30 July 2009

Three Articles of Memory

You know that you're very, very lucky--or that you haven't much of a social life--if you actually look forward to seeing your doctor.

When you're recovering from surgery, you don't get out much, to say the least. Even though you might spend lots of time on the phone, as I have been spending, you don't get to see very many people.

Anyway, I saw Dr. Jennifer again. She is very pleased with my progress, she says, and she wants me to return in two weeks for a follow-up. I'm looking forward to it.

As for the part about being lucky: I get to see Dr. Jennifer. I was mentored, and had my surgery done by Marci. I've talked to Mom and Millie every day, and to other people along the way.

And I am having these experiences at this point in my life, at this point in history. I was reminded of the latter when, after my visit with Dr. Jennifer, I walked around in the Village and stopped in the LGBT Community Center of New York.

It's no surprise that they're dedicated to celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. All around the Center were exhibits containing photos, other kinds of artwork and copies of newspaper articles related to the history of the gay-rights movement.

One of the articles, and a photograph that accompanied it, reminded me of something that Jay told me: There was once a law that stipulated that anyone wearing fewer than three articles of gender-appropriate clothing could be arrested.

So let's see...I was wearing a feminine-cut lavender tank top, a denim skirt and..uh, let's see...oh, yes, I am wearing a girly pair of panties. Although my flip-flops were also kind of girly-looking, I'm not sure that they'd count as "gender appropriate." And we don't want to take any chances now, do we?

Seriously...under that law, there were many days when I could've been arrested. Like when I wore a bra (without padding, of course), lace panties and a garter underneath my chinos and button-down shirt. Or when I wore panties underneath one of those one-piece lycra cycling bibs.

I guess that meant that cross-dressers wore undergarments "appropriate" to their gender. I confess, I did that a few times--like the times I went "in drag" for Halloween. You have to admit, it is kind of funny to be wearing boxer shorts and a wife-beater underneath a dress. At least I was never strip-searched.

But lots of people were. Jay remembers. It's amazing to think that within my lifetime, places like New York still had laws on the books that were remnants of the Victorian era. I've told my students that when I was nine years old, interracial marriage was still illegal in Virginia and other states.

It's even more amazing, though, to think of how we were when we were younger. For me, it's still a shock to think that a little more than three weeks ago, my body was different. Yet I cannot imagine it; I cannot imagine my body any other way but the way it is now.

And people too young to remember the days of Stonewall and Jim Crow laws cannot imagine that sort of world: the one of which people like me and Jay still have memories.

Of course, we do not want people to forget history. I myself don't want to forget what I've experienced of it, such as it is. But now I wonder just how much of our own pasts we must remember, and which things are important.

I guess that will all become clearer in time.

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