Monday, June 05, 2006

that's the truth about men

It takes me about 13 minutes to walk to work in the morning, closer to 10 if I pick up the pace. It's a nice walk, most of it along and through Morningside park, pretty quiet- most folks are already at work or in school, so at quarter to ten I've got the park mostly to myself. I really like my walking commute, for a number of reasons, including the intense stairs through the park that (hopefully) contribute to my manly physique, the chance to be in a little bit of nature (trees! grass! rocks!), the good fortune to breath fresh air (such as it is in the city) instead of subway fumes on my way to work. But not least of all, I like it because it gives me a few minutes to think before I really start my day, as I switch between rumbling around half dressed and bleary eyed in my apartment and standing more or less crisply behind the desk at the library.

Oftentimes, I think about this blog, and entries that I have half started, either saved on blogger or in my brain. I get a lot of good blog writing done in my head on the way to work, and then later when I'm sitting down in front of the keyboard, I have to try to close my eyes and put myself back in the park to try to recapture a particularly apt turn of phrase that came to me. Was I already on the stairs when I had that thought, or was it waiting to cross the intersection at 119th?

Today, I had some interesting thoughts bubble into my head while I was walking to work, and I thought for once I'd get them down before they faded.

I spent last night having dinner with Rochelle and an old friend of hers. He was a sweet guy, a high school science teacher, good looking, thoughtful and well-spoken and considerate. I had a brief flash of envy over his very even facial stubble, but overall my impression was "Gosh. What a good guy."

It made me realize that I don't hang out with that many guys, and I don't hang out with ANY straight guys, and, well, I rather wish I did. I never did have many guy friends growing up, and while I hang out with many more guys now than I ever did before, most of them are trans and almost all of them are queer, and I rather wish I had a bit more insight into the life and experience of straight, cisgendered men. I want to know what it's like to be a non-trans guy. Maybe partly out of wistfulness, but also from plain curiosity. Straight guys are pretty much the mystery demographic to me- they're the one group of people whom I don't flirt with, don't know much about, and don't interact with much socially.

You could even look at it as being one aspect of my personality that I'm not particularly in touch with. I mean, I've been a 'girl'- first when I was young, and I was briefly assumed to be straight, as everyone is. Then I was a queer girl...that sounds funny even to type it, but I was. I was a babydyke of the first degree. Now I'm a guy, and I'm definitely a queer guy- I haven't dated many (any? making out doesn't count as dating, I suppose) guys, but that doesn't mean I'm not queer as a three dollar bill. and I'm certainly most comfortable describing myself as a queer guy.

But being a straight guy...well, for one thing, despite all of the lovely women I've had and do have in my life, I still don't know much about what it means to be a straight guy. Most of my relationships have been explicity lesbian, and even now continue to be rather lesbionic (not that there's anything wrong with processing!) and ever since Olivia's sincerely befuddled inquiry when I first mentioned being trans to her our freshman year of college ("But, Dude...why would you want to join the patriarchy?") I've been worried about becoming straight. Not that I don't want to be a guy who dates girls (certainly not), and not that there's anything wrong with heterosexuality per se, but I don't want to uncermoniously be absorbed into the dominant culture as I absorb testosterone into my body.

I certainly know, though, that a large portion of that worry comes from uncertainty. I don't really know what it means to be a straight guy- all I'm operating with is my understanding of the hegemonic masculinity that is so steeped in our culture that I can't miss it. I don't really understand from a close perspective how straight masculinity operates, and I certainly don't know much about how to take it and make it your own. Make something good out of it, be a good man, as so many men do.

And that's what I was reminded of last night- that's the kind of quietly radical masculinity that I'm lacking in my life. I'm so lucky to be surrounded by folks who are at the forefront of the gender revolution, subverting the binary like there's no tomorrow, and I belong to that community and I'm glad of it. But I know that I want to be around, and learn about, and learn from the guys who aren't breaking the chains of masculinity so much as just adjusting them for a better fit. There's a radical power there, too, I think.

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