For those of us who celebrate Christmas (or give gifts to people who do), the time for timely gift purchases is quickly disappearing. You don't want to buy the first shiny thing you see at Target, but at the same time, you don't have days and days to ponder the perfect gift. Never fear--I've got you covered. Here are some excellent last-minute gift ideas for the butches on your list. (I bet some of the non-butches on your list might find these ideas pretty cool, too.)
Also, if you're a straight, cisgendered individual who's having trouble figuring out a gift for someone less gender-conforming than yourself, please review my straight people's guide to choosing gifts for butches, will ya?
That's all I've got for now, friends. Feel free to hit me up on Facebook if you want any last-minute gift advice, and I'll do my best to help you out. Good luck with your last-minute holiday shopping, and safe travels wherever you're off to. Whether you're hanging with a big flock of family, a small group of friends, your significant other, or flying solo, I hope you're getting some rest and rejuvenation. Here's to love and health for all of us as we get ready for 2016!
Most years since I've started this blog, I've written something about the holidays (e.g., a primer on Holiday Depression, a discussion about feeling alienated during holidays, some thoughts about "letting go" for the holidays, and my favorite, a guide to having your lesbian daughter home for the holidays). You might think that all my reflection about the topic would mean that I have the holidays totally figured out. Nailed. Dialed. Nope.
When I was a kid, I loved the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. As an adult, notsomuch. I don't like cold weather, for one (and the older I get, the less I like it, which leads me to think I'm getting wimpier with age). But more importantly, I sometimes feel like I haven't gotten any better at dealing with the stuff that bothers me. I feel anxious about not meeting people's expectations of what my life should look like (or more accurately, not meeting the "expectations" I assume others have, and which they may or may not actually hold).
Specifically, this year I feel anxious about my decision to spend Christmas with my Dear Partner (DP) on an actual vacation for the two of us (our first in years). My parents are spending Christmas in a new tradition they started 6-7 years ago, with my brother and sister-in-law and their kids and my sister-in-law's family (her parents, grandma, sister, sister's husband, sometimes sister's husband's father, and occasionally a friend or two of theirs). It's a great tradition for my niece and nephew, who get to spend every Christmas with both sets of grandparents (something I would have loved as a kid). But it's not always ideal for my DP and I. We've joined about half the time. I feel guilty when I don't go, but a bit out of place when I do. This year it would mean a 10-hour drive, plus my DP lost her father less than two months ago and very much needs some "thinking space." So it seems a good decision for us to hang back this year. But I still feel guilty.
I think one of the reasons it can be so hard to let go of guilt is that it preys on our worst fears. Our fears that we're not a good enough daughter or son. That we won't be accepted for who we are. That people might hold grudges against us. That people might not really love us, or--worse--that they might think we don't really love them. That people think that we're selfish. That we are selfish. That people think we're weird or inferior. That we really are weird or inferior. What if this is all true?? Oh no! [Panic ensues.]
The past few days, I've been pondering a few different ideas, and they've helped me think about all this. From reader messages I receive, I know many of you have holiday angst, so maybe they'll help you, too.
First, I've been thinking about the importance of confidence and self-knowledge in battling guilt. I know myself, just as you know yourself. I know I'm a loving daughter who is incredibly devoted to my parents. I know that I am an understanding, loving, and devoted partner, too. I know that I make mistakes, but that I try my best to be good to the people I love. If I am confident in this knowledge, guilt begins to dissipate. I can't do everything that everyone would like me to do. No one can. There aren't right or wrong answers about things like this. There's just trying or not trying. If you're honestly trying, be confident in who you are and about what's in your heart.
Second, I've been thinking about the importance of making time for the people I love, whether or not it occurs over the holidays. Heck, maybe especially if it doesn't occur over the holidays. True, I'm not going to see my brother and his family over Christmas, but I am buying tickets to fly there for a weekend in January, even if my DP and I have to take off work, because my relationship with him, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew are very important to me. And I'm going to spend three or four days over New Year's with my parents, because they are super important to me as well. While I am visiting, I resolve to be present, which is not always something I've been great at in the past. I'm not going to do work, nor even bring work with me. (This may not sound radical, but for a historic workaholic like yours truly, it kind of is!)
Third, I've been thinking about taking the long view: resisting the temptation to endow one day or one conversation with huge amounts of meaning. Think about your relationships with other people as lifelong journeys. This will make it easier to avoid getting wrapped up in that argument you had with your aunt over who's bringing the turkey, or about whether you're bringing the kids over for her annual Hanukkah party this year. It's easier to be zen about your loved ones when you remember the history you have with them, and when you consciously put this or that one holiday into that larger context of your journey with them.
