Nongendered. An interesting word. My word processor insists that I have misspelled something or made a mistake. It is sure that I mean gendered. This is somehow appropriate then, considering the way that people often respond to the idea. But let me back up.
I grew up in-between odd places and ideologies, in an area of town populated primarily with the economic victims of a white-flight scenario that left the area very poor. Like DuBois would have noticed, my psyche responded in kind to the reflections I saw of myself in other people’s eyes. I have always been the “other.” I was simultaneously terribly weak and threateningly strong. I was a victim and was responsible for the economic situation around me. I was a breathing dichotomy. I was white..
Of course, when we were all young no one noticed my whiteness really. Like a conundrum spoken of by King in his early memories, children of all colors played together until their elders started to advise them not to. But I knew then that I was no different… it was the world around me that was changing. I started not to trust what the world had to offer. I was not different at all. They were wrong.
I also grew up with a sister who had no sisters to play with, so she played with me. We played dolls, and she liked to put make up on me. My mom was rather forward thinking on this and my father was silent, but not un-approving. Many times I would walk around with my nails polished and get the compliments from passers-by to my mom, “What a pretty little girl.” My mom would of course have to correct them, but ultimately I never cared. I liked the color and did not mind the compliments. My brother was in on it too – he and I would pick flowers for my mom.
And I had to learn to fight. I have a scar on my back from the assault of a neighbor from where he bit me when we were eight and all the neighbors cheered him on. My skull was fractured and teeth busted out by some teen-aged hoodlums while I was walking home from kindergarten with my (not much) older siblings shouting defiantly to try to protect me. We were white, remember? Supposedly this was a good enough reason. I loved sports; though my mother did not let me play them (we could not afford the gear). I loved games of all sorts and excelled in school only when there was a competition.
As I grew older, it was clear that I had to choose sides. I could either be a competitive and scrappy boy or a sweet and loving girl. Ultimately, I called bullshit. I decided that all of this was simply a construct for control that had lost its usefulness, if indeed it were ever useful. It was easy for me though, I had no friends to lose.
I remember being in the 5th grade and learning that the gender and race information that I was having to fill out for school was optional information used by the school to help with tracking minority demographics and movements, and used by testing groups in Iowa to determine the intellectual progression of those same groups. It was time for my first act of rebellion. I simply opted not to fill in the information. I have left this information blank on every official document since then. Now, because it was left open, my school transcript lists me as a black female.
So here I am; a nurturing parent to my child yet I teach self-defense, a significant-other who cooks and cleans and works. I understand that people gain strength in identifying with others… I never have.