the Olympia Arts Perspective Piece: Missing Person

This is the piece I read at the Olympia Arts Perspective Reception for their show, Variables, Week 3:  X + Y.  Much thanks to Lindsey Tunkl for organizing the event and inviting me to read.


Missing Person

There are days when I feel like I’ve wandered into the Bermuda Triangle of Gender Awareness:  so much of who I am doesn’t show up on anyone’s radar.  Most people probably look at me and see a middle-aged butch dyke, a female body dressed in men’s clothing and a haircut that was copied from the boy’s section of a department store catalog.

They’d be partially right, but they’d also be missing a large part of who I really am.

Have You Seen Me?

The face on my personal milk carton is the face of a man, who looks enough like me to be my fraternal twin.  He’s spent a lot of time adrift in the Triangle, unseen, undetected, invisible to anyone without special equipment.  You need to put on your gender-variant-detector glasses to see both of me.

What would those glasses show, if you could find some at the local hobby shop or sportsman’s store?  Maybe you’d see what I see when I look inside:  a tree with two trunks, united by a common base and root structure.  You’d see that they grew together in the early years, then pulled apart, putting some space between them.  As you looked up the tree, you’d see the trunks came close at various times, intertwining and growing together for years before diverging again.

My gender is not blended or homogeneous, it’s a duality.  In a way, I am a man living from inside a woman’s body.  On the other hand, I’m also a transmasculine woman living alongside a man, in the same body.  I am genderqueer, I’m not male or female, I’m male and female.  My two selves are roommates, sort of, or maybe fraternal twins who never physically separated.

I’m not either or

I don’t fit into check boxes

Even though it’s not inaccurate to see me as female and to expect me to use the women’s restroom and respond to female labels, it is an incomplete recognition.  And though I’d like to be recognized as male more often, I’m not interested in surgically or hormonally changing my body to be more obviously male.  That would be a rejection of my female side and I have no interest in leaving her homeless.

I don’t dislike my body, even though it only represents a part of who I am.  There are ways I can highlight my masculine gender — the boyish haircuts, the packy in my briefs, clothes found in the men’s department.  I’m proud to have carried and given birth to my eldest daughter.  I’m proud to succeed in an industry where men are still predominant, though that success sometimes feels a bit artificial since I know I’m partly powered by my male identity.  I don’t mind working with what I was given, even though this body is at odds with who I am at times.

I struggle when filling out forms that require me to state my gender in either/or terms.  No matter which box I check, I’m not being entirely truthful.  The fact that no one would question me checking ‘female’ because of my physical construction doesn’t make me feel better about the lie.  If I can, I avoid checking either box, though most online forms make that selection mandatory.  Restrooms are sometimes an issue, too.  Some days I’m living more through my male identity and have stopped myself inches from the men’s room door when I realize that no matter how male Kyle is, this body would cause problems for us if we were enter.

I’ve been asked why I use terms from the gender binary if I’m genderqueer.  My answer is two fold.  First, it’s still easier to discuss gender using the existing terms because that’s what most people will understand, and I’m very interested in extending the conversation beyond people who’ve studied gender.  Second, I’m ecstatic to finally be open about my male identity and not hiding in the closet all the time.  For me it’s a victory to say that I’m male as well as female.

I don’t know where this dual nature will take me.  It’s challenging to be of two minds, two genders, two sets of desires and ways of seeing the world.  There are rare moments when I feel blended, less distinct, like maybe there’s a third identity beginning to coalesce.  Will I someday be a single tree trunk, my identities merging together into something new?

I don’t know where this journey will take me, I’ve been surprised so many times, it seems silly to attempt a prediction.  But I’ll be bold and make one: the tree will keep growing and the view from the top will be awesome.


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7 Responses to the Olympia Arts Perspective Piece: Missing Person

  1. Love the tree analogy. Great piece. Thanks for sharing it here.

    thank you, Amber, the tree analogy took a while to find. I’m glad it made sense to you – K

  2. Roxy says:

    I love this piece, and I’m so excited you got to share it with people and saw how affected they were when they heard it. You have a clear, strong voice that can be raw and polished at different points in the same piece, and it slips in behind the walls to catch people unaware and surprise them. Your story is a beautiful one, and one I hope you’ll keep sharing.

