Taking Care.

chiv·al·ry noun \ˈshi-vəl-rē\
1 : mounted men-at-arms
2 archaic
a : martial valor
b : knightly skill
3 : gallant or distinguished gentlemen

Well, there you have it. That sure is a delicate and problematic term. I want to make it very clear at first that I can only speak to my own experiences, my own feelings and my own inadequacies therein, but I do invite thoughtful discussion. In fact, I’d love it if y’all would be willing to share what you think about this particular subject.

I have been long anxious about discussing the ways in which I identify with chivalry, trying my best to make it clear that my finger-hold on these particular words (gentleman, chivalrous, gallantry) do not equate to some sort of gross misogyny. I think that, for me, part of chivalry, of general gentlemanly-ness is about holding up the ways in which my masculinity can be feminist, can be radical. The ways my masculinity takes care. It is about staying aware of, about accepting critique and feedback regarding my behavior and relationships in the world without becoming defensive. It is about constant examination of the ways in which I have to privilege of walking through the world being as a man. What I’m saying is, I guess, that self-examination and analysis is woven into the parts of my identity that are chivalrous. They are, for me, intrinsically linked to one another. They are completely caught up in each other swaddled in the big soft cloth of my butchness, of my queerness. Of course, this part is almost easier to talk about than the other part, the part where I am a lover of pomp, circumstance, dandy duds, dudes and John Wayne (rumored a very big time closeted dandy) movies. While simultaneously archiving and analyzing identity from a fortunate feminist place, there are many things about being a gentleman that connect me to my history, my community, my family and my lovers. It is difficult (to say the least) to discuss these ways, and I believe that some of that has to do with the F word. By that, I mean, fear.

Over the years, I’ve had many difficult and tender conversations with other transmen and allies about our friend, fear. About the ways in which misogyny (and homophobia) root in our hearts and create in us a sometimes seemingly insurmountable fear. Fear of men, fear of the world, and fear of each other. Instead of wandering around feeling completely sad about the whole thing (been there, done that), I have slowly and carefully begun to re-frame. A re-frame of this fear for me involves, like other identity things, giving my tender teddy heart a lot of love and permission to see the world in a unique way, express the not-so palatable parts of me, to cry, and more importantly to laugh.

How is it that I connect my masculinity to my nature as a gentleman without being a jerk? Firstly, I think it is by my family. As a girl child, I was taught the same politeness as my younger brother. It was put to us like this: treat everyone in the world equally and well. Address people with kindness, compassion and confidence. Make eye contact and shake hands firmly. Always offer everything you have to guests in your space and friends in your life while seeking no return. There are, of course, many other lessons but the point is, we were raised to be polite, and not necessarily only as gentlemen. On the other hand, I found my father didn’t hold back his thoughts on chivalry with me (maybe he felt something small and seeking from me, something that needed more learning in this area). My father taught me many things (small and large) like when to hold open the door (for everyone), and what things a gentleman always carries (watch, handkerchief, wallet, comb, lighter), and that it is okay, no matter who you are, to cry. Also, I want to say that I never associated (as the definitions above are want) chivalry or being a gentleman with wealth (we were far from it) but rather with a sense of purpose, kindness and understanding of other people. I believe in listening and in respect.

I also believe in chivalry and gallantry as a dance. In my romantic relationships this comes out in the ways in which I pay attention. The ways in which I interact with dates and partners isn’t only about chivalry, but also the parts of me that are are fulfilled in their being seen. There is a long, slow shuffle of negotiation, a gratefulness for being allowed to take care of, a joy in letting someone see and hold onto the skin under which I also need care. I am often, because of, and in spite of myself, a caretaker. The chivalrous part of this feels healthy, heart full and fulfilled. The other facets of this are harder to deal with (knowing that boundaries are hard to set for myself and struggling to feed my heart first for me, instead of in preparation for giving). While I have had relationships with folks of all stripes, this part of me feels especially cared for when I am interacting with folks who identify as women. I definitely have more to say about this particular part, but am never sure where to begin and so am working on it.

Then, there are the not so easy things to say. Things I didn’t want to learn. Things like my association of stoicism, pride, and silence with being a gentleman. My association of chivalrous feelings with shame. Thus, the continued effort at re-frame, to discuss, and to laugh at the actual ridiculousness of the whole thing. It is so important to me to have a sense of humor about my being chivalrous, dandy, butch, queer, tender, an artist.

I believe there is (so much) more to say. But I think right now, I have to sit back and let sit until I can dig deeper.

A Bartender's Handshake: Home made ginger beer and a glass of Fernet.

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Being seen.

Let’s (sort of) talk identity politics, shall we?

