28 January 2010

Where Does It Begin Or End?

Today was the first day of the Spring semester. Funny that they should call it that: It snowed this morning and there's talk of more on the way, followed by plummeting temperatures. And when this semester ends, just before Labor Day, it won't quite be the end of spring.

The boundaries we draw are so arbitrary sometimes. Spring "officially" begins some time around the 21st of March: almost two months from now. And that "official" beginning has little to do with weather, though it usually is a bit warmer by then than it is around this time of the year. Rather, it has to do with the position of the earth to the sun and the resulting equinox. But there have been years when it was colder at that moment than it was on Christmas or New Year's Day.

Plus, when the season "officially" begins, the ground and the water will be even colder than they are now. It will take a few weeks for them to warm up, and a few weeks more than that for the ocean to become swimmable for most people.

So what is it that seperates one season from another? One country or continent from another? I have pondered that whenever I've crossed a national border and when I took the ferry from the European to the Asian side of Istanbul. Why is one side of a narrow strait considered to be part of one continent, while the other side is part of another?

You probably know where this discussion is going. In fact, you probably knew before I did. It's led me to a question that I can ask only now: What is the line between one gender and the other? Of course I have no doubt that I am female; others have shared my certainty througout my transition, and even before it. However, in the eyes of many people--and the laws of most places--I have been female for little more than six months. You might say that, on some level, I see gender identity in the same way. After all, I feel so much more confident and have less need to explain or defend myself in daily situations. And I have noticed that I am seen and treated more as if I'm the woman that I am than I was even a few months ago.

Did my "spring" begin on the 7th of July? Or did I cross some line before or after that? I have had a State ID that identifies me as female since 2003, the year I began living full-time as a woman. Some people identified me as such well before that, even when I was lifting weights and riding 50 miles a day.

Perhaps it's a cliche to say that a boundary is a state of mind, or has to do with one. I felt that I was essentially female even in my macho he-man days. On the other hand, there's almost nothing about today that puts me in a "spring" state of mind, whatever that is.

Oh well. Spring semester it is. They seem to go by even more quickly than the fall semesters. Soon enough, a year will have passed since my operation. A year--now there's another boundary. It's a good one, but like all boundaries, it's a little strange nonetheless.

Well, at least I'm on this side of that boundary. And things are going well, so far. They can call this side or that side, or the boundary itself--or, for that matter, me--whatever they want. At least I know where I stand. I'd better: I'm wearing thin high heels today!

If you drew some kind of line at that last joke, I don't blame you!