Sending you mucho love, dear readers. What's on your mind as December unwinds? Do you ever experience holiday angst? What does it look like, and what do you do about it? What are you still trying to work through?
I just read that the Washington Post is officially accepting the singular "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun, in addition to several other updates they are making to their style guide. The singular "they" will be used to refer to people who identify as gender-neutral (or, presumably, to anyone else who requests it).
The writer in me has resisted a singular "they" for a long time. But I've met SO many people who find "ze" awkward, including people who adopt it themselves. And it seems clear that we desperately need a gender-neutral pronoun, since (as I also touched on in my last post), not everyone wants to use "he or she."
As far as I'm concerned, "they" is a fine alternative. Yeah, I was taught in elementary school that "they" could never be singular. But there were numerous things I was taught in elementary school that I no longer believe. And more importantly, what's the point of language if it can't adjust to fit our needs?
I predict that it's only a matter of time before "they" pervades other gender-inspecific situations, too. What I mean is, if you're referring to a person in the abstract, and the gender of the person is unknown, you're supposed to write "he or she." As in: "When you go to a doctor, he or she takes your blood pressure." The word "they" has long been considered incorrect as a substitute for "he or she" in that instance. But saying "he or she" is a little awkward. "They" is what a lot of us would use in informal conversation anyway. (And personally, I like "they" because not everyone identifies as a "he" or a "she," so "they" is all-encompassing.)
One question, though: if we're using "they" as singular, it seems like we should keep the rest of the sentence singular, as in, "they takes your blood pressure." To my ear, that sounds strange; it makes more sense if the rest of the sentence is plural ("they take your blood pressure"). So we're not really using "they" as singular, then, are we? Instead, we are just making the rest of the sentence plural to go along with what we're used to hearing after the pronoun "they?"
Anyhow, I'm no linguist. Others have thought more deeply about this problem than I have. But if anyone in your life is still refusing to convert, just give him, her, or them a chance; I'm willing to wager that they'll come around eventually. ;)
For a while, I've been resistant to the label "genderqueer." There are a couple of reasons for this. One, I've had several people assume I identify as genderqueer. I'm contrarian enough not to like other people assuming I'm anything, which is a silly reason to resist a label, but nonetheless, it makes me resist it.
The second reason, though, is that to embrace the term "genderqueer," don't we first have to embrace the idea that gender--and the gender binary--exists out there as a thing? After all, if it didn't, there wouldn't be anything to "queer" in the first place, would there?
The first online definition of "genderqueer" I found is roughly consistent with the way I usually hear the term defined: denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.
I'm not sure if I fall into that category. True, I don't subscribe to conventional gender distinctions. I think they're silly social constructs. But do I identify with both male and female genders? Not really. I identify with the female "gender," I guess--I feel more comfortable with female pronouns, for example. But as I see it, my definition of the "female gender" basically encompasses anything I do, wear, think, or feel, because my sex is female and I'm fine with that. If I say that my aesthetic is "genderqueer," aren't I accepting the idea that there IS a female-gendered aesthetic, and setting myself apart from it? Saying that I'm not really female because my aesthetic isn't the mainstream female aesthetic?
So maybe this is the deal: maybe I'm just not down with gender as a concept. Maybe I think it's silly and I reject it for myself. But that doesn't mean I'm "agender," really. Because if I was, then I think I'd prefer gender-neutral pronouns, or at least, would be equally (un)comfortable with male and female pronouns. But I'm not. Female pronouns totally work for me. To be honest, I think it's stupid to have gendered pronouns at all, but since we do have them, I prefer female ones (not that I get bent out of shape if people screw up my pronouns). I recently met with a group of about 20 other people in a work context, and we had to go around and say our "preferred pronouns." I was one of the last ones to go, and I told people that I use female pronouns, but that I don't care if they're "sloppy with [their] pronouns." Because, seriously, what is the point of gendered pronouns, anyway?
Which is not to say that masculinity and femininity seem like useless concepts. In the reality of our everyday lives, they are nice cultural shorthands to have available. But I don't like them tied to people's gender, because for way too long, people's gender has been tied to people's sex. Heck, I don't even like the idea of people having gender. Why should people have a gender at all? Can't people just have a sex? Can we divorce the idea of gender from lived beings?
I suspect I'm in the minority on this. I don't like how the gender binary ends up being rarefied and underscored and reaffirmed by people's attempts to mess with it. Maybe I am genderqueer. Or maybe I'm just a gender humbug.