06 – 08 october 2016
emerging into this new stage of growth, i’ve thought about how dressing as a Woman was for most of my life forbidden, experienced alone, solely as sexual activity. why didn’t i just stay there?
as i liberate my forbidden self into the world of people and relationships, i realize that a strong motivation is my identification with the spirit of rebellion which i attribute to the life-long rebels that brought me into this world and raised me. they questioned authority and liberated forbidden lives too. i was greatly influenced by both my parents.
Mom was born in 1916, she died in 2015 at 99. Mom worked nearly a century on the problem of cutting through the binding dominant social order demanding her to be a Woman, as defined by those whom she felt placed her under an oppressive yoke of social customs and roles.
my Mother spent her life liberating the true person she felt inside, assaulted from birth by authority figures at all levels who aimed to distort her with patriarchal identities imposed from outside herself forcing her into real situations which exploited her, abused her and utterly disrespected her autonomy and freedom to define herself.
Mom gave me a path away from patriarchy with her research studying Parthenogenesis for her PhD and with her life spent as a Labor Organizer (with Harry Bridges of the ILWU), as the Secretary of the Communist Party of California in the 1940’s and as a radical lesbian feminist closely identified with Mary Daly and Sonia Johnson.
but long before i received her wisdom, i was experiencing joy during afternoons home alone from elementary school, in Mom and Dad’s room, in her dresser with the big mirror, in the dim light, trying it all on and just… revelling in it… i’m feeling it as i write about it now, almost 50 years later. i knew that i was way off the beam with this activity, but it wasn’t the only way that i was “misbehaving.” by age 10 i was asserting myself against the mainstream, arguing with my 5th grade teacher about Vietnam, wearing hippie beads to school… it was 1967, i was reading Martin Luther King Jr. and that year i smoked pot the first time. deviant behavior was already a normal part of my life. very early on i identified as a person trying to be free from the arbitrary constraints of the dominant social order.
i’m convinced that if Mom had been free to raise me by herself, my gender freedom would never have been suppressed.
Pop was an Irish kid that worked stoking open hearth furnaces in a steel factory in ohio as a boy in the 1920s. he went on to win a boxing championship scholarship to Colombia University and was expelled for leading a movement against Colombia’s participation in Hitler’s 1936 Nazi Olympics. He was at the Republic Steel strike in 1937, he was one of the brave resisters to McCarthyism and its demand that Union officials sign “loyalty oaths” to the U.S. Pop’s Irish roots were a major influence on me as well… i owe him more than i’ll ever know.
i think the first wall i hit in terms of my being free to develop my gender with fealty to myself was erected by my Pop… i remember from my earliest childhood being aware that Pop rejected homosexuality as being a morally depraved perversion of nature.
i idolized Pop and still do. but thinking back on it, i’m sure my fear of the possibility of losing his respect seemed like too much of a risk to take. as i grew, his attitude toward “homos” was reinforced on every side in my social world of school and family. so i never allowed myself to get anywhere near finding out what my secret meant to me again. well, there were some experiences in my adolescence, but disingenuously i used them to “prove” that i had no interest in being anything but a fine upstanding heterosexual Man when i grew up.
in spite of the forbiddances… i kept on finding ways to claw out time and space for me to dress. i couldn’t deny that the experience was an essential part of my being, and in fact, the greatest joy i could imagine in life was hidden in this mysterious, guilt-ridden clandestine world i made and guarded, in the shadows.