    Encouragement from you and other friends has helped me to see that by sharing my story and my experiences can help others understand themselves and others. It also helps me understand myself better. thank you, sweetheart – K

  3. Wendi says:

    This is a beautiful piece, Kyle. Bravo. Thank you for sharing it here.

    Thanks, buddy, I appreciate that — K

  4. Dawn Clover says:

    This sounds a lot like the things that have rattled around my head for a while, except that my body is male, and it really does feel strongly that there are two co-existing identities both of which are “me.” Admittedly, for a long while the female half of me has been making itself more dominant, but given the fact that it’s still a very new part of me insofar as acknowledgment that is no surprise.

    Really? I haven’t met a lot of people (yet) who have this way of envisioning their gender(s). I know that when I was first coming out as genderqueer, my male side was very needy for attention and sometimes not behaving well because of it. It’s not easy to talk about co-existing gender identities, I am still a bit shy about it, mostly, because I worry people will either see pathology or accuse me of an overactive imagination, or worse yet, a desire for extra drama in my life — and believe me, I have no need for more drama.

    Have you had much experience talking to other people about your duality? — K

  5. Dawn Clover says:

    The only person I’ve really spoken about it with much is my sweetie. A few other people know a little, but I haven’t really gone very far with explaining it with them because I feel like I’m still figuring myself out.

    I mean, for a long time I had convinced MYSELF that it was my imagination, coming from a very fundamentalist upbringing, so I completely understand that desire to avoid drama and dealing with people who just would refuse to see it any other way than “crazy.” I don’t think I’ll ever tell my family.

    I’m working toward being able to talk to my Mom and Dad about it. My brother already knows, he’s queer too and totally understood what I was talking about, and is very supportive. My sister and I don’t talk about anything substantive, she’s hiding behind her fundamentalist church. I know now all people will get even part of what I’m talking about with being genderqueer, but some do and I’ve been pretty happy with the results so far. You should take your sweet time and be open with whomever you want to, I totally understand not wanting an abrupt outing

    As for it being imagination or reality, there are days when I’m still working through it, honestly. But I always come back to what I can feel and know to be real for me
    — K

  6. Kherath says:

    This is eerily similar to my personal growth… except my tree started off really blended and has only grown perceptibly apart fairly recently. I’ve had to do a lot of introspective thinking on what my thoughts and feelings were, and try and put it into coherent sentences that would make sense to others as well as myself. Ever since I was young-ish, I’ve always felt like I perhaps was supposed to have a twin brother who didn’t get to be, yet decided to come with me anyway internally. As I’ve explored my mental state (always a fun trip!), I’ve just come to the same conclusion I have for a while, but with more personal definition – I am just not “normal”.

    I too, am a female in body. The sentence “There are rare moments when I feel blended, less distinct, like maybe there’s a third identity beginning to coalesce.” really feels familiar.

    Strange thing is… when I tried to explain to my sweetie in my newly found wordy explanations of what was going on in my head… he accused me of reading his mind. It’s scary how we both feel this same way, and after ten years of being together… we just now have begun to realize this. Or, more accurately, realize this fully. Dawn Clover is the sweetie I mentioned, and I just wanted to add my words after, since this struck a similar chord in me too.

    Thank you both for taking a moment to comment. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s great to find people with similar experiences. The way I described it in a conversation with Roxy today was that it’s like meeting someone who’s traveled the same road to some of the same places. You can talk about that bridge, or the little cafe by the stream, or how rough the road was between mile marker 45 and 56… we don’t have the same experiences, but some of the landmarks are the same or similar enough that we can have a pretty good conversation about the journey.

    I’m glad you found my analogy to be useful, it took me a while to come to it — K

  7. Kherath says:

    Ack, no edit button… the middle paragraph… I meant it to read –

    I too, am a female in body. The sentences “It’s challenging to be of two minds, two genders, two sets of desires and ways of seeing the world. There are rare moments when I feel blended, less distinct, like maybe there’s a third identity beginning to coalesce.” really feels familiar.

    That’s what I get for not proofreading more than once. 😛

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