By this (of course), I mean I am going to get real self-absorbed for a minute and just like, continue to talk incessantly about myself on my blog.

So! Lately, I have been thinking a lot about visibility. Specifically, about just how complex and complicated things are. How having a complex identity that is so barnacled and buried is something I am trying so hard to bring to the surface. How recently, I am being seen in ways that are absolutely and completely blowing my mind. I’ve been being SEEN, y’all. As a queer man, as a gentleman, as a dandy. To be acknowledged for these things as a positive is sort of blowing me away. I am usually so hurt in that place, afraid to show up in my queerness, in the ways in which I am a fag. A chivalrous butch faggot who loves women (among other things). The breadth of this complex identity, the tip of this particular berg has felt harrowing at best and at worst dangerous to reveal. I have felt ashamed and invisible in partnerships and friendships. I even became convinced (and still sometimes am) that these things about me, were not something that deserved space or nurturing. That these things about me, would eventually be the end of me.

Being single has helped me let these parts out. To sort and clutch and sweat all over myself, to be all of the ways in which I am multi-dimensional in the world, and find out how much I want to be seen as more than JUST. It has taught me how to love the people in my life, and the communities in which I orbit in this more holistic and engaging way. Because, what is better than using positive feedback and giggly affirmations to build up the super positive vibes in your life, I ask you?

Also now, dating is totally reminding me how grateful I am to be noticed and stroked and beamed over in this delicate and dizzying manhood I am building for myself. How much I deserve all of it. How much a big spoon-full of reverence can get me.

Both are excellent for my self-esteem and my woo-y-man-ness (another part of the tender teddy of my identity).

So, I think you should tell me how you swaddle all of your gorgeous complexities in love, folks. Go on and spill it. Personally, I’m planning on burning some candles and crawling into my claw foot bathtub tonight while I read a book on Buddhist meditation and eat chocolate torte.

YEAH, I KNOW.

How the Cowboy ate the cabbage.

Mise En Place My Holigays

It is December. I know, right? This means that a quick look/add session with my google calendar this morning caused a miniature anxiety attack. You know, the kind of anxiety attack that is the size of the tiny stars that erupt behind your eyelids when you like press your knuckles against your eye sockets in the face of sheer overwhelmed exhaustion at the thought of one more holiday cookie (not that I could ever feel that way about a cookie, who do you think I am?!).

So, of course, because I’m an intense guy, and like to go about things all wrong – I then spent the next 20 minutes creating two google calendars in the face of my one extremely over taxed one. One is made up of things that I absolutely must show up for, even if I’ve literally chewed off my own hands or something with stress. The other, consists of things that I can miss, grovel to the organizer about, and possibly be forgiven because I was actually princess and the pea-ing out in my bed or something.

Really, if I get all zen about this jam, I should just be damn glad that people like me and want to see my face in The Holidays. I mean, I seriously am. The Holidays (as we know) are a very strange time where everyone wants to be reallycloselikethisclose to each other because that is what we are supposed to want. Also, I have some dear sweet friends who are just about obsessed with this particular winter wonderland of feelings and that shit is contagious. I’m not going to lie, I get a little chipper with some sort of pine-smelling-sweater-wearing-spirit sometimes. Like, the weekend after Thanksgiving when I did my annual duty and spent six icicle filled hours hanging lights, pushing psychedelic light up candy canes into the yard, and making four manic trips to homo depot in the middle of the night with a home owning friend. Halfway through, his elderly neighbor walked across the street (as we took a moment to survey our work and figure out “where the holes in our design” lay) and exclaimed with wonder, “HOLY SHIT!” After she walked away, I thought that she had really just accurately explained my winter feelings. We were so hopped up on caffeine that in order to finally come down, said friend’s amazing wife took pity on us and made us a plate of nachos (thanks again). I got home at nearly one a.m. only to dream about the National Lampoon’s sized twinkle coming from his cul-de-sac. Seriously, its beautiful, and this is what the holigays are all about.

Oh, Santa. I wish I were also in a germ safe bubble of Holiday cheer.

The next two weekends are packed full of teeth chattering cheer with things like snowshoeing, cookie exchange programs, and lots of hot holiday beverages. Last night a buddy and I drank one of my faves (a hot toddy) and had music nerd time. This (though not a necessarily December related activity) brings a particular warmth to my heart. In a few weeks a sweet visitor from Portland and I have a plan to connect in that external-hard-drive-full-of-music way and I cannot wait. “Happy Holigays to me!” I plan on screeching, as I pillage her fantastic collection.

So, on that note. PEACE (and feathered hair) BE WITH YOU.