31 August 2012

Why I Didn't Want To Go Back

This week I went back to school.  I don't know whether anyone's noticed, but I've been more withdrawn than I usually am when I'm on campus.  People tried to engage me in conversation; I was finding things I had to do and places I had to rush off to.  Or I was just nodding and giving monosyllabic answers, but initiating no verbal exchanges.

At one point I even locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried.  When I thought I couldn't cry anymore, I came out.  I got maybe three or four steps from that women's room and felt the tears ready to gush. Back into that stall I went.

I don't know how long I was there.  Somehow I made it to my classes and did the things I was supposed to do.  But when I walked across the campus "quad," I simply could no longer hide, no matter how much I wanted to.  A professor who had always been friendly, sometimes agressively so, stopped and asked me what everyone asks, but nobody really wants to know, at the beginning of every semester:  "How was your summer?  What did you do?"

At that moment, I found myself absolutely despising her.  I knew, even then, there was no rational reason why I should have felt that way, even if she had been invading my personal space (which, truthfully, she wasn't) or my privacy.  But then I had a similar reaction to other profs I passed, or who passed me.  Fortunately--for me, anyway--I don't think they noticed me.  At least they didn't try to engage me in conversation.

Now I am realizing why I was feeling such revulsion toward people who have treated me respectfully and, at times, warmly.  They are, like most liberal academics, well-intentioned but utterly misguided.  And they are so clueless about some things that they couldn't even know just how clueless they are.

They're the sorts of people who talk about "the one percent" and see themselves as members of some oppressed class.  They'll talk about how great the Occupy Wall Street protesters are, but have never been in any sort of physical or financial risk. 

Most important of all, I'm realizing, is that they have more in common with the "one percent" that they rail against than they will ever have with me.  You see, the police, the agents of government and all de jure and de facto authorities are on their side, and work for them--but not for me.  I saw that the first time I went to the police precinct to file a complaint against the man who was harassing and spreading false rumors about me.  I faced indifference from a female officer who was supposed to help me, and harassment from a bunch of male officers who'd been working out.  They were in civilian clothes and weren't wearing their badges, so I really couldn't identify them positively, let alone make a complaint against them.  Besides, I can only imagine what the consequences might have been if I'd made their behavior public knowledge.

I know I shouldn't be resentful toward people who have had--or seem to have had--lives that are easier, in one way or another, than mine.  But it's difficult for me to not see them as smug in their innocence, and not to feel that their pleasantries and courtesies are weapons of condescension, if not outright contempt. 

And they think they know about me because they took a Gender Studies course.  They know me like they know about the oppression they're always railing against.

13 August 2012

WE BIKE At Smorgasburg

Yesterday I promised to tell the readers of my other blog about the event where I saw the Pashley Mailstar, which is used by the "posties" of Royal Mail in the UK.

Liz (R) showing two cyclists how to repair an innertube.

Liz Jose, the founder and president of WE Bike (Women Empowered through Bicycles) used the bike to transport a table tools and various WE Bike schwag to a repair workshop/recruitment drive held at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn.  

We volunteered our own bikes for "the cause"!

Actually, some might argue it wasn't a full-blown repair shop.  What we did was to teach some female cyclists (and, in a few cases, men who accompanied them) how to fix flats.  If a cyclist--especially a female rider-- learns to do only one repair, this should be the one.  If nothing else, knowing this basic skill can keep you from getting stranded.

Erin (facing to the side), Shelley (in pink t-shirt) and Liz (seated).

The fear of getting stranded by a deflated tire, and not knowing how to fix it, is one of the most common reasons why people won't take longer rides or use their bikes for transportation.  I think this fear is greater among female cyclists, for we (well, many of us, anyway) have more reason to fear for our safety if we are stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar or unsafe area by ourselves.  Also, I think that many women have been taught, implicitly or explicitly, to distrust their own abilities to fix even very basic things, not to mention to be self-sufficient in any number of other ways.  

Having been raised as male, I wasn't inculcated with that same distrust of my abilities.  Of course, I did not understand that until I started the transition that has culminated in living in the female gender of my mind and spirit.  I suppose that, in addition to some skills that I possess, that self-confidence might be what I can offer the women and girls who join and ride with WE Bike.

I hope that doesn't sound condescending, or as if I'm some well-intentioned  but misguided do-gooder.  I have been known to do things at least partially for altruistic reasons, and I can say that joining WE Bike is one of those things.  But the most important reason why I've decided to involve myself with it is that, since my transition, I've come to feel out of place in both the formal and impromptu men's cycling groups in which I've participated.  Even the so-called co-ed groups are dominated by males.  Not that I have anything against them:  I simply feel that I want and need other things now, as my motivations for (and, most likely, style of ) riding have changed.

Plus, so far, I'm enjoying the company of the women in WE Bike.  Isn't that the real reason to be involved with any group, whether or not it's formally organized?

As for the dilemma I faced: I managed to look presentable enough, I suppose, for the writing workshop.  I don't know whether anybody there noticed, but I was wearing a cardigan/jacket over the sundress in which I rode to the workshop--and to the WE Bike workshop.  But once I got to the latter event, I covered the top of my dress with something else:

I'd say that the fit might've been a bit snug, but the color worked!  And somehow I managed not to smudge the T-shirt or sundress in spite of the grease and dirt on my hands!

05 August 2012

"It's Not Natural!"

It's been two weeks since I last posted. There's no particular reason for my "hiatus."  There simply hasn't been much to report --at least in terms of anything that has to do with what I've talked about on this blog--lately.  Plus, I've been doing a bit of reading and other research for some things I'm going to write and, possibly, post on this blog.

That said, I thought I might give you something "light" and, hopefully, enlightening.

The next time someone says "It's not natural!" or "It goes against nature", show him or her this photo:

Max, the older kitty, is on the left.  Marley, who was ricocheting off the furniture and walls just a few minutes before I took this photo, is on the right.

All right, I shouldn't make assumptions or cast aspersions on them.  So, I'll just assume that their union is a meeting of the minds: