what fun comes next.
I am still shaking, after imagining the disaster of the injury of my dog, and my spouse.

If I were Jamie, this is where I would relate my dog’s behavior to some aspect of my own condition in life.  If I were Ellen, a gull with the queen’s accent would swoop down and carry Fonzi off.  If I were AnExactingLife, I would use this event as inspiration to inventory my dog snacks.

Instead, I will continue my story.
I am in Erie for the weekend to visit my parents.  This means a certain amount of stress.  But I have seen a lot of my parents this year, and that is good, because it allows us all to get through the surface pleasantries, and to spend some varied time with each other.  My parents still use the name for me that they gave me at birth, and the gender words too.  Possibly, they always will.
There are many aspects to this.  Although they still use these words, they undoubtedly know and accept me as female now.  They hear my friends, and even strangers in public referring to me this way.  Last winter, when I visited them, their neighbor stopped over, and said to my mother when she saw me “I thought that you said your son was visiting.”  So, in private, I am not hurt too badly by their words.  Especially since my mother occasionally lets a “she” slip out accidentally.  These accidental accuracies are even more significant than forced ones.
What I really anticipated with dread is to be mis-named or mis-gendered in public.  But, happily, we spent the weekend amongst ourselves, and the situation never arose. (I have to admit that I am partly to blame for the situation with my parents.  I have never been good at asserting myself with them.)
The other reason that I am thinking about all of this is that I am finally reading Stone Butch Blues.  Leslie Feinburg’s widow has made the book free for download in honor of the late Feinburg (thank you TheFlannelFiles for making me aware of this).  I have seen people reading this book, and heard them speak of it, for years.  Somehow, I avoided reading it.  Despite the fact that my own life is radically different from Feinburg’s, and Jess’s (her protagonist), I find that the book speaks giantly to my own life, and I would suspect to the lives of many other people.  While the specifics of her life are so different, she yet captures specifics of my lived experience on every page.
Here are two great quotes that make me step back and re-evaluate the way that I am viewing my life:

I care which pronoun is used, but people have been respectful to me with the wrong pronoun and disrespectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.
Leslie Feinberg – A Communist Who Revolutionized Transgender Rights, By Minnie Bruce Pratt posted on November 18, 2014, Worker’s World, worker.org

For me, pronouns are always placed within context. I am female-bodied, I am a butch lesbian, a transgender lesbian – referring to me as “she/her” is appropriate, particularly in a non-trans setting in which referring to me as “he” would appear to resolve the social contradiction between my birth sex and gender expression and render my transgender expression invisible. I like the gender neutral pronoun “ze/hir”? because it makes it impossible to hold on to gender/sex/sexuality assumptions about a person you’re about to meet or you’ve just met. And in an all trans setting, referring to me as “he/him”? honors my gender expression in the same way that referring to my sister drag queens as “she/her”? does.
Transmissions – Interview with Leslie Feinberg, July 28, 2006, by Jamie Tyroler , kampkc.com

I got both of these quotes from Feinburg’s Wikipedia page, but I then went and tracked down the original sources.

Both quotes speak to me, and will help me to get my head on straight the next time that I am squirming because someone has called me “he”.  I live boldly out and loud as “other”.  I have for all of my life, even when I was trying not to (there is no more backing down now).  Although I am uncomfortable being interpreted as male, I cannot deny my femininely manerismed gay and straight male brothers with whom I share so many experiences of growing up, nor my transgender sisters.  When I am seen as “she”, yet labeled as “he”, I am at my greatest strength in breaking the barriers of gender.
Still, my identity is confidently female.  If I need to earn the right to that, I think that I have by now.  And, I have earned the legal right to it as well.
Yet, I still identify most closely with butchy females, with trans males.  Adopting too many stereo-typically female traits goes against everything I believe about feminism.
In short, I am making a political statement every time that I walk out my door.  This statement is more important than my own discomfort that people sometimes interpret me as male.

The bad parents are right to steer their staring kids away from me in the supermarket.  But it is already too late, the kids are already corrupted: they have already glimpsed me, and now they now that there is something other than boy or girl or man or woman in the range of possibilities of life.
( The good parents satisfy their kids curiosity with a reasonable explanation of the wide variety of people in the world. )
(Sorry this post is still a little disorganized.  Conceptually, some of the stuff in the last few paragraphs is complicated, and I am still trying to get it just right.)

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jamie Ray
    Sep 10, 2015 @ 15:29:17

    You are right. I would write about being bullied at school. Lucky Fonzi wasn’t hurt- and that you weren’t hurt- breaking up dog fights is an art I haven’t mastered.
    Our dog run is pretty safe but every once in the while a fight breaks out over a tennis ball or escalating play. I’ve grabbed Gracie several times to get her out of the fray.
    Now onto the more important issues. Stone Butch Blues is brilliant, but when I first read it it came too close for comfort and I couldn’t take it in. I also like Leslie’s speeches and essays – refreshing and consistently honest. They should be required reading.
    If there was one word I could eliminate from English it would be Ma’am (ok the N word would actually be first) which is so much more annoying than she.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • The Final Rinse
      Sep 10, 2015 @ 21:44:53

      I value these dialogues greatly.

      Fortunately, there was no bully in my story. The doggy could not help himself, and the girl was so shook up that she clearly learned a big lesson about the responsibility of owning a big dog.

      I will make a point of finding Feinburg’s essays.

      I finished Stone Butch Blues. I cried at least once per chapter. Feinburg does a very good job of making the book very inclusive of groups that were just beginning to realize, when the book was written, that they had alot to gain by standing up together. I will read it again soon.

      There was a time when SBB would have been a tough read for me. H. and I saw The Crying Game just about the time we met, in 1992. At the time, it was not a movie that I could have watched again, or even really discussed. The same was true when Boy’s Don’t Cry came out. I could hardly stand to watch it. Too close for comfort is the truth.

      Ma’am, Sir, Mr., Mrs. — throw them all to the trash heap. I admit to taking personal pleasure in feeling that I have been correctly titled. But the greater good for everyone would be to dispose of these relics forever.

      (The person I work for is a dinosaur. He writes Mr. or Mrs. in front of our customer’s names. And Ms. for a queer female. (the funniest thing is that his “gaydar” is really kind of awful for anyone who doesn’t fit his stereotypes. So I will surprise him by saying, oh, I met so-and-so (a regular customer who he did not realize was queer) at a party with her wife.) At his very worst he writes Mrs. [husbands first name] [last name]. I am so revolted that I sometimes need to call him out. But I can tell that he really does not understand. (he is really a very decent guy and treats everyone fairly, but still a dinosaur))

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. anexactinglife
    Sep 11, 2015 @ 16:51:25

    Ha, yes, either that or I would be mentally recalculating my budget to accommodate vet bills 🙂 Thanks for the link to Stone Butch Blues. I must finally read it. Even as a cis/straight person, I hate gendered language, don’t relate to it, and also wish it to be gone (especially because it is supposedly intended to ease social transactions but accomplishes just the opposite).

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • The Final Rinse
      Sep 11, 2015 @ 21:21:48

      I am so glad that I read it. Feinburg describes so well the situation of being between genders. She touches on workers rights too, without being too forward about it. I can’t wait to share my print-out around to several people.

      Like

      Reply

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